Mountaineers are those outdoors creatures who are comfortable wandering in the mountains, valleys and jungles not confined by the constraints of routine lives. They are always eager to set their feet in pursuit of something. Their wanderlust respects the nature, follows the thumb rules of safety and yet they can be termed as 'free birds'. There was a need to exchange ideas, discuss newer techniques and interact with others on various issues. Some early attempts had been made but they were not very fruitful.
In Maharashtra, there are about 150 to 200 mountaineering clubs and groups with a combined estimated strength of thousands of mountaineers. It is really a difficult task to gather them together. But, Maharashtra Seva Sangh, Mulund, took the lead. In consultation with some of the mountaineers, came up a concept of organising the Girimitra Sammelan. Mr Natekar, Mr Chandrashekhar Vaze, Mr Ravindra Lad, Mr D V Kulkarni and Mr Arun Bhandare were some of the strong supporters from Maharashtra Seva Sangh.
Although the concept of get-together was finalised, there was no fixed agenda of the activities. Dhananjay Madan, Pradip Kelkar, Prashant Thosar, Girish Jadhav, Sameer Paranjape started to meet and discuss about bringing structured approach. It was decided that the programme should be such that it appeals to the whole outdoor fraternity. Hrishikesh Yadav was the prime force behind bringing together, the concepts and the mountaineers, on one platform. Everybody was happy to finally visualise the get-together of mountaineers but the event did not have a name yet. Dr. Rahul Warange, Mahad suggested “Girimitra Sammelan” and it was a perfect fit. The date of the maiden event was also finalised. The seeds were sown.
The very first Girimitra Sammelan was successfully organised on 14th July 2002. There was mixed response from the mountaineering community. The planning, organisation and execution was carried out by everybody who were involved in the Sammelan. From the second year onwards, the event started to be hosted and managed, turn-by-turn, by various mountaineering organizations. Also, every event started to have a broad theme or focus area. Some of the notable focus areas are “New Routes in Mountaineering”, “50 Years of Mountaineering in Maharashtra”, “Education Through Mountaineering”, “Sahyadri”, “Conversation Through Mountaineering”, “Wandering One Gathers Honey” and so on. With this change, the event started getting better in scope and size too. In no time, the attendance grew from a mere 200/300 to more than 600 and thus the original objective of having a platform for the mountaineers was successfully achieved.
Each year brought more excitement and added scope. Third year onwards, the event started to have a dedicated segment for audio-visual presentations. From the third year onwards, film competitions have been held. The rock climbing attempts, trekking activities, Himalayan expeditions etc. started getting filmed for these specific purposes. As the years progressed, the quality of the films produced went up considerably. Over the years, more than 50 such wonderful films have been produced. From the fourth year onwards, an audio-visual presentation on the central theme of the event has been happening. Notable among these are, “50 Years of Mountaineering”, “The Life and Times of Sahyadri” (Sahyadrichi Jeevangatha), “Spcial Aspect of the Mountaineering Organizations” and so on. This is a treasure in itself.
The fourth year saw yet another dimension added to the event. Since then, various types of awards and commendations have been given away every year. Primarily the individuals and organisations making significant contribution in the mountaineering field have been felicitated. Some of them are Lifetime Achievement Award, Mountaineer of the Year, Climber of the Year and so on.
Photography competitions were added from fifth year onwards. This was an instant hit as people got to witness the thrill of rock climbing being caught or the beauty of a pristine Himalayan lake being caught, in a photo. These days more than 500 entries are submitted for the photography competition. The event has been growing by leaps and bounds. Various other activities have also included such as information booklet publication, providing a dedicated slot of time for special purpose activities. A single day of activities was too less of a duration and that is when 'Girimitra Sandhya' was introduced. It is the dedicated time slot, on the previous evening of the main function, where the mountaineers get a chance to interact with the invited guests actively involved in mountaineering on national level.
The Girimitra Sammelan has achieved a level of recognition within India and many high profiled personalities have participated in the events till date. Colonel N. Kumar, the leader of the 3rd highest peak in Himalayas – Kanchenjunga; Major HPS Ahluwalia, President, Indian Mountaineering Foundation; Mr. Bhishmaraj Baam, Retd. Director General of Maharashtra Police; Mr Kesari Patil of Kesari Tours; Mr Arvind Jamkhedkar, Retd. Director of Archaeological Dept., Mr Uddhav Thakre, Brig. Ashok Abey, Mr. Jaykumar, Chief Conservator, State of Karnataka and Mr Ninad Bedekar, Historian are some of the prominent names to have participated the event.
Every year, various mountaineering organisations actively participate in shaping the event. Without their active participation and voluntary work, the event would have not been able to continue year after year. Yes, it should be noted that no organisation or person gets paid for the efforts they put, yet no one complains about it. In fact, they all look forward to every year's Girimitra Sammelan. Equally important is the very firm support provided by Maharashtra Seva Sangh.
the decade celebration, the event is being planned on a larger scale. The only double amputee to climb Mount Everest - Mr. Mark Inglis (New Zealand), the mountaineer who has climbed Mount Everest 20 times - Mr. Apa Sherpa (Nepal), the learned historian who spent his whole life in research – Mr Babasaheb Purandare (India) are scheduled to grace this year's Girimitra Sammelan event. The idea behind bringing together some of the biggest names in the world, is to be able to promote the sport of mountaineering to the society. By witnessing the stories of the famous personalities, the attendees would get a first-hand experience of the courage, determination and the inspiration to motivate themselves.