FIRST IAF WOMEN OFFICER TO CLIMB THE MT EVEREST, AS PART OF THE IAF WOMEN MT EVEREST EXPEDITION
One cannot climb at all unless he has sufficient urge to do so. Danger must be met (indeed it must be used) to an extent beyond that incurred to normal life. That is one reason men climb for only in response to challenge one man becomes his best.
And when it comes to striving for excellence why not take on the ultimate challenge present on this earth, why settle halfway when you have the strength and courage to go the entire length. Hence came the idea of IAF woman mountaineering expedition to Mt Everest, the highest point on the earth.
The expedition was headed by Gp Capt NK Dahiya, a very experienced mountaineer and an amazing leader himself. The team had been flagged off on 13 Apr 2011. All 11 women officers were the first women officers of the IAF to be in a situation where no other IAF women officer had been earlier, we all exhibited exemplary courage and determination in bringing laurels to the IAF and the nation.
I joined the team in 2009 after having done Basic Mountainering Course and did one successful expedition to Mt Kamet (7757 Mt) in year 2010. I went to Siachin Glacier along with the team for winter training camp in year 2010 & 2011. The endurance and grit of the team were tested during various expeditions and courses. Here we were in for a systematic, scientific and grueling physical fitness and endurance training program with three hours of weight training in the gym in the morning hours and endurance runs of two hours in the evening.
After having reached at Nepal, we landed at Lukla on 16 Apr 11 and started our trek to Base camp, we reached Base camp on 24 Apr 11 having gained on altitude of about 8000 over 60 kms in eight days. On 28 Apr 11, we all put on our crampons, tightened the climbing harness and started for acclimatization. The team was divided into two parts, Team-1 & Team-2. The first team consisting self, Sqn Ldr Lalitha Mishra, Flt Lt Toolika Rani, Cpl Raju Sindhu, Cpl DK Vyas and the team leade Group Captain NK Dahiya scrambled through Khumbu icefall directly towards Camp- II (6400 M). However three members fall to exertion and fever as the team hit Camp-II. The rest three self, Cpl Raju and team leader continued to Camp-III (7162M) the next day. On 20 May 11, we pushed to submit camp (26300’) over a grueling 11 hours of climb. Once at South Col, we just had 5 hrs of rest and 10:00 PM, the final summit climb began. Crampons, Harness and oxygen masks were strapped on, self and Cpl Raju attached our jummars to the first fixed rope along with sherpas and began our assault on the peak. Gp Capt Dahiya wished us luck. It was a full moon night. The sky was absolutely clean and the snow caped Everest was glittering under the moon light. Of course the climb was tiring but the surrounding beauty took all the attention and by the time I could realize the pain of climb, I reached balcony. It was 3.00 AM. I changed my oxygen cylinder, took rest for 5 – 10 minutes and again started climb on the final summit Ridge. As the view of the horizon and the changing colors of mountains was very enchanting. However this portion of climb was very dangerous due to the rocky surface and very thin ridge where you can put only one foot at a time. I reached Hillary step at around 7:00 AM in the morning. As they say “Once your cross you are almost there”. As I crossed the Hillary step I could clearly see the summit. It appeared as if it was a few step away, but it took 01:30 hrs to reach the summit from there.
The overall view was so mesmerizing and the culmination of the conquest of the mother of all mountains brought tears of joy in my eyes. It was on 21 May 11 at 08:30 AM, I finally called up summit camp and said “Sir, I am on the Summit”. The flood of emotions was evident. Congratulation poured in from all the team members at Camp-II and Base Camp. At around 11:00 AM, self and Raju started descending. The descend was very dangerous and I faced life threatening situations but all went well and I reached summit Camp at 05:00 PM. I saw someone standing outside of the Tent. It was Gp Capt Dahiya who was waiting for us, as I reached him, he hugged me and I knew you will do it. It was my leaders’ faith in me which made me conquer the mighty mountain.
“The wings of our dreams are spread till there; we can touch the earth and sky from where”.
Flt Lt Nivedita Chaoudhary