Himalayan Journal vol.53
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

Harish Kapadia
    (P. M. DAS)



(1912 - 1996)

Bill Risoe died suddenly at his home in Surrey on 2nd February last year (1996). He was at heart, I believe, an explorer enjoying nothing more keenly than, as he put it himself, just scrambling in the hills whether in Norway or Wales, or in India. I am sure that it was this innate love of the mountains that led him to devote so much of his enthusiasm and energies first and foremost to the Himalayan Club and later, when he had retired from India, to the Alpine Club as well. To both of these clubs Bill gave unstinting service.

Bill was born of Norwegian parents in Singapore on 19 September 1912 and was sent home to school in Bangor, North Wales. Here he began walking and climbing in Snowdonia over a period of some 10 years from 1928 onward. During the school holidays he loved to visit Norway for fishing, and climbing among the mountains and glaciers particularly in the Jotunheimen region of Oppland, which he visited again in 1947.

He obtained his degree in Power Engineering in 1933 and after an apprenticeship with BTH at Rugby joined A.E.I, and in 1937 was posted to Madras, as he thought then for 3 years. But the war came, plans changed unexpectedly, and by 1941 he was in Calcutta seconded to the Directorate General of Munitions Production as Deputy Director. There he joined the Himalayan Club in 1943. While in Madras in 1939 he was able to find time for trekking and camping on the Palni Hills in Tamil Nadu journeying across the high range and back. Later from Calcutta in 1942 he spent a month in Sikkim making the round trip up the Lachen valley over the Sebu la and down the Lachung valley passing en route the old club huts, now alas no more, at Ja Chu and Mome Samdong. Incidentally the problem of the upkeep of the Himalayan Club huts and their protection against vandalism was an ever recurring item in those days on the Club Committee's agenda ! It was a problem never really solved. Bill's last trip in India was a 3-week trek in 1948 with J.O. Sims of A.E.I., also a club member, along the Singalila ridge to Jongri and back.

During his years in India Bill Risoe served the Himalayan Club enthusiastically in several capacities. He was on the Committee from 1948 to 1955 and was Honorary Librarian from 1949 until 1956 when he was elected President. He returned to England in 1956, finally serving as Vice-President from 1957 to 1959.

The years immediately after the war were hectic ones for those members in Calcutta and it was then that I got to know Bill well and to appreciate his many talents. Up until 1947 the Club's H.Q. was in Delhi with Calcutta members forming what was called the Eastern Section. But by 1947 it was found impossible to continue running the club from Delhi as so many of those involved there, particularly army people, had left India; and in November that year the Eastern Section was asked to take over altogether. With others Bill played an invaluable part in revitalising the Club. Accounts were incomplete, records had to be brought up to date and most important of all 'lost' members now scattered all over the world because of more than 6 years of war had somehow to be traced and accounted for. This task was not completed until 1950 with a tally of some 400 members.

After Everest had been climbed in 1953 the Club Committee had the pleasure of entertaining John Hunt and other members of his team including Ed Hillary and Tenzing at the Bengal Club during their short stay in Calcutta. H. C. members present felt very privileged, Bill told me, to be the first to hear first-hand details of the successful ascent of Everest.

When Bill finally left India he was able to assist H. W. Tobin, who died suddenly in 1957 and who had edited the Himalayan Journal for 10 years, in the production of Vol. XIX. Bill further retained his ties with the Club by becoming Honorary U.K. Secretary, remaining closely involved with the Club's fortunes until his death last year. He continued to work for A.E.I, until 1968.

Never a man to remain idle, in 1961 Bill seized on the imaginative idea of reviving the Himalayan Club's Annual Reunion

Dinner in London. The last such reunion was held in 1939 just before war broke out, chaired by Noel Odell. Bill's tall and genial figure at the head of the table each year introducing the guest speaker with well-chosen words remains in my memory.

Others can speak better than I about Bill's contribution to the Alpine Club as Committee Member and Archivist for 12 years. I knew him well from 1943 until his death though in latter years we were only able to meet occasionally. He was a good man, a man of no guile, always willing to help and give of his best. He was a dear friend and I know will be missed by many. He is survived by his wife Rosa, whom he married in Bombay in 1943, a son and a daughter and three grand children.

