“The two great risks are risking too much but also risking too little. That’s for each person to decide. For me, not risking anything is worse than death. By far.” – Jimmy Chin
Meet Monti Rajkhowa, who recently scaled Kanchenjunga, world’s third highest mountain, rising up to an elevation of 8,586 m (28,169 ft) and one of the toughest mountains to conquer. Monti is 28 years old, hails from Assam, is a non-professional mountaineer and currently works with ONGC, which sounds like she is mostly away from the Himalayas. And yet she is the first Assamese to climb Kanchenjunga. Monti is the first lady ONGC officer among her male counterparts to have managed to scale the world’s third highest peak. Read on to find how her passion and a firm belief in her best friend’s advice took her to the world of mountaineering.
What motivated you to take up mountaineering?
“A friend, my best friend actually. She always tells me that maybe we should be somewhere more peaceful, she’d always nudge me to do something more challenging, to think differently and to be amidst nature. Well you must be thinking that’s a nice friend, yes she’s my inner voice, my soul.” We asked Monti how close she was with this friend during her childhood.
“Ever since a child, I loved to get to the higher grounds, it could be the terrace, the water tank, the treetop or the nearest hill. I would watch the surroundings from there for hours, observing frolicking birds and cattle in the grassland around. Born and brought up in the hilly state of Meghalaya, I had the opportunity of moving around amidst nature, from one hillock to another.
As a grown-up all that fun was substituted by work, Monty craved to be close to nature and do something challenging. She found her answers in Mountaineering. She says, ‘’A friend of mine had come back from BMC at HMI, his photos enchanted me. I applied immediately.” After joining the BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course), she went on to climb several peaks like Friendship peak(5289 m) ,Mt.Satopanth(7075 m) and eventually Kanchenjunga.
How tough was Kanchenjunga for you? Was there any point where you got stuck?
“There were times, when I thought I’d die of thirst, although I had water in my bag.”
“Yes there were many instances. The climb itself taught me a lot of things, and I managed to discover a little bit of myself in every moment of it. There were times, when I thought I’d die of thirst, although I had water in my bag. The climb beyond C4 (Camp 4) is so steep and uphill, that there is literally no place to put down your bag and sit for a while or even take out your thermos and take a sip. If you wish to do that you should anchor yourself and the bag, sitting somewhere is not an option. There were times, when my anchor gave away, and I thought I’m gone. But, such situations themselves show us the solutions. The only thing is one should know to identify these and use them in your own favour. I thought I had lost the route during the climb, because I was moving all by myself. My guide had to stop to help another member of my team. It was only when I reached the rocky section, we (the guide and me) were relieved to see each other.”
What’s your takeaway after this climb?
“I found peace, with myself and with nature. We should never stop exploring ourselves, because that’s the only way to happiness. We have forgotten to connect with ourselves as we race with each day. I realised that everything is possible, maybe we just need to stop for a while and re-focus on what we actually want in life.”
For rest part of this interview, click here.
Keep an eye out for our ‘Xpedition Series’ every Wednesday, where we are on a mission to curate tales of mountaineers, to share stories of explorations and their will to RISE above the limitations.