Bachendri Pal, first Indian woman to scale Mt. Everest

Bachendri Pal, first Indian woman to scale Mt. Everest, May, 1984.

 Men's curiosity and the spirit of adventure helped them discover  new frontiers of science and technology and now we are enjoying a comfortable life because of their discoveries  through perseverance  and ability to surmount failures in their chosen fields. As for Nature's frontiers, men took lots of risk and accessed the vast sheet of water - ocean and discovered various sea routes. The joy of victory and and the delight in overcoming the  inherent dangers  fascinated them. 


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

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

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