The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mountaineer rescue mission hits dead end

Lucknow, Sept. 13: Over a week’s efforts to rescue and evacuate two West Bengal mountaineers and four porters stranded in the higher reaches of Garhwal Himalayas, failed today as two Indian Air Force helicopters requisitioned by the local administration could not reach their summit camp due to inclement weather.

Gautam Mukherjee, deputy leader, and another member of a mountaineering club in West Bengal are reported stranded near Rudragera base camp — 18,000 feet above sea level — from where they had started to scale Gangotri-3 peak on September 5. Neither the local police nor a rescue team of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have been able to reach them.

Two IAF helicopters had taken off from Harsil at 4 pm today to rescue them but the choppers were forced to land at Gangotri due to foggy conditions.

Vishram Ram, acting superintendent of police, Uttarkashi, said on phone that “we will try to rescue them with choppers tomorrow again”.

The chief development officer of Uttarkashi, M.C. Upreti, who is supervising the rescue operations, said another rescue team of the Indo-Tibetan security force, along with some members of the expedition team, was on its way to the Rudragera camp. “Although the team has been carrying a wireless set, it is difficult to make contact (with the stranded mountaineers) due to hostile weather conditions in the region,” he added.

On August 27, an 11-member team from a mountaineering club in West Bengal, along with five porters, had reached the base camp of the summit at Rudragera.

Leaving three members at the base camp, the rest of the expedition led by Jasveer Singh reached the summit camp at a height of 18,000 feet the next day. Singh then asked deputy leader Gautam Mukherjee and another mountaineer to attempt scaling the Gangotri-3 peak and returned to the base camp.

On September 5, after scaling the peak, Gautam Mukherjee sent a message to the base camp through one of the porters requesting the expedition leader to send two or three other members to the summit camp to attempt scaling the Gangotri-3 peak.

But on that night the weather turned hostile with heavy snowfall, which continued unabated, foiling their efforts to reach the summit camp. The group leader and other team members were forced to return to the base camp at Rudragera on September 6.

The next day, the local police at Gangotri was informed about the stranded mountaineers. A seven-member rescue team of police and home guards was sent but, despite repeated attempts, it failed to reach even the base camp at Rudragera following heavy snowfall.

Finally, yesterday evening a rescue team from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police started off from Gangotri and managed to reach the Rudragera base camp today. But it could not reach the summit camp.

Chandra Bahadur, the porter who brought the last message from the stranded mountaineers to group leader Singh at the base camp, told police that Mukherjee and his team at the summit camp had only two days ration and fuel.

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