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Skill, confidence & thrill beat extreme weather and avalanches risk

Skill, confidence & thrill beat extreme weather and avalanches risk

Shimla: Who cares about the risks of driving atop snow-laden high mountain terrains in freezing cold winters to returns back home happily, braving a massive avalanche in Kinnaur –just hours before six army jawans lost their lives on Wednesday?

It was sheer confidence, grit, and perfect driving skills overpowering all odds as 72 adventurers, including a dozen women—few of them first-time on the wheels completed six-day long 7th Mountain Goat Expedition to Kaza—Himachal's cold desert zone, currently freezing under minus 25 degrees C on Wednesday evening.

One of the biggest surprise elements of this year's motor expedition was the presence of two youngest members – Ajinkya, 6 and Aryaa, 7, who accompanied their 43-year old adventure veteran Prof S N Kulkarni, who is Vice-

Chancellor of APG Shimla University.

"For me, my two kids were best companions during the 1000 km long expedition, whose spirit was marvellous, and no less than any other motivated participant or team members. Aryaa was just two years and two months and Ajinkya only six months when I took them to Siachen. They have a record of crossing Khardungala (17,582 feet) at such an early age," said Prof Kulkarni.

Says Suraj Tayal, one of the organizers, "We had an amazing experience of having these children on the expedition, besides exponents like Prof Kulkarni, who was the biggest driving force. The team morale was very high even when we encountered avalanche on return near Pooh, besides freezing cold, heavy snow and slush on the road."

The expedition which was flagged off on February 15 by Additional Chief Secretary (Tourism) Ram Subhag Singh had participating teams from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, and Punjab, besides those from Himachal Pradesh. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and Indian Army and local administrations in Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti backed the expedition helping in road clearance and other

logistics including keeping hospitals in readiness for emergencies.

In all, there are 35 SUV with 97 people (including team members) in action. This was India's biggest Winter Expedition Convoy moving to India's Coldest Expedition to Spiti passing through Shimla - Kalpa – Pooh, Kaza and return via the same route to Shimla. Himani Pirta, a professional blogger, a woman team member "recalls the expedition as an awesome experience. The organisers had perfect coordination for the vehicles and all participants, who were connected all through the route through the walkie-talkie. The army extended a great help by accommodating entire entourage when avalanche

had blocked the road on return."

This was the first time when an academic institution -- APG Shimla university was actively involved in the expedition with its VC leading from the front, says Shashwat Gupta, a key-organiser.

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