Oct 06, 2022
UPDATE: 27 Mountaineers on a Training Climb Killed by Massive Avalanche in the Indian Himalaya
A large group of students and instructors from India's famed Nehru Institute of Mountaineering were descending after a training climb on Draupadi ka Danda (5,670m) when the avalanche struck them.
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. Main image credit Central Command, Indian Army (via Twitter). Updated October 9, 2022.
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, and our reporter been receiving the rescue bulletin updates by WhatsApp.
According to the latest bulletins, a total of 27 bodies have been recovered between 4th to 8th October. Of these, 16 were trainees, and two were instructors at NIM. Two students are still missing, while 13 have been rescued alive.
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.