Defence Minister Rajnath Singh flagged-in the Indian Army's skiing expedition -- ARMEX-21 -- which aimed to enhance tourism in the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to the higher altitude areas of Uttarakhand, here on Friday.Conducted in the mountain ranges of the Himalayan region, the expedition also aimed to promote adventure activities in the country.Speaking on the occasion, Rajnath Singh congratulated the team on the successful completion of the challenging expedition and lauded them for their courage and resilience.Terming the expedition as extraordinary, he said not only did the team complete a thrilling journey, but it also conducted an operational recce of the region.The expedition was flagged off from the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh on March 10, and culminated at Malari in Uttarakhand on July 6, covering a distance of 1,660 km in 119 days.During the expedition, the team travelled through several high altitude passes, glaciers, valleys and rivers. The team also interacted with the local population in the far-flung areas.It was able to gather detailed information about several hitherto unchartered areas along the international boundary as well as the hinterland.Singh also commended the courage, dedication and spirit of the armed forces and expressed satisfaction that the safety and security of the country is in safe hands.He exuded confidence that the success of ARMEX-21 will inspire a new generation of adventurers across the nation.
Sharing the team's experiences of the journey, Major A.K. Singh, the team leader, said that there were several occasions when their resolve was tested.One of the most difficult moments the team faced was while crossing the Kalindi Khal in Garhwal.He said the team had to set up camp at an altitude of 5,500m due to the white-out conditions.The team leader also described the interaction with the civilian population residing in the remote areas as a refreshing experience.Their simplicity and helping attitude was heart-warming, he said, adding that the expedition served to bring the fringe populations closer and strengthened their faith in the Indian Army's ability to reach out to them in case of need.The team members explained how traversing long distances in the high mountains differs from scaling peaks, which is the more common form of adventure activity in the mountains.Traverse can test your endurance like no other activity, the team members said.The team remained beyond the reach of logistics and rescue teams for long durations which necessitated carrying loads weighing more than 30 kg by each member of the team.Unlike ascent of peaks where a very small part of the team actually scales the peak, in traversing long distances, the entire team completes the adventure activity.The team members informed the Defence Minister about how they were able to cover long distances by the use of skis. On one occasion, they covered 66 km in a day while crossing the Lamkhaga Pass, which was the longest distance covered by them in a single day during the entire expedition.