President Pratibha Patil has flagged in a mixed Indian Army team that scaled Mount Everest, creating history by putting 17 climbers on the world’s highest peak on May 25 and 26.
One of the summiters, Subedar Rajendra Singh Jalal, became the first Indian Army soldier to have climbed Everest without oxygen.
It took one full year of training and two-phase selection – one at Siachen Base Camp and the other at Manali – to identify and prepare the final team of seven women and 10 men climbers along with the support staff for the expedition.
Patil welcomed the team and congratulated them at an event held at the Manekshaw Centre in Delhi Cantonment.
“Indian Army has added another feather on its cap by fielding a women’s team for undertaking such an extreme adventure with full success,” she said, adding her “special compliments” to Jalal, and applauding his effort in fighting altitude sickness and disorientation while climbing the peak, to achieve his mission.
Jalal, a veteran mountaineer from Uttarakhand, has already scaled five 8,000-metre peaks including the Everest in 2003. But by thew latest summiting, he became the first Indian Army personnel to do so without supplementary oxygen supply.
Led by Colonel Ajay Kothiyal, an experienced mountaineer, the expedition had been flagged off by army’s deputy chief, Lt. Gen. Ramesh Halagali on March 12.
The team set off for Kathmandu on March 22 from Delhi and from there, reached the Everest Base Camp on April 14 after a strenuous trek of 18 days. Thereafter, the mettle of each member was tested in a climb which took 45 days to achieve the mission.
“The conditions at Everest are unusually difficult this year. More than 200 mountaineers aborted their mission and went back to their countries because of these adversities,” Kothiyal said.
The army team attempted to reach the summit on May 19, but was forced to come back to base camp due to hostile weather. The team started again from the base camp on May 23 to make its second attempt and succeeded this time.
Major N. Linyu and Captain L. Smitha became the first women from Nagaland and Karnataka respectively to have climbed Everest.
The other officers of the team included Major R.S. Jamwal, the deputy leader from Jammu and Kashmir, Captain Nitin Balram Ahuja, the medical officer cum base camp manager from Maharastra, Major Neha Bhatnagar (Rajasthan), Captain Namrata Rathore (Uttarakhand), Captain Poonam Sangwan (Haryana), Captain Prachi R. Gole (Maharastra), and Captain Deepika Rathore (Rajasthan).
Nepal Army chief Gen. Chhatraman Singh Gurung had visited the team at the base camp prior to the summit attempt.