ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 43
TV Times

Pera-grads set for Himalayan task

By Susitha R. Fernando

March 22, this year is an unforgettable day for the University Explorers' Club (UEC) of the University of Peradeniya as well as Sri Lanka. Four members; two graduates and two undergraduates set out for a historical hike to climb the highest point of the Himalayas that any Sri Lankan has ever reached.

Graduates Jayampathi Weerakoon (25) of the Faculty of Engineering, Sandun Dissanayake (27) of the Faculty of Science and the two undergraduates Chanaka Rajapakshe (23) of Faculty of Engineering and Chanaka Warnakulasooriya (23) also of the Faculty of Engineering set out to Nepal to create history as the first Sri Lankans to reach 22200 ft which is the summit of "Mera peak".

"This is the highest altitude any Sri Lankan has ever attempted to reach so far. This will no doubt be challenging but we are sure of success because of the perseverance, commitment, and endurance of our enthusiastic team members," the four speaking to the TV Times said before they left the country.

The expedition is organised by the University Explorers' Club (UEC) which has been functioning for the last 35 years and was started by environmental lovers in order to explore the forests, waterfalls, rivers and mountain peaks all over Sri Lanka.

‘The dream of any explorer is to peak his experience with the exploration of the Great Himalayas on March 25 the day, which we are planning to start the hike will be our dream day’ said Jayampathi Weerakoon, who is also a past member of UEC.

"We strive towards this adventure not simply as hikers, but as nature lovers who see exploration as an adventurous sport to encourage and build a community that values these as much as we do," he added.

The attempts to reach the world's highest mountain by the club has a history of seven years and so far they have completed four explorations. In 2000, a 7 member team trekked up to Everest Base Camp (18000 ft) while 6 members in 2001 attempted to climb "Pisang Peak" and reached up to 19000ft.

In 2002, a four member team tried to reach the summit of the "Thorong Peak" and became the first ever Sri Lankan team to have climbed on ice and reached 22000 ft which is the highest altitude reached by a Sri Lankan. Again in 2003, a team of three undergrads reached the summit of the ‘Kalapathar Peak’.

"Mera peak is the final point that an ordinary mountaineer could climb. To go beyond that we will have obtain special permission from the Nepal government," he added.

Chanaka Warnakulasuriya Chanaka Rajapakshe Jayampathi Weerakoon

The selection of the four was another Himalayan task for the selectors. They introduced a criteria such as previous experience, active participation both in the club and respective faculty activities, leadership qualities, team spirit, physical fitness and endurance.

The selectors chose fifteen candidates and after thorough evaluation, the final four were given the opportunity.

All the selected members were trained under the supervision of Anuja Mallawarachchi, Officer in charge - Physical Education, University Gymnasium and underwent strenuous training during which they improved endurance by following a rigorous schedule of running (50kms per week), continuous power training, swimming etc, controlled food according to medical advice, followed a first aid course to gain basic and essential knowledge to handle emergencies and training under continuous supervision, guidance and advice from previous Himalayan explorers.

"To get used to the cold climate we did lot of practices at Horton Plains and Piduruthalagala, the only two places which have the coldest climates," Jayampathi described.

The team has collected the total budget of Rs. 800,000.00 needed for the journey with the support of well wishers.

"We will have to hire a guide and two porters to support us and the journey itself would take twenty days. They will return on April 15,".

"With this attempt we want to be proud of our nation and bring it glory," the four explorers said.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.