What makes the Siachen Glacier so dangerous?
The answer below was given on Quora by a former Indian Officer and has been viewed by over 14 thousand readers. Reproduced below
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces Veteran
Around 24 years back ……it was a clear bright day. I was sitting out in the open at around 1130h, at 18000 ft with another officer, a doctor and we were just relaxing, sipping some hot soup.
Around 0400h that morning, we had come down from the forward company post at 18500 ft and a few km away. As Second in Command, I had just gone there visiting for around 20 odd days but that RMO had been on that post around 5 months ! !
We were so happy to see so much activity at this staging post. By now already three helicopters had dropped supply and ammunition replenishment loads and delivered mail etc. We were also discussing the heavy “ diwali “ celebrated by the Pakis in our honour at around 0300h that day.
Those chaps opposite us, fully awake to partake their morning pre ROZA meal must have detected some careless torch light and had opened heavy fire on our party and the incoming link. The tracers and the flares were simply beautiful, which we had watched lying in a hollow on snow, on our back.
While going through the story, I was also watching the Link Party which had gone down to meet the link party coming from Staging post further down at 16000ft (not visible from our location).
A few kms away in the valley below, the two parties met and out going people joined the other link. The trek back started for both the links.
After around 30 minutes, suddenly there was loud bang. Looking at the right side of the valley (our Right) right from the top of the range could be seen a huge avalanche slowly coming down, gathering speed every second. I immediately picked up the binocular.
The other link had just disappeared from our view around a bend and was thus safe.The link from our post was still walking towards our Post. Next few minutes were eternity. All of us at the Staging post were looking alternatively at the speeding avalanche and those three chaps …and praying.
Finally the massive avalanche dissipated around less than 10 mtrs from them.I immediately ordered a rescue party along with a snow scooter. Around an hour later the three men of the link party were back, with every soul on the Post watching the entire rescue.
In spite of all the Siachen clothing on a bright sunny day, they were shivering like leaves in heavy cyclone. They were at once examined by the doctor and given hot tea, made to get in side sleeping bags with hot water bottles, inside a fiber glass hut. Doc said “ nothing wrong but the effect of the aftershock “.
It is not so easy to face an 80 to 100km avalanche, stare at Death in the face and remain unaffected physically and mentally. I spoke to them next morning, asking how they had felt staring at the incoming avalanche.
In Siachen, avalanche forecasts are given every evening for next 24 h by Scientists. All precautions are taken. in spite of all this, avalanches strike suddenly and without warning. Most of the times nothing happens. At times link patrols or Signal repair teams in the open get caught.
Once in a while it strikes a post itself, wiping it out. Its part of Siachen life.In fact, we moved down on the fourth day. Crossed the avalanche site at mid point of the route, inspected it and then moved on towards the next post.
Half way through, we had a break for 15 minutes. We must have moved barely 600 m when we heard another thundering sound behind us. We kept moving towards the next rise. On reaching it we could see that the place where we had the break was covered by an avalanche !
Temperature dipping to -80c, Crevasses so deep that temp down below is nearer to -273 c Absolute. Steep ice walls to climb which may take hours to reach the top ….one of the Forward Posts in the Glacier has this kind of Wall.
Howling winds with over 80 kmph speed bringing down the temp further due to wind chill factor. Lack of oxygen causing loss of appetite, blood pressure over 160 a normal feature. No sleep.
HAPO (High Altitude Pulmonary Odema), HACO (High Altitude Cerebral Odema), frostbites, chill blains, snow blindness every day affair and the dreaded HIGH ALTI feared by men of Indian Army (find out what it means !!). Avalanches, rocks coming down all of a sudden. This is Siachen.