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Mumbai college girl conquers Golep Kangri

Stuti Joshi has becomes the only woman to have done a solo ascent of a 6,100 m peak in Ladakh.

Vinaya Deshpande  Mumbai | 11th Jul 2015

Stuti Joshi at a mountain camp.

"I want to be a legend in mountaineering'," exclaims 20-year-old Stuti Joshi, the first ever woman to do a solo ascent of Golep Kangri in Leh. The young woman, a final year undergraduate student in Arts in Mumbai University, says she "belongs to the mountains", and is determined to get into mountaineering after she finishes her degree.

In a candid chat over coffee, she talks about her daring journey to Golep Kangri, a semi-technical peak which involves ice-climbing, rock-climbing and crossing crevasses. "There is a lot of snow on the mountain. One wrong step can get you into the ice," she informs.

Stuti has also successfully completed a cycling expedition of nearly 500 kilometres alone. The Leh-Ladakh expedition, which lasted for three months last year, included five solo cycling trips at a height of over 3,500 metres, and four mountaineering expeditions over 6,000 metres.

She says self-motivation as well as encouraging words from senior people in the field of adventure sports helped her overcome anxieties and travel to unknown lands. With just a bicycle as her companion, Stuti traversed through the challenging roads of Leh-Ladakh, made difficult choices in terms of picking up the routes, faced odds, and was rescued by good Samaritans.

"A senior German cyclist met me in Ladakh during my expedition and told me he was very proud of me, as he had not seen any other woman undertake such a solo expedition," she says with pride. "When I started climbing Golep Kangri, I asked for directions. After some time, I reached the first summit and thought I had achieved it. But thankfully, people told me that there were four summits and the last one was Golep Kangri," she adds.

The trip also brought her in interface with people of Leh and Ladhak, and Stuti says it was quite an experience. "I saw the life of Leh-Ladakhis from close quarters. I grazed their sheep, danced with them, cooked with them, saw Pashmina wool being removed, met monks and discussed life with them," she says joyfully.

Stuti says her parents supported her despite initial reservations. Her parents are natives of Uttarakhand, but Stuti was born and brought up in Mumbai. Her father is a media professional. Her mother works with ONGC.

She was introduced to mountaineering barely three years ago when her parents stumbled upon a course in mountaineering and informed her about it. "Incidentally, when my father was young, he had done the same course. My mother found out the details about it and I decided to pursue it," says Stuti, who has completed basic and advanced mountaineering courses from Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling in the years 2013 and 2014.

After these courses, she charted her own path to scale four mountains in Leh-Ladakh and cycle through the hilly terrain. Since then, she has not looked back.

She plans to undertake special training in Europe. "I intend to go to France first, and may be to Germany and Greece. France is where sports climbing began. It has the world's best infrastructure for climbing," Stuti said, adding the woefully inadequate infrastructure in India is behind her resolve to train abroad.

She is desperately looking for sponsorship as she would require around Rs 20 Lakh for her Europe trip. She says she dreams of doing solo ascents at Mount Everest without oxygen support, El Capitan, Mount Blanc. "Solo climbing teaches you to be calm, patient and focussed," she says enthusiastically. "Moreover, I want to explore other cultures. The more alone I am, the more I will discover myself."

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