TGC team member, Shubham Joshi, presents an insight into the lives of the inspirational twins, Tashi & Nungshi Malik, who are scaling new heights, one step at a time.
The date was April 21, 2015, when the Arctic snow was hovering in every direction and there was nothing but the vast sky above. It was then that the Malik twins hoisted the Tricolor at the North Pole, adding another feather to their caps, given they were already held several pre-eminent records and achievements.
At the young age of 24, when most of us are busy figuring out our rather clueless existence, Dehradun-based twins, Tashi and Nungshi Malik, have already reached the pinnacle of success. Not only do they hold a string of record breaking expeditions to their names, but recurring mentions in the record books as well. Their story is one which applauds the life, triumphs, honours and the coming future of these ‘Twin Everest-ers’.
Tashi and Nungshi Malik, often dubbed as the ‘Everest sisters’, were born in Anwali, a village in the Sonipat district of Haryana, on June 21, 1991.
Owing to their father’s army background, the twins spent most of their formative years across the country, studying at more than nine different schools across, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
It was during this age, that their affinity toward sports and adventure blossomed. In addition to being in a class of their own in the field of sports, Tashi and Nungshi, were also excelled at academics.
The sisters also shared a number of other common interests like dancing, journalism, peace work, languages, and international development.
In the summer of 2009, the sisters took admission at the Sikkim Manipal University for a distant learning course in Journalism & Mass communication, rather than a full-time course
They spent the next three years honing their skills – from writing articles on social issues, dancing and skiing to a special course in computer applications and even a year-long certificate course in peace-building.
Their tryst with mountaineering began at the early age of 18, when their father enrolled them into ‘The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM)’, in Uttarkashi, without their knowledge.
They joined the course with much enthusiasm; little did anyone know that this would soon turn into their passion.
The sisters completed a number of courses in mountaineering, eventually attaining the ‘Qualified to be an Instructor’ grade, a feat very few Indian women have been able to achieve, thus far.
Three weeks into the advance course they embarked upon their first climb, which was to Mt. Rudugaira – a peak in the Indian Himalayas at an altitude of over 19,000 ft – with fellow trainees. The speed and deft with which the twins called the mountain leaving behind the other trainees and the instructor not only earned them admiration but also the titles of ‘Rajdhani’ and ‘Shatabdi’.
Inspired by the likes of Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzin Norgay, and growing up with a father who believed in the importance of facing dangerous and challenging situations, mountaineering had become their ‘walk of life’.
Moreover, with bodies which were innately fitted to ascend and survive dangerous heights coupled with the perseverance and will that the two had, there was no looking back.
In an interview with ClimbSkiBoulder Magazine, both Tashi and Nungshi describe the reaction of their parents when they conveyed their intention of climbing Mount Everest.
While their father had only advised them to train and prepare more, their mother was absolutely devastated by the news. Being a caring, solicitous, and protective mother towards her daughters, Anju Thapa Malik was not too keen on her girls to climb those death-dealing heights.
It was her fear that stalled the Everest-climb for as long as three years; however, eventually realising the twin’s drive, it was their mother who pledged away her gold ornaments for a loan to fund the Everest climb, in 2013, when she buried her fears and reluctantly agreed to their Everest expedition, setting them on a path that would guarantee her sleepless nights for years to come.
While the girls had started preparing for Everest, in the later part of 2010, they eventually summited the world’s highest peak in 2013. It was also during this time, that they came up with the idea of scaling the highest peak in each continent.
Their Everest climb began with them spending almost 6 weeks at the base camp, which was followed by the, reaching the summit of Sagarmatha on May 19, 2013. Making it to the top of the world’s highest peak in their first attempt, Tashi and Nungshi, earned the historic milestone of becoming the first set of twins to reach scale Mt Everest, together.
Following Everest, the sisters took up ‘Mission2for7’ which involved climbing the highest peak in each continent, with the combined vision of promoting mountaineering as a sport and encouraging the girl child to achieve her dreams.