C.E.J. Crawford




Bill Murray trained and started working in a bank in Glasgow and from those early days made full use of the proximity of the Highland hills. In the mid thirties he joined the junior component of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and soon showed a dynamic character becoming part of a ginger group impatient of the somewhat set ways of the senior club. He quickly became proficient with both rock and ice.

Soon he and his group were making climbing history on hard winter routes in the peculiar ice conditions found in the Scottish hills, often Arctic - Alpine caused by Atlantic humidity and hard frost. I remember watching Bill at work, in those pre-crampon days, methodically chipping hand and footholds steep ice required, varying the blows according to its toughness or fragility.

But the outbreak of war put a temporary end to all that, but not to its recollection, for he endured the years of squalor in German prison camps after capture in the Western Desert with enough fortitude to write the draft of his first book Mountaineering in Scotland. Just what that implies in sheer concentration alone is quite remarkable. It was published in 1947 and was an instant success. Its companion classic Undiscovered Scotland came out in 1951, both still in print in a single volume.

After the war he returned to civilian life and his old fitness but not for long to a desk job for by then he was busy writing as well as climbing. He was a member of three expeditions to the Himalaya. The Scottish Himalayan Expedition is the story of the first, of Garhwal in 1950. In 1951 he was deputy leader on the Everest Reconnaissance Expedition with Eric Shipton, this led to his Story of Everest, a history of the many attempts on the mountain and the development of high climbing techniques. It was a well deserved best seller. In 1953 he was back in Nepal exploring for four months in the Api - Saipal region in the far NW. The party was unable to get far on Api but travelled well into Tibet and the basin of the Seti, the first Europeans to do so. They had the added excitement of evading Chiness patrols, listening at night to the drumming of hooves uncomfortably near.

Bill wrote twenty books and many articles in magazines and mountain journals. He wrote for the National Trust for Scotland, served on the committee of the Countryside Commission for Scotland from 1968 to 1980 and was chairman of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. He was Honorary President of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, Honorary Member of the Himalayan Club and founder member of the Alpine Climbing Group. Recognition of his work pro bono publico led to him receiving the O.B.E. in 1966.

Shortly before his death Bill finished his autobiography, now being revised by his wife, Anne, a poet. It is good to know that there will be another book coming out in the future.

Douglas Scott



Harish Chandra Sarin, who died in New Delhi on 27 January, 1997, will be remembered for playing the most significant role in the development and growth of mountaineering in India. His contribution to Indian mountaineering will undoubtedly remain unique and outstanding. He looked after the administration of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling for 27 long years and remained President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation for 23 years. He was associated with all the Mountaineering Institutes in India since their inception.

Harish Sarin was born in Deoria (UP) on 27 May 1914. A wrangler from Cambridge University, he joined the Indian Civil Service in 1938. During his 48 years of distinguished career, he held the posts of Defence Secretary for 6 years, Adviser to the Governors of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, Principal Adviser to the Governor of Assam, Chairman, Committee on Telecommunications, Chairman, Railway Reforms Committee and Ambassador of India to Nepal in the Honorary Rank of Minister of State. In 1942 he married Pushpa, daughter of Ganpat Rai of Lahore.

In the field of adventure, as a young student, he cycled 3000 km in Denmark, Sweden and Norway in 1937 and did rock climbing in the Lake District of U.K. He youth-hostelled in many parts of Britain and was the oldest Member of Sir Edmund Hillary's From the Ocean to the Sky Expedition in 1977. Sarin was an Honorary Member of the Himalayan Club, Bombay, the Alpine Club, London and the Japanese Alpine Club, Tokyo. He was elected vice President of the World Body of Mountaineering (UIAA) for 3 years from 1989. For his distinguished services to the country, he was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1974. For his unique and distinguished contribution to the cause of mountaineering in India and to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, he was awarded the First Special I.M.F. Award in 1993.

