Discover a classic trek around Annapurna
Oct 17 2013
When I did the trek with Peter Habeler, he chose the latter, as there is a steady height gain which helps in acclimatisation to both altitude and cold. It is also nice to finish off at Pokhara, relaxing at the lakeside with the peerless Machapuchare or ‘Fish Tail’ rising up above you. In the evenings, the waterfront cafes, done up with fairy lights, come alive with western food and music — somewhat standard touristy, especially Israeli, fare but the global company is fun!
Bachendri Pal, in one of her last major ventures before retiring as head of the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation, is leading a group of Indian women climbers and trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit trek this month. The squad has some rather elite members of India’s climbing community such as Premlata Agarwal, Arunima Sinha and Kalpana Dash. Agarwal holds the record for the oldest Indian woman to climb Everest — she did the ascent at the age of 45 in 2011. She is also the first and so far only Indian woman to complete the Seven Summits feat — climbing the highest peak on each continent.
Sinha holds a world record that will last forever. She is the first female amputee to summit Everest, which she did during the spring climbing season this year. Her story is an inspiring one of grit and determination. She was pushed out of a running train by robbers in 2011 and one of her legs had to be amputated beneath the knee. Much of Sinha’s spirit stems from her life and career in sports — she was a national-level volleyball player — before she came into mountaineering.
I include Dash in their league for a reason. Though her achievement is not on a par with theirs, the advocate from Odisha has broken new ground in two directions. She was the first Indian climber to join a commercial expedition as a client — in 2005. It was she who began the trend of Indian mountaineers raising funds and paying their way to Everest, instead of waiting for national expeditions to be mounted and then trying to get selected. On her first attempt, after paying the agency, she had very little money for personal gear and had to attempt the climb with borrowed boots. Unsuccessful, she went through the process of raising money again and returned to Everest in 2006. She failed again, and one Indian climber commented that her pace of walking was too slow. With admirable tenacity, she raised funds yet again and made her third attempt — finally reaching the summit at the age of 42 in 2008, which was then a record for the oldest Indian woman atop Everest.
In middle class India, women are not encouraged to “squander” meagre resources towards adventure goals. Dash’s perseverance is all the more remarkable.