Premlata scores sixer with windy Antarctica peak

Jharkhand's supermom has done it again.

Premlata Agarwal, the not-so-average homemaker from Jugsalai, has conquered the icy and windy heights of Mt Vinson Masiff (16,050ft) in Antarctica. The feat takes her one step closer to annexing the Seven Summits and securing herself a place in the mountaineering hall of fame.

The 47-year-old conquered Mt Vinson on January 5 after six days of treacherous climb, energised by biscuits and chocolates. "Ah, I'm happy to have reached yet another peak," she said after her felicitation at Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF) on Friday morning.

Shedding more light on her Antarctica trip, Premlata said it was as challenging as it was worthwhile. "I left for Calcutta to fly to Dubai on December 24 last year. I dropped anchor at Union Glacier on December 29 after touching Dubai, Rio de Janeiro, San Diego and Chile. Later, our five-member team ' three Americans and a Bangladeshi, besides me ' took a 45-minute flight to the base camp at 7,100 ft."

The daredevil team stayed rooted at the base camp for three days for acclimatisation. "It was very windy and the temperature -30�C. We, straightaway, slipped into our climbing boots, gowns and gloves. The weather was getting worse and we were not ready to take any risk. On December 30, we went for height gain and came back to the base camp the same day," Premlata recalled.

The team left base for lower (11,000ft) and higher (13,000ft) camps the following day. "I carried a load of around 50kg. The sledge alone weighed some 25 kg. We had to carry our own stuff because there were no porters," she said, adding that the team leader and two guides assisted them though.

"It was a very tough climb to the summit. Luckily, the weather improved when we reached the peak in the afternoon of January 5. It was sunny and I could only see ice everywhere."

She added that they skipped touching the higher and lower camps on their way back because the route had several crevices. "The team leader told us to reach the base directly. We reached on January 6," the seasoned climber said.

Premlata, among other things, was impressed by environment awareness in Antarctica.

"We had to bring back all garbage. The Union Glacier is very clean tidy. And we all want to keep it that way. All the wrappers of biscuits and chocolates I ate during my trek, I brought them back," she said.

At the glacier, the gutsy woman even fielded "embarrassing" questions on the Delhi gang rape. "I had no answer to most. I was surprised that the news had reached Antarctica."

On the sidelines of her felicitation, the mountaineer profusely thanked Tata Steel for its support. "I am very thankful to the company and vice-president Sanjiv Paul. I am indebted to them for my conquests," she said.

The climber has so far annexed six of the seven peaks ' Mt Everest (29,029ft), Mt Kilimanjaro (19,341ft), Mt Aconcagua (22,837ft), Mt Elbrus (18,510) and Carstensz Pyramid (16,024ft) and Vinson Masiff. She needs to conquer Mt McKinley (20,320 ft) to enter the hall of fame. Premlata was the oldest Indian woman to climb the Everest in 2010.


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