CLIMBING EVEREST IN the early days was quite different to what it is today. Ours was the 8th expedition reaching the Everest base camp on 29 March, 1992. Thereafter, Dutch, Chilian, Spanish and French expeditions followed taking the tally to a full one dozen plus male and female climbers wanting to make a solo attempt. In fact there was a strong feeling that the base camp may not be able to accommodate so many expeditions. This resulted in some kind of race to reach the base camp but it was not a mad race. With so many expeditions together the base camp had assumed the status of a high international camp, a mini form of earth summit! While we missed the peaceful atmosphere and solitude that our predecessors enjoyed at the base camp it was a new experience and also good fun for so many dimbers to be together. Our initial efforts to generate good-will, healthy understanding and promoting mountaineering fraternity greatly helped us in warding off negative factors and we were able to maintain not only the route through hazardous Khumbu icefall, Western Cwm, Lhotse face and beyond to the summit but were able to create a healthy understanding and friendship. The route through Khumbu icefall, initially opened by the British expedition was subsequently maintained by other expeditions turn by turn. Since ours was one of the well organised teams with adequate means, the leading part played by our team was greatly appredated by others.

On 1st April, when we had just commenced load ferry from BC to Cl at about 8 a.m., one Shefpa of the New Zealand expedition fell into the crevasse sustaining a serious head injury and bleeding profusely. While his Sherpa companions were dazed, hesistant to rescue him, members of our expedition not only rescued him from the deep crevasse but also evacuated him down to the BC safely on an improvised stretcher. The victim was given medical treatment by the doctors available at the BC and the next morning he was evacuated to Kathmandu by helicopter.

The climbing activities beyond the base camp even when so many members and Sherpas were moving up and down always remained a pleasant sight without any evidence of ill-will inspite of some limitations of space for Cl. Our Cl was rather ahead of others The stones and big boulders generally falling at night from the Lho la side, did frighten us, although our tent remained well protected throughout. C2 at the foot of Everest massif on the upper limit of Western Cwm was safe. A huge quantum of garbage and filth are lying near this camp site. Not much effort has been made by any expedition, including ours, to fully clean the litter and garbage. Setting up Cl on 2 April, and C2 on 6 April, we moved to tackle the steep icy Lhotse face. Among the one dozen expeditions there were two commerdal expeditions having members from different countries and they were very conscious about safety and success for obvious reasons. There were also expeditions who were supposed to climb by the Southwest face and South Pillar but ultimately followed the traditional South Col route. This caused some heart burn and animosity. Because of these human factors, we decided to move ahead to attempt the summit, assuming as if we were all by ourselves to do the task. We set up C3 (7400 m) on the terrace of .icy formation of the Lhotse face on 14 April. The weather was so far quite favourable and our efforts continued to open route to South Col. We succeeded to set up C4 at South Col on 21 April and thereafter geared up our efforts to stock C4. At this stage while other team members went down to BC and even down to Lobuche for rest and recuperation, our team continued spearheading the climbing activity. Our effort to make the summit attempt on 30 April was aborted when a 6 member summit party had to return from the South Co! due to hostile weather. Thereafter our subsequent attempt to make the summit bid on 2 May was also foiled, again due to bad weather and our summit party had to return from the South Col. In fact the weather was so dicey that on the night of 1 and 2 May, Dr Kulkarni the leader and Raymond Jacob member of the dvilian Pune expedition breathed their last dose to the South Col. We learnt about their tragic death only on the morning of 2 May when Ms Santosh Yadav spotted them and informed us on walkie-talkie. The rescue efforts made by Ms Santosh and party with oxygen and glucose water were of no avail since they had already frozen to death.

After the death of Dr Kulkarni and Raymond Jacob the weather on 2 May became worse, rendering any effort beyond the South Col suicidal. While climbing a tall mountain like Everest, it is always wise to lie low and preserve one's energy when the weather is hostile. This is exactly what we did after 2 May and resumed further attempts for the summit only after a week when there was slight improvement in the weather. Leaving BC on 7 May the 6 member summit team under S.D. Shrama reached the South Col on 9 May and on 10 May even though the weather was not favourable they set out for the summit leaving C4 at 4 a.m. 3 members, Papta, Sunder and Tajwar returned midway because of one reason or the other, while Sunil, Prem and Kanhaya Lai continued, reaching the South Summit at 11.45 a.m. and made contact on the walkie-talkie. At 2.30 p.m. they came on air again and said that they have just reached the Hillary Step. At this point some other expeditions had also switched on to our frequency and were monitoring our walkie-talkie communication. Normally the climbing to the summit from Hillary Step takes about 40 minutes and we expected the trio to reach the summit latest by 3.30 p.m. but there was no contact, causing us further worry and anxiety. Finally at 4.15 p.m. they came on air giving us the most eagerly awaited news of their success. They had finally made it.

First success on Everest for 1992 on 10 May opened the flood gates and on 12 May a record number of 32 members including 5 members of our team with Ms Santosh Yadav reached the summit, creating history. Other summiters were Mohan, Lopsang, Sange and Wangchuk. Santosh, Sange and Lopsang spent IV2 hrs on the summit waiting for Mohan who had finished his oxygen to join them on the summit. After doing the normal rituals on the summit, four of them started climbing down together, with Santosh giving her oxygen intermittently to Mohan till he could retrieve his cylinder from below the South Summit. Around 6 p.m. all of them returned to the South Col safely. Ms Santosh Yadav became 10th woman to reach the summit and the youngest to do so. Khem Raj had to abandon the summit attempt from the South Summit because of some fault in his oxygen system.

Our final summit attempt in which we had 7 members plus 2 Sherpas spent two nights on the Lhotse face and one night on the South Col. They woke up at midnight for the summit on 20 May but the weather created havoc with gushing wind making life miserable. All the members came down safely from the South Col alongwith tents and oxygen cylinders, but what we could not avoid was frostbite on 3 fingers of Papta. With this we had to finally call off the expedition. Our proposed plan to have the summit meet with the two British climbers climbing along the West Ridge on 20 May was foiled by the hostile weather. When we had thought that everything was over, at the last minute at 4 p.m. on 22 May, when the last load was being brought down to the BC, our popular cook-cum-porter Sher Singh fell into a creavasse very close to the BC and died, making our last experience a bitter one. Our expedition left BC on 24 May with members carrying his dead body. His body was cremated near Lobuche the same day with full honour.

Besides climbing the mountain, we made an effort to also clean the BC and Cl and about 500 kg of garbage and litter were loaded back to Namche Bazar from BC. Some expedition should pay special attention to take care of a number of dead bodies lying at the South Col making it the highest junkyard and also the highest open graveyard on the earth. The dead bodies lying there is a horrifying sight and no religion in the world permits disposal of dead bodies in such a manner. It would be quite desirable to send a special expedition to bring down all the dead bodies from the South Col and give them proper burial or cremation. The base camp of Everest is not so dirty, it is the C2 and the South Co! which needs a special cleaning effort.

Summary: The ascent of Everest (8848 m) by an Indian team in May 1992, 8 members reached the summit with many from other teams.