A crusader who refused to give up
Hari Pal Singh Alhuwalia has lived life on his terms. A war veteran, Ahluwalia discovered his passion for photography and rock climbing during his college days in Mussoorie. He joined the Indian Army after his graduation, but his interest in mountaineering did not diminish. He underwent training at the Himalayan Mountaineering institute in Darjeeling.
He took up climbing assignments in Sikkim, Nepal which helped him attempt the highest peak in the world – Mount Everest. Ahluwalia acheived every mountaineer’s dream of getting to the top of Everest in 1965. It was a miraculous climb considering the fact that oxygen cylinders were lost in an avalanche near the top of the mountain. The Indo - Pakistan war in 1965 was a defining moment in Ahluwalia’s life. The Punjab lad suffered a bullet injury in the war and his climbing dreams came crashing down as he was confined to a wheelchair following the incident.
Ahluwalia could not stay away from the sport that he loved for a long time. After undergoing treatment at Stoke Mandeville hospital in London, he organised a ski expedition to Mount Trisul, the first Trans-Himalaya Motor Expedition and the Central Asia Cultural Expedition.
Ahluwalia did not restrict himself to rock climbing activities. He took up a pro-active role in administration as well. After undergoing trauma post the 1965 war, he realised the troubles faced by people with disability and set up the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) in New Delhi. Ahluwalia also held various posts in Delhi Mountaineering Association, Indian Mountaineering Foundation and Planning committee of persons with disability.
He wanted to share his experiences of the joy of climbing and turned an author with Higher than Everest. The book was well recieved which prompted him to write other books – The Everest Within, Eternal Himalaya, Beyond the Himalayas, Everest – Where the snow never melts.
Ahluwalia is honored with Arjuna award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan for his contribution to the sport of rock climbing. The 78-year old also got international recognition with CONDOR-DE-ORO – Argentina’s honor for contributing to the sport and adventure writing.
He continues to inspire thousands of climbers in India and abroad.
A brief about Mountaineering as a sport
Mountaineering isn’t just about getting to the top of a mountain. There is more to it. Rock craft, snow-craft and skiing are different varieties of the sport depending on the route taken.
Climbers set up what is called a base camp for safe completion of the climb. Base camps are often situated far from harsher conditions. It is also one of the most dangerous activities in the world. Many people have lost their lives on their way to the top of the summit. Death can occur via rockfall, avalanche or due to tough weather conditions. One needs to be trained in the sport before taking it up professionally. There are skills that every climber should inculcate over a period of time to come out on top.