Icy heights Siachen thrown open for tourists

Last Updated 21 October 2019, 19:11 IST

A part of Siachen glacier, the world’s highest and coldest battlefield, has now been opened up for tourists.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday announced that a stretch from the Siachen base camp to Kumar post, has been opened for tourism.

The Defence Minister made the announcement in a tweet after inaugurating a bridge in eastern Ladakh to set up a road link to a remote airfield close to the China border.

The altitude of Siachen base camp is a little less than 11,000 feet whereas Kumar post is around 15,500 feet.

The areas on top of the glacier-like Saltoro ridge-line, Bilafond La pass and Bana Top will continue to remain out of bounds for civilians.

The Indian Army has been dominating the heights on the Saltoro ridge overlooking the Nubra Valley since Operation Meghdoot in April 1984, when India thwarted Pakistan’s plan of taking over the glacier. The Army maintains more than 3,000 troops on the glacier
at altitudes of up to 23,000 feet.

“Tourists will still have to take permission from the Army and go through a process before visiting the glacier,” said an Army officer.

The Indian Army in the past used to conduct month-long civilian treks to Siachen covering the same stretch. It didn’t happen in the last two years.

The tourists are likely to follow the same drill, which includes staying in rarefied atmosphere for nearly two weeks for acclimatisation.

Tourists should be physically fit to undertake the arduous trek, capable of undergoing planned extensive pre-trek training including rigours of extreme weather conditions and should be capable of carrying their loads (rucksacks) during the trek.

They should be free from epilepsy, asthma, psychiatric illnesses and hypertension, and would have to produce an indemnity bond and medical certificate to be declared eligible.

Incidentally, within months of becoming Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in October 2014 travelled to Siachen on Diwali day. From Delhi, Modi flew in an Indian Air Force aircraft to Thoise at an altitude of 10,000 feet from where he was taken to the Siachen base camp by helicopter in a 45-minute journey.

Singh on Monday inaugurated Col Chewang Rinchen bridge connecting Durbuk and Daulat Beg Oldie, India’s highest airfield that lies in the easternmost point of the Karakoram range and less than 10 km from the China border.

(Published 21 October 2019, 13:20 IST)

Follow us on