Nagpur, Jan 20 (UNI) Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) vice president Padmashree Harish Chandra Singh Rawat, a member of the first successful Indian expedition to the Mount Everest in 1965 who died in New Delhi today, was a humble and unassuming soul who remained dedicated to mountaineering till the very end, said former Indian Navy Capt M S Kohli, the leader of the team.
Speaking to UNI over telephone, Capt Kohli said Rawat was so dedicated to mountaineering that he wanted to attend a recent meeting of the IMF in spite of his ailment.
''However, doctors did not allow him to leave hospital,'' he said.
The eminent mountaineer had also been working on social welfare projects in Uttarakhand, Capt Kohli added.
''Mr Rawat had been suffering from lung cancer and was undergoing treatment at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, and passed away today. He was 74,'' he said.
''Mr Rawat was among the 16 climbers who had participated in the 1965 expedition to Mt Everest. The expedition put nine Indians on the peak, setting a world record. It was a turning point in the history of Indian mountaineering. It established the country as a force to reckon with in mountaineering,'' Capt Kohli, who was with the Into-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) at the time, said, adding that seven members of the mission have passed away earlier.
Later, Mr Rawat participated in a joint operation by the Indian intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States (US) to the Nandadevi peak to explore Chinese nuclear possibilities, he said, adding that the mission lasted for four years.
''Earlier, in 1964, Mr Rawat was with me in an expedition to Nandadevi (East). He fell 3,500 feet in an avalanche, but survived,'' he added.
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