IAF’s Air warriors summit 7 major peaks across 7 continents
New Delhi, Jan 11: Air warriors fly high, but some of them prefer to kiss the sky without being in the relative comfort of a cockpit.
The Indian Air Force adventure team has achieved the goal of climbing the highest mountains in all the seven continents of the world. A team of five air warriors of the Indian Air Force (IAF) summited Mt Vinson in the icy continent of Antarctica in the last week of December. The Air force also lays claim to be the first defence body to summit all major seven peaks across seven continents.
Before Mt Vinson, Adventure teams of the Indian Air Force had summited Mt Everest (Asia), Mt Carstenz Pyramid (Indonesia- Australisa continent), Mt Elbrus (Russia-Europe), Mt Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mt Aconcagua (Argentina-South America), Mt McKinley/Denali (Alaska-North America) over the last two decades.
A five member mountaineering team led by Captain R C Tripathi, the only air warrior to be part of all the seven expeditions, was flagged off by Air Chief B S Dhanoa in December last year. The scaling of Mt.Vinson makes IAF the first organisation in India to achieve this unique feat.
“Trekking on a huge barren landmass, which is a continent in itself, is a daunting task” admits Tripathi, he adds “Summiting every peak is different. You have different challenges in terms of topography, climate and logistics.”
From snow storms that piled up a huge mass of snow outside their tents to the sun which refused to get weary even after shining all day, or the sub-zero temperatures to the arduous treks, the five Air Force personnel saw it all.
“This trek was particularly challenging because we had sledged our luggage, which we had not done before for any of our treks,” Tripathi said.
On their arrival in Delhi, Tripathi, Wing Co S S Mallik, Squadron Leader Rajesh Mookhi, Sergeant R D Kale and Corp Pawan Kumar– were felicitated by the Air Force chief, both for their feat and for returning back safely.
“When you conquer all the six peaks and you have the last one left, you tend to make mistakes. My only worry was your safety,” the Air Force chief told the mountaineers.The fear seems justified as the force had lost two of its personnel during a 2005 expedition to summit Mt Everest.
“We dedicate our success to Sqdrn Ldr S S Chaitanya and Sgt Shantanu, whom we lost during our Mt Everest expedition in 2005. We dedicate this achievement to all our martyrs,” Tripathi said.
But how does it feel to summit the peaks in all continents? he was asked.
“Mountaineering is a sport where nobody is there to clap for you or cheer you. No one can see the pain and agony. You are on your own in the wilderness. You just have to feel the achievement,” Tripathi answered.
The IAF has promoted adventure activities among its personnel. In 2011, a women’s expedition scaled Mt Everest successfully and in 2017 a joint IAF-BSF women camel expedition covered 1386 Km distance along western border in 47 days. IAF is also committed to the cause of environment and in Sep last year, IAF expedition to Mt Stok Kangri, restored the environment at base camp.