Indian Army’s HAWS successfully recovers mortal remains of 3 bravehearts from Mount Kun avalanche

Indian Army’s HAWS successfully recovers mortal remains of 3 bravehearts from Mount Kun avalanche

New Delhi: Operation RTG (Rohit, Thakur, Gautam) was recently initiated by the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in India to recover the mortal remains of three Havildar instructors who perished on a perilous trek to conquer Mount Kun in Ladakh.

On October 8, of last year, an avalanche attacked the crew, killing four of them. The team’s best efforts were limited to recovering Lance Naik Stanzin Targais’s remains. Deep beneath a crevice were the three troops who remained – Havildar Rohit, Havildar Thakur Bahadur Ale, and Naik Gautam Rajbanshi.

Code-named Operation RTG, the rescue effort involved 88 very skilled mountaineers and was initiated on June 18 of this year. Two camps were set up: a base camp and a road head camp. The rescue squad had to overcome really difficult obstacles.

Indian Army confirmed on Wednesday that a 38-member mountaineering expedition from HAWS set out to conquer Mount Kun in the Union Territory of Ladakh. The expedition commenced on October 1, 2023, to reach the summit by October 13, 2023. The team faced immense challenges due to the treacherous terrain and unpredictable weather in this glaciated region. On October 8, 2023, while fixing ropes on a snow wall at over 18,300 feet, between Camp 2 and Camp 3 on the Fariabad Glacier, the team was struck by a sudden avalanche. Four members were caught in the deadly slide.

The expedition team made every effort to rescue the trapped members, who had fallen into a crevasse and were buried under a large volume of snow. Despite their valiant efforts, only the mortal remains of Lance Naik Stanzin Targais were recovered. The bodies of Havildar Rohit, Havildar Thakur Bahadur Ale, and Naik Gautam Rajbanshi remained trapped deep within the crevasse, buried under layers of snow and ice. They courageously laid down their lives in the true spirit of adventure and quest.

Brigadier SS Shekhawat, Deputy Commandant of HAWS, describes Operation RTG as the most demanding mission of his life. The team dug for nine days at 18,700 feet, removing tons of snow and ice. Despite the hardships, Shekhawat expressed satisfaction and expressed the unwavering spirit and dedication of the HAWS team in bringing their fallen comrades home.

A temporary camp for road access was set up approximately 40 kilometres before Khumbathang, serving as a storage point for specialised mountaineering and rescue gear, protective clothing, survival kits, tents, food, and other essentials. Additionally, two helicopters were kept on standby to transport the remains of the fallen soldiers and to evacuate the rescue team if necessary.

A Base Camp was established roughly 13 kilometers from the road head, at an altitude of about 14,790 feet. Major General Bruce Fernandez, the Commandant of the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), positioned himself at the Base Camp to oversee the rescue operations. The first major success came in the last week, on July 4, when the remains of Havildar Rohit Kumar from the Dogra Scouts were discovered buried under 30 feet of snow and ice in a crevasse. The remains were then airlifted to Kumbathang. With determination, the team pushed through the harsh conditions of extreme cold and challenging terrain, digging 10 feet deeper into the crevasse where they found the remains of Havildar Thakur Bahadur Ale from the Gorkha Rifles on Sunday. The search continued for Naik Gautam Rajbanshi from the Assam Regiment, with the team’s unwavering commitment to not leave any of their comrades behind.

The mission’s objective was achieved on Monday, July 8, when the remains of all three soldiers were recovered. The team’s resolve ensured that no member was left behind. The remains were then transported to their respective families with full military honours, providing closure to the loved ones who had waited patiently to say their final goodbyes to the heroes.

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