Five adventurous Calcuttans will get the chance to scale the highest heights this March. ‘Everest se Takkar’, a contest launched by National Geographic and the Indian Army, will see 20 Indians — novices or experienced mountaineers — trek 18,000 feet up the world’s highest peak.
The team will accompany a joint expedition between the Indian and Nepalese armies, leaving Kathmandu on March 15. After what is typically a 20-day trek to the base camp, the 20 winners and the camera crew from the channel (also undergoing training for the project) will spend a few days at 18,000 feet, before making their way back down, while the army expedition continues upwards.
“Both the channel and the Indian Army believe in promoting a culture of exploration and adventure,” explains Zubin Gandevia, managing director, National Geographic, South Asia, launching Everest se Takkar in Calcutta on Tuesday. The adventure wing of the army agreed to participate in the Rs 11-crore project — the first time they are joining hands with any TV channel — “without hesitation”.
There are no conditions for entering the contest, open to all above 18. “We have received a large number of applications from women. Though there is no quota, women are encouraged to participate,” adds Gandevia.
The competition, being held in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Bangalore, has seen over 11,000 preliminary entries from across the country. For the Calcutta section, 2,000 people will be selected for a screening, involving physical, medical and psychometric tests on February 25. The handpicked 50 will be put through the grind by the Indian Army the following day. The final five will be sent to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, for a week-long training from March 1 to 7 by the army, before departure on March 15. The channel will beam seven to nine episodes on the climb late in April.
Preliminary applications — where a question on the Everest has to be answered — are open till February 10, on the Net (www.nationalgeographic.co.in) or by SMS (to 7827, with the word ‘Everest’, name, city, age, gender, weight, height and e-mail address). The contest is part of the channel’s six-month promotion to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Everest climb.
While the channel is hoping the Everest buzz will boost viewership by around “40 per cent”, in Calcutta it is already strong. “Our viewership in this city outperforms the national average,” concludes Gandevia.