Team India does nation proud on Mt Everest (Lead)

May 21st, 2009 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 21 (IANS) In May 1959, six years after Mt Everest had been first climbed by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, India sent its first expedition to Mt Everest. But the Indian Army team led by Brigadier Gyan Singh was defeated “by the fury of elemental forces”.

On Thursday, the 50th anniversary year of the first all-India expedition to the world’s highest peak, the Indian tricolour flew on the summit with 10 Indian mountaineers standing on the 8848m peak after a heroic climb.

The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) Everest Expedition 2009 that kicked off from Kathmandu April 8 was led by the principal of NIM, Mangal Murthi Masur.

The 10 climbers include 24-year-old Kavita Budathoki from Uttarakhand, the lone woman climber to reach the top.

On a day that saw another milestone created in mountaineering history by Nepal’s legendary climber Apa Sherpa climbing the peak for a record 19th time, the 10 Indians were among the first to reach the top, in two drives at 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.

“We are especially proud of the achievement since it occurred on the 50th anniversary of the first Indian expedition to Mt Everest,” Masur, who comes from Bangalore, told IANS from the Everest base camp.

“For 44 years, NIM has been training people all over the world to be mountaineers. Almost 20 percent of our students are foreigners. So we felt it was time for us to climb Mt Everest.”

The other reason NIM chose this year was because, Masur said, this is also the 25th anniversary of the first Everest summit by an Indian woman.

In 1984, the fourth Indian expedition to Mt Everest left with six women and 11 men. After surviving an avalanche, Bachendri Pal made it to the summit and became part of history as the first Indian woman to do so.

However, the real glory of the Indian 2009 expedition perhaps lies in the tale of those who did not make it to the top.

Gautam Ghosh, Samuel Lalrintluangar, Mina Pawar and several more did not make the final push Thursday as they were injured by the same fatal avalanche a fortnight ago that killed a Sherpa in Apa’s Eco Everest Expedition 2009 team.

“Our boys proved real heroes,” Masur said. “Though they were caught in the middle of the avalanche, they rescued two Austrian climbers who had been buried under. However, some of them were hit in the back and were not fit to go up.”

This has been a magic year for India atop Everest, indicating growing interest in mountaineering despite the stranglehold of cricket on Indian sports.

At 7.10 a.m. in the morning Thursday, another Indian climbed the peak as a member of Apa’s historic expedition.

Krushnaa Patil from Maharashtra had joined the multinational Eco Everest Expedition 2009, which is also cleaning garbage from the mountain and raising a global alert about environmental degradation.

The 19-year-old too had a brush with the killer avalanche but still reached the summit.

“You did it Krushnaa,” her mother Ranjana Patil, a school teacher in Pune, said in an exultant message of congratulations. “You have made India proud.”

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