Siachen Glacier trek format to change from next year

October 31st, 2008 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS  

Siachen Base Camp, Oct 31 (IANS) From next year, civilians wishing to trek to the Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir will need to pitch their own tents and cook their own food to give them a real feel of the conditions in which Indian Army troops survive on what was once considered the world’s highest and coldest battlefield.During the two civilian expeditions conducted at the Siachen Glacier, where the heights rise to 22,000 ft, the Indian Army took care of the shelter and food requirements of the trekkers.

“Till now, we used to pitch tents and provide cooked food to the trekkers. But from next year onwards, the trekkers will be given rations and they will have to cook their own food. They will also be required to pitch their own tents,” Col. Satish Sharma, the commanding officer of the Army Mountaineering Institute (AMI) that conducted the treks last year and earlier this month, told IANS.

The The Leh-based AMI, a nascent institute, has been established to train army personnel for expeditions to peaks of 7,000 metres and higher. Till now, Indian Army mountaineers have conquered only five out of the 14 such peaks in the world.

This year, AMI provided ice-craft and rock-craft training to the 32 civilian trekkers who covered nearly 40 km from the Siachen Base Camp to Camp 3 at a height of 15,000 before returning.

The trek’s route will also change next year, with the expedition members going to the adjacent Rimo Glacier.

“Next year, instead of going up the Siachen Glacier, the expedition team will take a right turn after Camp 1 to the Rimo Glacier,” Sharma said.

The Rimo Glacier is actually a group of three glaciers - classified north, central and south - and is located at an altitude of between 6,000 and 7,000 metres.

India’s maiden move to conduct “adventure tourism” in the Siachen Glacier region last year had provoked a controversy after Pakistan accused Indian authorities of undertaking trekking expeditions in disputed territory.

This time, Pakistan did not lodge a protest with the Indian government, which on its part did not hype the expedition unlike last year. And the change in route could be a part of India’s move to play down the imbroglio over the civilian trek to Siachen.

Although both India and Pakistan have spoken of the need to demilitarise the glacial heights, the bone of contention in the protracted negotiations has been the authentication of the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) beyond the NJ-9842 grid reference point where the current frontier abruptly stops.

India says the line veers at a 45 degree angle to the right while Pakistan maintains it goes straight up and stops just short of the Karakoram Pass, the only motorable link between China and Pakistan.

India and Pakistan had fought a bloody battle on the Siachen heights from 1989 and the guns have been silent since a truce was declared in 2003.

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