Kolahai Tragedy: Survivor Hazik saw stones crush his friends to death; he cannot overcome the horror
Srinagar, Sep 19: “Neither I can put it in words, nor will you understand it in words. It was a split second, but to me it was an eternity,” says Hazik Beigh, survivor of tragic Kolahoi Expedition of September 7.
Pressed further, he sighs, gazes at the peeling hospital ceiling and his heavily bandaged fingers, and mumbles a response.
On September 2, nine trekkers left for expedition to Kolahoi Glacier. Little did they know that their excitement of conquering the peak would turn into mourning as they faced a rockfall while descending, claiming two lives and leaving another trekker grievously injured.
Lying on a bed at the SMHS Hospital is Hazik, who is suffering from sixth rib-cage fracture along with several minor fractures.
A tube drains out the excess fluid in his body as his lungs heal from the sudden trauma. Looking visibly shocked, he narrates his near-death experience.
“Time, space, emotions, everything ceased to exist. I felt my skull is broken and I am dead,” recounts Hazik.
He says in a feeble voice, “We started early morning on September 2. One week was the timeline and Aadil Shah was the one who organised it.”
The young mountaineer says that before leaving for the expedition, the group had done proper research work about the glacier.
“We held discussions with people who had gone on such treks and thoroughly discussed the routes that had to be taken. After much thought, we took the southern route that was less deteriorated,” he recalls.
Taking a long pause moaning lightly from pain, he gulps down few sips of water, and resumes talking again.
“The expedition was carefully planned by taking every member into the loop. It was everybody’s effort and the work was divided. While some took care of the technical part, the others saw that we take our proper safety gear and snacks with us,” he told The Kashmir Monitor.
The young mountaineer says throughout the trek everybody was well-equipped.
“We had all the required safety gear with us. Five people were roped up in one group and four people were in another, leaving eight meters gap in between,” he narrates.
However, on their way back, the weather changed suddenly which made the group halt their journey for some time.
“Weather became foggy, triggering a hailstorm and snowfall,” he recalls.
On the sixth day, the young climber recollects, the weather got clear and the group excitedly resumed their downhill journey.
Little did they know that expedition would claim two lives and he third injured.
“The visibility got fine and we left the tents there, picked up all our technical gear, and set out,” he recalls.
“At the time of incident, Aadil was leading our group, Naveed was second, and I was third. We were at the pass where the whole view of Pahalgam is visible. All of a sudden I heard a cracking sound and a big boulder started to roll down. Within a fraction of a second, Naveed was taken by that boulder, next was me,” he laments.
Hazik saw his wayfarer Naveed hit instantly by a big boulder.
“I too was in that range of stones. Big and small stones coming together and they were rolling us with it. I fell in a crevasse at the bottom of the pass,” he sighed.
He stops again and begins talking with heavy breathing, “I could feel death hovering over me. I didn’t shout or cry, there was blood all over the place. Before shouting to other guys, I realized that my left side has gone numb. It felt really loose inside of me.”
The next few moments revealed a saga of tragedies for Hazik.
“When I came out of the crevasse, I saw Naveed had gone blue in the face, and he was lying there. He was unrecognizable, I could only say, Naveed ha mood,” he recalls.
Somewhere five six meters down, another tragedy awaited them.
“There was big boulder sitting on top of Aadil. Six people removed the stone with the help of a rope, and put him in a sleeping bag. After few moans, he too stopped breathing,” Hazik remembers the haunting memories.
The group was told to wait for twenty minutes before the rescue team comes with a helicopter, however, no one came. They had no option but to move down with the injured person.
“It was really painful to walk. I was falling. We didn’t even have water with us. Around 3-4 in the morning, we reached our base camp in Dhanwar,” he says.
The mountaineer claims that they were given assurances that the rescue team will reach at 6 am but no one turned up. “By that time, I could hardly breathe, I wasn’t sure whether I can survive now. At around 10:30 the two choppers were on the way, and airlifted me to the Bone and Joint hospital and later shifted to SMHS hospital,” he says.
The rescue operation was conducted by Ram Singh and his rescue team along with Indian Air Force.
Hazik says, “Indian Air force did a great job. Apart from that I owe my life to the people of Aru. Their help was not politically driven; they had genuinely come to help me.”
Asked why they didn’t take the traditional route to the glacier to prevent the calamity, Hazik responds, “There is still one unclimbable route to Kolahoi, we took the route that was better than this particular route. Glaciers have receded a lot since 1930’s because of the climate change, the crevasses open up every day due to the temperature change. The crevasses change their course. The route which changes every day can never be conventional.”
In a recent report published by The Kashmir Monitor, the Tourism Director Kashmir had claimed that the Alpine group didn’t register with them before going for the expedition.
“In the main core of climbing circles, everybody knew that we are going and nobody objected as such,” replies the young mountaineer.
Would he go on such expeditions in the future? Hazik ends his conversation in a true mountaineer spirit, “So many people die due to car accidents, it doesn’t mean we will stop driving. Just because a calamity hit me, it won’t deter me from doing what I love.”