I first met Sarin in 1959. During a reception by the Late Krishna Menon, the then Minister of Defence, Govt, of India, for the Indian Naval Expedition to Nanda Kot, we received a message from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, that he would like to meet the team. We were escorted by a distinguished looking handsome man. When we presented the Indian National flag, hoisted on the summit of Nanda Kot to the Prime Minister, he handed it over to this young escort who suggested that this be sent to the HMI, Darjeeling. Jawaharlal Nehru smiled at him and said 'I knew you would say that". I noticed that Jawaharlal Nehru had a special fondness for this young man. On enquiring, I found that this gentleman was none other than Harish Sarin, Secretary to the HMI and a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Defence. Since then Sarin and I met frequently and worked together for years. Sarin was the main functionary for all HMI and IMF matters; and has been looking after the promotion and growth of mountaineering in India with utter dedication.

Sarin was always calm, cool and collected. I never saw him loosing temper. He was very objective in his decisions and controlled almost all mountaineering activities at the Government level with acumen and ability. From 1979 to 1989, when I was Vice-President of the IMF, he had been out of Delhi on a number of important Government assignments. During these years he always made it a point to visit Delhi every two or three months to preside over the IMF Sponsoring Committee Meetings. Despite his busy schedule he not only kept in touch with the IMF but fully participated in all major mountaineering issues. In 1984, when we sent a mixed expedition to Everest, he was in Kathmandu. Harish Sarin looked after the day-to-day problems of this expedition ensuring that under no circumstance the expedition should climb Everest without putting the first Indian woman on top. During these days he suffered a minor heart ailment and since then prefered a low profile.

In 1989 he voluntarily stepped down as President IMF. During the last 2-3 years he was suffering from the Alzeimer disease. Amazingly during this period his obsession was mainly with mountaineering. He often imagined that he was climbing Everest with one of the Indian teams. Obviously there was much more impact of mountaineering on his mind than any other activity that he had undertaken during his life.

On 27 January 1997 he peacefully breathed his last in his house in Friends Colony. His wife Pushpa who had looked after him with singular devotion during all these years, was by his bedside. His elder son Ranjeet and his wife Pam were also there. They too had stood by him during his period of ailment. His younger son Gautam, who works in the film industry in Bombay, often visited him in Delhi. Although Harish Sarin is no more, impact of his work in the field of mountaineering will be felt by the Indian mountaineering fraternity for many years to come. In a fitting tribute to his contribution of the IMF, a hall in the IMF has been named after him.

Captain M. S. Kohli

The sudden demise of Shri Harish Chandra Sarin on 27 January, 1997 at New Delhi had caused considerable grief to all mountaineers and mountain lovers of the world who came in touch with his noble personality.

Shri H. C. Sarin who hailed from Punjab was bom in Deoria (UP) on 27th May 1914. He used to feel proud to share birthday with Tensing Norgay, both born within about 100 miles of each other, and were to meet later in the world of adventure where both excelled, although in different ways.

After a brilliant scholastic career culminating in BA(Hon) Mathematical (Wrangler), Cambridge University, he was selected for the Indian Civil Service (ICS) and was allotted to the Bihar and Orissa cadre in 1938. He was then 24 years. That a long chequered career in which he found himself performing variegated role with years in difficult Defence Ministry and otherwise sanging between the bureaucracy and diplomacy and had held the posts of Defence Secretary, Advisor to the Governors of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam as also India's Ambassador to Nepal including the assigments that involved trouble shooting heading Committiees with the rank of a Minister.

Sarin's keen interest in adventure drew him to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He became the first Secretary of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in 1954 and also the first Secretary of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering when it came to be formed in 1965. He took active part in setting up both institutes. Later in 1982 he assumed charge as Secretary of yet another Institute - the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports set up at Aru in the Jaminu & Kashmir State. He was holding three position together with his being a Founder Member of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and later its third President for 23 years (1966-89) he harnessed to put the Foundation into orbit in the world of adventure. He was also Vice President of the World Body - Union of International Alpine Association (UIAA) from 1989 to 1992 and also Honorary Member of (i) The Himalayan Club (ii) The Alpine Club, London (iii) The Japanse Alpine Club, (iv) The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling, (v) The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Utarkashi (vi) President, International Lawn Tennis Club of India (1980-83) and (iv) Honorary Vice President for life, All India Tennis Association.

His contribution in setting up and developing the IMF Headquarters complex, Mountaineering Institutes and promotion of mountaineering and adventure action in the country was significant. Mrs. Indira Gandhi proudly pointed out the Indian Mountaineering Foundation's Headquarters during its inauguration on 24th December 1980 as the beacon of adventure.

