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The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.

- Alexander von Humboldt

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Athletes

Jul 16, 2018

One Indian Woman’s Climbing Journey: Battling Social Stereotypes

For five years, Prerna Dangi perfected her climbing, whilst dealing with frequent issues of body image and gender bias in India.

WRITTEN BY

Jahnvi Pananchikal

India has witnessed the rise of female mountaineers like Bachendari Pal and Santosh Yadav, who paved the way for younger adventurers to keep trying. Prerna Dangi had the courage to choose a similar path. With resilience and self-motivation, this Indian climber was inspired by supportive parents and close friends, to top one of the hardest ice-routes in the country.

Climbing is changing my body. Do I want that? It made me question. I later realized that I just want to be a climber.

When Prerna arrived at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), she was excited to meet her fellow climbers. This was her first climbing endeavor with a wider group and a better wall, having initially discovered the sport in St. Stephens College, Delhi. During that period, whilst climbing a giant wall in front of people assessing her skills, something strange happened. Guys noticed her big arms, and made sure to point it out. She had hoped to get some feedback on her climbing technique.

That event, however, was a turning point for Prerna. “Climbing is changing my body – do I want that? It made me question it. But I later realized that I just want to be a climber,” says Prerna. She is one of the relatively few, fully dedicated recreational female climbers in India. She is 25 years old and has a significant number of climbing and mountaineering adventures to count among her experiences.

One of the recent ones was in January 2018 when she climbed the 350 ft high frozen Dankar Monastery Fall in Kaza, Spiti. During her adventure, she was accompanied by Project Wild Women. This was the product of preparation that included some nine frozen waterfalls from WI Grade 4-7.

That’s the achievement, but what about the journey, and what did it take to get there?

Photo Credit: Kopal Goyal

Struggle is at the core of climbing, and has also been a part of Prerna’s social context. She recalls an ice-climbing experience in Manali before gaining recognition for Dankar Monastary Fall. There were 15-20 climbers competing in the festival, organised by a local production house. There were almost nine climbers and only three participants had tried ice-climbing before.

Prerna was one of the two girls in the group, and didn’t have a climbing partner to belay her. When everyone tried and failed, she was the last one left. “No one asked me if I wanted to do it,” she remembered. “I was a new person in their community. I felt that the rest of the team was oblivious to giving someone new an opportunity. I found someone to belay me, and went to reach the highest point on the icefall.”

In other instances, Prerna realised that everyone is not the same. In 2015, Prerna headed out with two fellow climbers, Bharath and Karan, who discovered the Shilla Nallah ice route in Spiti. The three climbers courageously experienced the bad weather together, including a small avalanche, while trying to climb the fall. “They saw me as a climber, and put trust in me. My performance improved. They didn’t confuse ability with gender.” Later, she even found a fellow female climber, Vrinda Bhageria. They go on climbing adventures whenever they get a chance.

A strong and supportive ecosystem can make a huge difference. Prerna had to be patient to find the right people who supported and motivated her. Until then, she resorted to a change in attitude. “Earlier, when I climbed with people and noticed that they are not nice people, I wouldn’t be as motivated and see myself withdrawing from giving my all,” she remarks. “There were more people to pull me down than to support me, even if just for fun. They would tell me that for a girl, I climb so well. I was really bothered by this.  But now, I am able to see the good in people, learn from them and move on. I don’t let the badness get to me.”

“As a woman, I’ve had to prove myself before being accepted as a competent climber.”

“I want to become an internationally certified rock and ice guide. This will allow me to increase the scope of this field, provide an outlet to more people to push themselves in the outdoors. It is also the only way I feel I can inspire some sort of a change in my surroundings.”

No matter how the outer world was, Prerna’s family consistently encouraged her throughout this crazy ascent to freedom. Not only did they support her, but also exposed her to the initial playground in rural India.

Photo Credit: Prerna Dangi

Prerna’s dad hails from Tikhunkot village in Uttarakand. One needs to hike to get to this isolated village in the mountains. Her family lives in Delhi, but for almost 10 years, they would visit the village for a couple of months every year. That’s where Prerna learnt the value of simplicity and nature, but most importantly, the joy of climbing.

“I’ve been climbing trees since I was very young. I don’t remember being scared of heights and falling,” she laughs.

“When I first climbed a big mountain, I felt humbled.”

As she grew older, Prerna discovered her deep interest in varied sports, but was smart enough to realize the importance of good academic grades to keep everyone happy. So she studied hard and played harder. It worked. When teachers at school suggested to her parents that she should reduce play time, they just responded, “but she has got good grades anyway.”

Years later, thanks to family and her deep inclination towards adventure sports, Prerna ended up climbing 10 frozen waterfalls and the highest mountain in North America as part of a two-women team without a guide. Additionally, she has attempted the routes of East Tosh Glacier (6,450mts) and T 16 Virgin Peak Expedition (5,800 mts).

“Climbing is the only thing where I push myself all the way, and I won’t give up until I fall. You will fall whether you reach the top or not.”

With that attitude, her achievements as a climber are no surprise.

Prerna feels optimistic about the future of climbing in the country. “India is going to be the ultimate climbing playground,” she says. “We have everything from trad and sport to boulder and alpine in the coming years. We have so much untouched, unexplored territory waiting to be discovered and cultivated.”

Until more adventures, here is to never giving up.

Follow Prerna Dangi on Instagram here.

