Even as Dhanya Sanal fulfilled her dream of ascending a 6,128-foot-high sacred mountain in India, she was "ready to turn back" at any time. In fact, the 38-year-old thought protesters might force her to do so. Until Kerala's high court put an end to the tradition in November, women were barred from climbing Agasthyakoodam by local tribespeople, who viewed the women's presence as an insult to Agastya, a Hindu sage associated with celibacy, depicted in statue at the summit. Dhanya did meet protesters of that opinion on her 13.5-mile trek with roughly 100 men beginning Monday, the first day of the 47-day climbing season, but none forced her to turn around, per the BBC. And at 11am Tuesday, she became what the Times of India describes as the first woman to scale the peak.
Two female forest officials accompanied the group, per the BBC, but Dhanya suggests they only kept her company during an overnight stay at base camp. With a goal "to understand the forest more," per the Hindustan Times, Dhanya reached that point after six hours of trekking Monday. It took another four hours to get to the summit through thick forest and steep, rocky terrain. "I had to literally hang on to ropes like a monkey to get past the rocky terrain at least at four locations," Dhanya tells the Times of India, sharing this warning for the 100 or so other women among this year's 4,700 registered climbers: "Do not ever undertake this journey if you don't have that extra physical fitness." Three women following in her footsteps are expected to reach base camp on Thursday. (Read more India stories.)