Not too many people start major adventure plans when they are in their 40s. Not only did this Jammu-born founder and director of an image consultant agency start mountaineering in her 40s (in 2011), seven years later, Sangeeta Sindhi Bahl scaled the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. She is now 53, and has become the oldest Indian woman to scale Mount Everest, on May 19, 2018.
We asked Bahl about her passion and what prompted her to take up such a challenge.
You started mountaineering at the age of 46. What inspired you?
It all started with my husband, Ankur, asking me to accompany him to Mt. Kilimanjaro. As I was going to be 50 soon, I thought of going for it, as it was part of my bucket list – to climb seven summits of the world.
This year you climbed Mount Everest to raise awareness for breast cancer…
Years ago, I lost a very close person to breast cancer. She had two children who had to be shifted to a home as she was divorced. That prompted me to raise cancer awareness for women everywhere. Also, one of my friends is currently undergoing breast-cancer treatment. I also wanted to celebrate “womanhood”, as women always devote their lives to the family, work and others without caring for their passions.
Many want to scale Mt. Everest or other peaks. But they are frightened to take up this challenge if they are over 40. What would be your advice for them?
No matter what your age, if you wish to start mountaineering, just don’t be afraid. You have to be disciplined. You must understand your fitness, which is the most important thing. A proper food chart must be maintained. Do not allow stress to get over you as it triggers fear, anxiety and stiffness which will restrict you from moving forward in extreme conditions.
Mountaineering requires years of training and persistence to achieve success. I was trained for five years before I started climbing. Also, you need to be strong mentally to survive in extreme conditions.
What’s next for you?
I truly believe that life offers you a new beginning everyday as we have the choices to do whatever we want. We have so many possibilities and opportunities around us, we have to value them. Presently, I am aiming to finish my seventh summit to Mount McKinley, Alaska next year. Also, I have plans to write books and host a show on television.