Pune: In a first of sorts, a 20-member all civilian team of mountaineers has left the city to scale Mount Everest, the world`s highest summit, embarking on an ambitious 70-day expedition.
The "Pune Everest 2012 expedition" left here for Delhi on Friday to be flagged off by President Pratibha Patil on March 19.
Explaning the unique features of the expedition---- sponsored with contributions from 23,000 donors from all walks of life ---- Umesh Zirpe said, "this is the fifth civilian expedition to mount Everest attempted from India. But for the first time such an expedition is having all its members from the same city with common people financing the endeavour. This is also the largest all civilian expedition to the dream peak."
The 47-year-old Zirpe, a tax consultant by profession, who has an experience of about 14 previous expeditions in the Himalayas has been training the team members for the last two years to enhance the physical and mental stamina of the mountaineers, some of whom have even left their jobs to realise their ambition.
Overwhelmed by the public response to the Rs 3 crore expedition, Zirpe told PTI before the team`s departure that only ten per cent of the total money had come from the corporate sector while 90 per cent of funding was by way of small contributions from all over Maharashtra, an encouraging factor for civilian expeditions.
After the handing over of the tri-colour by the president in Delhi, the team will proceed to Kathmandu and also install a statue of Maratha warrior king Shivaji at the Everest base camp site.
The actual climb of the all civilian expedition will start around April 12 after performing a pooja at the Everest base camp with the Sherpas which is a traditional ritual for all mountaineers scaling the summit.
For the purpose of acclimatisation, the team will first undertake the climb of base camps one, two and three at 19,000 sq ft, 21,000 sq.ft and 23,000 sq.ft respectively.
"The final climb will begin between May 12 and 15 and we hope to unfurl the national flag on the Everest by May 25-28," Zirpe said striking a confident note.
In a gesture to boost their spirit, the expediton members of "Giripremi" (Mountain lovers) will also be carrying a flag bearing signatures of about 300 mountaineers from Maharashtra, supporting the venture.
The team has also envisaged a social project in the vicinity of the Everest base camp, involving distribution of solar lanterns to villagers in Nepal, residing at the foothills in Solukhumbu district.