19 army trekkers rescued from Himachal heights


New Delhi/Shimla : Nineteen trekkers from the Indian Army have been rescued from Himachal Pradesh’s tribal Lahaul and Spiti district after being stranded in high altitude slopes due to untimely snowfall last week – the first rescue mission of the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, officials said Monday.

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The trekkers, who were on an expedition to summit Pin Parbati Pass, were stranded at an altitude of 14,600 feet since Sep 8 due to incessant rains and heavy snowfall.

“The trekkers of the Pathankot-based AD Regiment were rescued Sunday. They had been stuck in the Pin Valley for the past many days due to hostile weather,” Superintendent of Police (Kullu) K.K. Indoria told IANS by telephone.

The army personnel were on a routine trekking expedition from Kheer Ganga near Manikaran in Kullu district to the Pin Valley in Lahaul and Spiti.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) then launched a mission in conjunction with the army to rescue the 19 trekkers.

“The situation demanded an immediate air rescue as the (expedition) team had been out of ration and were unable to either proceed or return. An ALH was immediately pressed into service as soon as the Delhi-based Western Air Command received the request for an air evacuation,” an IAF spokesperson said.

“The high altitude put constraints on the reserve of power. The odds were high with unfavourable temperatures. The IAF helicopter led the rescue mission by conducting low-hover pick-ups,” the spokesperson added.

The ALH conducted three sorties and rescued 12 personnel and the Cheetah helicopters of the army rescued the other seven.

The ALH was captained by Wing Commander Nikhil Naidu with co-pilot Wing Commander U.K.S. Bhaduria.

“The mission was the first ever recorded rescue mission by the ALH at such high altitudes,” the spokesperson said.

Himachal Pradesh got relief from heavy rains and snow Sunday after seeing continuous downpour for over four days.

According to the Meteorological Office here, most of the higher reaches got one to two metres of snowfall.