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US trekker last rites in Sikkim

Posted by Ramesh Khati on November 2, 2009

Gangtok, Nov. 1(The Telegraph): A 69-year-old American trekker, who had died from high altitude sickness, was cremated according to Buddhist rituals in the presence of a large number of people at Yuksom on Friday.

The body of John M. Campbell was brought to Yuksom from Tshoka, just below the base camp of the 13,780-feet Dzongri in West Sikkim on October 29, a day after the death.

A 10-member US group had embarked on a trek along the Dzongri route on October 22. Police sources said Campbell had fallen sick along the trek and was returning when his conditions worsened and he died at Phedang — 11,500-feet high and 20km from Yuksom — the nearest human habitat in the remote corner of West Sikkim.

The decision to cremate him at Yuksom was taken with the consent of his 48-year-old daughter, Tamara Campbell, who was also in the team. Yuksom, which is scenic and considered a holy land by Buddhists, is the first capital of erstwhile Sikkim kingdom ruled by the chogyals. Three saints had consecrated Phuntshog Namgyal as the firstchogyal or king of Sikkim in 1640 at a place now called Norbugang in Yuksom.

Jamling Norgay, son of Everester Tenzing Norgay and organiser of the trek, was also present at the funeral. He thanked the people of Yuksom, stakeholders of the tourism industry in Sikkim and the monks who helped cremate the trekker’s body.

“I want to thank the monks from Dubdi, the oldest monastery of Sikkim, who performed the last rites and rituals,” said Jamling.

Campbell’s death had been attributed to old age, ill-health and breathing problems in the high altitude areas along the Dzongri trail. Sources said he was prepared for the worst when advised that he stay behind.

A post-mortem had to be carried out on the body at the district hospital at Gyalshing before the cremation since this was a formality, according to the police.

The body was brought to Yuksom from Tshoka on foot by porters. The other trekkers of the US group also returned, the police said.


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