Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports an incident from the past as though it happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to re-live it several years later, on the date it occurred.

20th May, 2011

Premlata Agarwal has created history as she became the oldest Indian woman to scale Mount Everest, according to an official statement. The mother of two daughters, one of whom is married, reached the summit of the world’s highest peak at 9:35 am, confirmed a spokesperson for her sponsors. She stood atop the world’s highest peak, planting the Indian flag with immense pride.

The 48-year-old Premlata had started her preparations on May 6, starting from the Everest base camp at 18,000 feet. She ascended to Camp 2 at 22,000 feet before advancing to Camp 3 at 23,000 feet with the aid of supplemental oxygen. From there, she climbed to Camp 4 at 26,000 feet.

To acclimatize to the harsh conditions, Premlata had undertaken a rigorous month-long training regime, which included a climb on the 20,300-foot Island Peak in the Himalayas and repeated ascents and descents between the Everest base camps.

Premlata’s achievement marks her as the oldest Indian woman to scale Everest. Her extensive experience in adventure sports includes participating in the Karakoram Pass expedition, an ascent of Stok Kangri, and leading the first Indian women’s Thar Desert expedition, a 40-day camel safari from Bhuj in Gujarat to Attari in Punjab.

Premlata’s historic ascent is a testament to her perseverance and dedication, inspiring countless others with her incredible journey.

Premlata’s ascent of Mount Everest was fraught with challenges, including a dramatic moment just an hour before reaching the summit when she lost one of her gloves. Advised to turn back to avoid deadly frostbite, fate intervened when she found a pair of gloves left by another climber.

Fate plays a vital role in everyone’s life, not only mountaineers. I believe it was fate that brought me back unharmed to fulfill my other mountaineering aspirations,” Premlata told The Times of India.

Born in the village of Sukhia Pokhari in Darjeeling, West Bengal, Premlata grew up in a joint family of over 30 members. Despite being the last runner to finish school races, her determination never waned. She married journalist Vimal Agrawal at 18 and became a mother of two daughters.

Her journey into mountaineering began when she accompanied her daughters to the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur. A notice for a Dalma Hill trek piqued her interest, and she decided to participate, finishing third among over 500 participants. This achievement led her to the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation, where she met her mentor legendary mountaineer Bachendri Pal.

Initially, Premlata’s goal was to involve her daughters in adventure sports, but Bachendri Pal saw potential in her and encouraged her to join instead. In 2008, under Pal’s guidance, Premlata successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Pal then suggested she attempt Mount Everest, promising to seek sponsorship from Tata Steel.

Also Read: Back In Time: India’s First Train Gets Flagged Off From Bombay

After two years of deliberation and ensuring her family’s support, Premlata began training for Everest at 48. Despite language barriers, an old ankle injury, and extreme weather conditions, her determination remained unshaken. Her family’s encouragement, especially her husband’s, was crucial. “When Bachendri Pal thinks you can do it, then you should go ahead!” he said.

During her Everest expedition, Premlata faced scepticism from her Sherpa, who doubted her ability due to her age and physique. However, her willpower and resolve won him over. 

Premlata’s message to aspiring mountaineers and women everywhere is clear: “Though mentally difficult initially, if I, a mother of two grown-up children, could achieve success in mountaineering, why can’t you? Every woman should take a break and pursue her spirit of adventure.”

Looking up to her mother and Bachendri Pal as role models, Premlata hopes to inspire others. “I would like to be remembered as a homemaker who set out with a spirit of adventure to attain success on the base of hazardous challenges.”


Her journey didn’t end there. Despite initial setbacks, such as foul weather thwarting her first attempt at Mount Denali, Premlata’s determination saw her through to the completion of the Seven Summits. This achievement earned her the prestigious Padma Shri in 2013 and the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in 2017.

Sangeeta Bahl, 53, has also conquered six of the world’s seven highest peaks, surpassing the record previously held by Premlata Agarwal, who scaled Everest at the age of 48 on May 20, 2011.

Premlata Agrawal’s story is a testament to the power of determination, the support of family, and the belief in one’s potential to achieve greatness, regardless of age or background.

Image Credits: Google Images

Feature image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: NDTV, Times of India, The Hindu

Find the blogger: Katyayani Joshi

This post is tagged under: Premlata Agarwal, Back In Time, mountaineering, Mount Everest, oldest Indian Woman, 48 year old, seven summits, Sherpas, Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award, Padma Shree, Bachendri Pal, deermination, 13 years ago, age does not matter

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