The Telegraph
Thursday , September 13 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Feats beyond the peak

- TSAF team tests snow, rains & raw courage in Ladakh

Arunima Sinha (26) could not ace the Lungser Kangri peak in Ladakh-Leh as part of a Tata Steel Adventure Foundation team, but she’s still a winner among winners. For the promising football player from Lucknow had lost a leg last year in an accident.

Arunima managed to climb 21,110ft, but the Lungser Kangri loomed higher at 21,870ft. But if the mountain could bow, it would have.

Among the 17-member team guided by ace mountaineer and TSAF head Bachendri Pal between August 29 and September 1, four aced the peak of Lungser Kangri, while Chamser Kangri, though lower at 21,700ft, proved to tricky thanks to snow, rain and climber fatigue.

The four who made it were Rajendra Singh Pal, Bachendri’s brother who recently aced the Everest and who led this team from the front, Pratim Bhowmik, Susen Mahto and Madhumita Mahto.

But others like Arunima had climbed and aced newer peaks of self-confidence. Others who reached the 21,110ft-mark were Aashu Singh, Hemant Gupta, Vimal Kumar and Rohit Soren, said TSAF secretary P.P. Kapadia.

Climber Raman Mahto and Arunima’s elder brother Omprakash Sinha remained at camp 1 (18,700 ft) and returned to the base camp at an altitude of 16,125ft where Bachendri stayed.

“Some encountered mountain sickness but prodded on till they reached camp 1 at 19,766ft,” Kapadia added. “It was all about how much you could push the human spirit.”

Barring six climbers — Mazharul Bari, Swapan Bera, Diwakant Mishra, Ankur Kumar Jain and Sanjeev Kumar Verma — who have returned to Jamshedpur, the others, including Bachendri, are on their way back to Delhi.

“From Delhi, they are likely to reach Jamshedpur on Thursday,” Kapadia said.

Bari, who works in Tata Steel’s security department and is an experienced diver, recalled the climb. “Climbing in cloudy weather with snow and rains was a humbling experience. I developed mountain sickness while others vomited or felt drowsy,” he said.

The expedition started on August 29 after the team camped at Korzok — a village with a famous monastery — near Ladakh. But the weather stayed inhospitable, making the uphill journey tougher. According to the TSAF secretary, many members could not acclimatise to the weather conditions. “Both Lungser Kangri and Chamser Kangri are absolutely barren mountains. When climbers developed breathing problems and mountain sickness, we shelved plans of Chamser Kangri,” Kapadia said.

Sometimes, climbing a mountain is not about altitude statistics. It is simply pitting your courage against rock and seeing where you stand.