The 1997 Trans Himalayan Expedition
The 1997 Trans Himalayan Expedition by 8 Women
Hostile terrain, harsh weather, sub-zero temperatures, low atmospheric oxygen could not stop the fierce 8 to traverse the 4500 km of the Great Himalayas in the year 1997. Lead by Ms Bachendri Pal, the team fought all adverse conditions to finish the eight-month long trek. The trek began at Arunachal Pradesh in the month of February and finished at Indira Col in Siachen in September. The arduous women trekked their way through Bhutan, Nepal and India. Interesting enough, only two of the team members were professional mountaineers, Ms Bachendri Pal – the first Indian woman to scale Mount Everest and Ms Chaula Jagirdar – mountaineering instructor from Mt. Abu.
The other members though amateurs, their undaunted spirit was appreciated by the whole country. The team members were : Ms Chetana Sahu, a homemaker from Bamnipal, Orissa; Ms Vineeta Muni a photographer from Mumbai; Ms Sumita Roy is an engineer residing in Tatanagar; Ms Nanda Patel was working as an architect from Surat; Ms Malika Virdi is a farmer from Munshiari, Uttar Pradesh; and Ms Kokila Sadhu works as an advocate in Bangalore. The trek was organized by the Women Mountaineers and Adventurers Network of India.
The veteran mountaineer, Capt M S Kohli, ex-president of the Mountaineering Federation of India said, “ Walking through high altitude passes and dangerous crevices is quite a task in itself. But this particular traverse requires great endurance – physical and mental.”
Ms Bachendri Pal, spearheaded the dream of an all-woman contingent trekking through this great chain of mountains from its eastern end to the western extreme. She sketched the route over a detailed research study for two long years before embarking on this journey. Tata Steel Adventure Foundation was a major sponsor for the event paying Rs 10 lakh of the 25 lakh and also supporting the trek to its entirety. The Department of Sports and Youth Affairs under the Ministry of Human Resources Development contributed Rs 10 lakh, and the rest came from sundry sources.
On the 140th day, the team was lost in the mountains. Navigating through physical maps they found a shepherd’s hut. He offered them lunch of boiled potato. Their topic of discussion was the forgotten luxories, lunch, warm bath and a day in bed!
Even after losing 12kgs with 1436 km still to go from Tapovan i.e., 15km from Joshimath at Uttarakhand, Ms Sadhu’s spirit was very high to reach the end of the trek. The adventurers walked almost 40km a day forgetting the female vanity of kohl and lipstick; the villagers thought they were men!
This trek celebrated the 50th year of independence! The breathtaking view from the top of Gorshown of majestic peaks was devastatingly beautiful and strangely humble. Three of the team members had to leave the trekking party mid-way due to personal reasons. They were replaced by Laxmi Garbyal, Parvati Seepal and Meena Rautela. Trekking in the Himalayan terrace, enduring sub-zero temperatures and braving blizzards at 17,000 feet is the ultimate test of human endurance. This represented the ‘Indomitable spirit of the Indian Women!’