Pune: In a first of sorts, a 20-member all civilian team of mountaineers has left the city to scale Mount Everest, the world's highest summit, embarking on an ambitious 70-day expedition.
    
The "Pune Everest 2012 expedition" left here for Delhi on Friday to be flagged off by President Pratibha Patil on March 19.
    
Explaining the unique features of the expedition sponsored with contributions from 23,000 donors from all walks of life Umesh Zirpe said, "This is the fifth civilian expedition to mount Everest attempted from India. But for the first time such an expedition is having all its members from the same city with common people financing the endeavour. This is also the largest all civilian expedition to the dream peak."
    
The 47-year-old Zirpe, a tax consultant by profession, who has an experience of about 14 previous expeditions in the Himalayas has been training the team members for the last two years to enhance the physical and mental stamina of the mountaineers, some of whom have even left their jobs to realise their ambition.
    
Overwhelmed by the public response to the Rs 3 crore expedition, Zirpe said before the team's departure that only ten percent of the total money had come from the corporate sector while 90 percent of funding was by way of small contributions from all over Maharashtra, an encouraging factor for civilian expeditions.
    
After the handing over of the tri-colour by the president in Delhi, the team will proceed to Kathmandu and also install a statue of Maratha warrior king Shivaji at the Everest base camp site.

(Agencies)