2 Army officers killed in avalanche

Last Updated: Tue, Sep 21, 2010 14:53 hrs

Gopeshwar: Two Army officers, a Lieutenant Colonel and a Major, on a mountaineering expedition to Mt Kamet were killed after their camp was hit by an avalanche near Ghastoli in Chamoli district.

The two officers -- Lt Col Poornachandra and Major Manish Gusain -- were part of a 41-member team that were to summit 7,756-metre high Mt Kamet when the avalanche hit their camp at 5,800-metre altitude on Sunday, according to officers in the Army headquarters in New Delhi.

All other members of the expedition were safe and the two bodies were recovered and brought to the Advance Base Camp at 5,300-metre altitude yesterday, the Army officers said.

The team comprising of six officers, three junior commissioned officers and 32 other ranks under the leadership of Col Ajay Kothiyal, who is a Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra winner himself, from the 18 Garhwal Rifles regiment were attempting to summit Mt Kamet in an effort to select a team for a future expedition to 8,163-metre Mt Manaslu in Nepal next March.

The team had first concentrated in Joshimath and after acclimatisation and pre-expedition training, had opened a route for base camp on August 24 this year. The team had set up the advance base camp on September 1 and Camp-I on September 7.

"While advancing ahead the team divided itself into four sub-teams consisting of 10 members each with a view to select participants for Mt Manaslu. After two teams had completed their selection process, the third team went on to occupy Camp-I which included Lt Col Poornachandra of 9 Para Field Regiment and Major Manish Gusain of 11 Kumaon Regiment," a press release from the Army in New Delhi said.

The team could not move ahead from Camp I due to bad weather and was stuck there when the avalanche struck burying the camp site completely under snow, it said.

Kothiyal and nine other ranks managed to extricate themselves out of the accumulated snow and made efforts to rescue rest of the team members, but the two officers could not be saved.

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"As weather was deteriorating, the expedition leader with other members who had minor injuries, descended to Advance Base Camp keeping the mortal remains of the officers safely at Camp-I. The mortal remains of the two officers were brought down to Advance Base Camp by the team on Monday and these will be airlifted to Joshimath on a later date when the weather clears up," officers said.

In the entire episode, a few other team members too sustained cold injuries and they descended to Ghastoli road head today, they added.