Meet the first Indian woman to climb 5 peaks above 8,000 metres
In May this year, Priyanka Mohite summited Mount Kanchenjunga and became the first Indian woman to climb five peaks above 8,000 metres.
The 30-year-old had previously climbed Mount Everest in 2013, Mount Lhotse in 2018, Mount Makalu in 2019, and Mount Annapurna 1 in 2021. She also holds the distinction of being the first Indian woman to climb Annapurna 1 and Makalu.
Born and raised in Satara in Maharashtra, Priyanka spent her childhood exploring different forts in the Sahyadri region with her uncle.
Her journey began with the call of the Sahyadris, with the passion still peaking after climbing the Himalayas.
The Sahyadri mountain range, nestled in the Western Ghats, is dotted with a number of magnificent forts that include Rajgad Fort, Lingana Fort, Pratapgarh Fort, and others.
“I am very fascinated by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his stories of bravery. I used to love exploring different forts in the area, and there are more than 300 of them,” Priyanka says.
Her love for the mountains culminated in a basic mountaineering course after she finished her 12th grade from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarakhand.
“I topped that up with an advanced course and worked hard to get Grade A that would help me pursue other courses. My parents were worried initially about acclimatisation, but once I surmounted that challenge, their worries dissipated,” she says.
And since then, there has been no stopping her as she climbs one peak, after another.
Gratitude at the top
Priyanka explains that every peak has been an amazing experience–whether it’s Mount Bandarpunch at 20,722 feet, BC Roy at 18,000 feet, and Mount Everest at 29,000 feet.
“I feel gratitude when I am at the top. I bow and express my thanks to the mountain because it’s not us who want to climb, I believe it’s the mountain that calls us. I feel very happy while being on top, and cautious as I must descend to the base camp as well,” she says.
According to Priyanka, the most challenging climb was to Mount Kanchenjunga from the last camp 4 to the top and back to the camp.
“We had to keep checking the oxygen cylinders. For more than 30 hours we were in the death zone, where oxygen is very low.”
She emphasises that mental health is very important to a mountaineer.
“I practice yoga because at each step, your body is very tired both physically and mentally. The one that pushes you is your mind. You must develop a ‘never give up’ attitude, and of course, you must be mentally fit, think positively all the time in your day-to-day life,” she says.
For her diet and nutrition, she relies on her association with Steadfast Nutrition that offers high quality supplements. Priyanka says she uses the whey protein and the peanut butter for her protein intake of the day for muscle building.
She counts on her parents as her biggest support along with her mentors who have guided her on every limb.
“I have immense faith and trust in my sherpas without whom summiting a mountain would never have been possible,” she adds.
Priyanka also received the Tenzin Norgay National Adventure Award 2020 for her achievements and contributions in the field of outdoor adventure and mountain climbing.
“Receiving the coveted award from President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan was an exhilarating moment for me,” she says.
While mountaineering is a passion, Priyanka has a day job in a pharmaceutical company in Bengaluru. She has a master’s in Biotechnology and claims that she is currently balancing her “career and passion”.
Her next goal is to complete the eight-thousanders, the 14 highest mountains in the world, out of which she has climbed five.
She is also looking forward to climb Dhaulagiri, which is at an elevation of 26,795 feet, next spring.
Edited by Megha Reddy