An amazing experience for the Gold Award Participants (a report)
by Laxman Singh, Award Leader, Welham Boys' School
On the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee celebration, Welham Boys’ School sent an Expedition to Draupadi Ka Danda II (5716m),Uttarkashi. The team comprised 18 students and 3 staff members.
Draupadi Ka Danda is a holy peak. There is a story behind it. It is said that Draupadi,wife of the Pandava's left her soul on this peak while on the way to Swarga towards Swargarohini(22000 ft). To the east of this peak exist Gangotri-I, II, III & Kedarnath. On the north-west region Swargarohini can be seen from the top of Draupadi-ka-Danda.
The Expedition lead by Mr Laxman Singh and Rajat, who is the sports captain of the school was accomplished with the guidance of Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), which is one of the finest Mountaineering Institutions in the country. The expedition started with the Flag Off ceremony on 25th May, 2012 and culminated on 12th June, 2012. Lt Gen Manvender Singh, Commandant IMA, flagged off the Expedition. In the Flag Off Ceremony Gen. Manvender gave a motivating and enriching speech, which motivated the Expedition team to successfully scale the peak.
The expedition lasted for 19 days. The first five days ie from 26th May to 30th May the Expedition team underwent an extensive training programme that included physical exercises, rock climbing, trekking, belaying, rappelling, jumaring, bouldering, artificial vertical wall climbing, snow craft, ice craft and tying of knots.
Having completed the training successfully on 30th May, the team trekked to Tela Camp which is situated at 8000ft.It was a steep and arduous climb for 4 hours. Each member of the team enjoyed this trek immensely.
After camping at Tela, we marched off to our next Camp at Gujjar Hut (1100ft) on 1st Jun,2012. It was a wonderful experience because it turned out to be a Herculean task which the team achieved very confidently.
On 2nd June, 2012 we moved to our next destination, the base camp at 13000ft. Not very far from Gujjar Hut, it took just an hour to reach the Base Camp. The main aim was for the expedition members to acclimatise, check equipment and practise walking with crampons on their shoes.
On 3rd June we set out on our trek to the Advanced Base Camp (14000ft) and returned back to the base camp. It was an exercise of acclimatisation.
On 4th June we proceeded for Advanced Base Camp. At ABC, we were trained to pitch tents on the Glacier, Glacier walk, Snow craft, Ice Craft etc. We were also briefed about the dangers in the Glaciers and the necessary precautions to be taken. At the camp the weather became bad and there was heavy snow fall for 24 hours. Disappointed, the expedition team decided to stay at the ABC till the weather was clear. We lost one day due to bad weather condition. On 6th June we headed for ice craft, which we enjoyed immensely.
On 7th June, after a very difficult and challenging climb full of danger, the team reached Camp-1.On the way they overcame crevasses, avalanches and steep slopes. To add to their predicament, the oxygen level went low, but the confidence level and the teams’ spirit was high. This helped to overcome the challenges and reach Camp-1 safely and successfully.
The anticipation was over. D-day arrived. On 8th of June, equipped with all the technical paraphernalia, the team began its final climb at 4:30 am. The climb was steep full of challenges and the weather conditions worsened. Visibility was almost zero. It was snowing heavily and the wind was blowing at a very high speed. It was a tough call to take, should we continue or cancel the attempt. We decided to move on and with the grace of god, despite deteriorating weather conditions, 14 members of the Expedition were able to accomplish the honourable task of completing the expedition.
Watching the boys bracing the challenges, including the icy winds and embracing all hardships with a smile was a feat by itself.