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This chapter talks about the life of Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mt. Everest. Bachendri came from humble beginnings but used her hard work and determination to reach the very top.
Bachendri Pal was the first Indian woman to climb the summit of Mt. Everest. She was born in 1954 at Nakuri in Uttarakhand. Her father was a border tradesman.
Bachendri loved walking around in the snowy Himalayas. She was an active child and was good at both studies and sports. She climbed 4000m height with her classmates during a picnic when she was 12. She could not come down before nightfall and had to spend the night there, without food or shelter.
This experience increased her love for adventure and the mountains. At 13, she was expected to leave school and help in the house. But her parents allowed her to finish high school because of her determination.
She earned money by sewing in her spare time. The principal of her school told her family to send her to college, where she won rifle shooting competitions and more. She was the first girl in her village with a B.A. degree. Then she did an M.A in Sanskrit and a B.Ed. But the job offers she got were temporary and junior-level positions.
Mountaineering and the Everest Expedition
Inspired by her love for the mountains, Bachendri applied to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering for the Basic Mountaineering Course. She was the best student in the course, and was marked down as ‘Everest Material’. She completed her Advanced Mountaineering Course and climbed the Gangotri and Rudugaria.
Her mentor, Brigadier Gyan Singh, the Director of the National Adventure Foundation, selected seven local educated women, including Bachendri for scholarship. “Bhagirathi Seven Sisters Adventure Club” was set up by him.
This was a unique organization of girls and women to help other girls find adventure. It would take care of their money issues. Bachendri, whose family was poor, became an instructor here and reduced their financial burden.
Bachendri was selected for the Indian Everest Expedition in 1984. This was the first mixed expedition and its main goal was to provide Indian women the opportunity to climb Mt. Everest. Till then, four women in the world had scaled the peak. The team was made of seven women and eleven men.
They faced many difficulties. But Bachendri Pal continued her climb to reach the peak on May 23rd 1984. Bachendri conquered the summit of Mt. Everest at 1:07 p.m. Her dream had come true. Bachendri’s mountaineering excellence was honoured by the Government of India with the Arjuna Award, the ‘Padmashri’ and the National Adventure Award.
She was also awarded the ‘Yash Bharathi’ award, the ‘Gold Medal’ by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, an award from the Department of Education, Uttar Pradesh State, and the Lifetime Achievement Award by Kolkata Sports Journalists Association.
Bachendri Pal has put together all her experiences of mountaineering in her autobiography, “Everest – My Journey to the Top.” She currently works as Deputy Divisional Manager at Tata Steel Adventure Foundation. Her life shows how hard work and the will to succeed can raise one to greater heights.
Bachendri’s journey shows us how we can reach our goals through hard work and dedication. She is a very inspiring woman and an amazing role model.