Bachendri Pal belonged to a family of very moderate means. She was born on 24 May 1954 in a village in the Himalayas named Nakuri in Uttarkashi, District of Garhwal, what is now Uttarakhand, a state in the northern part of India. She was one of seven children to Hansa Devi and Shri Kishan Singh Pal – a border tradesman who supplied groceries from India to Tibet. She was born only five days before the first anniversary of the original ascension of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. She completed her M.A. and B.Ed. from D.A.V.Post Graduate College Dehradun. She got her first taste of mountaineering thrill at the age of 12, when she, along with her friends, scaled a 13,123 ft (3,999.9 m) high peak during a school picnic. On the invitation of her school principal, she was sent to college for higher studies and became the first girl to 1982, during her course at NIM, she climbed Mt. Gangotri 21,900 ft (6,675.1 m) and Mt. Rudragaria 19,091 ft (5,818.9 m). In that time, she got employment as an instructor at the National Adventure Foundation (NAF), which had set up an adventure school for training women to learn mountaineering.
Pal encountered stiff opposition from her family and relatives when she decided to opt for a career as a professional mountaineer rather than as a schoolteacher. She soon found success in her chosen field, however.
After summitting a number of smaller peaks, she was selected to join India's first mixed-gender team to attempt an expedition to Mount Everest in 1984.
In 1984, India had scheduled its fourth expedition, christened Everest'84, to Mount Everest. Bachendri Pal was selected as one of the members of the elite group of six Indian women and eleven men who were privileged to attempt an ascent to the Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepalese). The news filled them with a sense of ecstasy and excitement. The team was flown to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, in March 1984, and from there the team moved onwards. Recalling her first glimpse of the Mount Everest, Bachendri once reminisced: "We the hill people have always worshiped the mountains…my overpowering emotion at this awe-inspiring spectacle was, therefore, devotional". The team commenced its ascent in May 1984. Her team almost met disaster when an avalanche buried its camp, and more than half the group abandoned the ascent because of injury or fatigue. Bachendri Pal and the remainder of the team pressed on to reach the summit. Bachendri Pal recalls this accident: "I was sleeping in one of the tents with my teammates at Camp III at an altitude of 24,000 ft (7,315.2 m). On the night of 15–16 May 1984, at around 00:30 hours IST, I was jolted awake; something had hit me hard; I also heard a deafening sound and soon after I found myself being enveloped within a very cold mass of material".
On 22 May 1984, Ang Dorjee (the Sherpa Sirdar) and some other climbers joined the team to ascend to the summit of Mount Everest; Bachendri was the only woman in this group. They reached the South Col and spent the night there at Camp IV at the altitude of 26,000 ft (7,924.8 m). On 23 May 1984, early morning at 6:20 a.m., they continued the ascent, climbing "vertical sheets of frozen ice"; cold winds were blowing at the speed of about 100 km per hour and temperatures touching minus 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. On 23 May 1984, the team reached the summit of Mount Everest at 1:07 p.m. IST and Bachendri Pal created history. She achieved this feat on the day before her 30th birthday, and six days before the 31st anniversary of the first ascension to Mount Everest.
Bachendri Pal continued to be active after ascending the highest peak in the world. She successfully led:
- An "Indo-Nepalese Women’s Mount Everest Expedition – 1993" team comprising only women, which set benchmarks for Indian mountaineering when 18 people reached the summit including 7 women.
- All women team of rafters in "The Great Indian Women's Rafting Voyage – 1994", which had 18 women in 3 rafts. It was a pioneering effort by women in successfully completing the journey in the river Ganges from Haridwar to Calcutta, covering 2155 km. in 39 days.
- The "First Indian Women Trans-Himalayan Expedition – 1997", which was an effort by 8 women, who completed the trekking journey from the eastern part of the Himalayas from Arunachal Pradesh to the western part of the Himalayas at Siachen Glacier reaching Indira Col – the northernmost tip of India at the altitude of 20,100 ft (6,126.5 m), covering more than 4500 km in '225' days by crossing more than 40 high Mountain passes. This is the first success by any country.
Bachendri Pal along with Premlata Agarwal and a group of ace climbers, which includes Mt. Everest summiteers have quietly arrived in Uttarkashi and carried out relief and rescue operations in the remotest high altitude villages of the Himalayas that have been ravaged in the 2013 North India floods, where even the Indian Army youngsters couldn't reach.
Awards and accolades
- Gold Medal for Excellence in Mountaineering by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (1984)
- Padma Shri – the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India (1984)
- Gold Medal by the Department of Education, Government of Uttar Pradesh, India (1985)
- Arjuna Award by the Government of India (1986)
- Calcutta Ladies Study Group Award (1986)
- Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records (1990)
- National Adventure Award by the Government of India (1994)
- Yash Bharti Award by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, India (1995)
- Honorary Doctorate from the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University (formerly known as Garhwal University) (1997)
- She is the first recipient of Virangana Lakshmibai Rashtriya Samman 2013–14, which was given by the Ministry of Culture, Government of Madhya Pradesh, India at Gwalior on 18 June 2013 for her personal achievement in Adventure sports and women's upliftment in the country.
Books and publications
- Author of "Everest – My Journey to the Top", (an autobiography published By National Book Trust, Delhi) ISBN 9788123715278
- H.P.S. Ahluwalia
- List of Indian women athletes
- List of 20th-century summiters of Mount Everest
- List of Mount Everest records of India
- "Bachendri Pal (Indian mountaineer) – Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Bachendri Pal Biography – Bachendri Pal Profile, Childhood, Life, Timeline". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- Book: Everest – My Journey to the Top, an autobiography published By National Book Trust, Delhi
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- "EverestHistory.com: Bachendri Pal". Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Madhumita Chakraborty". Rediff. Archived from the original on 3 October 2013.
- "Everest conquerors to the rescue! – Other Sports - More – NDTVSports.com". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- Indian Sports News. "Bachendri Pal – Indian Sports News". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Tata Steel Newsroom – Press Releases". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Bachendri Pal gets MP 'Rashtriya Samman' – News Oneindia". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Bachendri Pal gets 'Rashtriya Samman' from MP Governor". Archived from the original on 11 January 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Everest: My Journey To The Top (9788123715278) by Bachendri Pal – ebay India". Archived from the original on 11 January 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2014.