Colonel Narender ‘Bull’ Kumar was born in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, on 8th Dec 1933, and heard about the country’s independence on board-ship while on his way back from a Scout Jamboree in Paris. He settled in Shimla, India, where his parents had migrated during the partition.
He joined the Indian Army as a cadet, at the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, in 1950, and was commissioned into 3 Kumaon Rifles in 1954. It was at the Academy that he earned himself the nickname 'Bull' after his first boxing match. Though he lost the bout to a senior cadet Sunith Francis Rodrigues, who later went on to become the Chief of Army Staff, his unrelenting tenacity against adversity justly earned him this nickname which would define both his military and mountaineering career.
The legendary mountaineer first love for adventure started in his initial years in the regiment which identified the officer’s supreme talent for taking on the most arduous tasks with ease and comfort. His interest in mountaineering was further piqued when he met Tenzing Norgay, who was then the Director of the Darjeeling based Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.
In March 1958, he led the successful Army and Navy expedition to Mount Trisul (23,360 feet). That would be the starting of a glorious mountaineering career which would later on not only define the man but set the cornerstone for India’s glorious exploits in Siachen.
"It was at the Academy that he earned himself the nickname 'Bull' after his first boxing match. Though he lost the bout to a senior cadet Sunith Francis Rodrigues, who later went on to become the Chief of Army Staff. His unrelenting tenacity against adversity justly earned him this nickname."
Col Kumar's mountaineering efforts on the Siachen Glacier began when he was approached by a German Rafter, in 1977, to help him with a descent on the Nubra river from the rivers at the nose of the glacier. Spotting a Cartographic error in the map, which incorrectly showed line marking the ceasefire, he immediately informed his seniors and subsequently took on various expeditions to the daunting heights of Siachen Glacier.
Col Kumar’s Kumar's expeditions to the Siachen glacier, and the detailed topographical mapping exercise, as well as photographs and videos from his expeditions helped the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, to authorize Operation Meghdoot. on 13 April 1984, the Indian Army began its offensive operations at the Indian portions of the Siachen Glacier, and established its bases along the glacier.
During the course of this operation, the Indian Army would go on to conquer and reclaim the Siachen Glacier and also the area to the west of it, along with the main ridges and passes-Sia La (7,300m), Bilafond La (6,160m), Gyong La (5,640m), Yarma La (6,100m) and Chulung La (5,800m), along the Saltoro Range. The “Bull’s” contributions was instrumental in the Indian Army's efforts to ending Pakistan's occupation of the glacier.
Some of this soldier-mountaineer's notable climbs were the; first ascent of Kanchenjunga from Indian side in 1977, which is regarded as the most difficult 8,000 meter peak to climb. As a deputy leader he played a key role during the first ascent of Mt Everest in 1965 by an Indian team.
He successfully summited monstrous peaks like Nanda Devi, Sia Kangiri, Teram Kangri and Neelkanth which he successfully climbed with ease. These peaks are considered to be nightmares for climbers even today, despite advancements in modern climbing equipment.
His former comrades recount how he could carry double the weight on his back and yet maintain speed faster than his teammates and has been unanimously described as a go-getter; an attitude which helped him and his team to scale many arduous peaks. “He was a Siachen Hero who gave us Siachen and the Saltoro range,” said an officer who knew about his hair-raising exploits during his adrenaline fueled career in the Indian Army.
"On 31st December 2020, India lost one it’s most daring sons. At a time when the world finds itself in the midst of the biggest crisis in the last century, perhaps Col Narender’s larger than life persona and love for taking on challenges head on is exactly the inspiration we need to come out of these catastrophic times with our heads held high and with our glory intact."
"A gentleman and a legend in his lifetime, he will be cherished and missed as one of the finest soldiers and mountaineers the world ever saw." Said the officer as a soldierly tribute to the soldier-mountaineer.