Indian Everest dreams soar to record high in 2011

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Indian dreams are soaring to a record high this year with eight men and women seeking to conquer Mt Everest with living legend, Nepali mountaineer Apa Sherpa, who has climbed the world’s highest peak an incredible 20th time and now seeks to best his own record with a 21st ascent.

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This is also the highest number of individuals ever from India to attempt the prohibitively expensive adventure on their own.

Three women and five men from states as diverse as Jharkhand, Haryana and Tamil Nadu will seek to summit the 8,848m peak this summer as part of Eco Everest Expedition 2011.

The remarkable expedition was started by Nepali climber Dawa Steven Sherpa since 2008 to remove garbage from the august peak. It became close to Indian hearts last year when one of its members, 16-year-old Delhi schoolboy Arjun Vajpai, reached the summit to become India’s youngest Everest hero.

Three Indians had attempted the summit with Eco Everest Expedition 2010 and two succeeded. Besides Arjun, Mamata Sodha, a 27-year-old teacher from Haryana showed the new grit driving Indian climbers, who have to scramble for sponsors, who remain fixated on cricket.

Among the eight Indians chasing the Everest dream this summer, Prem Lata Agarwal, a 48-year-old dogged climber from Jharkhand, has already accomplished the first part of the difficult task.

Asian Trekking, the Kathmandu-based agency that handles the logistics for the Eco Everest Expeditions, said Agarwal had already sent the money needed.

Besides climbing gear, an individual mountaineer needs to raise at least $40,000 to take part in an Everest expedition.

Agarwal showed her mettle in 2008 when she took part in the Indian women’s expedition to Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, and was one of the nine climbers to breast the 5,895m peak.

The other two women seeking to take part in the record-breaking climb are Sushma Mahavir Sharma from Haryana and Sunita Singh from Karnataka.

Four of the men are based in India: Vikash Kaushik and Sultan Singh, both from Haryana, Thiru Loga Thangran from Tamil Nadu, and Narendra Singh from north India.

The fifth, Ajay Mulchandani, is a 29-year-old computer wiz from New Delhi who is currently based in Norwich, Britain.

A project leader for CSC Computer Sciences Corporation, Mulchandani works for Aviva, a leading insurance company in Britain.

“I have decent climbing profession, which includes trekking trips to all the notable peaks and summits in the Sahyadri Range of Maharashtra,” Mulchandani told IANS.

“My team and I were awarded a certificate for the ‘Longest Valley Crossing in India (Asia) 1,020ft’ at the altitude of 3,000 feet, (which included) the treacherous Lingana Pinnacle, apparently the toughest natural rock climb in the Sahyadri mountains. The team is also registered in the Limca Book of Records.”

Besides the Everest dream, Mulchandani is also pursuing the milestone of the Three Peaks’ Challenge in Britain, for which he will have to scale the three highest peaks in England (Scafell Pike), Scotland (Ben Nevis), and Wales (Snowdon) – within 24 hours!

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])