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Forest Officer Scales Africa’s Most Treacherous Mount Kilimanjaro

2020 batch IFS officer S Bharani scaled Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro She cleared UPSC IFS 2019 and was allotted to the Andhra Pradesh cadre To learn about the challenges she faced, read the article

This Indian Forest Service Officer’s dream of conquering the skies as an Air Force pilot might have been grounded. Still, her spirit of adventure soared to new heights last week when she summited Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro.

DREAM TO FLY 

Born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, 2020 batch IFS officer S Bharani’s initial aspirations soared high – she dreamt of an aviation career. However, life had other plans. Despite excelling in the SSB interview for the Indian Air Force, eyesight restrictions forced her to take a different path. This setback did not deter Bharani.  She set her sights on civil services, and after facing initial challenges, she cracked the UPSC IFS exam, just months after welcoming her son.

IFS officer S Bharani
IFS officer S Bharani

THIRST FOR ADVENTURE 

However, Ms. Bharani’s thirst for adventure extended beyond the bureaucratic world. An avid sports enthusiast, she started a journey of self-discovery through mountaineering. Her first attempt at scaling Kang Yatse in Ladakh, at a daunting 6,200 meters, was cut short due to harsh weather conditions. 

“I faced debilitating loss of appetite over two days due to the harsh conditions, so I had to make the difficult decision to descend,” she shared with Indian Masterminds. Yet, this only strengthened her resolve.

Forest Officer Scales Africa’s Most Treacherous Mount Kilimanjaro
Forest Officer Scales Africa’s Most Treacherous Mount Kilimanjaro

VICTORY AT MOUNT KILIMANJARO 

With meticulous preparation, she set her next challenge on the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro. The climb was no walk in the park. Ms. Bharani battled fierce winds, navigated treacherous night ascents, and pushed through physical and mental fatigue during the grueling 24-hour summit push. 

On March 7th, 2024, she reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, standing triumphantly at Uhuru Peak. Returning to the base camp on March 8th, she was filled with emotions as it coincided with International Women’s Day, adding a poignant layer to her accomplishment. 

Forest Officer Scales Africa’s Most Treacherous Mount Kilimanjaro
Forest Officer Scales Africa’s Most Treacherous Mount Kilimanjaro

“It was an incredibly emotional moment for me. I felt compelled to dedicate this milestone to all the remarkable women who have played a vital role in shaping the person I am today,” she shared. 

CHALLENGES 

Ms. Bharani shared that the fierce winds on Kilimanjaro added to the challenge of climbing, especially at night when darkness engulfed them except for the beams of their headlamps. Each step demanded careful balance to avoid falling. “The final ascent to the summit lasted 24 to 26 grueling hours, starting Monday evening at base camp.” 

Preparation involved overnight workouts to acclimate to staying awake for extended periods. The night brought additional hurdles like low oxygen, high altitude, loss of appetite, and disrupted sleep. 

THE FREESTANDING MOUNTAIN 

Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain globally, holds a special allure due to its proximity to the Kenya-Tanzania region and its diverse wildlife, including the Great Migration. “Climbing it offers a unique experience as you traverse various climates and vegetation zones, encountering diverse wildlife along the way,” Ms. Bharani shared.  

The journey spans just seven days, from lush equatorial forests to barren alpine deserts, presenting a formidable challenge requiring acclimatization. 

VICTORY FOR ALL 

“Through this journey, I discovered that I possess far more strength and capability than I ever imagined,” the officer said. She further shared that her friends, family, and fellow members of the IFS community celebrated this achievement as their own. 

“This experience has ignited a passion within me to continue exploring different mountains, learning from each one, and strengthening myself further. It marks just the beginning of my aspirations, and I believe that this pursuit of growth and challenge should remain a lifelong endeavor for me,” Ms. Bharani said while concluding.

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