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On Top Of The World

Kalpana Maharjan is determined, courageous, young and relentless in the pursuit of her dreams. The mother of a six-year-old, Kalpana claims to be the first female journalist to have scaled Mount Everest from both North and South sides (in 2018 and 2019). In a conversation with WOW’s Rojina Maharjan she talks about her journey. Excerpts:

How did you get into journalism?

The curiosity and the aptitude to learn new things is what pulled me into journalism. It all started with a poem ‘Chhori laai helaa nagara’ which was published in a newspaper. Now it has been 12 years since I have been writing. I officially started as a journalist in a weekly. Currently, I am working as a television program producer/presenter. Side by side, I work for a tourism weekly as its sub-editor.

How do you manage your time between work and home?

It’s difficult but it’s all about time management. I try to do the right thing at the right time that makes my work flow at a normal pace. My family has been extremely supportive of my work. Their support makes it easier for me to manage time.

What inspired you to climb Mount Everest?

The disparity existing in our society among the male and female is what triggered me to climb Mt Everest. Our society always seeks proof of a woman’s capability. To prove that I can do anything that my male counterpart can do, I decided to climb the highest mountain on earth, Mt Everest. In my first endeavour to climb Everest in 2014, I was evacuated on a helicopter as I got ill due to Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS) and went into a coma for seven days.

What happened after that?

After gaining consciousness, I realised that life gave me a second chance to fulfil my dreams. However, my family was against my decision to climb the mountain again. In 2018, I successfully scaled the highest peak with four other Nepali female journalists. Then in 2019, I conquered the mountain from the Tibetan side with the cause “A Campaign against Child Marriage through education” for the second time on the same date as per Gregorian and Nepali calendars – 23 May 2018 ( 09 Jestha 2075) south side and 23 May 2019( 09 Jestha 2076) Northside.

How did you prepare yourself to scale Mt Everest?

I was very strict with my daily routine. My day started at 4am with a 10km run to Santaneshwar Temple. I worked out for two hours at the gym for physical training and learnt some rope skills and knots, and took wall climbing training. Once a week, I hiked the surrounding hills of Kathmandu valley with extra weight of 25 kgs in my backpack. Furthermore, I watched mountain climbing videos and read many travelogues from the past expeditions to learn about high altitude expeditions and related issues.

What was your biggest challenge during the climb?

Everest expedition is no joke. It is full of extreme challenges at every step. For me or any women, one of the greatest challenges while on the mountain is dealing with menstruation hygiene and period discomfort. When you are climbing mountains at high altitude, it is very normal to have heavy bleeding. Also, your period lasts for a longer time that makes a climber even weaker. Extreme temperature and harsh wilderness conditions are other challenges that might bring you to the end of your life.

Which was riskier: South or North?

Every climber has their own perception. I found the Nepal side, the south-east route to be more difficult as there is more possibility of avalanches and high rate of daily glacial movement. Whereas, on the Tibetan side, the high-speed wind and very low temperature make it dangerous for mountain climbing. On the management side, I found that the northern route was better managed and well-facilitated for climbers. They have a cleaner basecamp compared to our Everest Base Camp. I think the government should improve our facilities and properly manage the traffic on Everest.

Tell us about Kalpana Maharjan – Back to Everest: A Campaign against Child Marriage.

After scaling Mt Everest in 2018, I was approached by many social organisations. That’s when I decided to join Experience Outdoors Nepal, a trek company with a social motive along with my partner and tourism entrepreneur Rabindra Maharjan. We decided that I go back to Everest with the slogan” A campaign against Child Marriage through education”. As Mt Everest gets a lot of local and international media attention, we wanted to spread the message from the summit of the Everest. We have already started our work at a school in Lalitpur with a teacher management program. We will use all the funding that comes from climbing Everest for education to support our cause.

What are your future goals?

I want to support aspiring mountain climbers and bring positive change in the mountaineering scenario of Nepal. I will be continuing journalism and work further to expand my campaign.

Your message to women…

I believe woman are constraining their growth. We are brought up in a society where we are constantly told that we have limitations. We need to change this mindset ourselves. I would appeal to all the women out there to set your goals and always aim higher. Nothing is impossible.

Your success mantra

Never give up! Everything seems impossible unless it’s done. JUST DO IT!