On June 5, Maharashtra police officers Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod caused a flutter when they claimed at a press conference that on May 23, they had reached the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the first Indian couple, and also the first couple from the law-enforcement agency, to do so.
Within hours, the news of their ‘achievement’ was reported by major media outlets, with both the Maharashtra police and the government lauding their feat.
But now, fellow mountaineers in Pune and Mumbai have alleged that the couple faked their Everest ascent by digitally altering photos. A team of mountaineers has apprised Pune Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla and an investigation isunder way at the Shivajinagar police station, where the couple are stationed.
The complainants, who have pointed out several gaping holes in the story told by the Rathods allege that the couple never made it past the base camp.
“Our suspicions were first aroused owing to the time lag between the day the Rathods claimed to have reached the summit [May 23] and their press conference announcing their achievement [June 5],” Pune-based mountaineer Surendra Shelke told The Hindu .
Mr. Shelke, who has more than two decades of mountaineering experience, alleged that no one seemed to have seen the Rathods beyond the base camp. He also asserted that neither had completed the gruelling preliminary necessary for the climb.
“From the people in the team who accompanied the Rathods, we gathered that the duo had not even reached what is known as the first acclimatisation rotation before the main push to the summit — the Khumbu icefall [at 17,999 ft] — by May 10. So, there is no way they could have completed their climb by May 23 as they claimed.
Even more damning are the allegations that the photos of the conquest circulated by the couple were photoshopped.
In an e-mail to Ms. Shukla, the complainants alleged that the photo of the Rathods with their down suit and oxygen mask was most likely taken either at the base camp or in a studio, and later “meticulously cropped using Photoshop and superimposed on to the summit.”
A climber who was part of another expedition along with the couple called into question their claim of having scaled Australia’s highest peak. Anjali Kulkarni, a mountaineer with 25 years of climbing experience, said the Rathods’ claim of successfully scaling Mount Kosciuszko is hogwash. “The claim of Dinesh and his wife that they had successfully completed the Aussie 10 Challenge is completely fake.”
The challenge involves summiting the 10 highest peaks in the country. The couple, Ms. Kulkarni added, had barely climbed five peaks.
Neither Dinesh nor Tarakeshwari could be reached for comment.