At Least 16 Mountaineers on a Training Climb Killed by Massive Avalanche in the Indian Himalaya – The Outdoor Journal

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At Least 16 Mountaineers on a Training Climb Killed by Massive Avalanche in the Indian Himalaya – The Outdoor Journal

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Note: This is a developing news story with reporting by journalist Yogesh Kumar in India, and will be updated with the latest information available. File photo from The Outdoor Journal archives showing trainee mountaineers from the Nehru Institute trekking towards Dokriani Bamak glacier, with the Draupadi ka Danda peak on the top right of the photo.

 

A group of student mountaineers and instructors from India’s famed Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) were hit by an avalanche on Oct 4 at 08:45 am when descending from the summit of Draupadi ka Danda 2 (5,670 meters), a peak in the Gangotri range of the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand, India.

Based on official reports, there were 34 students, 7 instructors, and 1 medical assistant on the peak at the time. Some survivors made it back to camp while most were trapped up high on the glacier.

The trainee mountaineers were said to be roped up for safety in multiple groups while descending to Base Camp down the Dokriani Bamak glacier. Several injured climbers were rescued but most were trapped under snow or fell into crevasses on the glacier.

The trainees were on a 28-day ‘Advanced Mountaineering’ course and had been in the backcountry since Sept 25. A combined search and rescue operation is underway with teams from the Indian Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Yesterday, an expert rescue team from the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir, also flew in to provide additional support.

The Outdoor Journal spoke with the NIM registrar and the principal for the latest update on the rescue operation. According to them, 12 bodies of trainees were retrieved today. This takes the mortality count to 16, of which 14 were trainees, and two were instructors at NIM. Another 13 people are still missing, while 13 have been rescued alive.

Nehru Institute of Mountaineering Rescue Bulletin 06 Oct 2022
Nehru Institute of Mountaineering Rescue Bulletin 06 Oct 2022

The inclement weather is hindering accessibility and rescue operations, as well as the comparative remoteness of the region. Of the two instructors who died, one was the 26-year-old Savita Kanswal, who had climbed Everest and Makalu over 16 days this year.

One of the rescued trainees defined the incident as horrific, and they had no time to react when the avalanche slab hit them, he said.

The region where the incident occurred is about 22 kilometres from the road-head with no network connectivity. The ITBP plans to set up a communication centre at the base camp. Trekking and mountaineering activities have been banned in Uttarkashi district for the next three days due to the meteorological department’s rain and snow alert.

Founded in 1965, Nehru Institute of Mountaineering is a premier mountaineering institute in India. The Institute had chosen the region around the Dokriani Bamak glacier as their training ground for several decades because it had been considered safe. The peak of Draupadi ka Danda has had a safe and successful record with no deaths in the past, until this unfortunate incident happened, explained NIM’s former principal Col. (Retd.) Ajay Kothiyal.

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