Mt Everest: peek into climber pick
Gangtok, March 14: Two mountaineering associations in Sikkim have objected to the selection of seven climbers for the first state government-sponsored Mt Everest expedition alleging lack of proper procedure and sought the postponement of the climb.
The seven have been selected by the Indian Himalayan Centre for Adventure and Ecotourism (IHCAE) for the Rs 1.4-crore expedition, scheduled to begin in the first week of April.
All seven climbers, among them three women, are instructors with IHCAE, which is a division under the state tourism department and is based at Chemchey in the South district.
While thanking the government for sending a Sikkim team for the Everest expedition, the mountaineering associations alleged that seasoned mountaineers were kept in dark about the selection process by the IHCAE.
“An Everest expedition is like the Olympics for every mountaineer. While we thank the state government for providing an opportunity to the Sikkim climbers, we are sad to see that experienced and qualified mountaineers were kept in dark about the selection process. Even the mountaineering associations here came to know about the expedition only after seven members had been selected,” said Deepak Chhetri, the general secretary of the Sikkim Amateur Mountaineering Association.
Apart from the Sikkim Amateur Mountaineering Association, the Sikkim Mountaineering Association, Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim and the Sikkim Association of Adventure Tour Operators also raised questions about the selection process.
IHCAE director G.T. Bhutia said it was his discretion to choose the men and women for the Everest climb. “Being the director, powers are bestowed on me to choose the people for the Everest expedition. The expedition has been approved after IHCAE placed a proposal before the government. As far as the selection is concerned, the seven mountaineers are from Sikkim who have undertaken many expeditions before. The question of postponement does not arise as bookings for logistic support and other formalities have already been completed.”
Chhetri alleged that the IHCAE had not provided an opportunity to all mountaineers in the state for selection for the Everest expedition and accused its director Bhutia of arbitrarily and clandestinely choosing the seven. “We fail to understand on what basis these climbers were selected when there are several others with superior experience,” he said.
The associations demanded that the state government postpone the expedition till next year. “In between, the government can invite an independent body to conduct a camp to choose the best mountaineers for the Everest expedition next summer,” said Tashi Sherpa, a member of the Sikkim Mountaineering Association.
This is the first time that the government is organising an expedition to the Everest.
A lot of factors come into play during the expedition the duration for which is generally one month but could stretch to more days, depending on the weather.
Kunzang Gyatso, who had conquered Everest in 2008, echoed the view of the associations. “Reaching the summit of Everest is the dream of every climber. There should have been a free and fair selection process so that eligible people would not be deprived of the chance,” he said. State tourism secretary K.S. Topgay said he had received a letter from the two mountaineering associations seeking the postponement of the expedition. “The letter has been forwarded for the consideration of higher authorities and the department would follow the directions given by them,” Topgay said.