Garhwal Snowstorm Kills Nine Trekkers

A 20-person hiking party was trapped by storms in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Nearly half died of exposure.

A group of hikers in the Indian Himalaya ran into disaster last Monday, when they were hit by a freak blizzard and forced to bivouac in the open for over two days, enduring heavy snowfall, sub-freezing temperatures, and high winds.

The party were members of the Karnataka Mountaineering Association (KMA) out of Bengaluru, and had been on a multi-day trek since May 29. They were organized, outfitted, and guided by Himalayan View Trekking Agency in the town of Maneri. 

On the morning of June 3 the KMA group of 20, including three guides, embarked on a day hike from their campsite at the village of Lamb Tal (4,268m) up to Sahastra Tal, an alpine lake nestled 4,600 meters. (Two remaining members of the party stayed behind at Lamb Tal.)

As the group were heading back down to the village around 2:00 p.m., a snowstorm struck. By 4:00 p.m., the snowfall had accelerated to heinous proportions, completely socking in the trail, and the group hunkered down together in a desperate bid for survival.  

"We were all taking shelter under a big rock," one of the survivors, Madhu Kiran Reddy, told The Indian Express. “Two people died in the night right in front of us due to the cold, [and] two others were dead by morning." Heavy snow and high winds made moving from underneath the rock shleter impossible, and visibility dropped to nearly nothing.

The survivors were unable to move from their shelter until 11:00 a.m. the following morning, June 4, and even then, only a few of the party was well enough to go for help. The remainder of the group was stranded until rescue operations were mobilized. It wasn’t until Wednesday morning that search and rescue helicopters located and evacuated the remaining hikers, but by then, five more of the group had perished. 

the trekking party from Karnataka Mountaineering Association
The 22-person trekking party, photos of the deceased above. CREDIT: Karnataka Mountaineering Association

The deceased were of all ages and from all walks of life. Their ranks include a 34-year-old Google UX researcher, Padmini Hegde, a 50-year-old accountant, Padmanabha Krishnamurthy, and a 71-year-old veteran mountaineer, Asha Sudhakar. Sudhakar was a member of the KMA for over three decades. Her 71-year-old husband, also present, narrowly survived.

The six other trekkers who perished in the disaster were identified as Venkatesh Prasad, Sindhu Vakekalam, Vinayak Mungurwadi, Sujatha Mungurwadi, Chitra Praneet, and Anita Rangappa. All bodies have since been airlifted off the mountain and returned their families in Bengaluru.

“In the face of such an immense loss, words seem insufficient to express the sorrow and heartache we feel,” the KMA wrote on Facebook in the aftermath of the incident. “The news of the tragic accident that claimed the lives of our fellow mountain trekkers, friends—and more importantly, really amazing human beings—has left us deeply shaken … As we mourn their passing, let us also celebrate their courage and the joy they found in nature's grandeur … Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”