|Bachendri Pal, first Indian woman to scale Mt. Everest, May, 1984. |
Historically, world over many cultures have harbored superstitions about mountains, which they often regarded as sacred due to their proximity with heaven, such as Mount Olympus for the Ancient Greeks. Native American Indians consider the mountains sacred to their culture. According to the Hindu mythology, the snow clad mountain of the Himalayas - Kailash is the abode of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. Tibet's Mount Kailash is also a sacred place to Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Bon Po (a native Tibetan religion prior to Buddhism), and Ayyavazhi religions. According to the Torah, and consequently the Old Testament of the Bible, Mount Sinai is the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments directly from God.
|Mt,Everest, normal route to the summit.www.cbc.ca|
When man began to look upward and to reach the frontiers of tall mountains, he found out it was a challenging one unlike other frontiers. Mountaineering is a dangerous adventure and requires special knowledge, skills and equipment. Mountain climbers must be in good physical condition and have good judgment. The higher the mountain, the greater the challenge as they approach a mountain and cross steep slopes and rock slides above the tree line on the mountain. After crossing wooded areas, near the summit of a high peak, the climbers may have to scale steep rock faces and plod over snow fields and glaciers filled with crevasses besides breathing difficulties due to less oxygen and more rarefied air. With courage, perseverance and powers of endurance, one can succeed in reaching the highest summit.
Mountaineering in early days was the domain of males and women began to make inroad in the early part of 20th century. World over young woman's life was confined to waiting at home for her husband, caring for elderly parents or relatives and importantly spending time with hearth. In a way their family was her home. A number of women wanted to face challenges in the area of outdoor sports far away from the comforts of home and hearth. Among some women like men they wanted to scale tall difficult peaks and enjoy the thrill of gazing down on world. Lucy Walker (1836–1916), a British mountaineer and the first woman to climb the Matterhorn in the Alphs on 22 August, 1871.
The term ''mountaineering'' refers to the sport of mountain climbing, to reach the highest known peak and unclimbed peak in the big mountains and branches out into three areas of specializations depending on weather and terrain chosen - rock snow or ice: rock-craft, snow-craft, and skiing.
All require good physical and athletic ability, endurance, commonsense and technical knowledge related to personal safety.
All, mountaineers must confront themselves with dangers such falling rocks, falling ice, snow -avalanches, the climber falling, falls from ice slopes, falls down snow slopes, falls into crevasses and the dangers from altitude and weather. Selecting and following a route using one's skills and experience to mitigate these dangers is a challenge and the leader has to use discretion, besides climbers have to tackle solar radiation from snow, less oxygen, etc.
Bachendri Pal, born on 24 May 1954 is an Indian mountaineer, who in 1984 became the first Indian woman ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest ((29,029 ft.). One of seven children to Hansa Devi and Shri Kishan Singh Pal, Bachendri Pal took keen interest in mountaineering in her early childhood because it gave her excitement and thrill. She never failed to look at the lofty peaks touching heaven with awe. She had been brought up as a courageous woman and was ready to face challenges. She climbed a 13,123 ft (3,999.9 m) high summit along with her school mates when she was barely 12 years of age.
She daringly climbed Mt. Gangotri 21,900 ft (6,675.1 m) and Mt. Rudragaria 19,091 ft (5,818.9 m) and developed considerable skill as a mountaineer. She became an instructor at the National Adventure Foundation (NAF), which had set up an adventure school for training women to learn mountaineering. Later in 1984 she became a member of India's first mixed-gender team to attempt an expedition to Mount Everest in 1984, a difficult challenge, even men would hesitate to try.
The team began its ascent in May, 1984. It was a disastrous ascent as an avalanche buried its camp, and more than half the group abandoned the ascent because of injury or fatigue. Not withstanding this discouraging start, resolute as she was, Bachendri Pal and the remainder of the team resumed their journey to reach the summit. On 22 May 1984 other climbers joined the team to ascend the summit of Mount Everest; Bachendri was the only woman in this group. At 6:20 am they continued the ascent, climbing "vertical sheets of frozen ice" and their progress was hampered by cold winds, blowing at the speed of about 100 km per hour and temperatures touching minus 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. Literally their fate was hanging in the balance. Undaunted by this dangerous phase, the team kept moving cautiously and at last reached the summit of Mount Everest at 1:07 p.m. IST. Bachendri Pal created history by becoming the first Indian woman to reach Mt. Everest, the highest roof in the world.
Thus Bachendri Pal has proved to the world that woman has the capability to take as much risk as men and be equally adventurous, when it comes to dangerous sports like mountaineering.
Among the awards she received, the most covetous one Padma Shri Award (1980–89) from the Central Indian government (the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India (1984). Arjuna Award by the Government of India (1986). She was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records (1990)
''A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection.
She values and uses all of her gifts.”
– Nancy Rathburn