Sarin was of the view that our approach towards the mountains should be of humility and not vanity. He had been at pains to emphasis at every gathering of mountaineers that 'We do not like the terms "assault" and "conquest" in climbing mountains. We use summit camp for "assault camp" and "successful ascent" for "conquering" a mountain peak." To press his point home, Sarin once posed a question at a gathering of distinguished mountaineers, including Sir Edmund Hillary suppose an ant the head of Ed, would you conede that it had conquered knight?

He was author of a book Defence and Development (National Lecture USI 1976.)

For the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and in its large growth Sarin had a notable part to play, providing an inspiring base. He was a personality - all smiles as well as sympathetic. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation had been and would continue to be, proud of his close association and his lasting friendship and contribution.

All members, of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, staff members and the mountaineering community will miss him.

Col. B. K. D. Badgel Director

The Indian Mountaineering Foundation


BRIG. GYAN SINGH (1918 - 1997)

It was on the 18th Basic Mountaineering Course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute that I met Gyan Singh, then Colonel and the Principal of the Institute. He had just taken over the charge from Col N. D. Jayal in the summer of 1959, who had then departed to join the Cho Oyu expedition in Nepal. During this expedition he succumed to that high altitude fatal sickness - oedema. Gyan Singh was the second Principal of this prestigious institute founded in 1954 as a tribute to Tensing Norgay who with Edmund Hillary had climbed Everest the previous year. Although Tensing was made the Director of Field Training, the Principal was the head of the Institute.

At H.M.I. I could see Gyan Singh in action, diplomatically handling the situation between the two top posts. There were wispers of discord during the earlier tenure Gyan Singh addressed Tensing as Bhaiya (elder brother). Later, when the first Indian Everest expedition was mooted Gyan Singh was offered the leadership. Knowing the sensitive nature of Tensing, Gyan Singh before accepting the offer first spoke to Tensing and asked for his advice. Gyan Singh had said to me that Tensing had expected to be the leader. Tensing had not replied to Gyan Singh immediately but advised Gyan Singh later that he may accept the leadership offered for the Everest expedition 1960.

Gyan Singh accompanied the 18th Basic Course throughout its 30 day field training inclusive of approach and return march. Participants and instructors came close to each other. Tensing had accompanied us but had left for Nepal after we reached the base Camp at Chauri Kiang. Gyan Singh supervised our training as also gave lectures from time to time. On return to Darjeeling Gyan Singh offered to send his Sherpa instructors to Bombay for conducting rock climbing courses, if a suitable group would organise such camps in the Western Ghats. Gyan Singh was keen to spread the training opportunities for youth. This led to the formation of a committee at Bombay, which organised, for the first time in India outside Darjeeling, a systematic short rock climbing courses in the local hills - including one course for girls. This experience and enthusiasm of the girls convinced Gyan Singh to commence ladies course which later became a regular feature at H.M.I, and subsequently also at other training institutes.

Gyan Singh was friendly and always encouraged efforts to innovate. He insisted to maintain discipline and sound approach to the values of the sport. When his attention was drawn to an erreneous claim of the ascent of Matri by a girls" team from Gujarat, he wrote to the leader to correct their erreneous claim, although the team contained some of his own favourite students. Similarly Gyan Singh was forthright in his comments on the conduct of Nilkantha 1961 expedition, which he thought, had broken cardinal rules of the game which he valued - safety, planning and knowledge of the mountain.

After his stint at the H.M.I. Gyan Singh went back to the army. Yet he was repeatedly called upon to advise and organise training institutes at Manali, Kashmir and Uttarkashi. This must be considered as his significant contribution to the development of Indian mountaineering. Gyan Singh was keen to spread the opportunities of mountaineering to a wider base of Indian youth - to equip them to develop their skills and go forth into the mountains on their own initiative. Gyan Singh had criticised the early I.M.F. policy, which, in his words produced 'gladiators for public show." Gyan Singh had expressed himself in favour of what he called a movement of 'Mountains for the millions". Over a long period Gyan Singh was critical of the policies followed by the I.M.F. In his prolific correspondence on with the I.M.F. he urged others to join him in his efforts. When he felt his efforts did not bring desired reform, he resigned from the membership of the I.M.F. However after a few years Gyan

Singh did rejoin the I.M.F. after which a Gold medal was awarded to him by the I.M.F. in recognition of his services in the cause of mountaineering.

