Mountaineering may not be
her main passion but
Bhagyashree Sawant a
cyclist and rugby player,
and an international-level karate player has set herself a tall target. And
she's determined to climb up to it.
The 18-year-old student of computer
science at MD College, Mumbai, is
vying to become the youngest Indian
woman to climb Mount Everest. Ask
her about the attempt, and she says,
"I've done some climbing before. But
the Everest is different from all of them.
It's just so much more exciting!"
Sawant is travelling with inspiring
company. Her companions include 16-
year-old Arjun Vajpai, who will be the
youngest Indian to have climbed Mt
Everest if he summits successfully.
Leading the expedition is Apa Sherpa,
who holds the record for
climbing Everest the most
times. This will be his 20th ascent.
Vajpai, who's a student of Ryan
International School in Noida, joined
Nehru Institute of Mountaineering soon
after his Class 10 board exams. A few
months and a couple of courses later,
his instructors deemed him capable of
summiting the highest peak in the
Vajpai had been trekking to the
Sahyadris earlier, and his experience
from there helped him with his first
high-altitude climb to the Draupadi ka
Danda 2 (DKD2) last October. Once on
top, he became the youngest
person to have scaled the
peak. And there has been
no looking back. Or down.
Although his parents were
concerned for him, he alleviated
their apprehension by promising
them that he'd take things
one step at a time. "And now,
eight months later, he's climbing the
Everest. We know he's fit because during
DKD2, he didn't suffer from
headaches or show symptoms of highaltitude
sickness," says his mother Priya
Training for the climb
Sawant's summit attempt began in
February 2009 when she met Gaurav
Sharma, who's now her endurance training
coach, and joined his team for
Enduro3, the annual endurance race in
Pune. Sharma, a martial arts trainer
for the Mumbai police, had been scouting
for a female athlete to meet the
requirements of the race. "They found
me fit enough to perform, and we began
to practice sprinting and long distance
running together," says Sawant.
Following the race, Sharma began
encouraging Sawant to give the
8,848-metre peak a shot. What worked
in her favour was the fact that she'd
been an athlete all her life and
wouldn't have to prepare
too hard. She continued
with the same exercise
regime under Sharma's
guidance, and took about
two months to gear up.
Vajpai's training for the
climb also included yoga to
increase flexibility and cardio for
improving lung power. His instructor
also made him undertake arm, calf and
back exercises, and put him on a diet
high in protein and carbohydrates.
"He found it difficult to get used to
it at first, but his passion helped him
go on. I keep telling him that there's
always a second chance, but he's never
tense about the climb," says his mother.
The final go-ahead, however, was
given only after the doctors were consulted,
especially keeping his age in
At the foothill of a record
Vajpai is already at Everest basecamp,
having successfully completed his acclimatisation
climb of Island Peak and
acquired another record in the process.
Asked what makes him seek such dangerous
thrills, he said, "The rush you
feel at the summit is something that
makes you want to go back. You get
addicted to the view that you can't capture
from a camera."
Sawant is set to join the rest of the
team once she climbs Island Peak a few
days from now. Meanwhile, she's been
improving her agility with indoor wall
climbing and eating a lot to put on some
weight before the Everest climb. "An
expedition sets you back by a couple of
kilos, and since I'm an athlete, I find it
hard to gain weight back. So I'm hogging
pre-emptively," she says.
The duo will make their summit
attempts a few weeks from now, climbing
higher with each successive sortie
until they're fully acclimatised and can
make the final push to the top.
Vajpai is already looking beyond; his
Everest attempt is just step one of a
plan to climb the seven tallest peaks
across the seven continents.
World record in the making
(13) has been
life. He started
training to climb
the seven tallest
peaks on the
when he was 9, and his first
climb of the expedition was Mt
Kilimanjaro. If he climbs the
Everest, he'll become the
youngest person ever to summit
You're on your way to becoming the
youngest person to make the Seven
Summits climb. How does it feel?
I'm not thinking about the record.
I'm just thinking about the mountain.
My goal is to climb the Seven
Summits, and since Mt Everest is
part of them, I'm climbing it. My
age is not an issue. I enjoy climbing,
and I'm going to make it to
the summit irrespective of
whether it takes me two months
or two years.
Did you have to follow a special training
regime to gain the strength and hardiness
I began training when I was 9. I mix
it up a lot so that it's not boring. I
run, do freestyle skiing, mountain
biking and play sports.
How do you prepare for the ascent?
What do you think of at that time?
Everything is one step at a time. I
try not to look at the big picture and
focus on small goals. I focus on what
I need to do. In crucial moments, I
make sure I'm doing everything right.