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IAF hero in death-defying act in Everest lap
Kathmandu, Sept 23 (IANS):
Published on 24 Sep. 2009 12:01 AM IST
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Six months ago he suffered a brain haemorrhage and his doctor ruled out strenuous outdoor sports activities in the immediate future. However, Indian Air Force para jump instructor Wing Commander Ramesh Chandra Tripathi defied death to enhance the image of the IAF and take part in the "ultimate adventure" by making the world's highest parachute jump in the lap of Mt Everest Tuesday along with two British professional sky divers. "It was a calculated risk but worth it," the jubilant 45-year-old said after he dropped off a helicopter from 20,000 ft in front of Mt Everest to land at Gorakh Shep, the plateau-like area in the lap of the world's highest mountain located at 16,800 feet above sea level. "What made Wing Commander Tripathi's feat all the more outstanding was his ability to dispense with the minimum acclimatising time needed," said Abhishek Pande, skydiving coordinator at Kathmandu's Himalaya Expeditions that organised the event to promote Nepal as a skydiving destination. The other two sky divers, Britons Leo Dickinson and Ralph Mitchell, spent five days in the Gorakh Shep region to get used to the high altitude where oxygen is sparse in the thin air, causing breathing difficulties that can prove fatal. The daredevil Tripathi, who arrived in Kathmandu Saturday, flew to Gorakh Shep - where adventurers had played a Twenty20 cricket match in April - at 6.30 a.m. Tuesday and made the drop within an hour. He prepared himself for the breathing difficulties that lay ahead by constantly breathing in bottled oxygen - half a litre every minute - during the chopper ride. "We live only once," Tripathi said, explaining what made him risk his life to make the drop. "I believe in living that one life adventurously. It was the ultimate adventure and now, if I die tomorrow, I will die a happy man." The free-fall in the Everest region is beset with dangers. Strong winds can push the sky diver into a crevasse or dash him to death against a cliff. In 2005, Tripathi had led the IAF team that summited Mt Everest but lost a man during the descent. Last year, Tripathi returned to Nepal to attempt Mt Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world at 8511 m but failed due to inclement weather. His push this summer to summit Mt Ch Oyu, the sixth highest peak at 8201m, also failed but fate finally rewarded his persistence Tuesday. In 2006, Tripathi had received the Vayu Sena medal for gallantry from the President of India with his contribution including twice trying to rescue his climbing partners, which on Mt Kamet (7757m) caused him to contract frostbite on his fingers and toes. Tripathi is also the leader of the landmark feat being attempted by the IAF that kicked off with the 2005 Everest summit: to climb the seven highest peaks in seven continents by 2010 and the motto of the expedition is: "Touching the sky with glory".

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