Get set for next trek to Siachen in AugustUpdated: Dec 07, 2019 16:48 IST
The first group of civilians successfully trekked to the world’s highest battlefield at Siachen Glacier and returned after a 21-day trip recently, taking adventure tourism to greater heights in the country. With defence minister Rajnath Singh giving the green signal to open Siachen to tourists, more civilians can look forward to heading for the icy heights in August 2020.
“Besides being fit to climb and trek in high altitude, the participant has to be an Indian citizen. Foreigners, not even Indians holding foreign passports, are eligible,” says Uma Sudhindra, who heads Go Magic Trail, the civilian adventure group, which organised the trip along with the National Adventure Foundation.
This was the first such trip to Siachen outsourced by the army to a civilian organisation.
Sudhindra, who is from an army background, says the seven civilians who were part of the first trip saw how soldiers defend the frontiers under extreme conditions. “Not many know what this terrain is all about. Being the highest battlefield in the world, it is a fantastic opportunity for people who are capable of climbing and reaching there,” she says.
“The next trip is going to happen by the middle of August next year. We will be announcing it on social media. We hope to take a bigger group next time,” she says, adding it’s subject to clearance from the army.
“This is a paid trip. We have to arrange everything from logistics to the food even camping equipment and trekking gear. This time, the expedition cost about Rs 85,000 plus GST which includes hotel expenses in Ladakh where we stayed for acclimatisation.”
Though the cost for next year’s trekking expedition is being worked out, Sudhindra says it could be higher.
A senior army officer posted in Jammu and Kashmir who has also served in Siachen says the army used to take civilians earlier. “The army used to provide special clothing and shoes and would take back the items once the adventurers returned to the starting point,” he says.
AUGUST TO OCTOBER
WINDOW IS BEST TIME
Colonel Sunil Pokhriyal (retd), who has served in Siachen thrice, led the first civilian expedition. He described it a “smooth and wonderful experience”. “The civilians with us were not novices. They completed more than 120 km of trekking to the glacier without any problem,” he said.
They underwent acclimatisation at the snout of the glacier at an altitude of 12,300 feet. “After four days, we started the trip up to Kumar Post at 16,100 feet. From the base camp onward, the trekkers had to negotiate crevices and streams,” he said.
Major Kulwant Singh (retd), another army veteran, said, “The army only provided a liaisoning officer (LO) for radio communication and obtaining permissions and clearances.” Singh, who has served as the vice-principal of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, and the Himalayan Institute of Mountaineering, Darjeeling, says the best time to travel to the region for trekking is from August to October.
“This time, we began on September 21. Our members trekked from Camp 1 up to Kumar Post. In winter, the tour can’t be organised as temperatures go down to -35 to -40 degrees Celsius. The best time for this kind of activity is August,” he says.
Sudhindra says, “The expedition was announced on social media after the army gave permission for seven people to go up to Camp 4, Kumar Post. Each day, we used to cover more than 15 km.”
For permission to go the glacier, which was hitherto a no-go zone for civilians, Sudhindra says she liaisoned with the army’s adventure wing. “We work with them for permissions and clearances and initiate the process once the list of participants is finalised.”
Anchor slug: On Top Of The World
Blurb: After first group of civilians completes 21-day trip to world’s highest battlefield, it’s time to gear up for next year’s climb