An Expedition Against Nature’s Will: NIM Avalanche

A Revenge of nature or the act of god?

A 41-member group from (NIM) Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, includingThirty-four trainees and seven instructors, were hit by an avalanche around 8.45 am on Tuesday while returning from high-altitude navigation from the Mount Draupadi Ka Danda-II peak (5,670 metres).

Two trainee mountaineers, who were rescued on Wednesday in Uttarakhand’s, Uttarkashi district a day ago, recalled the near-death experience and credited the instructors who were part of the expedition team for their survival.

“The cut off time to reach the peak was 8.30 am. We were Almost Fifty to Hundred metres from the summit, when suddenly an avalanche hit us and took everyone down,” recalled Sunil Lalwani, a trainee of the advance mountaineering course at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM).

“It happened in a matter of seconds and we were dumped in an abyss,” said Lalwani, who was admitted at Uttarkashi district hospital.

Next thing, he recalled, was “We were somehow able to breathe.” He saw four instructors from NIM trying to save them. “It’s because of them that we are alive today.”

On Wednesday, Fourteen members of a team from NIM — Eleven trainees and three instructors — that had gone missing after being hit by an avalanche at Dokrani Bamak glacier in Uttarakashi district.

A multi-agency rescue operation aided by Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters and comprised of personnel from( ITBP) Indo-Tibetan Border Force, army, state and national disaster relief forces was underway to find at least Twenty others still missing.

Thirty-four trainees and seven instructor’s, were hit by an avalanche around 8.45 am on Tuesday while returning from high-altitude navigation from the Mount Draupadi Ka Danda-II. The institute has confirmed that seventeen have been rescued so far while four members have died.

Disaster management officer Devendra Patwal said:

“Those brought back are being treated at local health care facilities,” the expedition had started on September 14,2022 and was to end on October 8,2022. The group had started from Tel camp and reached the advance camp on October 2,2022 at the base of the Mount Draupadi ka Danda-II peak

“The weather was fine when we started (ascend) at 4 am,” said Lalwani, who hails from Mumbai.

Deep Thakur, another trainee, they were climbing with the fixed rope when the avalanche hit.

“I was thrown away and got stuck mid-way in an abyss,” recalled Thakur. He was buried under the snow for two hours. “Breathing there was tough. An instructor saw me and saved my life,” said Thakur, who hails from Gujarat.

A search is on to find the rest of the 41-member team of mountaineers who are believed to be stuck in the abyss in Dokriani Bamak glacier. The trainees hail West Bengal, Delhi, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam, Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Among the four bodies recovered so far was that of ace mountaineer Savita Kanswal, who had set a national record by climbing Mount Everest and Mount Makalu.

As news of the avalanche spread, families of several trainees started heading towards Uttarkashi. Among them was Ankit Dhar, brother of Atanu.

Ankit said he last spoke to his brother on October 1,2022 through satellite phone at NIM base camp.

“He told us that they would ascend the next day,” said Ankit, who was on his way to Uttarkashi on Wednesday afternoon. He was, however, upset with the institute for “not providing” them the information about the avalanche.