October 7, 2010

City duo on top of the world

Two Calcuttans have made it to the top of the world, becoming the first members of a civilian-run mountaineering club in India to summit Mt Everest.

Naktala resident Basanta Singha Roy, 47, and Debashish Biswas, 39, of Ultadanga reached the 8,848m peak at 7.45am on Monday.

Debashish, an officer in the income tax department, and Basanta, a Punjab National Bank employee, were accompanied by two sherpas — Passang Futur Sherpa and Pemab Chhoti Sherpa — who also summitted the peak.

The duo’s feat has sent spirits soaring in their club. “The duo informed the base camp about their successful climb via a satellite phone and they immediately conveyed the news to us. We are very excited,” said Souren Banerjee of Mountaineer’s Association of Krishnagar that organised the expedition.

The trip cost around Rs 50 lakh, raised through collection from sponsors, including the sports department, and donations by club members.

The summiteers left on April 1 with three others from their club. Loben Sherpa, of Loben Expeditions that conducted the climb for the club, told Metro over the phone from Kathmandu that the team had started from the Nepal capital on April 2 and reached the base camp at 5,200m.

“They pitched four camps on their way,” said Loben. While Camp I was pitched at 5,900m, Camp II was set up at 6,300m, Camp III at 7,400m followed by Camp IV at 7,900m.

“Two of them started from Camp IV around 8.30pm (IST) on Sunday and reached the summit after a 12-hour trek,” he added. The three members who stayed back at various camps as backup are Ashok Roy, 55, Sourav Mondal and Bibhash Sarkar, both in their mid-30s.

The team had planned to climb through the Rongbook glacier, North Cole and Northeast ridge route in Tibet, but the Chinese government denied them permission. They then decided to climb from the traditional Khumbu glacier, South Cole and Southeast ridge route in Nepal, which was used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa to summit Everest for the first time on May 29, 1953.

“It is very difficult to climb during sunlight hours because of reflection and heat,” said Taraknath Sen, a member of the Krishnagar club. Temperatures of around -14 degrees Celsius and wind at 80kmph make the short climb from the last camp to the summit treacherous, he added.

Mountaineers say scaling the Himalayas is about taking two steps forward and a step back, a clear pointer to the challenge Mt Everest poses.

The families of Debashish and Basanta are keeping their fingers crossed. “I am very happy they were successful. But the climb down is very dangerous and I am awaiting his safe return,” said Debashish’s wife Mukti. Basanta’s wife Smriti echoed her. “The first thing I wanted to know was how my husband and Debashishda were,” said Smriti.

The duo’s achievement has also reached the chief minister’s ears. “The state government will felicitate them when they come back,” Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said.

The two have started the descent and reached South Cole, said Loben. They are expected to reach the base camp by Tuesday evening.

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