More IAF climbers summit Everest (Lead)

May 25th, 2011 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu/New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) The Indian tricolour and Indian Air Force (IAF) flags flew atop Mt Everest once more Wednesday as five more climbers from the IAF expedition summited the world’s highest peak before finally calling it a day due to inclement weather.

Squadron Leader Nirupama Pandey, 31, from Bihar, and Flight Lt. Rajika Sharma, 28, from Himachal Pradesh, as well as three male colleagues stood on the 8,848-metre peak between 10-11 a.m., the IAF support staff told IANS from the Everest base camp.

They were accompanied by six high-altitude Nepali Sherpa guides.

The three IAF men are Squadron Leader Devidutta Panda, 34, from Orissa, Lance Corporal Ganesh Singh Pokhriya, 26, from Himachal Pradesh, and Sergeant Jasbir Singh, 38, from Punjab.

The group had started out for the summit from the last camp on the Everest slope at 9.30 p.m. Tuesday.

This is the second group from the IAF expedition to summit after the first one reached the top of the world May 21.

Flight Lt Nivedita Chaudhary, 27, from Rajasthan became the first woman from the IAF Everest Expedition 2011 to ascend the summit May 21, followed by Corporal Raju Sindhu, 26, from Haryana.

Since then bad weather and the high traffic on the peak made the rest of the expedition members retreat to the shelter of the lower camps, biding their time.

Though seven members of the expedition could not make the final attempt, including its leader, Group Captain Narendra Kumar Dahiya, it was decided that the team should pack up and begin to descend due to reasons of safety and weather.

In New Delhi, an IAF press release said: “It is the first time in the history of IAF that women in blue have geared up to raise the pride of the nation to the highest possible point on earth.”

The team had been flagged off by the Air Officer-in-Charge Administration, Air Marshal J.N. Burma, on April 13.

The team, which followed the southeast route, comprises 11 women officers. It was accompanied by a medical officer and eight airmen, who are qualified mountaineers.

“Being the first women officers of the IAF to be in a situation where no other IAF women officer has been earlier, these women officers exhibited exemplary courage and determination in bringing laurels to the IAF and the nation,” the release said.

To undertake the challenge, the team underwent a strenuous training schedule, including a basic mountaineering course, and winter training camps at Siachen in 2010 and 2011.

They went on to scale progressively higher and tougher Himalayan peaks in the past two years, starting with Mt. Stock Kangri (6,121 metres) in Leh, Mt. Bhagirathi II (6,512 metres) in Uttarakhand, Mt. Kamet (7,757 metres) in Garhwal and Mt. Saser Kangri I (7,672 metres) in Ladakh.

This is the second IAF expedition to Mt Everest since the first one in 2005 via Tibet. The joy of summiting in 2005 was diminished by the death of Squadron Leader S.S. Chaitanya, who became separated from his Sherpa guide and lost his way while descending due to a snow storm and perished.

Women from India’s defence forces also made their mark on Mt Everest the same year, putting four climbers from the Indian Army on the summit in an expedition led by Major S.S. Shekhawat.

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