Two Army officers died after their camp in the higher reaches of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand was hit by an avalanche on Sunday, according to information reaching the Army headquarters here.
The bodies of Lieutenant Colonel Poornachandra of 9 Para and Major Manish Gusain of 11 Kumaon were brought down to the advance base camp on Monday and airlifted to Joshimath on a clear day. A few personnel sustained cold injuries and they have descended to get medical treatment.
The mountaineering team consisted of six officers, three Junior Commissioned Officers and 32 other ranks. Led by Colonel Ajay Kothiyal, a decorated officer of 18 Garh Rifles, the team was attempting to scale Mt. Kamet to select a team for an expedition to yet another difficult peak — Mt. Manaslu (8163m) in Nepal in March next.
The team, after undergoing mandatory acclimatisation and pre-expedition training for a fortnight near Joshimath, opened a route for the base camp on August 24. While advancing, the team divided itself into four sub-teams. After two teams completed their selection process, the third one that included Lt. Col. Poornachandra went up.
According to the Col. Kothiyal, the weather had deteriorated as of last Friday and the men had hunkered over the base camp. An avalanche hit the camp on Sunday afternoon and buried it completely under snow. The expedition leader and some others managed to extricate themselves out, but despite desperate efforts, Lt. Col. Poornachandra and Major Manish Gusain could not be rescued.