Pregnant Mountaineer & History-Maker Achieving New Summits For Women & Girls In India

Having a goal in her sight to touch the highest peaks of the world since when she was seven, mountaineer Bhawna Dehariya Mishra has so far completed three expeditions on her list, crossing various hurdles, societal challenges and walls of economic crisis along the way. Now at the age of 29 and currently nine months pregnant, Bhawna has added a few more responsibilities to her list, but giving up her life-long goals is certainly not something Bhawna is about to do. 

Hailing from a small tribal village called Tamia in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, she dreamt of reaching the highest peak of the world during her school years while she was reading a chapter of Bachendri Pal‘s book about becoming the first Indian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1984, titled “Everest – My Journey To The Top”. But Bhawna’s dream was not an easy one to achieve as she realized years later as she got into mountaineering and started training to climb the summits. She worked hard and completed all the initial steps required to be eligible for an expedition to Everest, but she faced challenges along the way. After learning that climbing Mount Everest would require a lot of money and not initially have the funds herself, Bhawna began looking for sponsorships. After four years of searching and applying, she was finally given a helping hand from the Madhya Pradesh Government. 

“I was on cloud nine when I got the funding I needed and was able to head to Mount Everest. It was worth waiting four years for, but the main challenge occurred during the expedition itself. Toward the top of the summit, my oxygen cylinder started leaking so I had to stop and wait for an hour, breathing in -45 degree Celsius air. My Sherpa asked me to go back but I refused. So I ended up borrowing oxygen cylinder from my Sherpa and decided to head towards the peak alone. I had made many sacrifices to be on this trail and did not want this to be the end of my journey,” said Bhawna. 

Bhawna at the Summit of Mount Everest

Bhawna successfully climbed the highest peak of the world Mount Everest on May 22, 2019 and became first among the first women of the state to scale the peak. After that incredible feat, she never turned back and continued embarking on her mountain journey to summit the highest peaks in other continents. Alongside reaching the summit of Everest, Bhawna says one of her proudest moments came when completing the climb to Kilimanjaro.

“I unfurled the national tricolor flag of India on the occasion of Diwali on Kilimanjaro, the highest peak of the Continent of Africa. This was the most touching moment of my lifetime,” she said.

Bhawna single handedly completed the trek starting from Tanzania on October 23 and reached the summit Uhuru Peak on October 27, 2019. Since then she has climbed Mount Aconcagua in South America, reaching a height of 6500 meters on December 31, 2019; Mount Manirang, Himachal Pradesh, covering 6593 meters summit in August 2018 and Mount DKD 2nd (5670 meters) Ghadwal summit in 2017. Today Bhawna also holds the Guinness World records for promoting the Himalayan Mountain Range worldwide during an online event, organized by Coimbatore based Transcend Adventures and Snow Leopard Adventures, on August 15, 2020.

Bhawna is proud of her home country and Indian culture, and has used every opportunity possible to promoted two of the most prominent Indian festivals during her climbs. Along with celebrating Diwali on Kilimanjaro, she also celebrated the Holi festival in 2019 by spreading beautiful colors at the highest peak of Mount Kosciuszko in Australia.

Although Bhawna was on a roll with her Summits, there was another major challenge yet to come, in early 2020.

“As I was planning to head toward my fourth summit – Mount Elbrus, the highest peak of Europe – COVID-19 began spreading across the world and changed everything as we know it. It made me immediately cancel the expedition as all the international travel was suspended and countrywide lockdown was enforced everywhere. This is when I decided to give priority to my family goals, balancing my professional and personal lives. I considered this the perfect time to plan for a baby, as I also wanted to have the experience of becoming a mother someday. Throughout this time being pregnant, I have stop stopped training and have been working on my health and preparing myself for upcoming expeditions,” she shared.

Sharing this process publicly is also an important part of her advocacy to break down stigma, and show the world that you should never write off women just because they happen to be pregnant.

“There is a mentality in our society that once a woman gets pregnant, she has to solely be dedicated towards her family, putting a stop to her ambitions. Proving this frame of mind wrong, I have chosen to keep my mountaineering goals in my sight. I am utilizing each moment for both my personal as well as my professional goals. I am determined to complete of all the seven peaks’ summits and this objective has only kept me encouraged during my pregnancy. I will continue my expedition in post pregnancy with the same zeal”, she said.

Bhawna also talks more specifically about the significance of being a pregnant women in India still visibly chasing her goals and not conforming to the patriarchal status quo, that so often can hold women back.

“Living in India, many women are forced to leave their dreams and goals behind after their marriage or after having a baby. But I had already decided before planning a baby that I would continue my goal of completing the summit of all the highest peaks of seven continents. Due to COVID-19, I failed to complete the fourth summit. However, I believe that if you have the courage and determination then nothing is impossible in this world. I am also very blessed to have a supportive husband and in-laws. Because of this I believe that I will become successful in my determined path that even my baby will be a proud of me one day,” she said.

Today, as she prepares for the arrival of her baby and navigates the path toward her next summit after becoming a mother, Bhawna shares a message to other married women in India who are navigating their own circumstances in life or are forced to give up their ambitions. 

“To all the women out there who had dreamt of something or were on a trail that was left incomplete after marriage, I would like to encourage them that this is your life to live. So give it a try once again to accomplish which was left behind and don’t allow your circumstances to force your dreams to go unrealized,” she said.

We are certain Bhawna will be successful in finally reaching the summit of Mount Elbus and cannot wait to share the news in the future.

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