The Last Climb
Saevus|December 2020 - February 2021
The story is an adventure that began with a knee injury. Dr Johnsingh takes us along on this rousing and memorable climb.
DR A.J.T. JOHNSINGH

August is the month of rain and sultry weather in the lovable city of Dehradun. It was a morning in early August 1995, and feeling uncomfortable with my unkempt hair, I decided to visit the barber shop at the T-junction, about a kilometer from the campus of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Chandrabani, Dehradun. I cycled fast from my home along the extreme left of the road. When I crossed the only causeway on my trip, someone in a car waved to me. So, holding the cycle handlebar with my left hand, I waved back with my right hand.

Meanwhile, a small boy playfully cycling along the right side of the road suddenly changed direction and fell on my cycle; I landed heavily on my left fore foot, injuring it. I found it difficult to get up from the ground as there was excruciating pain in my left knee. A person passing along the road on his scooter helped me to get up and took me to my home in the WII campus.

My knee swelled up and I was in pain, yet I could walk around. After a week, I could even travel to Pin Valley NP with some students. On our first evening there, I even climbed a 3800m ridge near Sagnam village. My descent from the ridge was slow and steady. There was no pain in my knee but I had not realized then that the fall had broken two cruciate ligaments, which I came to know only in 1999 when I consulted Dr Khincha, a famous orthopedic surgeon in Bangalore, as suggested by my colleague, Ullas Karanth. Dr Khincha said that I would need two surgeries and that the recovery time could be a year and therefore instead of a surgery, I should manage my life with “careful walking in the hills”.

I received the same advice from Dr Sachin Tapasvi, a famous orthopedic surgeon in Pune. I had consulted him in June 2013 after experiencing severe pain in the knee following a walk of about 80 km in total, in February 2013, in Dampa TR and Nandhour WLS over very rough terrain. When I complained about this pain to Dr Erauch Bharucha, a famous surgeon and a good friend involved in conservation in Pune, he said, “Come to Pune and we will ask Sachin to check your knee”. With this background, I would like to narrate my climb to the top of Karimala Gopuram (Karumalai Gopuram in Tamil) in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.

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