first_imgNungshi Malik wakes up with a start and she nudges her twin sister Tashi Malik, “We dozed off. We have no rifle or equipment with us. We have to find the rest of the team.” They walk out of the tent and flash a torch. Relief washes over them as,Nungshi Malik wakes up with a start and she nudges her twin sister Tashi Malik, “We dozed off. We have no rifle or equipment with us. We have to find the rest of the team.” They walk out of the tent and flash a torch. Relief washes over them as they see the flash returned from a little distance away. They haven’t drifted that far off. This is the first time they’ve slept in a tent by themselves instead of with the rest of the team. The ice is constantly shifting at the Poles and if they had woken up even a few hours late they would have lost the team, stranded in the middle of nowhere, at the mercy of hungry polar bears in the blistering cold of less than -40 degrees. They pack up and join the rest to continue their 111 km trip towards the North Pole.The twins got to their destination on April 21 this year. Less than three months later, they would scale the last peak on their itinerary and become the first Indians and the youngest people ever to complete the Explorers Grand Slam within just two short years. This involves scaling the highest peaks of the seven continents and traversing both the North and South poles on skis. The 23-year-olds, originally from Haryana, spent their early years across the country, studying at more than nine different schools in Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh owing to their father Col Virendra Singh Malik’s army background. So, from an early age, they were adept at handling unfamiliar situations.advertisementTheir tryst with the peaks began six years ago in 2009 while attending the basic mountaineering course at Nehru Mountaineering Institute in Uttarakhand. Although the twins dreamt of summiting Mount Everest way back in 2010, an adamant mother stalled their ascent for almost three years. Finally in 2013, their mother Anju Thapa Malik, buried her fears and reluctantly agreed to their Everest expedition which set them on a path that would guarantee her sleepless nights for years to come. Malik’s fears were not unfounded as the twins had to brave not just sub-zero temperatures of -50 to -60 degrees but deadly snow storms and the risk of hypothermia while on this mission. “Mckinley was the most notorious climb. It was ridden with snowstorms and most climbers had descended with frostbites on their fingers and toes that would later be amputated. We were asked to give up but our fate did not necessarily have to be the same as others, we thought. We were right about continuing because we were the first people to make it to the top that season,” says Nungshi recounting their summit of Mount Mckinley in Alaska.At the ‘balcony’, which is a small platform en route the last leg of the Everest climb at 8,400 metres, Nungshi’s oxygen mask malfunctioned. The air at this point is so thin that a person can die of asphyxiation within a few hours without an oxygen tank. “It was the scariest experience. Nungshi was feeling faint already and we were deliberating turning back when a kind sherpa on his way down lent us his oxygen mask,” says Tashi. The twins always had each others backs, motivating and pushing each other. When one was low the other lifted her spirits. “There were times where we would have given up if we were alone. Luckily, we could count on each other for nearly everything without thinking twice,” says Nungshi.”Mountaineering is given a lot of importance by the international community who jump at the opportunity to follow and sponsor their mountaineers, especially for an achievement like the Explorers Grand Slam but the sport is neglected in India,” say the twins, who watched their parents struggle and put everything on the line for their mission. Climbing each of these summits and the Poles cost between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 60 lakh. Theirs was partially sponsored by a number of Indian and international organisations, as well as the government of Uttarakhand. The rest was through personal loans and savings. The girls are currently studying exercise and sport science at the Southern Institute of Technology in New Zealand. On their return, they plan to focus on the Nungshi Tashi Foundation they started in April, this year. Through this they plan to empower young girls. The twins, who graduated in journalism from Sikkim Manipal University, also have a book in the offing and an ongoing affinity for the outdoors that extends to sports like hockey, badminton and basketball.advertisementHow they did itIt took real grit, hardwork and sheer determination to scalethe highest peaks. A timeline of their expeditions.2013May 19 Mt EverestAugust 22 Mt Elbrus2014January 29 Mt Aconcagua March 19 Mt Carstensz PyramidJune 4 Mt Mckinley(North America)December 16 Mt Vinson(Antarctica)December 28 South Pole2015April 21 North PoleJuly 15 Mt KilimanjaroWorld records brokenYoungest people to complete the Explorers Grand SlamFirst twins to scale Mt Everest (Guinness World Records)First twins to reach the North Pole and the South Pole on skislast_img

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