Bachendri Pal is Chief Adventure Programmes at Tata Steel Ltd. in India and a nationally honored expedition leader. Bachendri’s accomplishments in mountaineering are an inspiration to audiences of all ages particularly empowering to women. Bachendri shares the stories of her Everest expedition as a platform to encourage others to also realize adventure and enterprise in their lives and to reach for their “own Everest.”
1984 Chosen for India’s first mixed expedition to Mt. Everest and reached the Summit.
1993 Organize and led the Indo-Nepalese Women’s Everest Expedition in which 18 people reached the summit, including 7 women from India
1994 River Ganga rafting expedition from Haridwar to Calcutta by 18 women in 3 rafts covering 2,155 Km in 39 days
Led the Indian Women’s First Trans-Himalayan Expedition by 8 women, an east to west traverse of the entire length of Himalaya, 4,500 Km on foot from Arunachal to Indira Col the northern most tip of India through Siachen Glacier (in the West ) which is the highest battle field in the World
Bachendri was born in the small, nondescript village of ‘Nakuri’ in the District of Uttarkashi in Garhwal Himalaya in the newly formed state of Uttrakhand, India. The village was perched on the mountain overlooking the gurgling Holy River Ganga, one of the most revered rivers of India.
Born the third child and one of the three daughters, in a family with a modest lifestyle, Bachendri credits her “being stubborn” and cultural custom to show preference to sons as the reasons she challenged herself to not only keep up with her two brothers, but to surpass them.
Bachendri studied to become a teacher and received a Bachelor of Education degree from Dehradun, the Capital of Uttrakhand, however remained unemployed. Although Bachendri’s interest in mountaineering was discouraged by her family and other elders, in 1981 she was encouraged to take the Basic Mountaineering Course by the then Vice Principal of nationally renowned Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM). Bachendri’s skills were recognized as she passed the Advanced Mountaineering Course and she earned a position on the expedition team of India’s first mixed expedition to Mt. Everest to be held in 1984.
After the Everest team selection, Bachendri was offered a position in the sports department of her present employer, viz. Tata Steel Ltd., the sixth largest Steel Plant in the World and a company, which undertakes corporate social responsibility as part of its business. Still the company took the risk, as it was uncertain if Bachendri would be a successful Everest mountaineer. The Expedition provided many challenges as Bachendri nearly lost her life, crushed under an ice avalanche at Lhotse face at 23,000 ft. Upon her return from Everest in May 1984, a full fledged Department called Tata Steel Adventure Foundation was created and Bachendri was named Chief of Adventure Programmes, a position she holds today.
Following the 1993 Indo-Nepalese Women’s Everest Expedition, Bachendri led 2 more major expeditions and each time new women were included thereby providing opportunity to other women to also show their capabilities.
Bachendri’s mountaineering excellence has been honoured by the Government of India with the country’s highest sports award, the ‘Arjuna’ Award, the highly coveted National Award of ‘Padma Shree’ as well as the National Adventure Award. Among other major awards, Bachendri was awarded the ‘Yash Bharati’ Award by the State Government of Uttar Pradesh, the ‘Gold Medal’ by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation as well an award from the Department of Education Uttar Pradesh State, and the Lifetime Achievement Award by Kolkata Sports Journalist Association.
Bachendri’s work has provided her with opportunities to share her experiences with audiences in Moscow, USA, France, Leningrad, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, UK and Uruguay. Bachendri studied Leadership Development Programmes through Outdoor Activities during a three-month outdoor educators course at Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre in New Zealand.
“Everest in 1984 was very much an awakening for me of the capabilities of women to stand up to the risks and hazards but in a sporting way,” Bachendri credits much of the accomplishments in her personal life to this expedition. “What is most satisfying is that I have been able to take the achievement as a platform to promote the spirit of adventure and enterprise among my country people of all age groups and walks of life.”
“I have realized that there are many Everests one has to climb in ones life”
To motivate the younger generation Bachendri authored her autobiography, “Everest My Journey to the Top” in collaboration with late Brig. Gyan Singh who was the leader of the first Indian Everest Expedition 1960. The autobiography published by the National Book Trust has been translated into 11 Indian Languages. The story has also been included in textbooks of most of the schools in India.
Bachendri currently lives in India.