The spirit of Indian Mountaineering continued its ascent as the NCC cadets achieved a rare feet summitting Gangotri - I peak. NCC boys, led by experienced mountaineer Maj Kulwant S Dhami,SM, successfully summitted the coveted peak at a height of approx 22000 feet on 17 Jun 10.
The Gangotri glacier complex in Garhwal is a region that probably attracts the highest number of mountaineering expeditions each year. It is here perhaps that the most coveted mountains of Indian Himalaya are located. Satopanth, Shivling, Sudarshan Parvat, Thalay Sagar, Meru are just a few of the summits that are pride of the area. It was from this valley that early travelers like the Hindu Guru Shankaracharya and the Spanish priest, Father Andrade crossed to Tibet over the Mana Pass. The Gangotri group of peaks are approached from Rudugaira Bamak (glacier) and stand next to one another at the height of – Gangotri - I 6672 m, Gangotri - II 6590 m and Gangotri - III 6577m.
It is a formidable peak and poses challenges even to the most experienced teams. The peak is approached from the Rudragaira Glacier; an approach over hardy terrain involves setting up numerous intermediate camps for laying siege to the mountain.
The Expedition was flagged off By Shri Pradeep Kumar, Defence Secretary on 26 May 2010 and reached Harsil/Gangotri, the road head on 31 May. The NCC team moved on to set up Base Camp at Rudugaira Bamak at 15,100 ft on 08 June. Having spent the necessary period for acclimatization, the team moved higher to set up Camp - I at 16180 feet on 11th June. Camp - I was in a little rock bowl, precariously perched atop a sharp rock ridge that overlooked Base Camp 200 ft below. The roar of rumbling avalanches was a constant reminder that this was not a picnic but a serious business and great skill and judgment was required to stay on these peaks safely. Particularly, when weather worsened and temperatures dropped below freezing and the horizon was one big mass of white snow; each team member thanked God for the guidance and blessings.
As the days progressed, regular load ferries between subsequent camps readied men and gear for the forthcoming challenge even as weather shifted from sunny clear days to gloomy overcast skies with light to medium snow fall. Further movement up the mountain increasingly drew on the mental and physical reserves of the team – a long walk in the soft snow from Camp-II and then a steep ascent up a precarious snow slope, skirting an active avalanche path, tested the team members severely. The biting cold and dealing with numb hands and frozen feet while handling the burning pain of heavy backpack straps biting into the shoulders was too much for many but the most determined. The constant snowfall, discomfort of heavy double plastic boots, decreased appetite and the thrilling but dangerous route did not help either.
After careful consideration Summit Camp was decided to be set up at 19,680ft on 15th June. The danger of an avalanche and deteriorating weather were the main challenges in the coming days. However, the experienced leadership of Maj Dhami ensured that the safety of all climbers was paramount at all times. A route up the mountain was carefully plotted and with an experienced team 1300 m of rope was fixed to navigate areas on the mountain that could have been potentially unsafe.
The final climb to the summit straddled a steeply angled ridge where an additional 200 m of rope had to be fixed as a misstep would have been fatal. The summit team started for its final push at 3.30 a.m on the 17th and a careful progress saw all members safe and happy on the peak by 10.30 a.m. The team spent about an hour savouring the success after the excruciating journey of days together. The moment was elaborately captured by the young team on the camera before they said adieu to the Mighty Peak and the majestic surroundings; and started their journey back.
The expedition was a major success not only because of the successful summit bid but also because all members climbed safely displaying great team spirit. The morale remained very high. Following the ecological concerns the team also collected the non biodegradable garbage and brought it to the road head.
The NCC Mountaineering Expedition was flagged in by the Defence Secretary, Mr. Pradeep Kumar on 24 Jun 2010.