New Delhi: At 53, Sangeeta Bahl recently became the oldest woman to climb Mt Everest, which, at 8,848 metres, is the tallest peak in the world. Everest was the 6th summit Bahl scaled.
“I am doing the Seven Summits tour,” the mountaineer said in an interview to News18.com. The seven summits tour includes scaling the peaks of the tallest mountains in all the seven continents.
Her first summit was at 47 in Mount Kilimanjarao, along with her husband. Then they scaled Mount Elbrus in Europe. The couple then became the third and fourth Indians to climb Mount Vinson in Antarctica. The couple have also scaled Mount Aconcagua in South America and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia.
However, the quinquagenarian, who summited Everest in her second attempt, is far from being done. Sangeeta will next climb Mount McKinley, a tour she could not complete on the first go due to health issues.
“I still feel like a young girl inside, full of dreams and ambitions. I still have a long list of things I want to accomplish!” the woman quipped, looking exuberant barely a week after returning from Nepal.
Bahl is a woman who has donned many hats.
In 1985, Sangeeta was one of the finalists of the prestigious Miss India pageant. But Sangeeta, who was monikered ‘Beauty with brains’ in college, always wanted to do something more with her mind. An avid traveller, Sangeeta enrolled in the aviation industry in order to go around the world.
“Ï worked for Kuwait airways, then Thai Airways. Then I joined Royal Jordanian. After the Gulf War, I moved out of Oman and moved to Dubai where I joined Emirates Airlines. I was there for 12 years, first as crew and then as Cabin Crew Director,” Sangeeta said.
While working as cabin crew, Sangeeta was affected by those who said that air-hostesses cannot be educated. She decided to get an executive MBA degree from Bradford University to bust this prejudice. “I was the first crew member in Emirates to get an MBA. In the classes, other executive honchos, most of them male, would make fun of my mini-skirts. In three years, my degree shut them up for good, “said the former air hostess.
It was after she was married and pregnant with her son that the idea of image consulting first came to her.
“I first explored the idea because I was bored. I realised that there was no concept of image consulting in India. So I learned all I could about it, and then set up shop.” Impact Image Consultants has been running for 13 years now and grooms pageant contestants for Femina, among other things.
Speaking about the importance of appearance and labels, the 53-year-old said that stereotypes and limited thinking were two of the biggest appendages to mental growth and well-being.
“Everyone always tries to tell you that a feminine woman is not strong or brave. I wanted to prove all of that wrong. When I was on Everest, I made sure I was always well dressed and prim. It helped me boost my confidence as I understand the importance of appearances.” Sangeeta said.
Sangeeta said that she carried her trusty make up kit with her till the very end of the trek and it was only before the last leg to the summit that she discarded her concealer and lipstick due to weight management issues.
With the country engrossed in the recent #FirnessChallenge, Sangeeta says that it is important for people in India to start thinking about their health and fitness more seriously, especially those beyond the age of 40.
“Most people don’t make any efforts. They take the car to the nearby market, they eat junk and drink over the weekends. It’s an unhealthy, stressful lifestyle. Desk jobs make it even worse. We need to start thinking of ways to introduce more outdoor activities into our daily lives. An interest in nature, and a commitment toward fitness help!” the entrepreneur said.
According to the summiter, everyone has an Everest to climb. It does not have to be the mountain. “But we all need to fix that one goal that we aspire to and keep challenging ourselves to fulfil that goal. Eveyone must seek their own Everest in their own way.” Sangeeta said.
Sangeeta, who will reach India by next week, said she plans to immediately start training for scaling Mt Mckinly in Alaska next year.