In May, an Indian Army Everest expedition team successfully reached the world’s highest peak. Two 15 member teams, led by Lt Col Jamwal and Major Mirza Zahid Baig along with Nb Sub Unnikannan APV reached the Mount Everest peak on May 19 and 20. Among them was Arjun Kumar Thapa, the only Indian to have reached Mount Everest, the South Pole, and completed two tours of duty at the Siachen glacier. The 34-year-old Gorkha regiment Havaldar reached Antarctica’s South Pole with an army team comprising of 8 members in 2011.
Arjun told the Indian Express: “Even though both are glaciers, the two challenges are totally different. The journey to South Pole is on a flatter terrain, with gradual slope and there is no problem of oxygen. The climb to the peak of Everest has more obstacles, particularly the icefalls like the Khumbu icefall.”
According to a report in India Times, two years at the Siachen Battle School (2013-15), and at the Southern Glacier (2006-08) helped Arjun in his ascent of the South Pole and Mount Everest. His 2012 expedition saw his team open the Bhim to Shiyagra Complex route at Siachen Glacier. “You get used to living at a glacier and it also toughens you mentally for any hardship. There can be no better preparation than that,” said Arjun.
“I want to be the first Indian man to complete The Three Poles Challenge. Temperatures touch a minimum of minus 42 degrees in the night and a maximum of minus 25 degrees during the day.”
Indian soldiers control almost all the dominating heights, ranging from 16,000 to 22,000 feet, in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region. Around 900 Indian soldiers have been killed here. Soldiers have been continuously manning posts at impossible heights of over 20,000 feet for almost thirty years now. They have been navigating the glacier on foot and landing choppers at altitudes at which they were not designed to fly.