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Everest 2005: Indian Air Force
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Feb 22, 2005 16: 12 EST
Much like China, India is a mighty nation leaping forward with giant steps. China is sending another set of Taikonauts to Space this fall and India will soon shoot off a probe to the moon. Both countries also have a marked increase in their appetite for adventure, and it shows on Everest.

Bottom up

Last year, the Indian Navy team kicked off their Everest expedition off the coast of Goa in a Russian EKM submarine, 250 ft below the surface, with the defense minister of India in attendance to flag the team. Commander Satyabrata Dam was leading the successful expedition on Everest’s North side, where 5 members summited the mountain.

Olympic flames

That same year, Santosh Yadav - the first woman to climb Mt Everest twice - carried the Olympic Flame in front of the 16th century Tomb of Humayun in New Delhi. The flame was being carried through India as part of a worldwide tour that ended with the lighting ceremony at the main Athens Olympic stadium on August 13. China now plans to carry the Olympic torch all the way to Everest summit in 2008 - a huge Chinese climbing team will be tidying up the North side of the mountain already this year for the event.

Ladies of the Army

Back to India, after the Navy's triumph last year there have been reports of the first ever all-women Indian expedition to Everest this year - planned by the Indian Army. No news on that yet, instead other news arrived today of a third player entering the game: The Indian Air Force!

Indian Air Force to touch Jet altitude

The Air Force is sending a team to Everest this spring, to attempt the North Route. Led by Wing Commander Amit Chowdhury, the IAF team has been training for this expedition for the last three years, climbing in Garhwal, Ladhak, Himachal and Sikkim Himalayas. Last year the IAF team climbed Kamet (7756 m) also in Garhwal.

Tis' no game of cricket, said the commander

The recent increase in India's interest for mountaineering is great news for the large nation, who holds some of the biggest mountains in the world but has been prevented by lack of money to get their own mountaineering living legends, a fact pointed out last year by the Navy's commander and expedition leader:

"Indian climbers need serious funding from the ministry of sports instead of having it wasted on some other trivial sport. Since mountaineering, despite building team spirit, is not a competitive sport, there are no eye-catching tourneys to promote it unlike the World Cup for football and cricket," he said. Seems all that is changing now!

Amit Chowdhury is an experienced climber who led the Jadavpur University team to climb all three Jogin peaks (Garhwal Himalaya) including the virgin Jogin II in 1980.

Later he led expeditions to Sudarshan, Jaonli, CB53/54, Habuman Tibba, Deo Tibba, and was a member of expeditions to Satopanth, Kamet West Ridge and Principal of the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering in Gulmarg, Kashmir.

Image of last year's Navy Everest summit team, courtesy of Lt Cdr Abhiskek Kankan. Also check out a video of their summit in the links section.

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