Sept 12: Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield and an inhospitable terrain, has been thrown open to public.
Trekkers can now go up to the icy heights of the second largest glacier in the mighty Karakoram Range in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, a dreaded place till four years ago because of continuous shelling from Pakistan.
A group of 20 intrepid civilians—teenage girls, NCC and Military Academy Cadets, housewives and corporate executives—would form the first batch to tread the glacial heights, where snow never melts, from September 19, Army officials said here today.
Though the Indian and Pakistani troops are at points across the 72-km long glacier, almost at eyeball to eyeball confrontation, peace has prevailed in the snowy heights for the past four years ever since a cease-fire is in force.
The group sponsored by the Army Adventure Cell and Indian Mountaineering Foundation would trek from the base to Kumar Camp located at a height of 16,000 feet,on the mid-glacier.
On their four day trudge across the glacier, the civilian trekkers would be guided by 10 Army glacial experts.
Though guns have fallen silent danger does lurk in the form of giant crevasses and shifting ice formations.
" We plan to open the glacier to similar civilian trekkers on a regular basis from next year", Army officials said.
Significantly, the move to throw open the glacier to public comes two years after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his maiden visit had expressed a desire that efforts should be made to turn the place into a "mountain of peace".
The first public trekking group would be in glacier from September 19 to October 11.
" The group would gather at Leh and undergo a weeklong acclimatization before reaching the Siachen base camp by road " Army officials said.
At base camp, they would undergo another spell of conditioning before venturing out to the glacier itself. The trekkers would set up four staging camps before reaching the Kumar point in the middle of the glacier.
For future trekkers, officials said that the upper age limit would be 40 and all adventurers would have to be medically and physically fit.
The trekking adventure, officials said, could be a prelude to throwing open the glacier even to foreign expeditions and climbing groups.
Four major climbing groups from various armies have approached the Government for clearance to attempt some over 7,500 peaks straddling the glacier.