Siachen base camp. The toughest training ground in the world.
This is eleventh part of our Ladakh series. This time we go to Siachen base camp.
Our driver, Nowang had warned us that we need to leave very early in the morning so that we can go to Siachen base camp and return to Leh by evening. We were game for it. A lovely chai served at 4 AM by army mess staff – nowhere can you get this kind of hospitality – got us ready to leave the officers mess by 5 AM.
Nowang was there dot at 5 and we bid god bye to the staff in darkness. it was cold in the morning and we quickly got into the car and started driving towards Siachen base camp.
Siachen is the highest battle field in the world. Indian Army captured it in 1984 through Operation Meghdoot.
We always dreamt of going to the base camp. To see for ourselves how the Indian army gets their soldiers prepared for a gruelling tenure at the high altitude. Fortunately we were able to get the required permissions in time to go there.
The sun was still behind the mountains when we left Patarpur. Sun rises early in Ladakh and soon we were greeted with first glimpse of mountains with their looming shadows.
We traced back the route through Hunder we had taken on the previous day. With no tourists around, the dunes presented a pretty sight early in the morning. Soon, we were back on the highway and crossed Shyok river and headed towards Siachen base camp.
The road to the camp goes all along Shyok and Nubra river. We don’t climb much and the road is winding only in some stretches. What stuns you is the might of mountains. Here you see what the Himalayas are made of. Sheer granite. One towering over the other.
It is a pity that there wasn’t any snow on the mountains. But still we could see through our binoculars lovely peaks and glaciers. Driving in the Shyok valley early in the morning meant that we drove in the shadows while the mountains on the right bank were lit up beautifully.
Let us start telling the tale through the pictures. Please click on them to see them in original size.
We leave at dusk. The dunes of Hunder are quiet, devoid of tourists.
We drove in darkness even as the sun was coming up slowly over the mountains in the east.
Sunrise over the mountains as we head towards the base camp.
Dunes shot early in the morning, Hunder
You can see the shadow play here. We are driving in the shade where as the early morning sunlight beautifully lights up the mountains along the Shyok river.
The beauty of this drive is unlike the others in Ladakh. The enormously wide Nubra river flanked by mighty peaks humbles you.
First glimpse of the glacier as the road circumvent the mountains. We are still miles away from base camp. But the excitement increases!
First check at the Transport Check Point -TCP- at Sasoma. The boys served us excellent cup of tea which was god sent on a chilly morning.
Just look at these gigantic outcrops of granite!! It blows you away. The hidden valleys of snow in the background provides a lovely backdrop.
There was this peak popping out of barren cluster! Notice the sharp contours of the peaks! Thanks to 70-300 zoom lens.
…….And this one too.
Glimpses of snow on the mountains. This year, the summer was very sever in Ladakh which meant lack of snow on the mountains.
We move closer to the base camp and get a better view of the glacier.
The zoomed up view of the glacier…..
Siachen glacier is one of the lovely glaciers of Karakoram range. Another view of it. The beauty of the glacier can be savoured through a good pair of binoculars.
We are at 12,000 feet. Welcome to the base camp which trains the brave-hearts to fight on the highest battlefield in the world!
As we come closer, we are treated to a panoramic view of the glacier and the mountains.
The saviours of Siachen. The helicopters are the saviours of Siachen. The pilots work in extreme weather condition to maintain supply chain, evacuate injured, provide emergency medical assistance, operational reconnaissance support…… Hats off to them!
Soldiers of assembling for morning briefing. Talking to these young men who were waiting their turn to go to glacier made us understand their sacrifice to keep us all safe. A big salute to them.
Poorna with his fellow brethren in uniform.
Can you believe that we had a breakfast of Masala dosa, Pongal and vada at 12,000 feet in Himalayas? Yes, only Indian Army can make it happen!! Madras regiment had an excellent canteen and it was a sumptuous south indian breakfast for us. With us is Sachin and our driver, Nowang.
After breakfast, our next stop was the War Memorial. For more details you can click on this post in this blog http://traveltwosome.com/blog/skywatch-friday-siachen-war-memorial/
The panoramic foreground landscape of War memorial.
Our next stop was the shrine of OP Baba. In the late 1980s, Om Prakash, an artillery soldier was sent on a patrol on Malaun Post in Bila Complex in Northen Glacier, where he single-handedly beat back the enemy, but never returned back after that. No one saw him or his body, but troops were forewarned in their dreams about impending dangers on the Glacier, after which the faith in OP Baba increased and temple was built in his name. Reports of missions are regularly given to him before and after. OP Baba not only protects the personnel on the Glacier from the enemy, but also from the hostile nature and terrain. Troops talk about getting dreams whenever a warning is to be issued from the Baba. Troops give up tobacco, alcohol and non-vegetarian food during their three-month tenure on the Glacier.
Poorna and Sachin in front of the entrance to the shrine
Inner hall of the shrine which has images from all faiths.
the idol of OP Baba
As we came out of the shrine, we saw these guns on display with glacier in the background.
Brinda in front of the memorial for Capt Sunil Khokkar of Artillery
A group of commandos training in mountain climbing in high altitude.
On our way back – crossing the Nubra river for the last time.
Final glimpses of Siachen glacier as we start returning back to Leh.
If we thought the return journey would not be spectacular, we were in for a surprise. On the way back, the mountains which were dark while coming lit up with afternoon light and we saw the spectacular landscape.
There were some spectacular formations like this one….
The road was flanked by mighty mountains on one side and river on the other! Look at the next two pictures too.
Finally, Brinda shot this pan shot on her iPhone which summarises this spectacular drive!
We surprisingly found this lovely patch of green with mules grazing on it. A lovely contrast to simmering rocks.
A group of workers from Boarder roads Organisation having lunch. Hats off to these tough guys who keep the roads in good condition in harsh weather.
Finally we enter Hunder again with sand dunes alongside the road…..
By the time we returned to Hunder, it was afternoon. It was a spectacular drive. A fulfilling one of visiting the soldiers getting ready to fight in the highest battle field in the world.
A humbling experience. A big salute to the “Snow warriors”. Thanks to these guys who give their today for our tomorrows!
a) You need to take a permission from Army authorities either in Leh or in Patarpur for visiting the base camp.
b) Ideally it can be done as a day trip from Hunder. Make sure you leave early and return early. The weather in this region is very unpredictable. In fact, the soldiers in the base camp were saying that we were very lucky to have a bright sunshine.
This is the eleventh part of Ladakh series – Our experiences in Ladakh Do you want to read more about our experiences in Ladakh? Please click on this link here
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