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Mohan Singh Kohli

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Mohan Singh Kohli

Born (1931-12-11) 11 December 1931 (age 92)
Haripur, British India
Service/branchIndo-Tibetan Border Police
Years of service1
Rank Captain
Prime Minister meets the members of Indian Everest Expedition 1965 on the occasion of Golden Jubilee of this on May 20, 2015
Prime Minister meets the members of Indian Everest Expedition 1965 on the occasion of Golden Jubilee of this on May 20, 2015
1965 Indian stamp dedicated to the 1965 Everest Expedition

Captain Mohan Singh Kohli (born 11 December 1931) is an internationally renowned Indian mountaineer. An officer in the Indian Navy, who later joined the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, he led the 1965 Indian expedition which put nine men on the summit of Everest, a world record which lasted for 17 years.[1]

Early life

Born and brought up at Haripur on the banks of Indus in the Karakoram mountains of North West Frontier, Kohli witnessed the massacre of over 2,000 innocent persons during the carnage of the partition of India.

Starting with Saser Kangri (25,170 ft) in 1956, he has been on 20 major Himalayan expeditions which included India's first ascent of Nanda Kot and maiden ascent of Annapurna III. He belongs to the exclusive band of three climbers in the world who, in 1962, spent three consecutive nights, two without oxygen, on Everest in raging blizzards at 27,650 feet.

During his years with the Indian Navy, he introduced adventure as part of training. During 15 years with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, from its inception, he turned the force into a formidable mountaineering organisation. Under the charge of India's legendary police officers, B.N. Mullick and R.N. Kao, he led seven dangerous, challenging and highly sensitive missions of great national importance along with climbers and scientists from the US. The task involved installing nuclear powered spy listening devices on top of some of the Indian Himalayan peaks to spy on the Chinese missile capabilities. This largest, longest and costliest expedition will form the plot of a Hollywood movie.

On joining Air-India in 1971, Kohli conceived and personally promoted ‘Trekking in the Himalayas’ all over the world by visiting over 50 countries and making over 1000 presentations which included world's most popular TV programmes, ‘To Tell the Truth’ and ‘David Frost Show’. On 3 December 1978, he flew over the South Pole.

To save the Himalayas from the brink of disaster, he secured the support of Sir Edmund Hillary and other Himalayan legends – Maurice Herzog, Sir Chris Bonington, Reinhold Messner and Junko Tabei – to establish the Himalayan Environment Trust on 14 October 1989. During the past two decades the HET helped saving the world heritage for future generations.

In India, he also introduced Himalayan tourism, white-water rafting, aero-sports, luxury sea cruises, tourist charters to Goa, international conferences, Himalayan mountaineering and tourism meets and opened Lakshadweep and the Andaman Islands to tourism.

His 14-year tenure in the Indian Mountaineering Foundation as Vice-President/President saw many landmark developments. Since his retirement in 1990, declining several lucrative offers, he has been passionately working on all-round development of youth through various adventure and outdoor leadership projects.


Mohan Singh Kohli was President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation from 1989 to 1993. In 1989, he co-founded the Himalayan Environment Trust.


He has been honoured with the

  1. Padma Bhushan[2][3]
  2. Arjuna Award[4]
  3. Ati Vishisht Seva Medal
  4. IMF Gold Medal
  5. Punjab Govt's Nishan-e-Khalsa
  6. Delhi Govt's Most Distinguished Citizen of Delhi Award
  7. Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award 2007 in lifetime achievement category

and several international recognitions.

1965 Everest expedition

This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living people that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately.Find sources: "Mohan Singh Kohli" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (June 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Captain M.S. Kohli is best known as India's first successful leader of the epoch-making Indian Everest Expedition 1965. The achievement electrified the nation. Nine climbers reached the summit, creating a world record that India held for 17 years. Public euphoria reached a crescendo. People danced in the streets. On return of the team from Nepal to India, breaking all protocol, the Prime Minister headed the reception at the airport. In another unprecedented move, an Arjuna Award for the entire team and Padma Bhushan/Padma Shri for all eleven team members was immediately announced.

His tallest tribute came from none other than the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi: “The record of Commander Kohli’s expedition will find special mention in history. It was a masterpiece of planning, organization, teamwork, individual effort and leadership”. Gandhi also described the 1965 success as one of India's six major achievements after Independence.

A full-length film on the expedition with music by Shankar Jaikishan was released all over India and abroad. The story of the spectacular achievement was serialised in several national newspapers and magazines. Kohli, with some members, was felicitated at Brussels, Paris, Geneva and Rome. Tenzing Norgay accompanied Captain Kohli to several countries.

The record of landing atop many mountain summits also is held by Captain M.S. Kohli who along with Tenzing Norgay landed atop a dozen mountain tops in Europe piloted by Raymond Lambert in his small Pilatus Porter plane.

In India, Chief Ministers of almost all the States invited the team to their capitals and honoured it at State and Civic receptions. On 8 September 1965, Kohli was invited to address Members of both the Houses of the Indian Parliament in the Central Hall.

Adventure clubs and Himalayan expeditions multiplied several-fold, triggering a national resurgence in Indian mountaineering.[5][6][7][8][9][10]

Books and Magazines

  • Incredible Himalayas, Indus Publishing (2005) ISBN 81-7387-179-5
  • Mountains of India, Indus Publishing (2004) ISBN 81-7387-135-3
  • The Great Himalayan Climb, Orient Paperbacks (2003) ISBN 978-81-222058-7-9
  • Spies in the Snow, How CIA and the Indian Intelligence Lost a Nuclear Device in the Himalayas
  • Spies of Anil in the Himalayas: Secret Missions and Perilous Climbs, University Press of Kansas (2003) ISBN 0-7006-1223-8
  • The Himalayas: Playground of the Gods: Trekking, Climbing, Adventure (2000) M.S. Kohli
  • Mountaineering in India (1989)

See also


  1. ^ "River Deep Mountain High". Archived from the original on 30 November 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  2. ^ "Padma Bhushan for The first Indians on Everest on 1965-". Archived from the original on 22 January 2021. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Arjuna Award for The first Indians on Everest on 1965-".
  5. ^ "First successful Indian Expedition of 1965-". 22 January 2015.
  6. ^ "First successful Indian Expedition of 1965-". 17 June 2015.
  7. ^ "First successful Indian Expedition of 1965-". Archived from the original on 13 December 2021.
  8. ^ Kohli, M. S. (December 2000). Nine Atop Everest-First successful Indian Expedition of 1965-. ISBN 9788173871115.
  9. ^ "The first Indians on Everest-First successful Indian Expedition of 1965-". 16 May 2015.
  10. ^ "The first Indians on Everest-First successful Indian Expedition of 1965-".
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Mohan Singh Kohli
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