MOUNTAINEERING: Aussies eye peak after charity – bringing out the best in humanity ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Gangtok, Oct. 28: Three Australians today set off on an expedition to scale Mt Joponu in West Sikkim after weeklong community services in Siliguri.
Michael Bishop, 50, Dana Najedly, 60, and her husband Robert Fletcher, 63, left Gangtok for Yuksom, 140km from here, today, along with state government-appointed liaison officer, Bhaichung Yonzon.
While Bishop and Najedly are doctors, Fletcher is a civil engineer. Their target is 5,930-metre high Mt Joponu, a favourite peak for foreign climbers visiting Sikkim.
The expedition to Joponu is a short break for the Australian trio from their community work in the slums of Siliguri.
“We had been organising free medical camps in Siliguri for the past one week. We are also working towards upgrading facilities at a sports club at Bidya Chakro colony there. In between, we decided to come to Sikkim to do some trekking and climbing and explore the beautiful wilderness and mountains of this state,” said Bishop.
“After the trip, we will return to Siliguri on November 11 and continue the work for one more week,” he said.
According to the itinerary prepared by Sikkim Holidays, which is organising the expedition, the Australian team would be reaching the base camp at Thangshing at 3,960 metre after five days of trek from Yuksom.
“The team is expected to summit Joponu on November 4. But we have kept one day extra in case there is bad weather,” said Barap Namygal Bhutia, the managing director of Sikkim Holidays.
The most experienced climber in the team is Bishop who scaled Goechala in West Sikkim in November 2009 and in April 2010. The peak is over 10,000 feet high.
‘The route (to Goechala) was beautiful with lots of wildlife, spectacular scenery and friendly people and I decided that I would go climbing there again,” he said.
Bishop said he had scaled peaks in New Zealand and Australia. “The peaks in New Zealand are of lesser height, around 3,000 metre. Here we want to climb a peak which is double the height of those in New Zealand and it will be more difficult,” he said.
But for Najedly and Fletcher, the expedition to Joponu will be their first experience of mountaineering. But the couple said they had undergone physical training in Australia for the trek.
Bishop said they would return home in April and planned to come back with more people.
“We want to bring doctors and professionals from Australia to Sikkim for trekking and climbing and at the same time, engage in community services. We will return to Australia in April and hope to come back with a bigger team for expeditions and community work in Sikkim and probably in Kalimpong,” he said.
Asked whether such idea would be appealing to other Australians, Bishop said: “Australians like to do charity and help the poor and at the same time, visit beautiful places and do some adventure sports.”
HMI to take mountain rescue class – probably the only few institutions untainted by Bengal’s ineptitude ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, Oct. 27: The Darjeeling-based Himalayan Mountaineering Institute will train the personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to undertake rescue operations during calamities in mountainous regions.
The HMI has been selected to conduct the training given its international standing following its enrolment as a member of the Switzerland-headquartered Union Internationale Des Association D’Alpinisme (UIAA).
Col Neeraj Rana, the principal of the HMI, told The Telegraph: “We will be training the NDRF personnel from November 18 onwards. The training for eight battalions of the NDRF will be conducted in batches of 50 and each session will be of a month’s duration.”
The NDRF, which conducts search and rescue operation during disasters, has jawans drawn from the Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force.
“The training will revolve around search, rescue and rehabilitation when natural calamities strike mountainous regions in the country,” said Rana.
At the moment, the battalions are stationed at Arrakonam (Tamil Nadu), Mundali (Orissa), Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh), Chandigarh, Barasat (Bengal), Guwahati (Assam), Pune (Maharashtra) and Gandhinagar (Gujarat).
Over 6,500 personnel will be trained over a period of time at the HMI. “We are being paid Rs 8,000 per a jawan for the training by the NDRF,” said Rana.
The HMI now conducts training in basic and advance mountaineering, along with method of instruction training. These courses are of 28-day duration and candidates have to pay Rs 4,000 per course.
The training of the NDRF is expected to boost the institution’s revenue which was around Rs 1.8 crore in the last financial year.
The HMI is also gearing to receive the first set of evaluators from the UIAA in March 2011. “The evaluators will go through our training procedures before certifying our standards for a period of five years,” said Rana.
The UIAA, also known as the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, is a body that governs climbing across the globe.
The UIAA sends experts to member federations to certify their courses and also lays down training standards to be followed worldwide.
“As we have been made a member of the UIAA, certificates issued by the HMI will be recognised across the world. Till date, we have trained around 1,600 foreigners and we can now expect more people from abroad,” said Rana, who recently returned from Italy after attending a UIAA meeting.
During the meeting, the HMI was formally declared a member of the UIAA. “There was a secret ballot and the HMI received 39 votes in its favour, while two members, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and an Iranian federation, abstained from voting,” said Rana.