DOWN MEMORY LANE
Mana Kamet ExpeditionOur member, Mr S. Bandopadhaya, in his youthful days had an interest in mountaineering. He shares one of his experiences with us.
In 1968, our journey for the Mana Kamet expedition commenced from Howrah station, where the Chairman of Parbat Abhijatri Sangha, Mr. Ashok Kumar Sarkar, bid us farewell, entrusting us with the tricolor to proudly unfurl atop the majestic mountain. At the age of 26 or 27, I was fueled by the thrill of adventure and brimming with youthful energy.
Our odyssey began with a train ride to Haridwar, followed by a bus journey to Joshimath. Rumours of avalanches altered our plans, requiring us to traverse a snow-covered distance on foot, clearing the path ourselves. Sherpa coolies helped us to carry our luggage until we reached the bus that would take us to Srinagar and eventually to Joshimath. Embarking on our trek towards Nanda Devi and Kamet mountains, we employed mules to transport our provisions from Joshimath.
The base camp at Niti village, situated at an elevation of 16,000 ft, marked our initial halt. While some of us could reach only the first base camp, others moved on. The second base camp was at 17,000 ft, where there was a lake which was frequented by devotees, offering prayer. The journey pressed on to the third base camp at 19,000 ft. Accompanied by our Sherpa companion, Patan Khepera, some comrades ascended to the summit.
Amidst an evening filled with familiar Hindi melodies, a late-night summon disrupted our repose. Venturing outside, we learned of the triumph at the summit but also of a grievous mishap. Two sherpas had fallen during the descent with ropes. We swiftly improvised some stretchers using packing boxes and, accompanied by porters, set out at 2:30 a.m. in the treacherous darkness. The perilous journey to seek help, flanked by the Alakananda River, underscored the potential hazards.
The injured sherpas received first aid at the Army base. We entrusted them to the care of the military and moved on. Post-expedition, we discovered our leaders, Mr. Biswadeb Biswas and Mr. Pranesh Chakraborty, descending with difficulty.
Mr. Biswas, having fractured his ribs, was airlifted to an Army hospital in Delhi, while Mr. Chakraborty, who had successfully unfurled our flag at the summit but suffered frostbite, received prompt treatment at the Army camp and later went to Delhi to be felicitated by former prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. I am proud to declare that he was also a part of an Everest expedition.
I still reminisce about the Mana Kamet expedition, an exciting chapter in my life. Despite falling short of conquering Kamet, the memories of those challenging yet exhilarating days remain a source of pride and nostalgia.
(As narrated to Support Elders by our member.)