An Interview with Harish Kapadia

Dream Wanderlust

Photographs: Harish Kapadia
Category: Interview
Date of Publication: Mar 29 , 2014Vol-02 Issue-01

Harish Kapadia [1] is a distinguished Mountaineer from India. He has started his climbing and trekking in Himalaya 50 years ago. harish kapadia He mainly contributed to Himalayan climbing by exploring unknown and remote areas of Himalaya. Some of his major ascends have been of Devtoli (6788 m), Bandarpunch West (6102 m), Parilungbi (6166 m), and, Lungser Kangri (6666 m) the highest peak of Rupshu in Ladakh. He led six major international joint expeditions, four with the British and two with the French, one with the Japanese, to high peaks, like Rimo (7385 m), Chong Kumdan I (7071 m), Sudarshan Parbat (6507 m), Panch Chuli (6904 m) and Rangrik Rang (6553 m) and Padmanabh (7030 m) on the Siachen Glacier. He is the recipient of Patron-s Medal of the Royal Geographic Society, UK, Lifetime Achievement Award for adventure by the president of India, King Albert Mountain award, Gold Medal from IMF and many more. He has authored fifteen books on the Himalayan trekking and climbing. He was elected the Honorary Member of the Alpine Club, London and almost all major Alpine Clubs in the world. He is the former vice president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. He is still active on exploring the Himalaya to open new trekking and climbing possibilities.

What motivated you to start outdoor activities in your childhood?

Near Mumbai we have the Sahyadri range. It has many forts and hills, from easy to difficult. These hills were playground for me to start with. From school, college or just with friends we visited these mountains and it was a good beginning.

What changes in the expedition did you come across in your fifty years of outdoor in Himalaya?

When we started for going to climb, almost nothing was available, in terms of equipment and supplies. So we had to procure everything- even rucksacks were made locally. On hills, the roads stopped much before the starting points of today. So one had to walk more and that was enjoyable in many ways.

What are your views on domestication of climbing?

More climbs are done, but not the quality of climbs unfortunately. And few climbs and people are interested in climbing Everest only!

Now a days adventure sports are being promoted to the tourists in Himalaya. We would like to know what feel about it.

Well the adventure sports as the name suggests, are with some element of challenge and risk even. So if tourists are being taken there even more than required safety has to be ensured.

What was your most challenging expedition?

Like many, I would say it is difficult to point out just one expedition. But if I have to select one, then it was the Karakoram Traverse along the Shyok River, cross Col Italia, explore Teram Shehr Plateau, climb Padmanabh and return via the Siachen Glacier. This had all the challenges of climb, logistics and exploration. This would be one of best trips I have done.

How did over population and pollution played their role in the recent disaster of Uttarakhand?

Such floods are natural phenomena over the Century in the Himalaya. But we never had so many persons trapped in the lower valleys. So, too many persons (pilgrims) were there, was one of the main causes of the magnitude of disaster. Local villages were on higher reaches, so they had short of supplies but no loss of houses or deaths to large extent.

You have climbed with the climber from US, UK, Japan and therefore you are quite aware of different climbing methods followed world-wide. In this connection we would like to know about your approach of climbing.

In a joint expedition one has to take care about the different styles and standards of climbing. Without doubt the foreign climbers are far better suited technically. But organising, potter handling. Food and exploration they cannot beat us. So this combination works best. Above all, be proud Indian- the foreigners also appreciate this.

You have played several roles like veteran climber, explorer, mountaineer, editor in your career. Which role did you like most and why?

Again difficult to select one, all roles are complementary to each other. You climb, explore and then write about it and finally you are author. So it is all go together.

How did exploration lead you towards your realization of the spirit of Himalaya?

The explorations of new areas led me to realise how vast is the Himalaya and even life time is not enough. And in this vastness how small we are in a certain timeframe only.

During your exploration, what attitudes of the young generation have you observed? Do you have any message for the young explorers?

Younger generation also enjoy unknown valleys. But it necessarily taken longer time and that is a constraint for them. I am sure next generation will take up further explorations.

Thanks for giving us time for sharing your thoughts!

Interviewed By: Dream Wanderlust

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