Fulfilling her father’s dream

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By know your neighbour:Chhanda Gayen Mountaineer AMRITA GHOSH
  • Published 21.12.12

During his lifetime, all he wanted was his daughter to scale the Mount Everest. He strongly believed that one day his daughter would scale the highest mountain in the world. His dream remained unfulfilled as he died suddenly. Now his daughter, Chhanda Gayen, 30, is preparing to scale the highest peak under the guidance of Basanta Singha Roy, the first civilian who scaled Mount Everest in 2010. Her only aim is to fulfill her father’s dream.

If Chhanda manages to scale the peak, she will be the first civilian woman to conquer the Mount Everest in the country. So far, a handful of women have scaled the Everest but only as members of the Indian Army expedition team. The expedition will start in April next year and she will be the only woman member of a nine-member Mount Everest expedition team, funded by the members themselves, without any government assistance.

“Whenever I went to any expedition, my father accompanied me till the base camp. He encouraged me before every expedition. It was he who told me to prepare for the Mount Everest expedition,” said Chhanda.

Chhanda’s father Pasupati Gayen, a businessman, died in December 2010 after a heart attack. Chhanda has already scaled Mount Fluted (6122 meters) in 2007, Mount Jogin I and II (6465 and 6342 meters respectively) in 2008, Mount Gangotri (6672 meters) in 2009 and Mount Manirang (6592 meters) in 2012 as leader.

After helping her elder brothers to run the family business, Chhanda makes time for a rigorous exercise regimen every day to keep herself fit. “I get up early in the morning and start climbing up and down the stairs of our three-storied building at Benaras Road for nearly two-and-half hours.

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She also lifts weights. “Usually I fill a rucksack with some bricks while I run up and down the stairs of our building. Because every mountaineer has to carry a moderately full rucksack on their shoulders while scaling the mountains. My practice will help me in the expedition,” said Chhanda.

She got the first taste of hill climbing in 1986 when as member of an NCC team she was made to scale Susunia hill in Purulia. “It was great fun. When most of the other NCC members were tired after climbing the hill one or two times, I climbed it several times until my team members desisted me,” she said.

After returning from Purulia, she decided to train in reputed rock climbing institutions. She got her basic rock climbing training from the Institution of Exploration in 1988, she did a rock climbing standard course from Gorabazar Behrampore Town Club in 2006, a basic and advanced mountaineering course from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling in 2007. She also attended the Alpine Climbing Camp from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi in 2007. Besides, she did trekking courses in Adventure Trekking Camp in 2012 organised by Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.

“Chhanda is a strong-willed girl. I will not be surprised if she climbs the Mount Everest as a civilian. She has the tenacity and patience that a mountaineer needs. I am guiding her and sharing my experience of climbing the highest peak,” said Basanta Singha Roy.