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Scaling mountains all over the world

Scaling mountains all over the world

May 27, 2014-

Susmita Maskey has been involved in the mountaineering sector for almost a decade now. She has scaled Mt Everest twice–first in 2008 and then in 2011, and is currently leading the ‘Expedition to Seven Summits’ which will see her scaling the highest mountains in the seven continents. Susmita is also a social activist and has been involved in numerous programmes and activities related to the safety, empowerment, and education of women. She also runs an NGO called Khudkila, through which she organises training programmes related to climbing for children from the streets and from shelter homes around the Capital. Rajita Dhungana caught up with the climber to talk about her career and interests. Excerpts:

Tell us something about Expedition to Seven Summits.

I’ve been supporting a cause, ‘Women and Girls Safety, Empowerment, and Education’, through climbing and talk programmes. Expedition to Seven Summits is part of the cause and will help promote it. I’ll be climbing the highest mountains in the seven continents. I’ve already climbed Mt Everest (Asia), Mt Elbrus (Europe), Mt Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mt Aconcagua (South America) and Mt Kosciuszko (Australia). I’ll be climbing Mt McKinley/Denali (North America) this June and plan on scaling the final peak, Vinson Massif (Antarctica), towards the end of this year, may be in November.

How did you decide on becoming a mountaineer?  

I have an aunt who used to work at the Mountaineering Association. The group would organise leadership training programmes related to climbing every year. Once, my aunt asked me whether I’d like to be part of one of these and I agreed. In 2003, as a part of a training group, I travelled to the Annapurna and Machapuchhre base camps. Everything looked beautiful in these high-up regions. I decided I would climb Mt Annapurna one day. Before long, I had started participating in more training sessions related to mountaineering and eventually decided to take up climbing for a cause.

A memorable incident you’d like to share with us?

When I climbed Island Peak for the first time, I had no mountaineering gear of my own. I borrowed the clothes from other climbers and rented the shoes. The clothes were too big for me, as were the boots. In fact, the shoes were so big my feet kept slipping out of them making walking very difficult. Also, I was rather thin back then and my friends had to secure me with four pieces of rope once I reached the top just so the wind wouldn’t blow me away. It was all quite funny.

I will also never forget my mother’s reaction to my name being called out over the loudspeaker in our neighbourhood one day. It was after my first ascent of Everest, and the local Newari Samudaya and Nagarik Samaj had decided to honour the entire expedition for the feat. She huried to me, kissed me on my cheek and gave me a big hug. She had been heartened to hear her daughter’s name being called out that way. It was such an emotional moment for the both of us.

You have travelled to places far and wide. Which was the place you liked best?

I love travelling and would like to go out on a world tour some day. Among the places I have been to, I liked Turkey a lot. The people there are so warm and genuine. Even though they do not know you, they come to you, greet you and sometimes even compliment you. I also liked Amsterdam a lot. It is amazing for someone used to the dirt and pollution of Kathmandu to see a place as pristinely beautiful as that. I was happily surprised to see that they ride on their bicycles most of the time. I also liked Amsterdam’s cool weather a lot. Within Nepal, I’ve travelled to quite a number of places–from the eastern regions to the western. But I’ve still not been to places like Lo Manthang, Khaptad and Rara Lake. I’ll be going to these places sometime in the near future.

Are you a foodie? Do you like to cook?

Not at all. I love simple food. I am a vegetarian, and don’t even drink tea and coffee. So my food choices are actually quite limited. I do not like fussing over food. But I do love aalo tama and never tire of eating makai and bakulla (corn and broad beans) in any form. I am also not a very regular cook but I do try out new recipes from YouTube every now and then. I think my yomaris turn out quite fine.  

What about your other interests? Say films, books...

I love watching films and prefer romantic comedies and realistic cinema to other forms and genres. I hate watching action and sci-fi movies. Dayahang Rai, Saugat Malla and Arpan Thapa are some of my favourite actors. I recently watched Kabaddi and found it really entertaining despite its simple storyline. It feels good to see that Nepali films are being made in interesting ways these days.

I used to read a lot more than I do these days. However, even today, I keep my old habit of reading a book from start to finish continuously. I recently read a Nepali book, Laxmi Didi and quite liked it. I also love reading old English classics as i am fond of writers like Virginia Woolf, George Eliot and Sylvia Plath.

What about gadgets and technology? Do these interest you as well?

I am not really a techie although I’m quite active on social networking sites and manage my own blog. Gadgets are not really my thing. I carry an old Nokia E72 and an iPhone 4 but I haven’t downloaded any applications on it at all. I just use it for making regular phone calls and for Facebook. When I’m climbing, I carry a GoPro Hero3 camera. These are about the only gadgets I use frequently.

Is there anything you are scared of?

It may sound funny but right now the traffic of Kathmandu is what I’m scared of most. Everyone seems to be in a hurry. People drive in a haphazard manner and I become so paranoid whenever I’m travelling by road. I’ve also seen a few accidents, so I’m always cautious while moving around Kathmandu valley.  

If not this, what would you be doing today?

I’m fond of dancing and feel like getting up on my feet and moving to the rhythm whenever I hear good music. I even took up dance as one of my majors while I was pursuing my Bachelors degree. And I’m equally interested in acting. So I don’t really know, but I just might have become a dancer or an actor if not a mountaineer.

Published: 27-05-2014 08:57

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