Saturday, June 11, 2005


Peak of adventure

Is it the thrill of conquest or a desire to be on top of the world looking down on creation? Whatever the reason, trying to scale the Everest brings out the best in adventure seekers. Never before has the interest in Everest peaked to the extent it did this summer.

Members of the Army Women Mountaineering Expedition to Mount Everest
Members of the Army Women Mountaineering Expedition to Mount Everest

IF four Iranian women became the first Muslim women to scale the Everest, for a Nepalese couple it was another first—they became the only ones to marry at such a height. Apa Sherpa, Mr Everest, was the one who made it to the hallowed peak 15 times and before you stop counting, the women from the Indian Army scored another first.

For the peaks of achievement, there were also anxious moments for the family, when our girl from Muktsar, Sukhi, uncharitably called ‘the worst climber’ by an Australian was asked to come back as she was ill-equipped to take the climb.

The Iranians, the first Muslim women to conquer Everest, Farkhondeh Sadegh, a 36-year-old graphic designer, and Loleh Keshavarz, 26, a dentist, added a new chapter to the history of mountaineering when they climbed the 8,848 m peak from the southern side through Nepal as part of the 21-member Iranian 2005 Everest Expedition.

Nepalese girl Moni Mulepati, 24, and her secret beau Pem Dorje Sherpa, 23, created a world record when they married atop the Everest.

Though husband-wife couples have been making periodic assaults on the peak, this is the first time a pair ever said "I do" at the top of the world. Moni is also the first non-Sherpa Nepalese girl to scale the peak.

Apa Sherpa
Apa Sherpa

Iranian women on their way to the peak
Iranian women on their way to the peak

They had kept the plan a secret in case they failed. They had even managed to smuggle vermillion and garlands to the Everest, along with mountaineering equipment.

The wedding created ripples in conservative Nepalese society because they are from different castes. Moni is from the caste of Newars, once the ruling elite, while Sherpas are placed lower at the lower end of the caste hierarchy.

On their return, the couple told the media that they were not only happy with the venue but also the message it conveyed from the top of the worlsd — the mountain knows no caste and neither does love.

It was another high when the first women’s expedition from the Army made it to the peak. For the family of Captain Ashwini and Captain Gopika Pawar, a part of the Indian Army’s expedition, it was an extremely uplifting experience when their daughters made it to the peak. Ashwini was accompanied by Shipra Mazumdar, cadet Tshering Ladol and trainee dechin Lhamo. Active members of the NCC during college, the Pawar sisters had excelled all along.

Viewed in perspective, Mt. Everest is an illusion, according to Jamling Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, climbing leader for the IMAX Everest film crew in the deadly spring of 1996. Everest, known locally as Chomolungma, appears to be the world’s ultimate mountain.

But for Jamling, Everest is even more imposing as a great teacher that taught him respect and humility.

Western mountain climbers look at Everest and see a rock to conquer, Jamling has observed.

Sherpas, the indigenous people who make any and all ascents of Everest possible, see Chomolungma as their mother, into whose lap they want to crawl. — A.N.