Batch of 2000 at the Everest Base Camp
My Real Final Examination – at the footsteps of the highest mountain in the world
The walks got longer, steps slower, air thinner, weather colder and my pain sharper as we trudged upwards towards the Everest Base Camp. Our small group of 8 called Red Hot Chilli Steppers was not one to give up easily. We had worked hard, really hard to make this happen. We kept pushing each other right from Lukla, through Monjo, Namche Bazaar, Tengboche, Ama Dablam, Dingboche, Lobuche and finally Gorakshep – the last destination before Everest Base Camp. A torn ligament on my knee was making me drag my left foot behind me. Our Sherpa would spray a medicine and tie a band tightly across my knee to numb the pain for a few hours. A pain killer would see me through half the trek for the day, while the 2nd half would be completed in agony. But I kept telling myself, if I walk slowly the pain will last longer, so hop as fast as you possibly can!
It was the final climb to our 17,600 feet destination. The Khumbu glacier and towering eight thousanders (mountains above 8000 metres as they are called) were all one could see all over. The sight was breathtaking. Nothing anyone had ever seen before. No photos or postcards can do justice to the real Himalayan beauty. I decided to walk ahead of the others, all by myself. My mind was calm and heart was filled with gratitude. This was MY moment. And then, just like that, I was there. I looked up towards Mt Everest and collapsed on the icy floor. I couldn’t control my emotions or my tears.
Flashback to Class VIII at MHS – The Duke of Edingurh’s Awards Scheme (now called IAYP) would take us for frequent treks. My love for mountains started back then. Over the next 4 years I went for every trek that I could manage from school, collected newspaper clippings on Mt Everest and drew portraits of Tenzing Norgay. I mustered up the courage to visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute at Darjeeling to enroll myself for a course. I was 16 years old and would need to be away for a couple of months without a friend or way to contact home. I had a decision to make, and an important one at that. I grew up to become a Chartered Accountant and entrepreneur, so you know what decision I took at that crossroad.
That closed chapter opened for me once again in May 2017. It was a dream come true. I couldn’t control my emotions or my tears. Now that the chapter has reopened, I cannot stay away from the mountains for long!!
Our group Red Hot Chilli Steppers has 2 of my MHS friends now, from my batch of 2000 – Richa Srimal Daga, Vinita Srimal Garg and myself (Neha Bhatnagar). We proudly held the flag of MHS at the Everest Base Camp and have left it flying high in the mountains. We hope more and more girls will follow their dreams, just like we did.