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How Pune ice-man’s‘nearly’ story set stage for Everest victory

Himalayan feat: Pune’s Bhagwan Chawale ascends tallest peak on second attempt, after missing out on first try

pune Updated: May 27, 2018 23:09 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,ice-man,Himalaya
Bhagwan Chawale poses for a picture after conquering Mount Everest on May 17.(HT PHOTO)

After six gruelling months of mental and physical training, Pune-based mountaineer Bhagwan Chawale, had to give up on his ‘Everest dream’ in 2017, close to the peak, because weather conditions did not permit him to scale the world’s highest mountain. “I followed the basic mountaineering rule – respect the mountains, respect weather conditions and never take an unnecessary risk,” said Chawale, who had to take the extreme step of abandoning his mission last year.

However, this year, without losing hope, Chawale, fulfilled his dream.

On May 17, he scaled Mount Everest (28,680ft). On his return, the mountaineer is excited to share his experience and feels that his decision to abandon the mission in 2017 was a wise one.

“It was not an easy decision. When years of hard work, preparation and lakhs of rupees are spent on the mission, it is very difficult to quit when your goal is just 100 metres away. I cried when I was returning, but now I feel it was a wise decision. I might have reached the peak, but chances of returning alive were very slim. Because of the crucial decision, I am alive now and managed to climb the peak this time,” he said.

Compared to last year, this time, the mission was quite smooth for Bhagwan with good weather conditions and ample confidence of having scaled the mountain earlier.

“Because I had the summit earlier, I was well aware of the difficulties, challenges, fatigues and health issues. So this time, I was much more prepared physically and mentally. This time, I also changed the adventure agency, and decided to go with Pioneer adventure private limited, which had better logistics. Weather also played a role. Last year, we experienced snowfall and gusty winds almost every day. This year, the weather was so good that several climbers managed to scale the peak,” said Bhagwan.

Bhagwan started his expedition on April 29, and completed acclimatisation rotations till Camp 3. He also trekked to Kala patthar (18,500ft) for training. He left base camp on May 13 and reached Camp 4 (South Col) on May 16. On May 17, he attempted the summit and in the wee hours of May 17, he fulfilled his dreams.

“We started our summit attempt late in the night and I was doing well. When I reached the exact spot from where I had to return last time, I took a short halt and prayed to the Gods to allow me access to the summit. I clocked my timing and it took me exactly 43 minutes to reach the summit from where I had returned last time. I feel very relaxed now,” he added.

Chawale, a development officer at the Life insurance corporation of India (LIC), Pune, completed his basic mountaineering course from Jawahar institute of mountaineering, Pahalgam, in 2015.

His previous Himalayan expeditions include Stoke Kangri (20,182ft), Gholap Kangri (19,942ft) and Bhagirathi 2 (21,359ft) in 2015 and Island peak (Nepal; 20,305ft) in 2016. In the Sahyadris, he has climbed pinnacles like Vanarlingi, Vajir, Lingana and Tailbaila.

Government’s active role is important

Bhagawan feels that compared to other states, the Maharashtra government does not take adventure sports seriously.

“The Andhra Pradesh government made a provision of Rs 4 crore to promote mountaineering and this year, 40 climbers from Andhra Pradesh managed to climb several peaks. This year, the Maharashtra tribal development department and Chandrapur collectorate supported four tribal kids for their Mount Everest expedition, but we need a special department to promote the sport. There should be some criteria and those who meet the requirements should get financial help. Several climbers from Maharashtra are organising Himalayan expeditions and they need a little support from their state,” said Bhagwan.

First Published: May 27, 2018 23:08 IST