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Everest 2005: Indian Army girls switching sides
image story



Mar 23, 2005 10: 08 EST
The Indian Army has finally confirmed that an all-female team will attempt Everest this spring. However, the uneasy political situation in Nepal has dissuaded the army officials from entering the country. Instead, the team will launch the climb from Everestís Tibetan side.

Abduction threat

Army chief General JJ Singh explained the decision to media last Friday in New Dehli: "The Nepalese government had cleared the teamís attempt from the southern side. But keeping in view the teamís security and the movement of stores over a long distance prone to Maoists attacks, we have decided to let the women team make the bid from the Chinese route."

Apparently the threat was serious for Indian climbers. Intelligence officials told India Daily that the Maoists were planning to kidnap the Indian military personnel.

Tough girls from hills and plains

The 10-member team, comprised of women aged 20 to 27, was selected after screening 140 volunteers. The team includes women from various parts of the country, ranging from West Bengal to Gujarat, and from the remote areas of Leh and Ladakh to the villages of Orissa.

The women have trained at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi, and they have been working out hard, indeed. In addition to high-altitude glacier marches, the women were trained in ice, snow and rock climbing skills. As a preparatory climb, the women summited Mt. Abi Gamin (7,355 m) in the Garhwal Himalayas in October 2004. The selected women also trained in sub-zero temperatures on the Siachen glacier in January. "The team braved the harsh terrain and hostile climate with tremendous mental and physical toughness," an army spokesman told the New Kerala.

Male escort

The team will fly to Lhasa via Kathmandu, and from there they will drive to Everestís North side BC. The leader of the expedition is Maj. S.S. Shekhawat, who has climbed Everest twice. The group is supported by a technical team of experienced climbers from the Indian Army.
Another - all-male, this time - Indian Air Force team was confirmed earlier last week. They will follow the womenís team and climb the North Col route as well.

Though Indian women have climbed Everest in mixed expeditions, this is the first time that an Indian all-woman team will be making a bid for the peak.

Mountaineering creates some tough soldiers and the Indian Defense has always cut its teeth on high peaks. Everest Navy summited last year. This year the Indian Army is sending an all-female expedition, and the Indian Air Force has launched its own expedition as well.
Image of Everest North side courtesy of Serac Adventure Films.

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