Tenzing Norgay award winner Col. Sarfaraz Singh charts his own way

A member of the elite Parachute Regiment (6th Battalion), Col. Sarfaraz Singh is not just a mountaineer, though his achievements as one are quite distinguished.

Col. Sarfaraz Singh had just completed the National Integration Trekking Expedition to Gorichen Glacier when he was informed about being one of the recipients of this year’s Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award.   -  Special Arrangement

Col. Sarfaraz Singh had just completed the National Integration Trekking Expedition to Gorichen Glacier and was somewhere in the vicinity of 19,000 feet, on his way to the Gorichen Peak with his team, when he was informed about being one of the recipients of this year’s Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award.

Partly due to official compulsions of being present for the virtual awards ceremony on Saturday and partly bad weather, the climb had to be called off. That meant climbing down over the next couple of days to Dirang, where Sarfaraz is the director of NIMAS, and driving more than 300kms to Itanagar for the awards function.

“I could have taken a couple of days to try and summit but the SAI and ministry officials in the city wanted a lot of details including the measurements for my blazer! That wouldn’t have been possible sitting up there,” the 43-year old told Sportstar on the eve of the awards.

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A member of the elite Parachute Regiment (6th Battalion), Sarfaraz is more than just a mountaineer, although his achievements as one are quite distinguished. He is also a sky-diver, a combat free faller and a certified Scuba Rescue Diver. On the mountains, he has summited the highest peaks on four continents – Mt. Everest (Nepal-China, Asia), Mt. Aconcagua (Argentina, South America), Mt Elbrus (Russia, Europe) and Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, Africa). Leading the Everest team in 2018, he also took along a hockey stick to the peak.

Col. Sarfaraz Singh with the national flag on the summit of Mt. Kangto-6 (6062M) in September last year.   -  Special Arrangement

 

His lineage is equally accomplished – he is the son of Arjuna Awardee Colonel Balbir Singh Kular, who won hockey bronze at the Mexico Olympics, and a fourth generation armyman with, as Balbir proudly says, a 118-year unbroken presence in the military. “People tell me I have an Arjuna and now my son has also got this award but honestly, I think he has achieved something far greater than me. This award is much, much bigger and I am proud of his achievements, both in the armed forces and on the mountains,” an emotional Balbir said.

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An alumnus of the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehradun, followed by the National Defence Academy (NDA) and the IMA, Sarfaraz excelled at boxing and squash. With service rules barring him from indulging in contact sports professionally, it was his induction into the Para Regiment in 2001 that gave him a taste for adventure sports, beginning with the Indian Army’s 2004 expedition to the 7,105 m high Mt Nun in Ladakh.

“I was deputy to Brigadier Saurabh Singh Shekhawat there and he was the first person I called up to inform about this award and dedicate it to him. Everything I know, I learnt from him on that expedition and I consider him my guru,” Sarfaraz said.

In December 2018, he and his team completed an MTB expedition to the 16,000 feet high Bumla Pass and earlier this year, Singh was part of a 4-member team that undertook a 4000-km long, five-nation cycling expedition. Leading the National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports since 2017, Sarfaraz has also had to miss out on several expeditions due to his postings as part of the UN Peacekeeping Forces in Congo.

And for all the gratitude he has for the award, he cannot wait to join his team on the next expedition. “My team is already at the base and getting the logistics ready. We will be starting sometime next week to try and go up Mt. Kangto (7060m). It is a range of peaks, of which one (Mt Kangto-6, 6060m) we summited last year. But the rest are virgin. The thrill of climbing uncharted mountains is unparalleled,” Sarfaraz concluded.