Mesmerizing view of Kamet, Parvati and Neelkanth mountains of Garhwal Himalayas from Kuari pass hiking trail near Auli, Uttrakhand
Seoul, South Korea was host to the Piolets D’Or awards ceremony on November 3, 2017, and this time Indian writer and mountaineer Harish Kapadia won the esteemed Piolets D’Or Asia Lifetime Achievement Award. The 72-year-old accomplished mountaineer is the first Indian to win the award, given by the Union of Asian Alpine Associations. It is another feather in the cap for Kapadia, who has won many other awards before, including the Patron’s Medal for exploration by the Royal Geographic Society in 2003. That award was last won by an Indian in 1877, by the legendary Nain Singh Rawat. ALSO READ: The Adventures of Explorer Nain Singh Rawat Also Read - Himalayan Bonanza For Tourists Visting India: Govt Reduces Visa Fee For Foreigners, Expands Tourism Package
Kapadia’s first trek in the Himalayas was in 1964, to the Pindari Glacier with a college friend in tow. It was during this trip that he met Pan Singh, a farmer in Harkot village, who would become a core member of Kapadia’s future expeditions. Pan Singh’s cousins and sons would also take part in Kapadia’s adventures. In the same year of his first trek, Kapadia completed his basic mountaineering course from Darjeeling’s Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Three years later, he did his advanced course from Uttarkashi’s Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, then newly established. Also Read - Uttarakhand: Kedarnath Shrine Closes For Winter
A year after his advanced course, Kapadia went forth on his first ascent in 1968, reaching the summit of Ikualari (6,059 meters) in May of that year. Over the years, he and his team of civilian mountaineers recorded the first ascents of several Himalayan peaks, including Kalabaland Dhura (6,105 m), Lungser Kangri (6,666 m), Bandarpunch West (6,102 m), Devtoli (6,788 m) and Laknis (6,235 m). All that despite challenges in organizing expeditions, using World War II-era equipment and limited tools and supplies. Also Read - Kajin Sara, Nepal's Newly-discovered Lake to Set New Record as World's Highest at 5,200 Metres
Kapadia has seen some grisly accidents as well, including an avalanche in Tharkot, Kumaon in 1969 and another in Bethartoli Himal South in 1970, where four members of his team died. He also fell into a glacier while descending from Devtoli peak in 1974 and was part of the rescue of Stephen Venables in 1992 from Panch Chuli V. Over the years, Kapadia has authored 15 books, including Trek the Sahyadris (1977), Into the Untravelled Himalaya (2005) and Exploring the Highlands of Himalaya (2006). NOW READ: Top 10 easy Himalayan treks for beginners
For Kapadia, his years exploring and trekking in the Sahyadris were the foundation for his mountaineering life. He has also been the editor of the respected Himalayan Journal. His efforts outside the mountaineering world have also been noteworthy. In 2000, after his son died fighting terrorists in Kashmir, he proposed turning Siachen glacier into a peace park to resolve the conflict and repair the ecological damage in the region.