An interview with Aparna Kumar......
There are some people who are inspiration personified and Aparna Kumar is one of them. When we got in touch with her earlier this year, she had just come back after successfully scaling Vinson Massif- the highest peak in Antarctica. And before we knew it, she was again heading to mountains- this time it was the mighty Mount Everest! She conquered it and how! Here is an interview with her that we are proud to present on Bohotraveller!!
A little about Aparna before we start.....
Aparna is an IPS (Indian Police Services) officer of the 2002 batch belonging to Uttar Pradesh cadre. Originally from the State of Karnataka, India she is presently posted as Deputor Inspector General (Technical Services) in Lucknow. She started mountaineering in October 2013 with a basic mountaineering course followed by an advance course in 2014 at Manali. Till now she has climbed six of the seven highest peaks of the seven continents. Mount Denali in Alaska, North America is the only one remaining which she plans to climb very soon.
She has been awarded the Rani Laxmi Bai Bravery award in 2015, DGP Commendation Disc in 2016 and Uttar Pradesh Yash Bharathi award in 2016.
Mountaineering has become a way of life and a passion for her. Overcoming challenges,risks and adversities drives her to dream and achieve impossible goals, shatter stereotypes, break the silence, raise voice, push her limits to set highest of standards.
1. Congratulations on conquering Mount Everest! A lot of people must be asking this, so are we…how does it feel?
The feeling of summiting the “Great Chomolungma” is still sinking in. I am immensely grateful to God and feel a sense of spiritual fulfillment. It is an incredible physical, mental and emotional accomplishment. It was possible due to whole hearted support, encouragement of my family, my mother and husband, my seniors in the police, administration, Uttar Pradesh Police and the Government of UP. I also am thankful to my Sherpas- Phurba, Nima and the expedition manager Ang Themba Sherpa.
2. What was the biggest challenge while scaling the highest peak? Did you have any moments where you thought it might not happen?
The biggest challenge of scaling the highest peak was to stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, alert and motivated during the long duration of the expedition. Also from camp 3 to the summit step 1, step 2, step 3 and the summit pyramid were challenging and completely exposed and steep.
3. On Which other expeditions you have been to in the past?
I have extensive experience of Trekking and Climbing in Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in India. The summits I have successfully conquered in the past are:
- KILIMANJARO (TANZANIA) - August 30, 2014,
- CARSTENSZ PYRAMID (INDONESIA) - November 7, 2014,
- ACONCAGUA (ARGENTINA) - January 14, 2015,
- ELBRUS (RUSSIA) - August, 2015.
- VINSON MASSIF (ANTARCTICA) - January 17, 2016.
- MOUNT EVEREST NORTH FACE (Chine-Tibet)- May 21, 2016
4. How was Antarctica different from Mount Everest?
I climbed Vinson Massif, the highest peak of Antartica on January 17’ 2016. It is at a height of 4897 meters. The entire climb and trail to this peak is extremely cold, windy and glacial with crevasses. The whole expedition took around 15 days. There was Base camp, lower camp, higher camp and summit. We had to pull a sledge weighing around 25-30 kgs and backpack weighing 15 – 20 kgs.
Scaling Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world at 8848 metres was very different from Vinson Massif. The duration of the expedition is around 60 days. There is a team of Sherpas, Yaks that carry loads till advance base camp and oxygen cylinders and masks. Altitude is high with low oxygen levels and the dangers of HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema), rock-falls, avalanches, falls, extreme weather conditions and exhaustion are much higher at such heights and so is the danger to life.
5. How did your love affair with mountains begin?
It all started when I was posted as commandant, 09th battalion P.A.C., Moradabad in 2013. The 9th Battalion P.A.C was previously known as Special Police Force (SPF) manning the Indo-Tibetan border in Uttarakhand. In 1992 these security posts were handed over to ITBP. The Battalion has a glorious history of high altitude mountaineering and still has all the equipment and gear from those days. As a commandant, I grew curious and developed a keen interest and excitement towards this extreme sport. This led me to go and do the basic mountaineering course at Atal Behari Vajpayee institute of mountaineering and allied sports, Manali in October 2013. In June 2014 I did advance mountaineering course in the same institute. I fared very well and the lure and spirit of mountains beckoned me again and again and I have never looked back.
6. Tell us a little about your gear?
Initially I bought most of my mountaineering gear and equipment in Nepal. However, when I began on the road to climbing the Seven Summits, I got the back packs, gloves and sleeping bags from theU.S. My high altitude Goretex pants and down suits came from Frankfurt and London. I requested friends and relatives who were traveling to get them for me.
In India, I visit adventure 18 shop in New Delhi who order and get gear for me.
I have high altitude down suit – Millet
8000 m double boots – LA Sportiva
7000 m double boots – LA Sportiva
Sleeping bags, Goretex pants, jackets, down jackets, fleece jackets, liner gloves, high altitude Goretex warm gloves, RAB Mittens, walking poles, petzel crampons, Harness, Carabiners, poles, ascender, thermal innerwear etc.
Checkout: Our Amazon powered Travel Store for all the above items and more.
7. Could you touch upon the arrangements and how to prepare for those who have their eyes on Mount Everest?
For Mount Everest it is very important to train, train and train. Physical endurance and the courage to endure dangers in extreme weather is very significant. Exposure to High altitude above 7000 m is critical. Training at high altitude, rope skills, technicalities of rock climbing to climb from the China- Tibet (North side) route is required. Also exposure to long hours of trekking at high altitude, moraines is necessary.
Start preparing and training early. I suffered from diarrhea during my Everest expedition. So one has to be careful about food and take food which one likes and can digest easily. One should have a stock of essential medicines, energy gels and drinks. Prepare your equipment and gear list beforehand and buy the best quality. Pack extra pairs of gloves, socks, Goretex and thermal wear. I went with a Nepal based expedition company to climb Mount Everest from the China-Tibet (North Side) route.
Read our blog on essential trekking tips to make your treks truly safe and enjoyable
8. What about Antarctica? What was your itinerary and how were the arrangements made?
I went to climb Vinson Massif, the highest peak of Antartica with Alpine Ascents International (AAI)- a Seattle based company. So, the logistics in Chile, guides, food, etc was looked after by AAI. In Antartica the travel, transport and facilities at Union glacier is taken care of by Antarctic logistics and Expeditions (ALE).
I reached Santiago, Chile and took a flight to Punta Arenas, Chile. On 9th January we left Punta Arenas by the Russian Cargo aircraft, “ILLYUSHIN” and reached Union Glacier which is the headquarter of ALE. From Union Glacier we went by smaller aircraft to the basecamp of Vinson Massif Peak. From basecamp we left for the lower camp on 11th January.
On 15th January we left lower camp to the higher camp. On 17th January I summited Vinson Massif in the afternoon and returned to higher camp. On 18th January we reached base camp. From base camp ALE had a flight ready to get us to Union glacier. On 20th January midnight we sat in the “ILLYUSHIN” Russian cargo air craft which brought us back to Punta Arenas, Chile on 21st early morning.
9. You seem quite unstoppable, so what is next for you?
My last 7 summit peak which is remaining is Mount Denali, Alaska in North America. I also want to climb some mountains in the Alps like Mount Blanc, Matterhorn etc which i think will happen with time.
We wish Aparna all the best in her future endeavours and with the kind of courage we have seen we know that there are many laurels on the way for this really confident and brave woman. If you found this article inspiring do comment and let us know. We sign out with this amazing video of hers to let you know who perilous the climb to Mt Everest is!