Interview with Indian Himalaya trek leader Anindya Mukherjee
Anindya Mukherjee works as a mountaineering expedition outfitter and trek leader in the Indian Himalaya. Over the past 14 years, he has actively participated in, led and organized more than 30 mountaineering expeditions across Indian Himalaya. Apart from climbing and leading clients from across the globe to Himalayan summits, he has trekked extensively across Indian Himalaya and continue to do so. In 2012, from 24 June to 2 September, he took his bicycle on a solo journey across Africa. Starting from Nanyuki, Kenya, he cycled over 4500 km to reach Walvis Bay, Namibia. This was his very personal tribute to H.W.Tilman's spirit and his bicycle journey in 1933 from Uganda to Cameroon. We have conducted an interview with him.
How experienced are you in mountaineering expeditions and trek leading?
Although I have been exploring and climbing from 1995, I started leading high altitude treks and mountaineering expeditions in the Indian Himalaya since 2002. So far, I have been part of 35 mountaineering expeditions. Some of the mountains I have been on are very famous ones like Shivling (6543m), Kamet (7756m), Nanda Devi East (7434m) and Satopanth (7075m). The beauty of climbing in the Indian Himalaya is that it is vast and less crowded in comparison with Nepal. That gives a climber a far more pure and intense experience. This element encouraged me to climb in less known valleys and glaciers staring from Kashmir in the west to Sikkim in the east. Apart from climbing, I have been trekking and leading groups in most of the popular and remote trails that Indian Himalaya has to offer. In the past 15 years of my leading/organizing expeditions, I take pride in stating that none of them had met with any accident or untoward incident. Safety has always been my first priority over reaching the summit.
Which are the most challenging exploration routes?
Majority of the unexplored territory (that includes glaciers and river valleys) lies in the eastern part of the Himalaya. In the Arunachal Pradesh a lot remains unexplored due to the difficulty of access. Difficulty both in terms of physical and bureaucratic. Being located on the sensitive Indo-China border, getting a permit is an explorer’s first hurdle. I personally am deeply fascinated by the intricate glacier and valley systems located due east of Kangchenjunga. Its deep gorges, semi-tropical forests, hanging glaciers and mighty cliffs would pose a high level challenge to any mountaineer or trekker in the world. I have been working on the exploring these glaciers and documenting them in the process for the past 6 years. I must say it's been the most challenging and yet the most satisfying work.
How do you decide and determine which new mountains or glaciers of the Indian Himalaya that you want to approach?
Most of my exploratory expeditions are inspired by the exploits of the 19th-century Himalayan explorers. Their articles, books and reports work as my primary source of inspiration. Based on their work I get the directions for the future. Today, in spite of satellite imagery and all the high technology, there are places in this earth, where no human has set foot. When I study the old reports, not only I get to learn about what they did, but also what is left to be done. So based on that homework/research I plan my own expeditions. To me, it is filling in the blanks left by my predecessors.
Where are the new destinations that you would like to explore in the near future?
‘Exploration’-the term for me stands for reaching a hitherto unknown place and documenting it. I have been working on exploring and documenting the great east ridge of Kangchenjunga (its glaciers, rivers, gorges) for the past 5 years and hope to complete the exploration in the next couple of years.
Where have the reports of your exploits been accepted and published so far?
My reports have been accepted and published in The Alpine Journal, UK, The American Alpine Journal and the Himalayan Journal.
Which are the countries you have tackled?
To add diversity to my knowledge of climbing and enrich my experience I have travelled to Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Greenland, Iceland, China, The U.K, USA, France, Switzerland and Germany. Being keen on travelling in general and bicycle travelling in particular, I have travelled in Namibia, Malawi, Zambia during a solo bike ride from the Equator to the Tropic of Capricorn (Kenya to Namibia) in 2012. I am all set to cycle from Morocco to Senegal later this month and thus experience the Sahara.
Who has been your greatest inspiration in mountaineering?
English mountaineer and explorer H.W.Tilman (1898-1977)
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