With each climb costing as much as Rs. 60 lakh, they started collecting funds with the help of their personal savings and loans, and soon with sponsorships from various national and international organisations, as well as the state government of Uttarakhand, they began their journey.
The twins, thus, travelled and scaled every peak in their way: Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Everest, Mt Elbrus, Mt Aconcagua, Mt Carstensz Pyramid, Mt McKinleyand and Mt Vinson Massif.
After scaling the seven summits, on December 28, 2014, they skied to the South Pole and on April 21, 2015, they skied to North Pole, attaining the ‘Explorers Grand Slam’ title, under mission ‘Unchaiyon Se Aage’ (Beyond Heights).
What followed the Explorer’s Grand Slam was a list of records and honours for the two climbers.
They have since been felicitated and recognised by various organisations, as well as the state and national government for their achievements:
List of Honours:
Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award
Uttarakhand Gaurav Samman
Devbhoomi Idol Award 2015
Fellows of Royal Geographic Society, London
India’s top 50 power women by Verve magazine
World’s 10 most inspiring women by Girl Guiding, Scotland
Tezing Norway National Adventure Award (India’s highest adventure award)
The Lief Erikson Young Explorer Award 2016
Exceptional achievement certificate by TFOC, Dubai
Bhartiya Manav Adhikar Samman, 2016
International women of courage award
In addition to these awards, the Malik sisters have also been made the brand ambassadors for the ‘Beti bachao’ (Save the girl child) campaign for Uttarakhand.
CURRENT LIFE & FUTURE PLANS
Having achieved every feat in the way of a mountaineer, the girls went on to add another trophy to their case.
They graduated with a diploma in Sport & Exercise from the Southern Institute of Technology in New Zealand.
They also went on to realise their long-drawn dream, the Nungshi Tashi Foundation, as a platform for advancing the lives and dreams of Indian women and girls, through outdoor sports and mountaineering.
The twins also aim to start their adventure company in India and to operationalise their long cherished ‘Mountaineers for Peace’ project.
Currently, settled in Dehradun, the sisters plan to visit US for their book, stressing the importance of sports and exercise.
The two are also trying to raise funds for their ‘Girls 4 Icecaps Challenge’ wherein they aim to ski full length across the world’s four ice caps spanning over 5000 km of ice.
On speaking to the twins, via their Facebook page, they shared their vision for girl empowerment. They said, “What motivates us to climb dangerous peaks is, Girl Empowerment in India and the world. And we climb to highlight the daily #invisiblemountains of gender discrimination, denial and exclusion that countless girls have to climb, merely to survive.”
19 May – Mt Everest, Nepal
22 August – Mt Elbrus, Russia
29 January – Mt Aconcagua, Argentina
19 March – Mt Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia
4 June – Mt McKinley (North America)
16 December – Mt Vinson (Antarctica)
28 December – South Pole
21 April – North Pole
15 July – Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
World records broken
Youngest persons to complete the Explorers’ Grand Slam
New World records achieved
First female twins to scale Mt Everest (Guinness World Records)
First twins and siblings to scale Seven Summits (Guinness World Records)
First twins to reach the North Pole and the South Pole on skis
Explorers Grand Slam records achieved
World’s First Twins and siblings
First South Asians
Youngest – at age 23 years and 10 months
Number 30 and 31 to have completed the Explorers’ Grand Slam
In a compelling tale of many awe-inspiring firsts, twins Nungshi and Tashi Malik conquer the holy grail of climbing challenges. The girls have used mountaineering, a sport usually considered ‘a men’s forte’, in order to shut and shatter the stereotypes about girls. They’ve hurdled through various obstacles and impediments operating at different levels on their way achieving glories and success not only for themselves or their parents but for the country as well. With issues and problems of female foeticide, infanticide and the gender discrimination that an Indian girl faces everyday, Tashi and Nungshi Malik prove to be an inspiration and a guiding light for every one of those to conquer the mountains in their way and to achieve heights.