Prem Chand, First Indian To Climb Kangchenjunga, Dies

“Goodbye, Snow Tiger,” Indian climber Ramesh Sharma said via Facebook today. His farewell invoked the nickname of India’s most forthright mountaineer, who spent a celebrated lifetime in the mountains.

Colonel Prem Chand died Tuesday night in Kullu, a municipal town in the far northern state of Himachal Pradesh. Indian news outlets did not report what caused Chand’s death, but The Newz Radar reported the aging mountaineer was “keeping unwell for the past some time.” According to The Tribune India, he was 80 years old.

Chand’s cohort in the Indian army called him the Snow Tiger for his climbing exploits. Those included summits of high peaks in Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Garhwal, Kashmir, and the Karakoram.

Chand went on to summit Mount Everest twice. He also led the Indian ski team in the 1972 Winter Olympics, trained the first Indian woman to summit Everest, and founded the highly regarded Himalayan Outdoor Adventure Academy.

But in Chand’s long and impressive career, one seminal ascent stands out. In 1977, he climbed Kangchenjunga (8,586m) via the demanding Northeast Spur and became the first Indian to stand atop the peak. The new route, which Chand helped finish, demanded massive poise from the climbers and earned him yet another nickname: “The Hero of Kangchenjunga.”