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Year on, duo untraceable
- Search stuck in widened crevasse

Gangtok, Nov. 3: A mission to locate the bodies of two climbers from Mumbai, who had been hit by an avalanche in Mt Tinchenkang last October, has yielded no results despite several attempts by search teams.

The operation was called off as the search teams found that the crevasse, where the duo had been buried, had widened and deepened, making difficult the retrieval attempts.

Mangesh Deshpande and Sekar Sadashivan were returning to the base camp at 4,150m when they were blown away and got buried in a crevasse at 5,900m on October 19. They were part of a six-member group which had scaled the mountain in West Sikkim.

Two porters with the team, Mingma Sherpa and Ang Dorjee Sherpa, were seriously injured in the incident.

The search operations were undertaken by Chakram Hikers, a Mumbai-based adventure tour operator that had also conducted the expedition to the peak at 6,010m.

According to a report sent to the state government by Chakram Hikers, the crevasse where the climbers got buried has undergone a structural change and it has turned into a 600metre long, 20-30metre wide and 100metre deep bergschrund.

Immediately after the tragedy, the Army and Indian Air Force choppers had been pressed into service along with expert mountaineers to trace the bodies. But weather and terrain conditions hampered the search operation.

After the monsoon, Chakram Hikers decided to launch another operation to locate the bodies. Acting on a proposal sent by the agency in August, the state government waived the fee for the mountain climb and made available a liaison officer for the search.

Five mountaineers, headed by Rajesh Gadgil, and liaison officer Bhaichung Tamang began climbing the peak from Yuksom on September 23. The team set up an advance base camp at 4,835m on September 27 and seven days later, reached the spot where the bodies were believed to have been buried.

But they found that the area had become a bergschrund with glaciers hanging along its walls. A bergschrund is an enlarged crevasse formed because of changes in the snow structure.

Concluding that the bodies had been buried deep inside the crevasse, the team decided to seek the services of sherpas as a last-ditch effort. On October 6, three sherpas reached the spot but they also could not spot the bodies, forcing the team to call off the search.

According to Gadgil, the bodies had been buried in the bergschrund that had opened up after the last year’s incident. “Probable reasons for the structural change of the place could be tremors, high snow depositions during winter and the subsequent high pressure of the ice on the fragile slope of the peak,” he said.

“If the bodies are buried in the bergschrund, it is not likely that they will resurface in the near future unless external factors come into force. But if they are not buried too deep, the bodies may resurface and can be seen,” said Gadgil.

He has also submitted photos of the location to the state tourism department and has recommended that the pictures be handed over to all teams attempting to scale Mt Tinchenkang.

“If a team sights the bodies, they should inform the authorities so that retrieval efforts could be launched, said Gadgil.

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