Later in his life, age and illness took their toll. Last I spoke to him was when he passed through Bombay for certain medical treatment, a few months ago. A few words were exchanged on phone. Yet there was the ring of familiar soft voice with enthusiasm of a young man.

Gyan Singh loved mountains and he was ever keen to share his experience with others and to prompt them to seek for themselves the eternal values which mountains offer. Gyan Singh will not fade away, he will be remembered as a true guru to many a youth of his generation.

Jagdish Nanavati

I first met Brigadier Gyan Singh in Darjeeling in 1959 soon after he was selected to lead the first Indian Everest Expedition, 1960. At that time he was Principal of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and I had just returned from the All Naval expedition to Nanda Kot. I happened to be one of the Indian climbers who were selected for the Pre-Everest expedition to Rathong - 1959. The trials were conducted in September-October 1959 by Brigadier Gyan Singh and Tensing Norgay. Brigadier Gyan Singh had taken over the HMI in 1958 from Major Nandu Jayal who died on Cho Oyu.

After the selection of the first Indian Everest expedition, in which I was delighted to find my name, I was asked to join Brigadier Gyan Singh and looked after the production of mountaineering equipment in India. During the next four months we worked together. I found in him a tremendous administrative skill and sound leadership qualities. He had the capacity for hard work, sending scores of hand written notes daily to various members. Even while travelling around the country, he was thinking of Everest day and night. The first Indian Everest expedition, that he led, was a near success when three of its members missed the summit by sheer 200 m. His leadership of the maiden Indian attempt on Everest was undoubtedly superb.

Brig. Gyan Singh, the grand old man of Indian mountaineering, was born in Mainpuri District in U.P. on 12 April 1918 and was educated in Lucknow. He was commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in July 1940. He did extensive climbing during Kashmir and Zoji la operations and operated in the high mountains for over 30 years. In 1947 he raised the Army's Ski Training School in Gulmarg which is now the High Altitude Warfare School.

In 1961 I was posted to the HMI, Darjeeling for six months as an equipment officer. During this period, when he was Principal of the HMI, I developed further liking for him. His wife treated me as a brother and tied rakhi on my hand every year. Brigadier Gyan Singh also gave me brotherly treatment and provided encouragement and advice to me all the time. They both made me feel at home, and this six months period was one of the most exciting and enjoyable in my life. When Nehru Institute of Mountaineering came up at Uttarkashi in 1965, he became its first Principal. He was also instrumental in selecting the headquarters of the Manali Mountaineering School. During all these assignments he played a very significant role in popularising mountaineering in India.

In 1979, he founded the National Adventure Foundation, and continued nurturing this organisation until his death. During the 18 years of his involvement with NAF he set up a chain of adventure clubs throughout India, and played a very useful role in popularising adventure amongst the youth of India. For his outstanding contribution in the field of mountaineering and adventure, he was awarded Padma Shree in 1961 and the IMF Gold Medal in 1993.

In the first week of January he became unwell and was admitted to the Military Hospital in Dehradun where, after a brief ailment, he passed away on the 19 January 1997. He is survived by his wife Malu, son Veeru and daughter Purnima. His contribution to Indian mountaineering will be remembered for many years to come.

Captain M. S. Kohli

Class of men bership
and year of election
C. R. Cooke, O.B.E. (H. 1929)
H. C. Sarin (H. 1972)
Mrs. M. L. Chase (L. 1936)
R. D. I. C. Henderson (L. 1953)
Mrs. Leela Dayal (L. 1964)
Brig. Gyan Singh (0. 1958)
Dr. Hirokichi Tatsunuma (0. 1966)
C. N. Watson O.B.E. (0. 1976)
T. Imanishi (0. 1983)
(H : Honorary Member. L : Life Member. O : Ordinary Member)
Correction in H.J. Vol. 52 :

Photo on page 332 is of Dr. H. Tatsunuma and photo on page 333 is of Toshio Imanishi.