HARISH KAPADIA has made a unique contribution to our knowledge of the Himalaya: as editor of the Himalayan Journal, one of the most authoritative and comprehensive records of exploratory activity in the Himalaya; through his numerous books and as a leader and organiser of countless expeditions over the years. Moreover he is a rare breed, who has always written with deep knowledge, about his Himalayan journeys in 17 books and several articles, works on the Himalaya that are erudite and practical, skillfully combining historical, geographical and practical guidance to increase our understanding of the region.
He began climbing and trekking in the range around Mumbai, the Western Ghats. His first visit to the Himalaya was almost 50 years ago. He has never looked back since, still trekking and climbing actively. His main contribution to Himalayan climbing has been to explore unknown areas and, in number of cases, to open up climbing possibilities. He has personally climbed more than 30 Himalayan peaks, many of them first ascents. Moreover he has crossed more than 150 Himalayan passes to explore different valleys.
As an expedition leader, he has initiated a series of joint expeditions with climbers from the United Kingdom, France, Japan and the United States to explore and climb throughout the Indian Himalaya. The quality of exploration and the full and detailed reports that he has issued have provided superb background information about these areas.
He has continued to go to the Himalaya, particularly to the Siachen glacier and the East Karakoram, and now to the unknown Arunachal Pradesh, to carry forward explorations, which were backed up with excellent documentation and writing. He is a selfless mountain lover who undertook everything simply for the love of it and not for fame or money. He managed all this while he was a businessman — mountains and exploration came first, even ahead of business. When the need was felt, he sold his successful family enterprise to devote all his time to his first love — mountains. He continued his passion despite two serious personal injuries and a major family setback in the tragic loss of his young soldier son to terrorism in Kashmir.
He is an explorer in the true traditional mode and has visited almost all the ranges in the Indian Himalaya in last four decades. His explorations have opened new horizons for future mountaineers. Furthermore, Harish has been a tireless campaigner for the resolution of the Kashmir conflict through the Siachen Peace Park initiative in the Karakoram region. He is an outstanding modern explorer in the finest traditions of the great Himalayan pioneers.
Harish is Honorary Member of several leading Alpine Clubs : London, Japan, American and Polish. He was a Vice President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (1997-1999) and was awarded the IMF Gold Medal in 1993. It is most fitting, that in the year 2003, in which the 50th Anniversary of the first ascent of Everest was celebrated, Harish Kapadia was honoured with the Royal Medal, the “Patron’s Medal”, by the Royal Geographical Society ‘for contributions to geographical discovery and mountaineering in the Himalaya’. He was the first Indian to receive this award after 125 years. The President of India honoured him with the prestigious ‘Tensing Norgay National Adventure Award” (2003) for Life Time achievements, the highest Adventure Award in India. He has also received the King Albert Gold Medal (Switzerland) and Joss Lynam Medal (Ireland). In 2017 he was awarded Piolets D’or Asia 2017, UIAAA. This is considered to be the Oscar award of mountaineering.
Harish was invited to many countries to lecture on his Himalayan exploits, and is a member of several organisations. He is married, and lives in Mumbai.
His son Lt. Nawang Kapadia, who was commissioned on 2nd September, 2000 in the Fourth Battalion of the Third Gorkha Rifles, Indian Army, died while gallantly fighting Pakistan based terrorists in the jungles of Rajwar in Kupwara district of Srinagar, Kashmir, on 11th November, 2000. Since then Harish Kapadia has taken to lecturing about this conflict, particularly in the Siachen Glacier. He has been discussing a proposal for a peace park for Siachen and cleaning up the environmental damage there, in the memory of his son.
The family maintains Nawang’s web-memorial at www.nawang.com .