Haryana twin sisters become first Indians to win mountain grand slam
Sporting the same outfit -grey top, blue denims and even matching emerald contact lenses -they speak with passion about mountains. In April, Nungshi and Tashi Malik, twins from Sonepat, Haryana, became the only Indians, in fact the only south Asians, to complete the Explorers Grand Slam -the South and North Pole, and the seven summits. All of 23, they’re also reportedly the youngest in the world to achieve the feat.
What started as a casual vacation course at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi in 2009 soon turned into an obsession. They went back next year for an advanced course and climbed Mt Rudugaira (5,490m).
The twins were quick to set their eyes on the highest of them all -Mt Everest. While for Nungshi, it was about proving a point on behalf of all girls, for Tashi Everest was lit erally a recurrent dream. But not everyone was on board.”Mum would quietly go up to the instructors and tell them to fail us,” says Tashi. But by 2012, they had aced their tests and proved that they were ready . Money was still a problem though. With no sponsors, their once-reluctant mother took a loan and their father, an Armyman, put all his savings at stake.
The lanky girls climbed Everest on 19 May , 2013, along with Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to achieve the feat. It was on the way back to base camp that fellow mountaineers sowed the seeds for their next dream, the 7-summit challenge -climbing the highest peak in each of the seven continents. “We took it up to raise awareness against female feticide,” says Tashi. Today , as ambassadors of the `Beti Bachao’ campaign, they deliver motivational speeches to schoolgirls.
But being a woman moun taineer comes with its bunch of prejudices. They are treated as the “delicate members” of the crew but once the climb starts, they prove tougher than most of the men. They also have a rigorous training regimen, which includes a 15-20 km jog every day , yoga, muscle strengthening exercises, and tyre-dragging sprints.
But physical fitness is not all that one requires. “We’ve lost 25 of our climber friends in the last one and a half year,” says Nungshi, who says mental readiness is a key factor.The usually cheerful twins leave loving notes for their parents before embarking on dangerous missions, knowing that they may not come back.
But climbing is a drug, say the twins who will continue to scale peaks. So what’s next? “Mt Cook in New Zealand and a few virgin peaks around the world,” says the pair, as casually as picking out new shoes.