By Dillip Pradhan
Dhenkanal: She is a strong believer in destiny, but uncertainty looms large over her ambition to be the first Odia to scale all the highest peaks in all the continents of the world. Monetary constraints come in the way of her next two targets- Mount Vinson of Antarctica and Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) of North America.
Kalpana Dash (50), the first Odia women who had successfully scaled Mount Everest (Asia) in 2008 and highest peaks of other four continents- Mount KiliManjaro (Africa) in 2014, Mount Aconcagua (South America) in January,2015, Mount Elbrus (Europe) in July, 2015, and Mount Kosciuszko (Australia) in December,2015, has set her next target on Antarctica’s highest peak with an elevation of 16,066 feet (4,897 meters), located on the southern part of the main ridge of the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains.
However, money has acted major hindrance before her journey. “If everything goes well, I would start my journey in January. The climate of Antarctica allows the mountaineers to climb Mount Vinson in November, December and January. One such suitable month (November) has already elapsed and December is about to get over,” Dash said.
The lady mountaineer had received an invitation from Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions, a USA-recognised mountain expedition agency-in April this year to scale Mount Vinson. Since then, she has been waiting for monetary help as she has to pay US$41,000 to the agency for the costly trip. Dash had also met Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who had assured her all help. But, he is yet to do the needful, Dash said.
“He (Pradhan) was happy to see my invitation from the USA-based agency and had assured me of all assistance when I met him in Delhi two months ago. But, I can’t contact him since then”,the soft-spoken Everest winner, who has never moved to anywhere else for aid, added.
To conquer Puncak Jaya or Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m), the highest summit of Mount Carstensz in the Sudirman Range of the western central highlands of Papua province, Indonesia, is also another venture of Kalpana. There is no climatic constraint in climbing the Indonesian peak unlike Mount Vinson, said Dash, who had also received an invitation to scale the highest peak of Indonesia .
The mountaineer aspires to create a record of climbing all the highest peaks of seven continents. She vowed to reach her jackpot before she is past her prime. She continues her physical exercise to make her fit for mountaining. Climbing up and down to Kapilas hill in Dhenkanal is the best part of her exercise, which she used to do regularly during Everest expedition. Still, she is doing the same at regular interval.
She has never enrolled into a professional mountaineering course and her desire for climbing the highest peak emerged more out of interest and passion. Kalpana first had made an unsuccessful attempt to touch peak of Everest in 2004. She could only make it to 7,300 metres without oxygen in her maiden attempt.
During her second try, in 2006, she climbed up to 8,048 metres, but was forced to return after entering the death zone—an area marked by oxygen scarcity, sub-zero temperatures and strong winds. She was completely unaware about the climate and the health hazards involved.
However, a resolute and better-informed Kalpana had left no stone unturned during her third attempt and become the first Odia women to conquer the 8,848-metre-high highest peak of the world.