Nepal has banned two Indian climbers and their team leader for six years after an investigation found that they had faked their “successful” Everest summit in 2016.
Nepal revoked the summit certificates of Narender Singh Yadav and Seema Rani Goswami, mountaineers from India’s Haryana state, banning the duo from mountaineering in the country after four years of investigation.
In 2016, the duo has shared their pictures of them at the top of the world, the summit of the highest mountain peak, Mount Everest, and Nepal’s tourism department presented them with the coveted certificates.
In August, 2020, Mr Yadav was selected as one of the recipients of the prestigious Tenzing Norgay Adventure Award. However, the duo came under scrutiny as co-climbers of the 14-member private expedition to Mt Everest, who had seen both of them descending without reaching the summit, raised questions.
The award was withheld by the Indian government due to pending investigations into the case which had caught the Nepal government’s eye in 2016 itself.
Following investigations, Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) found that Mr Yadav had doctored the photos and faked documents.
“In our investigation, we found that they had submitted fake documents [including photographs]. Based on the documents and the conversation with the officials concerned, including sherpas [expert Nepalese mountaineers], we reached this conclusion,” Pradip Kumar Koirala, Nepal’s tourism official told The Indian Express.
Last year as the controversy kicked off, mountaineers pointed out that the pictures that claimed to be of Mr Yadav on the world’s highest mountain peak missed some obvious details. It showed no reflections of them on the snow or reflection of the mountains in the sunglasses, oxygen mask with missing tube connecting it to an oxygen tank, and limp flags.
The Nepal government has found Mr Yadav had violated regulations under the Nepal Tourism Act, 1978. The tourism ministry has also taken action against two locals and the company that organised the expedition.
Their team leader, Naba Phukon, who had raised red flags over the pictures, has also been banned for six years. The ministry has also imposed a fine of 10,000 Nepalese rupees ( £62) on Sherpa Dawa, who accompanied Mr Yadav and Ms Rani on the expedition. It also fined the local company named Seven Summit Peaks that organised the 14-member summit.
Phukon said the condition of two was deteriorating and he asked them to descend.
“Their oxygen cylinders were not working and their sherpa Dawa Sherpa too was not there. Seeing their condition, I told both of them to return (to base camp). Later, I met Rani at Lhotse Face and she was suffering from frostbite. I called the sherpas at base camp and they launched a rescue for her. Yadav had already left for the base camp,” Phukon had said.
Mr Yadav had earlier said he had proofs to show he completed the summit. However, the tourism ministry of Nepal has said they failed to produce the evidence and their version of events did not match as of the sherpa.
The issue of people faking their summit is not new to Nepal that has been struggling to stop bogus summiteers. Nepal’s need to increase business in the country that mostly depends on mountaineering, has resulted in it increasingly issuing Everest permits in recent years. It has also led to an increase in the number bogus claims of summiting.
In 2017, two Indian police officers from Maharashtra state in India were fired after an investigation found they lied about climbing Everest.
Despite this, India has had several accomplished mountaineers who have achieved the feat.
Avtar Singh Cheema was the first Indian and sixteenth in the world to climb Mount Everest in 1960s. Bachendri Pal was the first Indian woman to climb the mighty peak in 1960’s.