ITBP sets off to set unique record at Mt Everest



New Delhi: A 23-member team of ITBP was today flagged off here on a mountaineering and ski expedition to Mount Everest from the Chinese side, considered tougher than the more-frequently taken route through Nepal.

If the paramilitary team successfully skies down from the 8,848-metre peak somewhere in the second fortnight of May, it would become the first Indian expedition team to do so.

Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejinder Khanna flagged off the team, which has five men who have scaled Everest earlier, from the headquarters of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force here.

Khanna handed over the ceremonial pick-axe, donning the tri-colour and the ITBP flag, to team leader Prem Singh as he wished them success.

"This is a difficult task that we have undertaken. Skiing down from the Chinese side is tough and our boys have put in a lot of preparation to achieve the feat," ITBP Director General Ranjit Sinha said during the flag-off ceremony.

The Chinese government has issued visas to the Indian team and a four-member Chinese liaison team will also be with the ITBP mountaineers, upto the base camp.

The expedition comes at a time when the Sino-Indian border guarding force is celebrating its golden jubilee year of establishment. 2012 is being celebrated as the year of friendship and cooperation between India and China.

The ambitious expedition is being planned since the last few years but it could not take off due to non-clearance at administrative and diplomatic levels.

More than 15 attempts to ski down the Everest from the Chinese side have failed in the past owing to various reasons and in order to keep a record of this expedition, the ITBP team would be wearing camera-mounted helmets specially procured from Japan.

The ITBP climbers would be equipped with sophisticated mountaineering gadgets and satellite phones to keep in touch with the base camp.

The members of the team have been trained by Inspector General (IG) Harbhajan Singh, at the ITBP mountaineering and skiing institute in Auli in Uttarakhand.

Singh has been honoured with a Padma Shri for his contribution to adventure sports.

"The expedition team, in an eco-friendly gesture, will also pick and bring back the garbage left on the peak by former climbers," the DIG said.

PTI