A joint rescue operation is in full swing to hunt for survivors, 24 hours after a killer avalanche hit a group of mountaineers in Uttarakhand’s ‘Draupadi Ka Danda II’ mountain range.
As per a report provided by the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), rescue teams on Wednesday saved 14 mountaineers, including 10 from the ill-fated ‘Draupadi Ka Danda II’ mountain, while the joint rescue operation comprising the Indian Air Force, Army, Indian Tibetan Border Police and State Disaster Response Force continues to hunt for survivors.
Initially, due to a lack of coordination among various agencies, there was a contradiction in the number of participants who were part of the NIM mountaineering course and missing.
Clearing the air, NIM, in a detailed statement to News18, said a total of 61 participants were part of the advance mountaineering course, including seven instructors. Forty-one of them were trapped on the mountain hit by the avalanche, of which 10 — including five instructors — were rescued from the mountain and four others from the base camp.
“However, the chances of survival of those who fell into the crevasse owing to the powerful avalanche seem to be very thin,” said an official who chose to remain anonymous since he is not authorised to speak to the media.
On Tuesday morning, at around 0835 hours, 41 members of the course were hit by a powerful avalanche which pushed some of them into a crevasse. The incident happened when the group was returning from the summit. Those at the base camp were expected to start for the summit once the previous group returned.
NIM official instructors Naumi Rawat and Savita Kanswal were killed due to the avalanche. Their bodies, along with those of two others, have been spotted. News18 has learned that both the instructors were from local villages. In her late 20s, Kanswal was an experienced mountaineer who had completed 12 expeditions, including scaling the Mt Everest in May this year.
What Experts Say
Captain (retd) Tejpal Negi, an experienced mountaineer and former instructor with NIM, said avalanches are routine in the snow-clad higher mountains.
Capt Negi, who has been to the Draupadi Ka Danda Mountain earlier, said: “The mountain is considered safe. This is the first time such an accident has happened. Surviving inside a crevasse depends on various factors and time is the key in such (rescue) operations.”
Harshwanti Bisht, president of the Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) who has scaled several difficult mountains, said it seems the sudden, powerful avalanche did not give the mountaineers time to think.
“The mountaineers are attached through a rope. This comes in handy in an untoward moment. However, I think the avalanche blew them away and they fell into a crevasse as all were attached through a rope” Bisht shared with News18.
Trek to Draupadi Ka Danda Mountain
NIM conducts various courses for amateur mountaineers. The advance course is a step ahead of the basic course in which participants are taken to Draupadi Ka Danda Mountain in the Gangotri range of the Garhwal Himalayas.
The trek starts from a village called ‘Bhukki’ in the Bhatwari region. On Day 1, the group treks six kilometres straight to the Taila camp. The next day, a nine-kilometre trek begins for Gurjarhat camp. Within the next three kilometres falls the base camp from where the group heads for advance camp by trekking another four kilometres. The final destination is a 1,700-metre trek from the advance camp. The group starts around 3-4am since it is considered safe to trek before sunrise as the snow and glaciers remain tight. The group returns from the summit to the advance camp by 10am. Scaling heights during the daytime in the sun is considered risky as it may trigger avalanches. This is exactly what happened with the ill-fated group.
(With inputs from Satendra Barthwal, Bharti Saklani and Sunil Navprabhat in Uttarkashi)