Keep reading more about female Indian adventurers, such as Malavath Poorna, the youngest person ever to summit Everest.

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Athletes & Explorers

Apr 21, 2019

Jess Roskelley, David Lama and Hansjörg Auer: How the World Reacted.

On Friday, the world was forced to come to terms with the passing of three climbing pioneers. Perhaps the biggest loss to the outdoor community in decades, respects were paid from around the world.

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

On Friday, news outlets from around the world reported that three world-class mountaineers who were climbing Alberta’s Howse Peak on Tuesday, April 16th were caught up in a large avalanche, that carried them to their likely deaths. Those mountaineers were 28-year-old Austrian David Lama, 36-year-old American Jess Rosskelley, and 35-year-old Hansjörg Auer.

Loved and admired by many, people from all walks of life have paid their respect. A few of those messages that have been shared on social platforms can be found below.

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David lebte für die Berge und seine Leidenschaft für das Klettern und Bergsteigen hat uns als Familie geprägt und begleitet. Er folgte stets seinem Weg und lebte seinen Traum. Das nun Geschehene werden wir als Teil davon akzeptieren.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Wir bedanken uns für die zahlreichen positiven Worte und Gedanken von nah und fern, und bitten um Verständnis, dass es keine weitere Stellungnahme von uns geben wird. Vielmehr bitten wir David mit seiner Lebensfreude, seiner Tatkräftigkeit und mit Blick Richtung seiner geliebten Berge in Erinnerung zu behalten. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Die Familien von Hansjörg und Jess schließen wir in unsere Gedanken ein⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Claudia & Rinzi Lama⁣⠀ ____________________________________⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ David dedicated his life to the mountains and his passion for climbing and alpinism shaped and accompanied our family. He always followed his own path and lived his dream. We will accept what now happened as a part of that.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ We appreciate the numerous positive words and thoughts from near and far. Please understand that there will be no further comments from our side. We ask you to remember David for his zest for life, his enthusiasm and with a view towards his beloved mountains. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Our thoughts are with Hansjörg’s and Jess‘ family⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Claudia & Rinzi Lama

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I will walk by your side forever.

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We all go to the mountains because there is some innate part of being human that seeks challenge and there is endless challenge to be found in our wild places. I’ve always seen mountains as a blank canvas that lets me be an artist by choosing my unique path when amongst them. It’s freedom in its purest and most simple form. But, like many things in life, what you originally set out to do isn’t always where you end up. It’s the unexpected adventures along the way that create the true magic. There’s so much more to this passion than just the climb or the ski, there are the human connections created along this journey that have been some of the deepest and most profound friendships of my life. There is also tragedy. The mountains are both majestic and fierce. They give so much and they take so much. It is with profound sadness, frustration and even anger that this week we have lost so much passion, kindness, ingenuity and unadulterted talent with the passing of these three human beings. *** My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of David Lama, Hansjörg Auer and Jess Roskelley. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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It hurts to feel the crushing magnitude of losing people you not only really care about, but also that are such iconic figureheads of our community. My heart breaks and I am praying for the direct family members and loved ones involved. Jess was one of the most driven, positive, humble, goofy, and kind friends. He accomplished daunting mountains with a smile and inspiring ability to encourage you to see no limits, too. Despite the magnitude of his accomplishments, he wasn’t “above” anyone. He was a genuine, radical guy and husband to an equally inspiring, kickass woman, @alliroskelley David Lama- who in our direct community doesn’t have a story…? Soft spoken, genuine BADASS. Footsy (@magmidt 😭) It’s been some time since the three of us hung out together but I will never forget how you have always been the number one climber I have looked up to’s career…the childhood prodigy turned all-rounded mountain climbing technician. He was the guy that could probably come back from a long expedition and still fire 5.14’s like he never left the gym. Hansjorg; an Austrian legend, I didn’t know you as personally so well but man, your accomplishments were so damn legendary. It’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around this except for the fact that the mountains are at once beautiful and merciless. These guys knew what they were doing in the mountains. They were straight legends. That’s what is terrifying to me. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your resume is: extremely unlucky circumstances can still happen. 💔.

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🖤💫🙏🏻 no words.

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No sabemos ni como empezar este texto, son momentos tan duros que no nos salen ni las palabras. La pérdida de Hansjorg Auer, David Lama y Jess Roskelly es tan grande que nos hemos quedado vacíos. Son tantos los amigos perdidos en la montaña qué se nos encoge el corazón. Muchos ánimos a las familias y amigos. Conocíamos a Hans desde hace mucho tiempo. Le queríamos y admirabamos mucho, era una gran persona , muy entrañable y fuente de inspiración para muchos de nosotros, con el cual tuvimos la suerte de haber compartido mucho tiempo y aventuras. ¡Siempre estarás con nosotros! Tus latín brothers Eneko & iker. We do not know how to start this text, they are such hard moments that we do not even get the words. The loss of Hansjorg Auer, David Lama and Jess Roskelly is so hard that we are left empty. There are so many lost friends in the mountains that our hearts shrink. Many encouragement to families and friends. We had known Hans for a long time. We loved and admired him very much, he was a great person, very fond and a source of inspiration for many of us, with whom we were fortunate to have shared a lot of time and adventures. ¡You will always be with us! Your latin brothers. Eneko & iker

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Read Next: Hansjörg Auer: No Turning Back

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