Bachendri Pal to lead all women expedition to Annapurna range

New Delhi: Renowned Indian mountaineer Bachendri Pal will lead a 10-member all women team to an expedition to Annapurna range in Nepal beginning October 14.

First Indian women to summit the top peaks of seven continents, Premlata Agrawal and world`s first woman amputee to scale Everest, Arunima Sinha will also be part of the batch that will trek Thorang La pass situated at the top of the Annapurna range at 5416m (17872ft) high.

Orissa`s Kalpana Dash, the first woman to climb the Everest from the state, is another experienced climber in the team. Kalpana had scaled the Mount Everest in 2008 in her third attempt after trying unsuccessfully in 2004 and 2006.

The other members of the expedition includes tribal women Shobha Hansdah and Payo Murmu ? both from Jharkhand, Naina Dhakar, who hails from Naxal-infested area in Bastar, Chattisgarh and a private bank employee, Jyoti Sharma of Delhi among others.

"I took up mountaineering as a hobby and I am very passionate about it. I have prepared for this trek in Uttrakhand. I am very excited about the expedition and can`t wait for it to start," said the 22-year-old Naina, the youngest in the group.

There are hills in nearby areas in Chattisgarh but they are very dangerous due to presence of Naxalites. It`s difficult to pursue mountaineering there. But I was keen on trekking mountains and was fortunate that I became part of this expedition," she added.

Starting the trek from Kathmandu, the climbers will walk till Pokhara along the Annapurna circuit and is likely to take over three weeks.

"The women in the expedition come from diverse background. It is going to be good fun and a challenge for all of us to trek the Annapurna range. It`s an initiative to empower women in the country. I sincerely hope that these women inspire many others to take up mountaineering," said Bachendri, the head of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation.

While Payo is a dumper driver with Tata in Jharkhand, 25-year-old Shobha works as a security guard at their facility. Both the women looked very excited to venture on their first major mission.

"It`s a life time opportunity for me. I want to enjoy every moment of it. It will motivate other women like me to take up mountaineering," Payo said.
"I had the zeal to be part of this expedition. I will tell every woman in my area to explore mountain trekking. I would thank Bachendri ma`am to introduce me to it," Shobha said. Members of the group had also experienced the 25-day Snowman trek in Bhutan in 2011.