An investigation by the ministry concluded both Yadav and Rani had lied because the evidence, including photographs, didn’t add up. Last year Yadav was recommended for the Tenzing Norgay award, the highest adventure sports honour in India, before his name was withheld by the sports ministry after media reports emerged of the possibility of the climb being fake.
Both Yadav and Rani, according to an order issued by the ministry in Nepal, have been given six-year retrospective bans, starting 2016. “The ministry has decided to cancel the summit certificates of the two Indian mountaineers Narender Singh Yadav and Seema Rani. 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, we reached this conclusion,” Pradip Kumar Koirala, a joint secretary in the MoCTCA and the chairman of the investigating committee, told The Indian Express.
Another joint secretary, Tara Nath Adhikari, said both Yadav and Rani had violated regulations under the Nepal Tourism Act, 1978. The ministry has also imposed a fine of 10,000 Nepalese rupees on Dawa Sherpa, the guide of Yadav and Rani and company which organised the expedition, Seven Summit Peaks, was fined 50,000 rupees, Adhikari confirmed. The liaison officer Pawan Kumar Ghimire has been warned, the joint secretary added.
Yadav and Rani were part of a 14-member private expedition to Mt Everest, led by Naba Phukon.
The team leader Phukon was also banned for six years. Phukon, however, had earlier alleged that the photo of Yadav at the summit was fake and questioned his claim of scaling Mount Everest.
Phukon’s version of events is that when he was returning after scaling the peak, he had seen Yadav and Rani at South Col (a ridge). “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 said.
Giving himself a clean chit in the fake climb scandal, Phukon said. “When I got to know about both Yadav and Rani getting the certificates, I raised the issue. Whatever happened was between the climbers, trekking company and liaison officer. The trekking company and sherpas attest the climb to the liaison officer.”
Rani was admitted in a hospital in Nepal and the then minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj had tweeted in May 2016: “Seema is stranded in Nepal as she is unable to pay for her return and hospital expenses. We will assist Seema in all possible manner. We will bear all expenses of her hospitalisation and journey back home.”
Seven Summit Treks, meanwhile, maintained that they had no role in the fake climb.
“If the climbers do a fake climb, how will the trekking company get to know? Our task is to assist in getting the permit, organise the trek and route. The two Indian climbers showed us the pictures of their summit and we wrote that they had climbed. The Nepal ministry of Tourism decides about the certificates,” Mingma Sherpa, chairman, Seven Summit Treks, Kathmandu, told The Indian Express. Yadav, Rani and their sherpa Dawa Sherpa could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.