Mountaineer Deeya gearing up for Denali challenge once again

New Delhi, Nov 12 (PTI) Determined to fulfil her dream of scaling seven summits, Indian mountaineer Deeya Bajaj plans to set off for Mount Denali for a second try in May next year.
Deeya was all set to achieve her dream in May last year but just three hours away from the peak, she had to return from Mount Denali due to bad weather.
Deeya and her Padma Shri awardee father Ajeet Bajaj had spent 17 days acclimatising and carrying loads up on Mount Denali, the highest peak in North America.
It was disappointing to give up but Deeya took it in her stride as she knows well that one cannot fight nature.
“You can’t be better than nature. You have to respect nature, sometimes you might need to turn back,” said the 25-year-old during an interview with PTI on the sidelines of an event organised by Sukarya, a women-centric NGO.
The Gurgaon-based Deeya, however, is not disheartened and has already started her preparation to complete the challenge in next May.
“We are planning to climb Denali in May next year. We have already booked it and we will be leaving on May 24 from the base camp. We leave India on May 21st,” said Deeya, excitement palpable in her voice.
Deeya and Ajeet became the first Indian daughter-father duo to climb Mount Everest last year and scaling Mount Denali would have made them the first such pair to conquer all seven highest mountains of each of the seven continents.
“We attempted Denali in May this year but unfortunately we couldn’t make it to the top because of bad weather. We had to turn three hours before the summit after being on the expedition for 17 days,” said Deeya.
“It was getting worse and the descent would have been extremely dangerous.”
For Deeya, who had done an adventure course at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi, her journey to the six highest peaks started right after she left school.
“When I was 18, my school-leaving gift was climbing Mount Elbrus (Europe), so Dad and I did this climb and way before that we had climbed Mount Kosciuszko (Australia),” she said.
“Then when I graduated (from Cornell University), Dad and I decided to climb the Mount Everest. So I came back to India, trained hard and planned for two years and then finally climbed it last year.
“There was a group of students who wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa), so I led that expedition. So by then I had done four of the seven summits. Then it so happened that in winter we got invited to climb Mount Vinson (Antarctica) and we completed that,” she said.
“Then Dad said let’s do Denali (North America), but Dad had already climbed Mount Aconcagua (Argentina), so I quickly did Aconcagua so that we both can complete the seven summits together but unfortunately we couldn’t scale Denali.”
Talking about her experience of conquering Mount Everest, Deeya said: “It was extremely challenging. We climbed from North side (Tibet). It is colder, stiffer, and more technically challenging but it is also safer. The crowd is less. So, we decided to train harder.
“We faced a big storm while climbing from one camp to a higher camp. At 7000m, the force of nature is frightening. I felt like a tiny insignificant ant at the mountain. There were stiff narrow paths which you have to navigate. So it was terrifying.”
As many as 11 mountaineer died this year while climbing Mount Everest and Deeya believes the Nepal Government need to put in better regulations in place.
“The Nepal government need to work a bit more on regulation. What happened is there was a small summit window of two days instead of 8-9 days, so there was a huge number of climbers and it led to chaos,” she said.
“You need to do proper research before going for any adventure. You need to have the skills and equipment. It is only risky when you are not prepared.”
Deeya knows how risky it can be after all she had survived a scare in her first real expedition when she toured Greenland for a skiing expedition of 550kms comprising 21 days.
“We were stuck in a storm one day and the scary thing was once you are stuck no one can rescue you, helicopters can’t land, you can’t stop moving, because that will make you cold immediately, you can’t set up a tent,” she said.
So what is the reason behind her obsession for mountains and adventure sports?
“It is a great way to disconnect from city life. It is incredible feeling to be in the lap of mountains. It is an introspective and meditative experience. There is something so magical that I keep going back to it,” she signs off.