Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: Air Force Station Leh, the world’s highest operational air base at over 10,000 feet, has launched a cycling team that will travel through the treacherous mountain roads from Leh to Kargil via Batalik, hugging the Line of Control (LoC).

The cyclists will cover 250 km of high-altitude territory where oxygen is 70 per cent of the normal level. The team will essentially cut across terrain whose toughness is typified by a Ladakhi saying: “The land is so barren and the passes so high that only the best of friends and the fiercest of foes would want to visit it.”

The team will closely interact with Army units en route.

The expedition was flagged off by Western Air Command chief Air Marshal P K Barbora. Beginning from Leh, the five-day journey will take them via Batalik (9,400 feet). They will cross Hamboting La (13,000 ft) to pass the Suru Valley into Kargil (9,700 ft).

The initiative was taken by the chief of AFS Leh, Air Commodore K.S. Gill, who has extensive air and ground operational experience in high altitudes.

The level of difficulty increases in this expedition owing to the high elevation of the region, where people find performing even day-to-day activities difficult. Earlier, AFS Leh had conducted a high-altitude trek from Leh to Thoise, during which the team crossed Khardung La at an elevation of 18,380 feet.

The 10-member team is led by Squadron Leader Manav S. Das. The other members are Flt. Lt. V. Chaudhary, Flt. Lt. C.N. Vinod, Cpl. Vikas, Cpl. Tyagi, Cpl. B K Singh, Cpl. Pandey, Cpl. J. Singh, LAC Dinesh and Naik B.L. Gujjar.