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Top 10 Freezing Facts about Siachen Glacier – The Highest Battle Ground on Earth

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Siachen, the highest battleground on earth where even eagles do not dare to fly, our soldiers live there for months together guarding the motherland. The place where more soldiers die because of adverse climatic conditions rather than bullets and war. Here is a list of some unbelievable facts about Siachen Glacier which will surely freeze your mind.

Fact #1 Location

Siachen highest battle ground on earth

The Siachen Glacier is a glacier located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayas. It is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and is almost 76Km long and second-longest in the world’s non-polar areas. Siachen Glacier is at an altitude of 5,753 m above sea level at its head at Indira Col on the China border down to 3,620 m at its terminus.

Siachen is under Indian administration since 1984 with all the major passes also under its control. Pakistan controls the region west of Saltoro Ridge, far away from the glacier.

This no man’s land of inhospitable climate and, avalanche-prone terrain has claimed more lives than gunfire.

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Fact #2 India vs Pakistan

Indian and Pakistani forces are stationed at Siachen glacier in Karakoram range since 1984. Almost 10,000 Indian and 20,000 Pakistani Soldiers combined are stationed at Siachen glacier.

With temperatures going down all the way to 70 degrees minus, low atmospheric pressure and only 10% of the amount of oxygen is present in Siachen. Even in such adverse and harsh conditions, these brave souls are never deterred to perform their duty.

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Fact #3 Siachen Dispute

Prior to 1984, there were no troops of neither India nor Pakistan present at the Siachen glacier. Pakistan sent expeditions through POK and as a counter expedition India also sent men which created territory dispute.

Pakistan was first to start an Operation Ababeel to capture Siachen glacier and its passes but India countered them with Operation Meghdoot and captured the whole of Siachen Glacier and its passes – Sia La Bilafond La, Gyong La, Yarma La and Chulung La.

India Army launched another operation to capture Quaid post which was occupied by Pakistan. Quaid post was strategically very important as it overlooked the Indian Army post and gave Pakistan army advantage.

Operation Rajiv was successful with the heroes efforts of Naib Subedar Bana Singh. He was awarded – Highest War-time Gallantry award – Param Vir Chakra and later the post was renamed as Bana Post.

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Fact #4 Harsh Climate

We find it hard to spend harsh winter conditions in our cities but our super-heroes do not think twice when nominated for the Siachen glacier tenure. They lose weight, appetite, sleep there for us to be safe and sound at our homes.

They eat canned food and do not have water to drink. Where an orange or apple turns into hard cricket ball in seconds how can water be in its natural state-liquid?

This is not the end. They have a great danger of losing their eyesight, limbs and even life.

Place where the risk of avalanches is so high. Many of our brave hearts have lost their lives because of these dreadful snowstorms, avalanches. Some of the bodies could be recovered and some not, even then these angels never step back and have been guarding us for years.

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Fact #5 Deaths

“Quartered in snow, silent to remain. When the bugle calls, they shall rise and march again” – The scroll of honour at the Siachen base camp.

Soldiers not only have to deal with extremely low temperatures but also avalanches. In 2012 Gayari sector avalanche killed 140 Pakistani troops alone. Pakistan army has lost 353 soldiers in various operations recorded between 2003 and 2010 near Siachen.

Indian Army has lost 869 soldiers on the Siachen glacier due to climatic conditions and other factors till date since the Army launched Operation Meghdoot in 1984. With extreme isolation, lack of drinking water, cold temperatures, soldiers face a lot of health problems.

Some of them include blood clots in the brain or limbs. One-third of all the causes of deaths are because of blood clots. The chances of developing a blood clot in the body is 100 times higher in Siachen than on sea level. It is not rare to find a lot of soldiers returning home with amputated limbs.

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Fact #6 High Moral of Soldiers

Soldiers have to have high morale fighting there. They not only have to worry about weather but have to take care of themselves and fight with enemy also. They have to be properly equipped and cover their bodies in the right matter. If their skin touches metal objects for just over 15 seconds, it will incur frostbite.

Frostbite is the medical condition in which localized damage is caused to skin and other tissues due to freezing and can leave amputation of fingers or toes as the only alternative.

Such weather conditions which are out of imagination for people like us. But our fearless and lionhearted Soldiers stay there 24X7 round the year for the safeguard of Motherland.

As every inch of this land belongs to our nation and must not cede into the hands of the enemy.

