Tuesday, November 08 2016, 07:34:46
  • fatasstic
  • fatasstic
  • She Says

Drishti Bodhraj Premprakashi

JWB Blogger

JWB Speaks To Major Deepika Rathore A.K.A The First Indian Woman Officer To Climb Everest Twice

  • JWB Post
  •  November 4, 2016


Major Deepika Rathore is the real ‘Song of Ice and Fire.’ Not… Nevermind, I am not spoiling Game of Thrones for you. Well, coming from a desert state like Rajasthan, she has become the first Indian woman officer to climb Mt. Everest twice! Yes, two times! Major Deepika is an inspiration to women around the world.

I got a chance to meet and interview her. Yay!

Your story is truly inspiring. You climbed the peak twice! Did you forget something there the last time?

*Laughs* No, I did not. I took up mountaineering as an NCC cadet in college and climbed Everest for the first time in 2012. Growing up, I had always wanted to climb the highest peak in the world. I got married in 2011, and within a few months, I received a letter from the army while I was posted in Leh Ladakh. The letter said that the army was planning an All Army Everest Expedition and I just had to go. I told my husband about my desire to climb Everest. He told me, ‘If you’re so keen, then you should definitely go for it.’

Take notes, boys.

I went forward with the training,  got selected and successfully reached the summit on 25th May 2012. When it came to the second time, I was approached by the NCC saying that they were planning an all-girls expedition to Everest and that I should go for it. I said no at first, because if you say yes, two years pass away in the blink of an eye. But then, I remembered that I got introduced to mountaineering because of the NCC and now that they’re asking me to join them, I should take this opportunity to give back to them what I had received. My husband was a little reluctant to let me go for the second time, but after a week of convincing, he agreed.

You made it to the summit twice. What did it feel like at the peak?

Well, I’ve been there twice so I have two experiences. The first time, when we went climbing, we had started at 7 in the evening the previous night from Camp 4 and reached there at around 5 in the morning. When we stepped on to the summit, our Sherpa said, “Congratulations! This is the peak.” So we were all shocked at first. Did we really make it? It took a while for me to let that sink in. I was amazed at both the beauty and the fact that we had made it all the way to the highest peak in the world.

Anyone else picturing the ice? No? Okay.

The second time we went climbing, we started off quite late in the night and made it to the peak at around 10 in the morning. I was the first one from the team to make it to the peak and had to wait for my teammates to arrive. The last time I climbed the peak, we couldn’t stay more than 10 minutes because of the bad weather and this time, I managed to stay there for about an hour and forty minutes. The weather was amazing, and I got emotional to such an extent that I did not even realize that I was crying. I was overjoyed to be back.

NO, those are not goosebumps on my hands!

That sounds so amazing! When you reached the top, did you yell something out?

Well, not exactly. When my team made it to the top, one of the NCC officers handed me a walkie-talkie to speak to the base camp manager, Jayant. I remember saying,”Hi Jayant, Jai Hind from the top of the world.” So that was the first sentence I spoke after reaching there.

As a woman did you receive any special training?

No. Mountaineering in itself is a risky activity, so it is necessary that men and women go through the same training to mentally and physically strengthen themselves to fight against the weather, health issues and controlling their minds when they look at a corpse or the crevices. I remember how hard it was for me to get over the death of that one Sherpa who was guiding us. He fell down a crevice right in front of my eyes. It was almost impossible for me to climb the ladder without looking at all the blood splattered down below. In another situation, one of my crampons got stuck on the ladder. The only thing left to do was to be mentally strong.

That was uh… Graphic. Also, I think my acrophobia is showing.

Climbing such a height is not an easy task. How did you tackle health problems?

When any such expedition is planned, you have a team accompanying you. There are leaders, deputy leaders, base camp managers, doctors, climbing staff and other supporting staff. Also, while we were training for the expedition, we were given sufficient first aid training and were asked to carry our own first aid kits with basic medicines. And of course, if someone got seriously ill and suffered from high altitude sickness, it was advisable to send them back to the base camp.

Honestly, had it been me, I wouldn’t even have made it to the base camp.

Did you have a playlist for climbing?

Well, not for climbing since we had to pay attention to the weather and steer clear of any chances of an avalanche occurring. So, we did not carry any music with us. While in the base camp, I used to listen to motivational songs and aartis.

So, what was the one song that was on top of the list?

Besides, aartis, I would listen to the song ‘Yoon hi kat jayega safar saath chalne se…’ I used to sing this song to my cadets. Every time anyone felt low, we would sing this together.

Moving back to mountains, are there any peaks of life that you want to conquer?

I had a lot of goals through the years, and I achieved all of those. I realized that I am capable of doing a lot. As of now, I don’t have a goal. But I’m sure there are lots of peaks that I’ll have to conquer in the future.

Tough girls can get scared, too. How did you control yourself when it came to the fear of not being able to go back home?

