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Bachendri Pal was the first Indian woman to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest, in 1984. Her father was a border tradesman who took atta and rice from India to Tibet on mules, horses and goats. He eventually settled near Uttarkashi, where he married and they raised their five children. Bachendri, the middle child, was born in 1954. Always a rebellious child, she loved wandering by herself in the Garhwal Himalayas. Her family was often entertained by her dreams of travelling in airplanes and meeting famous people. She was independent and fearless, and first tasted the excitement of the high altitudes when a group of 12-year-old classmates climbed to 4000m (13123 feet).

India’s fourth expedition to Everest was scheduled for 1984, and only four women in the world had ever scaled the peak. The ’84 team consisted of seven women and eleven men, and this was Bachendri Pal’s first real expedition. After an avalanche, injuries, and other problems, she stood on the summit of Sagarmatha (the Nepali name for the highest peak in the world) at 1:07 pm on 23 May, 1984. 29,028 ft, or 8848 m.

The year after this accomplishment, Pal led an all-woman team to Everest, and in 1994, led an all-woman rafting team down the Ganga, from Hardwar to Calcutta. In 1997, Bachendri Pal was the leader for an all-woman, seven month traverse of the Himalayas, which, unfortunately, fell through. She is currently employed as deputy divisional manager (adventure programmes), Tata Steel Adventure Foundation.

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