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IAF Everester gets VSM posthumously
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 25
His body lies in everlasting peace at 8150 m in the lap of mountains he so loved, claimed by the kiss of death after a unique climbing success for which he was today honoured with a Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry on the eve of the 57th Republic Day.

Sqn Ldr S.S. Chaitanya, or “Chaithu” as he was popularly known, was among the first three of IAF men to climb the world’s tallest peak last year. But a slip while returning after conquering the summit hurled him down the Everest slopes. Today his name figured among those awarded VSMs, only Sirigare Shivashankappa Chaitanya will receive it posthumously.

Hailing from Chitradurga, Karnataka, Chaitanya was commissioned in the IAF as a Technical Officer on May 27, 1996. He completed his basic and advance mountaineering course from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and was adjudged best student in the advanced course.

His love for the mountains and mountaineering drew him to the sport and he took part in every IAF mountaineering expedition since 2002 - Deo Tibba, Manali, Shitidhar and Kamet — and he summitted all these peaks.

He immersed himself in finding out everything about Mt Everest till he became a walking encyclopaedia on the world’s highest peak. He was also deeply involved in all aspects of the planning and organisation of the IAF’s Everest Expedition, be it equipment, communications, photography, route, sherpa support or getting government approvals.

No physical training or any activity could be done without Chaithu being at the forefront. On the mountain itself, he was the first to get up and wake all the others, help in making tea and get things going.

He was tougher, more well-informed and energetic than anyone else on the expedition and it was ironic that Chaitanya succumbed to the perils of extreme mountaineering, a 7fact that he drew attention to in every discussion. Sqn Ldr Chaitanya reached the summit of his dreams on May 30 last year. And his body lies in everlasting peace on the slopes of mountains he so loved.

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