Mountaineer Kalpana Dash : First Odia on top of world
As I told previously in these 21 days of lockdown I'll share 21 blogs about some great personalities of Odisha.
So here is the sixteenth day of lockdown and I'm sharing my sixteenth writeup on Mountaineer Kalpana Dash : First Odia on top of world. 
Kalpana Dash was born on  7th July 1966 at Kumbhar Sahi, Kanchan Bazar, Dhenkanal to Late Gunanidhi Dash and Smt. Sailabala Dash. 
She had her primary education in Dhenkanal. She passed matriculation in 1983 from Balarampur High School, She did her Graduation from Dhenkanal Women's College in 1988 and obtained her law degree in 1991 from Dhenkanal law College.

She worked as an advocate before she got a job in Lanco Babandh Power Limited. She could hardly ever devote any time to her occupation. She always gives her passion first priorities in life.

She joined the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute at Darjeeling for a formal training in 2001 at a relatively advanced age of 35. Then there was no looking back. Every day she used to practice climbing at the Kapilas mountain near her home-town, Dhenkanal. This she has ever been doing without a break. She practised daily at the Kapilas mountain scaling its 1352 steps five time up and five times down, with a load of 30 kilograms on her back.

Kalpana became the first Odia to scale the Mount Everest. She scaled Mount Everest on 21 May 2008, along with a team of five members from the United States, Canada and Nepal. She was among the 27 who successfully scaled the Everest as members of High Altitude Workers of HAD International Everest Expedition 2008.

Kalpana’s maiden attempt to scale the peak was in 2004. However, she had to return after reaching over 7,000ft owing to bad weather. She made her second attempt in 2006, but this time, too, she had to bow before bad weather.

Some major achievements in her career are
  • B.M.C. (17000 ft, height gain) at The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute,Darjeeling, W.B. in the year 2001.
  • A.M.C. (16500 ft. height gain) at The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute,Darjeeling , W.B. in the year 2002.
  • M.O.I. at The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute , Darjeeling, W.B in the year 2002.
  • Alpine Climbing Camp in the year 2003 at C.B. Range Lahul, Himanchal Pradesh (I.M F.), New Delhi.
  • Search and Rescue Course at Nehru Institution of Mountaineering, Uttarakashi, Uttaranchal in the year 2003
  • LIaison Officer Course at Nehru Institution of Mountaineering , Uttaarakashi, Uttaranchal, in the year 2003
  • Mount Satopanth (SAAD Mountaineers ) Mumbai in the year 2003
  • Mount Bhagirathi (SAAD Mountaineers ) Mumbai in the year 2003
  • Mount Everest (Height gain 7300 mtr) in the year 2004. Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, Kathamandu, Nepal.
  • Mount Everest (Height gain 26 , 000 ft.) in the year 2006 , Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, Kathamandu , Nepal.
  • Mount Mentosha Peak I.M.F. Ladies expedition 2007 of New Delhi.
  • Mount Everest Summit ( 8848 mtr. /29,028 ft.) on dt. 21.05 2008 South Side , Nepal.
  • Mount Denali - North America highest peak 2010 unsuccessful.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro- East Africa highest peak Tanzania Range 5,895 m successfully summited on dated 9 October 2014 (without oxygen)
  • Mount Aconcagua - South America highest peak Andes Range 6,962 m successfully summited on 16 January 2015 (without oxygen)
  • Mount Elbrus - Europe Highest peak Caucasus Range 5,642 m successfully summited on dated 31 July 2015 (without oxygen)
  • Mount Kosciuszko - Australia highest peak 2,228 m successfully summited on 3 December 2015 (without oxygen), a record for an Indian saree. 

The major problem came to her from the financial spheres.A few residents of Dhenkanal, and the then District Collector rendered some support. But it was not enough. It was difficult to convince corporate houses or donor organisations for sponsorship. Whatever the goverment had to offer was very little. Her own financial position was very weak. One cannot imagine with such an uncertainty how a woman from a small town in Odisha could concentrate on her training and preparation without losing motivation.

In January, 2008, Arcelor Mittal Group presented a cheque of Rs 5 lakh to enable her scale Mount Everest. Bhusan Steels, Coal India Limited, Orissa Mining Corporation and Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys also sponsored her Mount Everest expedition. For her Mount McKinley expedition, she received financial assistance of US $ 6,000 from Angul-based Jindal Steel & Power Limited, Rs 1 lakh from Orissa Mining Corporation, Rs 15,000 from the State Sports Department and air fare from Nalco. The State government gave her Rs 5 lakh in cash and a plot of land in Bhubaneswar for conquering Mt Everest.

When some reporters asked her “What is the reason”, “a woman could become the first Everester in Odisha, while it still remains a distant dream for our men?” 
She replies with utmost humility:
 “Perhaps it was the wish of Lord Jagannath. He wanted the first one to be a woman.” 
On 23 May 2019, Dash again summited Everest with two others, but became ill on the descent due to unusual congestion near the summit of Mt Everest and died just above its balcony.

Kalpana always said that the purpose of her expedition is to encourage women to participate in the adventure sport and spread the message of world peace, fraternity and women empowerment. She proved to the whole world that Odia women were no less capable in meeting the challenges of an adventure. 
References :
  • Oriya Nari
  • orisports
  • Wikipedia