On May 16, more than 29,000 feet above sea level, a Cornellian and her father made history.
Deeya Bajaj ’16 and her father, Ajeet Bajaj, ascended the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, becoming the first Indian father-daughter duo to make the commanding heights.
The two embarked for the trip on April 16, reaching the peak at 4:30 a.m. one month later. By climbing the peak, Deeya wanted to communicate a message of female empowerment for young Indian girls, saying that scaling Everest exemplifies gender equality.
Deeya told the Cornell Chronicle that “there is much scope for improvement as far as gender equality issues are concerned,” adding that “feticide and limited opportunities for girls are some of the issues that are prevalent, especially in rural India.”
Deeya, who majored in natural resources in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is the third Cornellian in recent history to make the summit, after Rob DesLauriers ’87 in 2006 and Sean Mooney ’08 in 2013.
Adventure had been part of Deeya’s life from a young age, according to The Times of India. Deeya Bajaj had been on some prior adventures with her father — an explorer who is also the first Indian to ski to both the North and South Pole — such as cross-country skiing across the Greenland Icecap and mountaineering to Europe’s highest point, Mount Elbrus.
Deeya’s parents also run an adventure tourism company in India, called “Snow Leopard Adventures,” where Ajeet works to introduce people to the outdoors through adventures in river running, safaris, ziplining, mountaineering, and more.
Deeya said that when the opportunity arose to climb Everest, she and Ajeet “knew this would be a great opportunity to spread awareness about [feminist] issues.”
“In a country where many families do not support girls and their aspirations, we wanted to show that given the right opportunities, our girls can reach any summit,” Deeya said.
She also told the University that her time with Cornell Outdoor Education as a coordinator for the Outdoor Odyssey pre-orientation program was an invaluable preparation for the adventure.
“Working with COE helped me gain experience in planning and organizing trips and greatly improved my outdoor skills,” said Bajaj.