Season’s first Indian conquest of Mt Everest goes unnoticed

By Sudeshna Sarkar,IANS,

Kathmandu : The first Indian summitting of Mt Everest this season has gone virtually unnoticed with the western press, which dominates mountaineering news, ignoring it while Nepal’s tourism and civil aviation ministry is yet to issue the obligatory press statement.

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On Monday, two bravehearts from West Bengal climbed the world’s highest peak overcoming bad weather and other logistical obstacles.

Basanta Singha Roy, a 47-year-old veteran climber and bank employee, and Debashish Biswas, 37, an Income Tax official, became the first among a team of 12 climbers to reach the 8,848-metre peak.

“It was wonderful,” a tired but jubilant Singha Roy told IANS Wednesday after he and Biswas had descended for two days and reached the safety of the base camp. “I could see Tibet from the top. It was a feeling of pride too.”

Biswas was the first to reach the summit at 8.30 a.m., Singha Roy said. An American climber, Cleonice P. Weidlich, who was also part of the team, reached the summit as well.

The team has three other Indian members – teenager Bhagyahsree Sawant from Mumbai, Delhi high school student Arjun Bajpayee, and Haryana school teacher Mamata Sodah.

“The three are currently in the base camp and will try for the summit around May 22-23, when the weather is expected to be favourable,” said Kaju Sherpa of Asian Trekking that joined forces with Darjeeling company Loben Expeditions to arrange the logistics of the climb.

“Initially, Singha Roy and Biswas were seeking to climb Mt Everest from the northern side through Tibet,” said Loben Expedition chief Loben.

“However, they were not given a climbing permit by the Chinese authorities and so decided to go through the southern route via Nepal.”

The duo caught a flight from Kolkata to arrive in Kathmandu and left the capital for Lukla, the district regarded as the gateway to the Himalayan ranges, on April 7.

“We are likely to return to Kathmandu on Monday,” Singha Roy said, laughing when asked how his peers at the Punjab National Bank in Krishnagar would react to his achievement.

The Indian climbers have had to cross a tougher hurdle first when they had to raise money for the expedition.

“The permit alone costs $70,000 for a group of seven climbers,” says Loben. “Then the air fare, accommodation, food and gear, all of this add up to about $35,000-40,000 per person.”

A proud Krishnagar set up a campaign to raise funds for its first boys to scale the world’s highest mountain and the Mountaineers Association of Krishnagar also played a major role in the fund-raising.