The sport of Mountaineering has always played second fiddle within India’s sporting landscape, despite the sheer amount of risk and danger involved. Prolific Indian climbers such as Malli Mastan Babu, who held the record for climbing the highest peak of each continent in the shortest time, passed away. However, he never received similar adulation as compared to other marquee sports in India.
An IPS officer from Uttar Pradesh, Aparna Kumar is slowly working towards garnering mainstream legitimacy. Earlier this Monday, she kicked off her expedition to climb the highest peak in Antartica, Mount Vinson, which stands at a lofty 4,892 metres. Apart from this she has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (5,8950 m), highest peak in Africa, Mount Aconcagua (6.962 m) highest peak in South America, Mount Elbrus (5,642 m) highest peak in Europe, Puncak Jaya (4,884 m) highest peak in Indonesia and the almost the might Mount Everest (8,848 m).
As per her previous climbs, this particular Antartic expedition seems like a walk in the park. Kumar said, “Compared to the Mount Everest climb it won’t be that difficult, but it’s the weather we will be fighting more than the mountain. The temperature falls to around -39 degrees, so you can imagine how difficult it is to maintain form at that point of time. I have done special training in heavy sledge pulling, which will help me out there. Exercises like the tyre drag were a part of my routine.” Aparna was recently felicitated for her achievements in Mountaineering by state Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
The ice sheets below us kept cracking, we almost slipped inside a crevice: Aparna
The first All India services officer to climb four of the seven highest peaks in each continent, she is aiming to complete the remaining three by late 2017. Training at KD Singh Babu stadium in Lucknow, Aparna has set her eyes on completing the seven summit challenge in the southern hemisphere.
A recipient of the Rani LakshmiBai Veerta award last year, Aparna escaped a close shave with death, while climbing Mt. Everest, during the Nepal Earthquake. She said, “While climbing Everest was hit by one of the strongest avalanches it had ever seen. We were holed up within our tents at the 6,500 mark, when we felt a lot of tremors around 11 in the morning. At first we didn’t realise that it was an earthquake, but after a few more tremors, we realised something bad was happening. All hell broke loose.”
She added, “After about two hours, the snow finally managed to settle down, and we thought we would leave for base camp. However, we then realised that the avalanche must have created a lot of hollow places. So it would be difficult to trek back immediately. So we decided to stay the night. The most scary part was the noise of the ice sheets cracking below our feet. We thought we would slip inside the crevasses, it was the scariest moment of my life.”
A member of the 2002 IPS graduation batch, she was placed in the Lal Bahadur Shastri institute of administration, Mussorie. It is here that she got interested in mountaineering. Aparna said, “After spending time in Mussorie, I found out about mountaineering. I started with normal climbing, but went onto climb hills etc. After indulging in my hobby for close to a decade, I decided to pursue it more seriously after.”
In 2013, Aparna completed a advanced course at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee institute of Mountaineering, thus allowing her to be an integral part of expedition. Since then it’s been no looking back. Uttar Pradesh State Police DGP A L Bannerji stated, “Aparna’s expertise in mountaineering has made the entire country’s police proud. She has shown exemplary diligence with work and utmost dedication and passion with climbing. She will definitely go down as one of the finest climbers in Indian history.”
Her next goal is to restart her Mt. Everest climb, post the Antartica expedition. She said, “It was excruciating to reach the 6,500 m and come back, but I’m happy we are safe. I’m fully dedicated to completing the seven summit challenge.”
The 18 person expedition to Antartica from Chile is all set to kick off today.