There was a time when adventure
was considered a male
bastion. Only a handful of
women opted to brave the
physical punishment and
mental challenges implicit in adventure.
But over the years, that wall has
fallen too. More women are now keen
to get a taste of adventure sports whether it is mountaineering, river
rafting or simply trekking.
Once smitten by the love of the outdoors,
many women are also choosing
to make adventure a regular part
of their lives.
Love of the outdoors
Take Nandini Mehta for instance. The
48-year-old French teacher and
dancer based in Bangalore, says her
love affair with the mountains began
as a teenager. Her first conquest was
the 6,000-metre-high Mount
Koteshwar in the Garhwal Himalayas
way back in 1984. Since then, she has
been on several Himalayan treks and
hits the hills close to Bangalore nearly
every weekend. "The pure air and
the natural beauty make me want to
go back," she says.
To cope with the burgeoning
demand of women who seek the thrill
of adventure but with the comfort of
numbers, several tour operators have
begun to offer women-only adventure
trips. Five years ago, Sumitra
Senapaty (49) started Women on
Wanderlust, a travel company that
organises trips exclusively for women,
with the objective of "making women
confident enough to want to travel".
Since then, she has organised treks
to Uttarakhand and Ladakh, river rafting
on the Zanskar and the
Brahmaputra and an expedition to
the Everest base camp.
She says the response has been
enthusiastic, especially from older
women. "Women come all the way
from Chennai, Cochin and Bangalore
to Rishikesh for river rafting," she says.
"It's not the 20-somethings who land
up for treks. It's more the 30s, 40s and
50s. The oldest person to come on a
trek was 56."
It was to introduce more women to
the adrenaline rush of adventure that
the Women Adventure Network of
India (WANI) was formed last year.
The organisation, headed by veteran
mountaineer Bachendri Pal, hopes to
increase participation by women in
adventure sports. According to
Vasumathi Srinivasan, secretary of
WANI and an avid mountaineer herself,
the organisation's aim is to
"empower women through the medium
Fit for adventure
Among the ambitious projects in the
pipeline is a 3,000-km-long cycling
expedition from Kolkata to
Kanyakumari in October this year.
"We are planning to take a few girls
from every state," says Srinivasan.
"We will have overnight halts every
100 km and at each stop, we will give
the villagers a talk about adventure."
But in order for adventure activities
to be enjoyable, your body needs
to be fit enough to weather extreme
conditions. Senapaty says that while
ensuring that all arrangements on a
trek are comfortable for women, she
also reminds them that it isn't a "luxury
vacation". "It's unpredictable out
there on the trek," she says. "If
someone can't catch up, she
can't be airlifted like in a
So if you want an occasional tryst
with the outdoors, make a regular pact
with fitness. "My mother has been
going to the mountains for 30 years,"
says Shilpa Suchak, a mixed media
artist, of her 60-year-old mother, Dr
Amita Suchak. "So she walks 7 km
every day to keep fit." The rewards
more than justify the hard labour. "She
loves the peace she finds there."
Valley of Flowers trek from August
22-28 in Uttarakhand by WoW.
8-day Nepal adventure in October
with treks, river rafting and paragliding.
For activities by the Women
Adventure Network, email