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Indian twin sisters conquer North America’s highest peak

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Nungshi and Tashi Malik set another world record in mountaineering

NungshiTashi have hoisted 'tri-colour' on six continents, with one remaining

No twin sisters in the world have dared to dream what NungshiTashi have already achieved

They have done it once again! On 04 Jun (USA time) 2014, NungshiTashi who just last year became world’s first twin sisters to climb Mt Everest, set 6th world record by becoming the world’s first twin sisters to scale Mt McKinley. Aiming to draw attention to the alarming phenomenon of female feticide and infanticide in India, especially in much of the rural North, the pair of ‘wonder twins’, 22 years old sisters Tashi & Nungshi malik achieved this milestone after braving strong snow storms and arctic temperatures plunging to -45 degrees over a period of 17 days. Many members from concurrent expeditions dropped out at various stages due to bad weather or medical reasons, but the twin sisters persevered to become only the 2nd Indian women to climb this mountain. Last year, Premlata Agarwal became the first Indian woman on top of McKinley. But she succeeded in her second attempt. Thus, NungshiTashi have also become the first Indian women to successfully climb McKinley in first attempt.

Towering at 20,320 ft, Mckinley (in native language known as ‘Denali’ meaning ‘great one’) is a serious mountaineering challenge for any climber. It is a huge snowy mass, flanked by five giant glaciers and countless icefalls. Due to its sudden altitude gain (which is more than Everest), Mckinley dominates the horizon from as far as 200 miles away. Not only is it prone to earthquakes, the combination of high altitude and extreme latitude also means altitude sickness kicks in much faster. Though many records have been set on this ‘big’ mountain, in over 100 years since the first successful ascent in 1913, no twin sisters have ever stepped together on its summit.

Currently on #mission2for7 to scale the highest peaks in all seven continents, they have already scaled the Mt Everest highest peaks of South America, Europe, Australasia and Africa, each one a ‘world’s first’! They have also scaled an unclimbed, un-named peak at 21000 ft ‘alpine style’ in Indian Himalayas last fall.

With this success, the young twins are now just one short of another historic milestone, to become world’s first twin sisters to step on top of the famed ‘seven summits’.

As if to test their patience and motivation, the twins were battered by the longest snow storm over Alaska in recent memory! A combination of high latitude and high altitude make Mount McKinley one of the coldest mountains in the world. In November 2003, a North American record low temperature of minus 83°C was recorded on its summit. We are at the edge of our patience & at the end of our supplies.The girls never imagined having to brave 7 long days holed up at 14,200 ft with near persistent white out conditions and snow storms dipping temperatures to -48 degrees. Two teams that had started expedition 4 days and 8 days ahead of NungshiTashi, turned back during this same long spell of bad weather. But the twins kept their spirits high, even as they prayed never to have to get stuck in similar conditions again!

Summit day on Denali is a tough and this is where our careful planning, slow pace, and John and Olivia's previous experience pay off. The climb generally takes between 12 and 14 hours roundtrip. The descent from high camp to the Southeast fork of the Kahiltna usually takes about 2 days and can be nearly as difficult as the climb itself.

Beaming with enthusiasm over phone, the twins describe their two fold vision for aiming the highest peaks in all continents, “to promote mountaineering as a sport, especially in India and to encourage the girl child to dream and achieve”.

No other Indian mountaineer has so far achieved so much at such a young age, and none has made as many world records a NungshiTashi. By their grit and determination, they have raised the bar for the Indian girls.

Route taken by NungshiTashi

Being girls themselves, with roots in one of the most conservative rural areas of Northern India, with one of the worst sex ratios and epidemic levels of gender violence, Tashi and Nungshi admit that they deeply feel the pain of exclusion and suffering of the girl child. “Many parents in our areas still consider boys as the only off springs” they lament.

The girl child is caught in a vicious cycle of feticide & infanticide, denial-exclusion-malnutrition-lack of education-domestic work and eventual economic dependence on the male. “Right from her birth (that is, if at all she’s fortunate to be born!), our girl child has numerous ‘Mountains to climb’ to merely survive. And even more, to realize her potential and full human rights.

Expressing their resolve, the brave twins declare “We stand solidly with the girl child and pledge to use all our resources to help her earn her rightful and equal place in the society. Let the world realize that ‘Girl child is a human being first always and every time”!

Known as the 'big mountain' Mt McKinley has steeper gradient than Everest and is the most challenging peak to climb in the ‘Seven Summit’ circuit after Mt Everest

Taking to a sport that demands extreme physical and mental capabilities and very high degree of risks, TNT (acronym for Twins NungshiTashi, which is universally used as abbreviation for Trinitrotoluene, an extremely powerful explosive used especially by the world militaries) want to show that girls can compete on equal footing with men even in areas traditionally seen as ‘men’s forte’.

“And by this, we want to shatter some of the stereotypes about girls” quips Tashi.

“By our achievements and the consequent media interest, we want to send the message of gender equality and the fight against female feticide” re-iterates Nungshi. Striking a more reflective tone, they sum up their deeper understanding of the importance of their mission, “India cannot realize its full potential as long as its girls and women cannot realize theirs!”

NungshiTashi pose with team members before flying out to Kahiltna glacier to start their expedition

NungshiTashi started their expedition on 16 May along with 4 more climbers from Ireland, Australia and Canada. By their slew of records, the wonder twins have brought joy to millions of fellow Indians, especially to the girls and women.

The twins are in need of urgent funds to schedule their last and penultimate peak in Antarctica in the month of November. They have to raise Rs 60 lacs by 15 August to pay their fees for this last challenge. Your help can make their #mission2for7 a success. To contribute, please contact at 9410729434, or email at [email protected] or visit www.nungshitashi.com