Twice lucky in 12 years, recalls NIM instructor rescued from Draupadi Ka Danda-II avalanche in Uttarakhand

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SDRF teams leave from Sahastradhara helipad in Dehradun to rescue mountaineering trainees trapped in an avalanche in Draupadi’s Danda-2 mountain peak on Tuesday. ANI

Uttarkashi: “Within seconds, everything was enveloped by a thick cloud of snow,” recalls Nayab Subedar Anil Kumar an instructor with the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) leading the team of 42 climbers who were hit by a massive avalanche while returning from Draupadi Ka Danda – II mountain peak in Uttarkashi on Tuesday.

Bodies of 16 NIM mountaineers recovered from Draupadi Ka Danda – II peak in Uttarkashi so far.

As per the bulletin released by NIM, Uttarkashi, on October 6 at 4:20 pm, total 16 bodies have been recovered, while 29 people, including two instructors and 27 trainees are still stranded.

On 4 October, four bodies – two of instructors and two of trainees – were recovered, while on 6 October, bodies of 16 trainees were retrieved.

“Search and rescue operation is in progress at the disaster site. Heliborne operation have been stopped due to bad weather. Evacuation of dead bodies by helicopter will be resumed on 7 October 2022 morning depending on the weather conditions,” the NIM said in a statement.

NIM instructor recounts narrow escape

Nayab Subedar Anil Kumar is among the 14 injured mountaineers brought down by rescuers from the NIM basecamp and admitted to the district hospital on Wednesday.

“There were 42 climbers in the team, including 34 trainees. I was leading them. Instructors Savita Kanswal and Naumi Rawat were behind me, while the rest followed them. Just then, the avalanche hit and buried everything under thick snow within seconds,” Kumar breaks down as he recalls the events before news agency PTI.

He further said 33 climbers took shelter in a crevasse during the avalanche.

“As I was ahead of the rest, I hung on to the left of the crevasse. When the snow began to settle, I undid the ropes and started to rescue my teammates. The other instructors also joined in,” he added.

“In the absence of proper tools, it took them two hours to remove the snow. Those who could be spotted were pulled out. Despite their efforts, 29 team members were stuck inside the crevasse,” the instructor said.

NIM instructor’s second close shave in 12 years

This was, however, Kumar’s second close shave in the past 12 years.

In 2010, when Kumar was posted at the Gulmarg branch of Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports, he was part of a 250-member team caught in an avalanche. While he escaped unscathed, 18 trainee climbers died in that incident.

“But the avalanche near Draupadi Ka Danda-II was much bigger,” he said.

NIM has been conducting training expeditions at the peak since 1975.

The peak is named after Draupadi, a character from the Hindu epic ‘Mahabharat’, as it is believed that the Pandavas ascended to heaven from the site, former Char Dham Development Council vice-president Surat Ram Nautiyal said.

Villagers of Bhatwari still worship the peak by conducting pujas on the banks of Kheda tal, a lake in the foothills.

With inputs from PTI

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