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Eye on record in descent
- ‘Death zone’ glide beckons everest climber

Darjeeling, April 13: The principal of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling has set an ambitious target of becoming the first Indian to paraglide from the “death zone” of Mt Everest to reach a base camp around 9,000ft below after scaling the peak next month.

The region beyond 26,000ft is known as the “death zone” as it is one of the most challenging stretches to cover on the mountain. The area has very little oxygen and low atmospheric pressure, about a third of that in the sea level.

According to mountaineers, it takes more than 12 hours to trek 1.72km in the stretch.

An 11-member team led by HMI principal Col. Neeraj Rana will scale Mt Everest next month and during the descent, Rana will paraglide to the base camp at 17,700 feet.

“Our expedition has been cleared by the ministry of external affairs and we plan to leave for Kathmandu on April 14. The team comprises 11 members, five of whom are army instructors and five others are civilian instructors at the HMI,” Rana said over the phone from Delhi.

The group is scheduled to reach a camp on the base of Mt Everest on April 29 after trekking for more than eight days from Namchi Bazaar in Nepal.

Rana said the main objective of the expedition was to train the instructors. “We plan to conduct a training session for four-five days at Khambu glacier after reaching the base camp,” said the climber in the mid 40s.

During the ascent, the team will set up camp I at 20, 336ft, followed by camp II at 22, 304ft, camp III at 24,600ft and camp IV at 26,000ft.

“Camp IV will be in the death zone. During our descent, I plan to paraglide for 20-23 minutes from there to the base camp (at 17,700ft). I believe this would be an Indian record. No Indian has attempted to paraglide from this altitude in the Everest,” Rana said.

The first man to achieve the feat was Jean Marc Boivin from France who had paraglided from the Everest on September 26, 1988.

Rana said his team planned to scale Mt Everest during the “window period”.

“The window period for climbing the Everest is usually considered between May 17 and May 25. But this year given the climatic conditions prevailing in the Himalayas, the window period will probably get delayed by about a week.”

He added that the “window period” was the most favourable time to scale the mountain.

Rana holds the world record of being the first person to paraglide from an altitude of 22,468 to 18,000 feet in Mt Makalu on May 12, 2009.

The cost of the Everest expedition by the group stands at Rs 1.5 crore, Rana said.