How do you feel if you are to stay for a while in freezing temperature when it dips down to say zero degree Celsius? You feel as if the cold will chill your bones to death and your blood will freeze.
Now, imagine staying continuously under minus 20 degree Celsius for about a month amidst squally winds. 24 brave-hearts from the Indian Navy did just that for a battle of a different kind.
Challenging death at every step, it was a month-long cold endurance and technical skill enhancement training and test that the Indian Navy team was subjected to in the Siachen Glacier region from December last year. The team, consisting of 24 members including 16 from the Eastern Naval Command (ENC), is attempting to conquer the world’s highest peak Mount Everest between March and June 2017.
It was not the altitude at Siachen, the world’s highest and coldest battlefield, but the adverse climatic condition in sub-zero temperature and high-speed winds that was a test for the team. “Everything gets frozen in this temperature. Liquid water becomes a scarcity. We have to continuously keep heating the iced water and snow in order to make water potable for daily use and cooking,” said a navy officer from ENC, who is a prominent member and one of the most experienced mountaineers of the Indian Navy.
The specialty of this final technical training expedition is that the Indian Navy’s entire Everest team gathered together for the first time at Siachen. Earlier, teams from various naval commands and headquarters used to separately undertake expeditions to various snowy peaks.
The team members for Siachen included officers Amit Rathi, Anant Kukreti, Cdr DN Chaitanya (team leader), Hari Prasath, Harsha Ranganath, IB Udaya, Pratik Dhariya, Rajanikant Yadav, S Karthikeyan, Shashank Tewari, Vinit Doshi and Yogesh Tiwari. The sailors included Amit Rana, Ashish Gupta, Avinash Bhawane, Bijender Kumar, Hariom, Manesh Kumar, Manoj Adari, OD Sharma, Sachin Kanjalkar, Sandeep Chaubey, Sandeep Singh and Sanjeet Sherawat.
Elaborating on what all went into this special and final technical pre-Everest training at Siachen’s Army Mountaineering Institute (AMI), a navy officer and experienced team member said, “It was a training to enhance cold bearing capability of the climbers. The salient features included crevasse crossing on ladder, ice-wall climbing with the help of ladders, using ice axe and crampon for climbing, using supplementary oxygen while climbing beyond 8000 metres (death zone), rope works, rescue techniques and so on.”
The team got extensive training guided by the instructors from AMI daily from December 21, 2016 to January 8, 2017 after undergoing acclimatisation schedules of phase one for six days at Thoise (Pratappur) and phase two at Siachen Base Camp (12,000 ft) for four days. Everest-related documentaries were shown and lectures were imparted by Indian Army men experienced in the Everest expedition as part of experience sharing.
“Further, the team also went out camping without any administrative and logistic support for two days to enhance and build up survival skills of the climbers. During this time, the team successfully reached top of a hanging glacier at an altitude of around 5,000 metre. The team offered prayers at the OP Baba shrine at Siachen Base camp and also expressed gratitude to soldiers martyred during Operation Meghdoot at Siachen war memorial,” added another officer and experienced mountaineer. This training has given the climbers a complete picture of what they are heading into and prepare themselves physically and mentally for the risks of climbing the highest point on earth.