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How to touch Everest?s base

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By A Himalayan challenge is set to come your way. Sudeshna Banerjee reports on what it entails
  • Published 19.03.05

Jitendra Prasad, a student, was walking down a Lucknow street when he spotted a hoarding screaming at him ? ?Hai dum??. ?I love running and jumping. This contest seemed perfectly up my street.? Five hours, multiple bruises and much more than a run and a jump later, Prasad found himself at the top of the challenger heap and set to climb higher ? to the Mt Everest base camp at 17,700 feet, if he can trump 14 others on the way.

A search is on for the feisty 15 who can take on the challenge of the heights. ?We are going to 500 destinations,? announces Vikas Kochhar, senior manager, communications, Coca-Cola India, organisers of the contest. The Thums Up float, traversing districts and metros, is now headed east. Calcutta takes the challenge on Tuesday at Vivekananda Park. ?At each centre, contests will be held to measure strength and stamina ? both vital to the final challenge. Everyone?s invited,? Kochhar adds.

In the towns, the contests will be more in keeping with a carnival spirit?tug- of-war, dart-throwing, breaking a vessel and the like. ?These will separate the crowd from the athletes. The winners would be asked to reach the closest city for the zonal finals,? explains Srinivas Krishna, general manager, marketing, eastern India.

But in the city finals, the participants would have their tasks cut out. India Outdoors, a top adventure sports management company, has charted out a rigorous army-like drill. First would be the net crawl. Contestants have to drag themselves for 20 feet along the ground without touching the net above. ?My friend got badly bruised. But I was smart and wore a kneecap,? recalls Uma Mehrotra, one of the few women at Kanpur.

Next is the Tarzan swing. ?You have to grab a rope, swing across and land some 10 feet away,? explains Soumit Doshi, head honcho, alliances, India Outdoors.

Then one scales a 10-foot wall and jumps across. This is where Uma?s challenge ended. ?I saw a 5-foot-9-inch tall basketball player fail. So I didn?t feel bad,? the mother of one smiles.

The body balance round will require them to shift from top gear. One will have to walk over zigzag poles without tripping over. An artificial rock-climbing session will follow .

Another round of the same activities, but with increased difficulties, is in store for the fastest five. ?This time there will be no second chance for a slip-up,? Doshi warns.

The last lap is a search for a Thums Up crown in a drum of ice. Up for grabs is not only a ticket to the finals but the keys to a two-wheeler as well.

But the likes of Prasad are surely not expected to take on the Himalayan challenge uninitiated. A two-week training camp will be held under Colonel Narendra Kumar, former principal of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.

The camp will take place at Shivpuri, near Rishikesh. ?The location offers a varied topography ideal for training. The schedule includes rock-climbing, rappeling, rafting and handling of climbing equipment other than survival strategies. There will be long treks with loaded rucksacks. The activities will determine leadership, trust, team spirit, communication and decision-making qualities under stress. Candidates will be constantly evaluated and there will be eliminations almost on a daily basis,? Col. Kumar clarifies.

The final challenge will be a multi-activity adventure race between the last men standing. ?A two-day event will put the two on a scale,? he adds.

The champion will be taken on a trip to the Everest base camp and handed a cheque for Rs 10 lakh.

Would the contest interest mountaineers? Not really, feels Partha Dutta, with successful summits of Kedardome, Bhagirathi II and Black Peak to his name. ?Mountaineering is not about speed, but agility. Neither does a trek to the base camp require much technical expertise.? But the cash prize can help clubs and individuals fund expeditions. ?A single expedition takes about Rs 2-3 lakh. That way, this corporate support can fund many an ascent to other peaks,? he sums up.

Dates with the east

Calcutta ? March 22

Patna ? March 27

Jamshedpur ? March 30

Bhubaneswar ? April 10