From wheelchair to Mount Everest, a journey of grit & determination

First woman from Maharashtra to climb the World’s tallest peak from the North Ridge.

Written by Garima Rakesh Mishra | Pune | Updated: June 10, 2017 10:47 am
‘When I saw the Everest from the base, I decided I had to scale it,’ said Aparna Prabhudesai.

A few years ago, Aparna Prabhudesai was told by her doctors that she would never be able to walk without support, due to a severe meniscus injury. Even inside her own house, she had to use either a walker or a wheelchair to move around. But with the sheer force of grit and determination, Prabhudesai decided to change the course of her life.

Today, Prabhudesai (47) has not only scaled Mount Everest, but she is also the first woman from Maharashtra to do so from the North Ridge. “I had been preparing for this summit for the last three-and-a-half years. Other than doing basic and advanced courses in mountaineering, I undertook various activities to build muscle strength, such as long-distance running, cycling, marathons etc,” says Prabhudesai, who owns a firm that deals with corporate training and organisational development.

Recalling the time when a serious injury had turned her life upside down, Prabhudesai says that the injury had made its way into her joints, causing swelling, stiffness and wobbliness. After conducting several tests, her doctors told her that she would not be able to walk without support because her knees could give way without any warning.

“After being bound to a wheelchair and a walker for over five months, I decided I wasn’t cut out for that kind of life. I told my brother, who is a doctor, that I want to walk again, come what may. He told me that the only way to ease the weight on my bones was to build muscles,” says Prabhudesai.

In May 2013, Prabhudesai’s friend invited her for a trek to Triund in Dharamshala. “Though I trekked a bit with the help of braces on my legs, my friend had to carry me most of the time,” she says. After she came back from the trek, Prabhudesai decided to take up running.

In June 2013, she ran 3 km for the first time, and there was no looking back after that. Soon, she completed several half and full marathons in India and abroad. Prabhudesai also ran a distance of 75 km, adding the laurel of Ultra Marathoner to her achievements. A trek to Triund triggered a passion for trekking, and prompted her to participate in multiple treks to Laka Glacier, Kareri Lake, Chaddar Trek and the Zanskar Valley.

In May 2014, she participated in a trek to the Everest Base Camp. “When I saw the Everest from the base, I decided I had to scale it in 2017,” says Prabhudesai, who did a basic and advanced mountaineering course from Manali in September 2014 and June 2015 respectively.

On why she decided to climb Mount Everest in 2017 from the North Ridge, she says, “This year marks my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. My father was an army officer who commanded a Mahar Regiment, which is celebrating its platinum jubilee this year. I chose the north side as it is an extension of the Siachen Glacier, where my father served. This is my tribute to the efforts and hardships he faced while bringing up his children”. Scaling the Everest from the north side is tougher, says Prabhudesai. While she did carry her leg braces along for the expedition, she didn’t wear them during the climb.

Prabhudesai, who is also the founder of Pune Running – RunWay Viman Nagar chapter, still requires physiotherapy and needs to consult with her doctor to deal with the pain. But she is not complaining. “Every one has their own, personal ‘Mount Everest’. It could be a target to quit smoking, switching to another job or something else. We must try and attempt it,” she says.

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