Saachi Soni has already scaled greater heights than most people do in a lifetime. At 23, she has summited peaks across continents, including Mount Elbrus in Europe, and North America's Mount McKinley, which is considered among the most dangerous in the world. In India, Soni has gone climbing in Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Spiti. She plans to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa next.
Soni started mountaineering, hiking and skiing with her father when she was seven.
“My soul belongs to the mountains," she said, "and I am glad that they called me early."
Her Instagram account is an ode to the mountains, their desolateness, their pristine beauty, and their people.
Soni alternates between using a smartphone, Clickpro and digital cameras. The images are stored away until she finds network to post them online.
When in the plains, Soni spends time in Delhi, or in Jaipur, where she was born. A recent journalism graduate, Soni plans to join a sports channel as a reporter.
"As a student I had time to spare and would go trekking every other month, but I might not have the same freedom when my career begins," she said. "Let's hope my bosses are as understanding of my passion as my professors have been."
Climbing mountains, scaling precipices, buying mountaineering gear does not come cheap. Sometimes, Soni finds sponsors, but quite often, she funds her own travel.
"I saved up money I received from giving talks and spent it all on my travelling," she said.
Soni has a gruelling exercise regimen to stay fit for climbing. She runs an average 20 to 25 km every day at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's campus, plays soccer, swims and also trains in a gym.
One of Soni's favourite moments from any climb, is when she reaches the glacier point where she can remove her heavy climbing boots (each weighs at least 3 kilograms), and change into lighter trekking shoes.
Recently, she scaled the highest mountain in the Stok Range of the Himalayas, Stok Kangri. The formidable snow-capped mountain, towering over Leh, was like a homecoming of sorts for her.
The trek offered Soni a glimpse of the cold desert in all its beauty.
“I was lucky to spot a pack of Himalayan blue sheep, Himalayan marmots, and some pretty chameleons on my way,” she said.
On her next climb to Mount Baljuri in Uttaranchal, Soni plans to climb alpine style – without any guides, porters or support.
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