Bachendri Pal at the Kedarnath shrine on October 6. Telegraph picture
Ace climber Bachendri Pal is doing her bit to instil confidence among pilgrims to Kedarnath Shrine, which reopened on October 5 after flash floods hit Uttarakhand earlier this year.
Pal led a six-member team of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF) to the shrine on October 6. The team had to take a longer route as Gaurikund — the gateway to the shrine — remains inaccessible after the flash floods.
“I am in Uttarkashi to supervise distribution of tarpaulins to displaced villagers of Bhatwari block. I thought of visiting Kedarnath as a confidence-building measure as people are yet to overcome their fear following the calamity,” Pal said over phone from Uttarkashi.
The 59-year-old Everester and her team members reached Sitapur on October 5. After halting for the night, they headed to Kedarnath via Lonkey route. “We took the Lonkey route since Gaurikund and Rambar were devastated during the calamity and are still inaccessible. The distance of Kedarnath from Gaurikund is 14 km but we had to cover 25 km through the alternative route,” Pal added.
The team offered prayers at the shrine before starting the downward journey on the same day. “The area suffered immense devastation. But, now the situation is under control. The Uttarakhand government is already sending pilgrims to the shrine in batches. There is no need to be scared,” Pal said.
TSAF instructors accompanying Pal were Navinder Singh Pawar, Pratim Bhowmick, L. Annapurna, Sandeep Tolia, Everester Susen Mahto and Sukumar Mahto. TSAF base camp cook Maipal Singh was also part of the team.
Pal is in Uttarkashi under the aegis of Tata Relief Committee to supervise the distribution of tarpaulins, which have been sent by Ratan Tata Trust from Dehradun on Wednesday.
She said the distribution process was swift and local volunteers and members of Mahila Mandal Dal helped them to reach out to the villagers.
“I will undertake another visit to the shrine once I return from Nepal. The TSAF's winter outdoor leadership programme will be underway by the time I return. A lot needs to be done to help people transcend their fears,” Pal added.
Pal will be leading a 10-member all-women expedition to Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. She will reach New Delhi on October 13, from where she would leave for Kathmandu along with her team members.
Pal, who hails from Nakuri village in Uttarakhand, hopes to inspire the local masses with her visit.
“She's a household name in Uttarakhand. That's why she thought she should set an example with this effort,” said TSAF secretary P.P. Kapadia.