Mt Everest at her feet, achiever brings laurels to state - Nirupama Pandey credits god, her parents and husband for supporting her in quest to climb world's highest peak

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By AAROHI KESHAV IN PATNA
  • Published 1.07.11
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Squadron Leader Nirupama Pandey, the first Bihari to perch the Tricolour on Mount Everest on May 25 this year, shares her experience with The Telegraph over phone

When I was around 15 minutes away from my destination, I got mixed feelings, maybe it was the proudest moment of my life. Flashes of the hard work I had put in in the last two years (2009 to 2011) kept coming back. I thanked god, my parents and my better half, Prakash Jha, for all their support and love,” said Nirupama.

She started on the campaign three months ago with a team of Air Force officers. “The team was flagged off from Delhi on April 13 and reached Nepal the next day and reported at the base camp at Lutiya. We stopped at four camps during our 42-day journey and reached the peak on May 25, 2011,” the gazetted officer from the Indian Air Force said.

Climbing Mount Everest from the northeastern ridge (China) is considered more difficult. Nirupama, who climbed the mountain from the southeastern ridge (Nepal), however, disagreed with the popular view. “People feel the northeastern ridge (China) is more difficult but this is not the case. The base camp distance in the south is more compared to north and the route is also more difficult. There is no specific reason why I chose the southern route.”

The Khumbu icefall is considered to be the most dangerous point. Nirupama and the team had a solid strategy to overcome that. “There are lots of hanging ladders in Khumbu icefall which are very deep. If you lose your grip, you will fall into the valley and there will be no trace of your body. Also, the ice rocks called popcorns keep moving and melt in the afternoon between 12 noon and 2pm. We decided to cross Khumbu at 3am so that we across it safely by 9am,” said Nirupama.

On mountaineering, the Squadron Leader said: “When I was in college, I was a part of the National Cadet Corps. I often went for trekking at that time. Serious expeditions started only after I joined the Air Force,” said the Wadia College (Pune) graduate.

Nirupama started her mountaineering career in 2007. She enrolled in a basic mountaineering course at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi. The officer has till now gone on several mountaineering expeditions, including Mt Stock Kangri (6121m) in Leh, Mt Kamet (7,757m), Mt Abhigamin (7357m) in Garhwal region and Mt Saser Kangri I (7672m) in Ladakh region.

Nirupama, who belongs to Jamo Jalalpur village in Siwan, has taken Bihar into the league of 14 states from where people have climbed Mount Everest so far.

Sharing her memories of her village, Nirupama said: “I am very attached to my village. As a child I spent a lot of time there. My relatives and grandparents are still there, and I make it a point to visit them every year. We have our ancestral house and property in Jamo Jalalpur,” she said.

For women aspiring to be mountaineers, Nirupama had only one advice: “Nothing is impossible. Anything can be achieved if you give your 100 per cent to the work.”