| The team during the flag-off on Saturday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, March 29: Fifty years ago, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary conquered the world’s highest peak. Today, a 17-member team set off to follow in their footsteps.
This is the tribute of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, where Tenzing was the director of field training and adviser since its inception in 1954 till his death on May 9, 1986, to mark the golden jubilee of the scaling of Mount Everest.
Principal Vijay Singh will lead the team, which hopes to set foot on the summit next month. But they are not retracing the route of the pioneers.
“Though Tenzing had climbed using the south-east ridge, this team will be climbing through the less-frequented route along the north-east ridge in Tibet, which is shrouded in mystery,” said Singh.
The route the team will take is the one on which George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared in 1924 and Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker have remained untraced since 1982.
Most of the members, comprising the institute’s instructors, have already climbed the world’s highest peak, situated at an altitude of 28,028 feet, and Singh is hopeful that “one of the most experienced team will fulfil its mission”. The team will also distribute medicines to villagers along the route and will carry out a cleaning programme at the peak.
The flag-off ceremony, at the mountaineering institute, was attended by Nawang Gompu, the first man to climb the Everest twice. Wishing the team luck, Gompu remembered that he had scaled the peak the second time in 1965 as part of an all-Indian team.
“I climbed the peak in 1963 with an American team, but that was not my first visit to the peak. I was with Tenzing and Hillary during 1953, as one of the 40 sherpas and had carried luggage weighing 16 pounds. I was only 17 at that time and the peak drew me towards it and I was in awe,” said Gompu, Tenzing’s nephew and currently an adviser at the institute.
The team will pitch its base camp on East Rongbuk glacier at an altitude of 17,000 feet and a summit camp at 26,000 ft. Oxygen will have to be used beyond this point. Phulmaya Tamang, instructor of the Sonam Gyatso Mountaineering Institute, is one of the three women members of the team.