The Siachen glacier is one place the highest combat zone on the planet earth, where the army records suggest that fewer soldiers have died on the line duty due to enemy fire than because of the harsh weather conditions. For Indian forces deployed in Siachen, it is less of a challenge to watch out for the frail Pakistani forces but to just stay atop this 78 kilometers long glacier at around 5, 500 meters altitude (nearly twice the altitude of Ladakh and Kargil) in itself means you have to defy all of your physical, mental and spiritual limits.
In Siachen, you are at the risk of getting a deadly frostbite if your bare skin touches steel (gun trigger, for example) for just over fifteen seconds. Merely touching the trigger or gun barrel with bare hands can be a mistake big enough to result in loss of toes or fingers. Frostbite is an extreme condition resulting from abrupt exposure to extreme cold that can leave amputation of fingers or toes as the only alternative. In extreme cases, these organs may just fall off.
Minus 60 degrees temperature and over 5,000 meters altitude; low atmospheric pressure and oxygen, Winds here can cross the 100 mph limit in no time, well, you keep asking for more of it. There’s only 10% of the amount of oxygen available in Siachen than it is in plains. To combat such situations one needs to be a super soldier, and extremely fit and alert at all times.
In February came one more sad news from the region when 10 soldiers, including a Junior Commissioned Officer, were hit by an avalanche at an altitude of 19,600 feet. However, six days post the avalanche hit - one brave Soldier, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, was found alive buried 25 feet under snow on Siachen glacier. However, the miraculous survival did not last long and after battling for life for few days at the Army's Research and Referral (RR) hospital in New Delhi, he expired. He was put on dialysis and his parameters continued dipping, also the oxygen level in his body was significantly low, and urea and the creatinine levels had shot up, He has slipped into a deeper state of coma leading to death.
Condoling the death Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter that Koppad ‘leaves us sad and devastated.’ “The soldier in you remains immortal. Proud that martyrs like you served India,” the PM added.
As per the Indian Army records, during last 30 years, 846 soldiers have sacrificed their lives at Siachen. In case of Siachen, deaths due to extreme climate and beyond-imagination terrain conditions are treated as battle causalities and rightly so. In last three years alone, 50 Indian soldiers have died in Siachen. Infact the Local saying is “the land is so barren and the passes so high that only the best of friends and fiercest of enemies come by.’ In Siachen, the Indian Army spends as much as 80% of its time preparing soldiers of deployment. The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalayan Mountains. Importantly, these has been several proposals and suggestions, even from Pakistan vacating Siachen during harsh weather times, but Indian Army time and again has always refused to remove the army battalions safeguarding its top altitudes.
Literally speaking the word "Sia" in the Balti language refers to the rose family plant, and “Chun" refers to any object found in abundance. Thus the name Siachen refers to a land with an abundance of roses. However, this highest combat zone is unfortunately causing untimely death of the Indian soldiers on the line duty.