Well, it is obvious that we have fears like these but being mentally strong can help our conquer our fears. I would always hope that each call from the army was not my last one. So, as a spiritual person praying and meditation helped me a lot with overcoming my fears.

Did you write a diary during your expedition? What were the first and last words?

Yes, I did. I don’t quite remember what the first line was. But this year, I was responsible for ten girls. So I remember writing the first few pages about those girls while in Kathmandu. I wrote that the expedition would only be a success if the girls reached back home safely. The last words I remember were about the world record we had created for being the maximum number of females from one country to climb Everest.

Can you tell us how the team was selected?

We chose about 150 girls from all over India and finally shortlisted 10 for the expedition. In 2013, there was a boy cadet expedition, and when that was successfully completed, they had planned to organize an all girls expedition in 2014. And the rest is history.

Wow! That must be quite hard. Speaking of hard, how did you arrange for food?

At the base camp, getting proper food was easy. We had a kitchen and some staff who would cook for us. When you go to the higher camps, except Camp 2, cooking was hard. You had to melt ice for cooking and drinking water. We were given high calorie ready to eat foods that just required the addition of water. There were energy bars, drinks, and gel as well. Personally, I did not have anything for 4 days except water and energy drinks. At a higher altitude, your appetite goes down. So no matter how tempting the food is, you don’t feel like eating anything.

I can totally feel my tummy growling. He-he!

What was your daily routine like?

Well, there was no planned routine. The only thing we would do daily was to reach each of the camps one by one. We would start off with base camp and go to Camp 1. Then we would come back down to the base camp. The next day we would go all the way to Camp 2 and then come back down. Then we would go to Camp 3 and finally made it to Camp 4.

What is one thing that you miss about Everest?

Well, it was the very feeling of being there that I missed. Everything was so serene, and you could see the clouds. It made me feel like I was close to God.

Now, I really wanna go to Everest!

And what was one thing that you missed about home when you went climbing?

I had carried a family photo with me while climbing for the first time. So when I climbed to the peak, I had a picture clicked with that family photo. That made me feel like my family was there with me.

How did Major Deepika Rathore get to where she is right now?

I am the eldest out of three siblings. I have a brother and a sister. I was always given a lot of freedom, and I was never treated in an inferior manner. In fact, I was given more freedom than my brother. It is my parents’ support that has brought me so far. The society constantly nagged them for being so liberal towards me, and it made me sad to see that my parents were facing so much criticism because of me. But my mother told me, ‘Jab haathi chalta hai toh kutte bhaukte hi hain.’ So that’s what kept me going.

How would you encourage women to join the army?

When my cadets ask me about what the army is like, I tell them that it is one of the best professions. I tell them about the exposure I‘d received and how it led me to Everest. These days, a lot of women, even from Rajasthan are already interested in joining the army.

Would you consider teaching mountaineering to girls in the near future?

Well, if someone comes up to me for guidance, I will help them out. As of now, I have no plans of opening an institute but let’s see where the future takes us.

Let’s move towards questions shorter than Mount Everest.

What 5 things would we find inside your bag for mountaineering?

Sunscreen, clothes, first aid kit, eatables and four pairs of socks because you can’t wash your clothes daily. Oh! I almost forgot to mention wet wipes.

If a movie was made about you, what would it be called?

*laughs* I actually don’t know. But it would probably have something to do with the Desert and Mountains. I remember a newspaper headline that went something like ‘Dhoro ki beti, Chadhi Himalaya’. So probably something like that.

Who would play you in the movie?

Well, I can’t name one actress. But I would like someone bold to play my role.

Tough girls are not like flowers. What is your favorite flower as a tough girl?

I love red roses!

One essential makeup item?


Hobbies besides mountaineering?

I used to dance and sing a lot during my college days. I lost track of it after joining the army. After getting married, I tried my hand at cooking and gained some interest at that.

Will you pretty please with a cherry on the top, sing a song for us? Even ‘Yoon Hi Kat Jayega Safar’ will do.

Yoon hi kat jayega safar saath chalne se,

Ke manzil aaayegi nazar saath chalne se.

Hum hai rahi pyaar ke

Chalna apna kaam.

Pal bhar mein ho jayegi

Har mushkil aasan.

Hausla na haarenge

Hum to baazi maarenge….

Can I just say that you have an amazing voice?

All this while, Major Deepika had a twinkle in her eye. She told us her story with such joy and enthusiasm that I now feel like I can identify every nook and cranny of the Himalayas. Her husband soon joined us and took care of all the Mehman Nawazi.

I almost forgot to mention that she complimented my shirt! It apparently had these things called icex which help a mountaineer climb uphill. No, I did not google what an icex really looked like. JK, I did.

So, that is pretty much it. Annyeong!

Contact us for your story


Leave a Comment

  • JWB along with the brand Jewel Saga bring you a selfie contest inspired by the campaign AidToMaid.