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Meet Karuna Mira Sah, A Glaciologist In Training and A Rock Climber, From Nainital

Karuna Mira Sah, a 23-year-old from Nainital, has chosen a rare yet exciting path in life. She’s training to be a glaciologist, and is also a rock and ice climber and a passionate photographer. It was her love and deep-rooted connection with the mountains that led her to this path in life. Her college allowed her to study and discover remote areas across the world, and all exposes her to some breathtakingly picturesque views!

She recently graduated in Earth Sciences from the US and plans to do her Masters and research in Glaciology. Her expeditions have taught her much about life and further inspired her to work for environment issues. We chatted with this charming young woman in detail. Tap on the link in bio and below to give it a read! 


Karuna at Johnston Canyon, Upper Falls, Canada

Ice climbing

  • Hello Karuna, thank you for chatting with us! Please introduce yourself to our readers. 

Hey! I’m Karuna, an aspiring glaciologist, a mountain climber and most of all, a nature lover. I grew up in Nainital, Uttarakhand. I have been hiking with my father and uncles since I was 5. As I grew older, I started going on longer hikes, extending to several weeks with my family. 

Being among the mountains of Uttarakhand sparked the curiosity of not only the flora and fauna around me but also geological systems and environmental issues. 

I’ve volunteered in tree plantation, solid waste management drives in and around Nainital, and worked with NGOs like Avani, Kumaon, that work on sustainability and rural empowerment. These experiences further inspired me to choose this path. I recently graduated with a BSc Honours in Earth Sciences from Dickinson College in the United States. My decision of doing this course combined three of my biggest passions – science, outdoors and photography.

Views of Uttarakhand, photographed by Karuna

Karuna’s hometown, photographed by her.

  • It’s rare for people to choose this path for their career. What are your plans for the future? 

I plan on doing research on mountain glaciers, hoping to start my Masters degree next year. I want to study the Hindu Kush Himalayas – a large part of  South Asia relies on it for freshwater. Water management has always been a serious topic, the science behind it matter as much as the policies and change. 

Karuna on Graduation Day with her parents

  • How did you realize that this is what you wanted to pursue in life?

My family kept me aware about environmental activism, social workers, mountaineers and scientists. They taught me about human impact on its surroundings. My father was a mountaineer so he used to give me first-hand accounts and talk about his experiences as bedtime stories. It was important for my father to tell these stories because this was our family’s way to pass down traditional knowledge and understanding.

I became curious to learn everything about processes that drive climate, earthquakes and mountain building. After spending time in the relatively flat East Coast of the United States, I realized how profoundly I love the mountains. I constantly wanted to go back to the Himalayas. Travelling for research in college – the Canadian Arctic, New Zealand and Iceland, I was able to pick what I wanted to focus on and also visit places that I could have only dreamed about! Photography, of course also went hand in hand with my travels. 

Exploring is part of the job description she says! Karuna in Iceland

  • What gets you particularly excited about your field?

I love the outdoors, be it rock or ice climbing or collecting data, it’s exciting studying or being in places where only a few have been.

Collecting field data, in particular, is thrilling since you might be the first person to ever see that data. You just might discover something new that can possibly change the world! 

  • It’s amazing that you got to travel to these unexplored destinations around the world. Where all have you been?

I went to the Canadian Arctic for my college field trip. We camped out on sea ice between Baffin and Bylot Island. Our tents were all placed inline rather than in a circle for arctic wildlife like the polar bear to roam about freely without feeling trapped. We spent ten days exploring the geology of the area. For my undergraduate thesis, I was able to go to Iceland for two weeks.

On a research trip with her team, Photo Credit: John Pohl

On a college field trip to the Canadian Arctic

Two months ago, I spent two weeks in Yukon Canada at the Kluane Lake Research Station. We were analyzing data on local glaciers. During this trip, I got the opportunity to fly over the magnificent ~70 km long Kaskawulsh Glacier in the St. Elias Mountains. Since getting to the front of the glacier is hard, taking in this pristine landscape aerially was incredible. 

Yukon Canada glacier – Kaskawulsh Glacier

Global climbing day – Dickinson climbing team at the Frostbite Climbing competition.

  • What do you want people to know about Glaciology? 

I think it’s important for people to know how interconnected humans are to their environment. Glaciology, which stands for the study of glaciers, itself is very collaborative and diverse. The topics we study ranges from earth to other planets and moons. This is significant because water in any form may indicate a possibility for life to exist.

Karuna doing the thing she enjoys the most – rock climbing!

Discover more of Karuna’s love for mountains and her journey studying glaciology on her Instagram.

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