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Fact #7 Only Best of the Friends and Worst of the Enemies Visit Us

There is a local saying,” This land is barren and the passes are so high that only best of the friends and worst of the enemies visit us.

Winds in Siachen cross 100mph in no time. Snowstorms can last for three weeks and yearly snowfall in Siachen can be over three dozens of feet. Our soldiers have to be physically and mentally, fit and tough to stay there.

At Siachen Glarier weather is the biggest enemy. No one knows when the resupply will be delivered due to unpredictable weather conditions. Pilots risk their lives even in the clearest days by going to such a high altitude. They drop the supplies at the forward posts which are at a height of more than 20,000 ft. Moreover, they get less than a minute to drop the supplies as Pakistani army posts are just a few 100m away.

Visibility goes to zero pretty often and you cannot even see a hand held up right in front of your eyes. This is the reason soldier’s tie each other with ropes so that no one loses each others sight in such snowstorms

“We do difficult as a routine. The impossible may take a little longer” reads a plaque at the headquarters of the Indian Army. India spends around 80% of the total time in preparations of the solider for this battleground.

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Fact #8 Equipment and Survivel Skills

Indian Army has done really well to prepare their soldiers for these exceptional conditions. They invested their money in high altitude equipment that has paid off.

Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) and mountaineering kits for soldiers guarding the glacier at the heights ranging from 16,000 feet to 20,000 feet, thermal insoles, snow goggles, ice axe, boots, avalanche victim detector, rock pitons, karabiner-related mountaineering equipment and sleeping bags all these were sourced from countries like US Australia, Canada and Switzerland but now all these equipment are produced in India.

India soldiers have to go through rigorous training and develop special skills like crossing crevasses, climbing over and cutting through 90-degree ice walls, avalanche clearing, drilling and casualty evacuation to survive and fight at such extreme conditions. These are taught over a month at the Siachen Battle School at the base camp.

Fact #9 Government’s Role to Demilitarize Siachen

There have been nearly 13 talks in the past 30 years in order to demilitarize the area. Unfortunately, as soon as the agreement was reached political influence prohibited it from taking place.

Indian’s government has shown support to protect glacier region and it has been spending alone $1.3 billion of dollars on the fight in Siachen. This means that around $1 million per day is spent by the government in order to protect the territory.

India controls the heights and is loath to withdraw for fear Pakistan might walk in. India says it is unwilling to bring its forces down until Pakistan officially authenticates the positions they hold.

Fact #10 Siachen War Memorial

There is a war memorial at the bank of Nubra river which has the names of Indian soldiers who laid their lives in Siachen. This article is a grand salute to our soldiers and their families who dare to send their sons to defence forces and wait all their lives for them to be home; and to our soldiers, words won’t be enough to express our heartfelt gratitude!

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Some More bizarre Facts about Siachen and Indian Soldiers

  • It takes four to ten days to reach the post depending on where it is located from the base camp
  • You can get a sunburn and frostbite at the same times. If soldiers stand outside in the sun for long, they get frostbites and sunburns at the same time.
  • The soldiers lose their appetite on the glacier. Their body doesn’t get enough oxygen and becomes sluggish.
  • To drink water Soldiers need to melt ice on stoves.
  • It takes soldiers 2-3 hours to relieve themselves even after they take laxatives.
  • The Army has started providing soldiers with bio-toilets now, but not all bases have them. Soldiers walk in deep snow and defecate in the open.
  • Taking a bath is a luxury for the soldiers as they could die by freezing. They can take bath only once a month, that too in specially designed commodes by DRDO
  • Soldiers sweat literally freeze and crackle between their skin and clothes as it is so cold, nothing stays liquid, even under 7 layers of protective clothing.
  • Each soldier carries 30 kilos of load at all times. This includes patrolling long distances every day.
  • Opening a can of condensed milk can take 40 minutes because you are so clumsy due to all the clothing and gloves you are wearing,
  • They are allowed one call a week for just two minutes via a satellite phone.
  • The psychological effects are as bad as physical effects. On bad days, they have nothing but themselves to spend their time with. Books and makeshift games and the monotony of maintaining operational logs keeps them sane and busy.
  • Indian Army personnel commemorated International Yoga Day on 21 June 2018. An event led by Sadhguru, a prominent Indian yogi.
  • Until 2000, the soldiers stayed in snow tents that icy winds and blizzards could blow away or rip apart. Now, they have fibre-glass huts.
  • Machine guns are dipped in boiling water to keep them from jamming