The first Indian women to climb Mount Everest, Bachendri Pal belonged to a family of very moderate means. She was born in year 1954 in a Nakuri village in Garhwal. Bachendri was an active child and did well in her school, she excelled in sports too. Her first exposure to mountaineering was at the age of 12, when during a picnic she along with several schoolmates climbed a peak of altitude 4,000mts. She completed her graduation, becoming the first girl of her village to do so. She also secured the first position in a rifle shooting event during graduation.
Her family was facing financial troubles and she wanted a job desperately. She shared with her parents her desire to become a professional mountaineer. The family was “devastated,” as for them, her relatives and local people, the most suitable job for a woman was teaching, not mountaineering.
She joined the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM). She was declared the best student and was considered as “Everest material”. In 1982, while at NIM, she climbed Gangotri I (21,900 ft) and Rudugaria (19,091 ft). Around that time, she got employment as an instructor at the National Adventure Foundation. Bachendri 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 in 1984. After an accident while climbing the Mt. Everest, members of the team go injured. Despite an injury on her head, Bachendri chose to continue the ascent. On 23 May 1984, Bachendri reached the summit of Mount Everest. She remained on the summit for about 43 minutes and became the first Indian woman to scale the Mount Everest, and the fifth woman in the world.
In 1985, she led an Indo-Nepalese Everest Expedition team comprising of only women. The expedition created seven world records and set benchmarks for Indian mountaineering. In 1994, she led an all women team of rafters. The team coursed through the waters of the river Ganges, covering 2,500 km from Haridwar to Kolkata. Bachendri Pal says” adventure sports like trekking and mountaineering toughens a person, both mentally and physically”.
Summing up her mountaineering expedition, Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman and fifth in the world to climb Mount Everest, says:
“Mountains teach you to deal with critical situations. They force discipline and leadership qualities, humanity, courage, self respect and confidence, besides bringing one in contact with people from different areas and different cultures.”