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Bachendri Pal
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Karnam Malleswari
Khushwant Singh
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
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Bachendri Pal

    Bachendri Pal was the first Indian woman to climb the summit of Mt. Everest, in 1984. Her father was a border tradesman who took wheat flour and rice from India to Tibet on mules, horses and goats. He eventually settled near Uttarkashi, where he married and was blessed with five children. Bachendri, the middle child, was born in 1954.

Bachendri Pal

    Always a rebellious child, she loved wandering in the snowclad Garhwal Himalayas. Her family was often entertained by her dreams of travelling in airplanes and meeting famous people. She was independent and fearless, and first tasted the excitement of the high altitudes when together with a group of l2-year-old classmates; she climbed 4000m (13,123 feet) during a picnic, could not come down before nightfall, and spent the night there without food or shelter!

    At 13, like most Garhwal girls she was expected to leave school and help in the house. But her determination to study impressed her family to let her finish high school. She, as a student, earned money by sewing in her spare time. The principal of her school persuaded her family to send her to college, where she won over both boys and other girls in rifle shooting and other competitions.

    Her B.A. graduation thrilled her parents, who wanted her to be the first girl in the village with a degree. She eventually did an M.A. in Sanskrit and then B.Ed. In spite of these achievements the job offers that came in were only chickenfeed, temporary, junior-level positions, so Bachendri applied to the Nehru lnstitute of Mountaineering for a course. She was judged the best student in the course, and marked down as 'Everest material', much to her surprise.

    In an advanced camp at NIM in 1982, she climbed Gangotri I (6672m/21,900ft.) and Rudugaira (5819m/19,091ft.). Her mentor was Brigadier Gyan Singh, Director of the National Adventure Foundation, who set up an Adventure Club for young women to learn mountaineering skills. It also provided an instructor's job for Bachendri, whose family was under economic pressure.

    India's fourth expedition to Everest was scheduled for 1984, and till then only four women in the world had ever scaled the peak. The '84 team comprised of seven women and 11 men, and this was Bachendri Pal's first real expedition.

    After an avalanche with injuries and other problems, she conquered the summit of Sagarmatha (the Nepali name for the highest peak in the world) at l:07 p.m. on 23 May, 1984. It was an arduous climb of over 29,028 ft. (8848 m). Her dream came true. In 1985 Pal led an All-women team to Everest, and in 1994, led an All-women rafting team down the river Ganges, from Hardwar to Calcutta.

    Bachendri Pal won several awards during her illustrious mountaineering career. She was awarded the Padmashree in 1985 and the Arjuna award in 1986. She twinkles in the Guinness Book of World Records too.

    She has put together all her experiences of mountaineering in her autobiography, "Everest-My journey to the top." She is currently employed as Deputy Divisional Manager (adventure programmes), Tata Steel Adventure Foundation. Her life endorses how hard work and the will to succeed can elevate one to greater heights of glory.

EVEREST PEAK - Some Snippets

  • First surveyed in 1852 during the Great Trigonometric Survey of India.
  • First known as Peak XV - later named Everest.
  • First scaled in May 1953 - by Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.
  • More than 1500 people have climbed-almost 800 in the last 5 years.
  • More than one-third of the summiteers are Sherpas.
  • First woman to scale the peak was a Japanese-in May 1975.
  • First south Asian woman to reach the top is Bachendri Pal from India – in May 1984.
  • 15-year-old Temba Tsheri, a Nepalese student is the youngest to reach Everest-in 2001.
  • Everest View Hotel at 12,779 is the world's only hotel at this altitude.
  • Sherpa Ang Rita has climbed the Everest ten times without oxygen and he is also the only person in the world to have climbed the Everest without oxygen in winter.
  • A 63-year-old Japanese woman is the oldest woman to reach the top – May 2002.
  • According to a report, there are at least 100 tonnes of litter on the higher slopes of Everest, making it the "world's highest garbage site".
  • All 14 Nos. of the world's peaks over 8000m are in the Himalayas.
  • The Himalayas are 25 million years old.
  • Each year the Himalayas grow a few centimeters as the Indian plate pushes into Asia.
  • Satellite measurement in 1999 showed the increase in the Everest Peak from 8848 in to 8850m.
  • Temperature drops by 0.60 C for every meter above.

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