Everest might be the king of peaks, but its adventure quotient is declining.
Consequently, an increasing number of mountaineers are opting for more challenging lesser peaks across the Indian Himalayas.
This, according to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), is evident from the phenomenal rise in applications from climbers – foreign and domestic – in recent years.
The 50-year-old IMF is mandated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence to govern expeditions in the Himalayas within India. Applications are sifted accordingly.
“We have been receiving over 60 applications from Indian clubs annually. The pressure to explore the Indian Himalayas is increasing from foreigners too,” said IMF secretary Col HS Chauhan.
“One of the reasons is that Mt Everest, though a status symbol for climbers is low on the adventure quotient. Expeditions to the tallest peak (in Nepal) are conducted, and all the 13-14 approaches have been explored way too much to enthuse these days,” he told HT . “Scaling 8,848m Everest is nevertheless good for a mountaineer’s profile.”
Chauhan, IMF chairman Ramakrishna Rao and Col BS Rana, principal of Darjeeling-based Himalayan Mountaineering Institute were here to oversee a camp of 35 climbers attempting the first Everest expedition from the northeastern states. The expedition is slated for 2011.
Rao, also the ex-director general of Indo-Tibetan Border Police, said Kamet topped the list of popular peaks in the Indian Himalayas. “Many other peaks, shorter but higher on difficulty level, are getting up there while newer crop of climbers are targeting some between 6,000-7,000 metres yet to be conquered,” he added.
The 7,756m Kamet prospered after the 7,816m Nanda Devi (both in Uttaranchal) was made out of bounds following its notification as a protected area in 1982. Nepal enjoys monopoly on Kanchendzonga, world’s third highest peak at 8,585m, since the Indian approach is through Sikkim, where the peak is regarded too sacred for climbers to set foot on.
Another factor drawing international climbers to the Indian Himalayas – from the eastern tip of Arunachal Pradesh to the western tip of Jammu and Kashmir – is its ecological purity compared to the much explored Nepal Himalayas.