India

Everest: Indian police couple's summit claim investigated

Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod on Everest Image copyright Makalu Adventure
Image caption Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod say they scaled Everest last month - other climbers say their photos do not seem genuine

Police in India are investigating claims by two climbers who say they are the country's first couple to conquer the world's highest peak Mount Everest.

Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod told reporters this month that they reached the 8,850m (29,035ft) summit on 23 May.

But some mountaineers alleged the couple, who are both police officers, faked their achievement by circulating digitally altered photos of the climb.

Mr and Mrs Rathod deny the claims, as do the guides who climbed with them.

Contacted by the BBC, Tarakeshwari Rathod insisted that she and her husband had "climbed Everest".

The pair work as constables in the western Indian city of Pune, where police are now carrying out an inquiry.

Image caption The company that assisted the couple stand by their claim
Image copyright Makalu Adventure
Image caption Other climbers wonder why the couple appear in different sets of clothes in the photos

A senior Pune police official told the BBC that officers were "clarifying the facts with the couple and a group of mountaineers" who had objected to their claim.

"The couple have [climbing] certificates from Nepal government's tourism and mountaineering department. We will approach the government to find out whether these certificates are genuine," the official, who preferred to remain unnamed, said.

'Dream realised'

The Rathods held a press conference on 5 June to announce that their "dreams have been realised" and they had scaled the summit.

But Pune-based climber Surendra Shelke, who is one of a number of Indian mountaineers to have raised doubts about the couple's claim, said his suspicions "were first aroused owing to the time lag between the day the Rathods claimed to have reached the summit and their press meet announcing their achievement".

They also alleged that some of the photographs circulated by the couple showing them on the climb had been photoshopped.

Other allegations are that the couple could not have reached the summit so soon after they were seen to have arrived at base camp, and that the photos appear to show them in two different sets of clothes and boots while on the climb.

However, the chief of Kathmandu-based Makalu Adventure, which organised the ascent, told the BBC he had "no doubt" the couple had scaled the world's highest peak.

The company's website also contains pictures of the couple that they say were taken on the summit.

Image caption Nepalese authorities issued climbing certificates to the couple after "investigating the matter and interviewing the couple"

"They were taken to the summit by sherpas who worked for my company for several years and they reached the summit on 23 May," Mohan Lamsal told the BBC.

Mr Lamsal said Mrs Rathod had contracted pneumonia on the way down, and his company had sent a helicopter to fly her out from base camp to Kathmandu for treatment.

"She was in hospital for a week. Only after she recovered, could the couple hold a press meet in India to announce the summit."

Mr Lamsal said Nepalese authorities had issued the climbing certificates to the couple after "investigating the matter and interviewing the couple" following complaints by some climbers in India.

"There is some politics going on [in this case]," he said.

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