Bhubaneswar, May 23: For eight visually challenged youths, conquering 12,900ft was a challenge of a lifetime. But they achieved it with elan.
I suddenly had the idea during one of my trekking expeditions and there was no looking back, says Sushant Kumar Das, the brain behind the endeavour.
With active support from the Youth Hostels Association of India and the Debendranath Memorial Charitable Trust, a few enthusiasts came together to help the youths to ready for the National Himalayan Trekking Expedition with a mission to reach the Saurkundi Pass.
A physiotherapist, an instructor, a psycho-counsellor, a consultant physician and a technical adviser were roped in to assist the visually challenged youths.
A fitness test was conducted at the Orissa Association for Blind. I heard of the expedition and was quite excited but equally afraid if I would be rejected as I was so thin. Thankfully, I was selected, said Bhagaban Pati, one among the group.
The other participants were Rabindra Dalai, Nabaghana Sahoo, Keshab Dakua, Sushanta Sahoo, K. Khetrabasi, Santosh Sethi and Bhaskar Das.
From here, the team started on May 5 and reached Himachal Pradesh via Delhi on May 7 for what was aptly named Mission Sakhyam.
The next day, we reported at the base camp at Babeli (4,000ft), Rabindra said.
The youths were first exposed to acclimatisation and orientation to adjust to the change in environment. On May 10, they practised rock climbing.
On May 11, they trekked 8km to the Segli camp in five hours. In the next two days, they trekked to 9,000ft Kora Thatch and 10,500ft Maylee Thatch, respectively.
People encouraged us all the way and that was really a huge driving force, said Bhaskar.
Finally on May 15, the group succeeded in climbing the 12,900ft Saurkundi Pass. Its really an achievement. We talk of welfare, we talk of pension for the visually challenged, but this is what is called real empowerment. I am really proud of the youths, said state social welfare director Sujata Karthikeyan.