Orissa lawyer makes India stand tall on Everest (Lead, Changing dateline)

May 22nd, 2008 - 2:17 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 22 (IANS) A 41-year-old lawyer from India’s Orissa state has made her country proud by hoisting the Indian tricolour on Mt Everest in a year that mired the world’s highest peak in murky politics. It proved to be third-time lucky for feisty Orissa climber Kalpana Dash, whose dream of standing on the 8,848-metre summit finally came true Wednesday when she pulled off the feat as the leader of the five-member Friendship Mt Everest Expedition.

After a long ban on Everest expeditions this year by both the governments of China and Nepal in a bid to prevent anti-China demonstrations during the Olympic torch relay to the summit, Nepal finally lifted the curb last week, causing a rush to the world’s most majestic peak from the southern route.

Favourable weather helped 27 climbers reach the top Wednesday, the first being Ngima Nuru Sherpa, a high-altitude worker hired by Kalpana’s expedition.

Kalpana is the only Indian among the nearly 500 foreigners who are attempting the summit this year. She is also the first Indian woman and the third Indian climber to have been able to summit Mt Everest after accomplishing the Himalayan task of raising money privately.

Everest expeditions are astronomically expensive with each individual needing to raise around $62,000.

Almost all Indian Everesters are from the army, navy, air force or police, able to achieve their deed through state funding.

Veteran climbers lament that the subcontinent’s obsession with cricket is killing all other sports, especially mountaineering, that nurtures leadership and team spirit.

Kalpana, the first person from India’s impoverished eastern Orissa state to conquer Mt Everest, had to grapple with lack of money and sponsors.

“She came to Kathmandu earlier to make the attempt but had to call it off as she couldn’t raise the money,” Dawa Sherpa of Arun Treks and Expeditions, which organised the logistics for Kalpana’s expeditions, told IANS.

“But she said she would be back.”

In 2006, Kalpana finally managed to start out but had to come down when she was only about 800 m below the peak due to bad weather.

This year, the gritty climber’s attempts finally persuaded Indian corporate houses to give her a leg-up.

Her sponsors were Arcelor-Mittal Group, Bhushan Steels, Coal India Ltd, Orissa Mining Corporation and Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys.

She was also helped out by Arun Treks, who brought together climbers in similar straits to enable them to attempt as a group.

The other members in her expedition were a Canadian and three Nepali Sherpas.

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