Area:Arunachal Pradesh

Team: Indian

Leader: Harish Kapadia (leader)

Members: Harish Kapadia (leader) Lt. Gen (retd) R. K. Nanavatty, Vijay Kothari, Rajendra Wani and Captain Sandeep Dhankar.

Period:  7th November to 6th December 2006

Not many trekkers and explorers have been deep into the various remote valleys of the Arunachal due to difficulties and restrictions. The Dibang valley, in eastern Arunachal Pradesh (formerly NEFA) is deep and thickly wooded. To its north and east lies Tibet (China) and to its west is the Siang (Tsangpo) valley. Having visited the Kameng, Subansiri and Siang valleys, in past three years we turned to the Dibang, further east

F.M. Bailey and H. T. Morshead, two British army officers, made a journey to these passes in 1913. After trying unsuccessfully to cross Andra La, they crossed the Yonggyap La in May, in pouring rain. After a descent from this pass, another pass, Pungpung La is to be crossed on the fourth day. Many Tibetans, their supplies running short, had perished after being caught in storms between these two passes.

Yonggyap La

We reached Anini, at the head of the Dibang valley, on 10th November, having travelled 445 km from Dibrugarh, via Chappakhowa, Roing, Hunli and Etalin. From Anini, we followed the Mathun valley at first and reached Mipi. Bailey had stayed a month at this village making friends with the Tibetans settled here. They guided him further. Following Bailey’s route, we reached Basam, a lovely place in thick forest.

As the party returned to the last camp, a freak and fierce storm engulfed the area. For next 5 days some members were snowed in without respite and there was heavy accumulation of snow, prohibiting any movement. It was dangerous and even impossible to find a way through thick bamboo growth and rickety log bridges. Rations were running low and soon the last of the chapattis were eaten. Four porters decided to desert and make a dash back risking their lives, a sure sign of the grim situation. There was imminent danger of starvation and being overcome by heavy snow.

The party was in contact with the army via wireless communication. Luckily on the 27th November there was a break in weather and clouds lifted for 6 hours. During this opening two Cheetah helicopters of the Indian Air Force rescued the trapped party and brought them back to Anini. It was a stunning display of flying in difficult conditions and narrow valley. The helis came prepared with skis to land and a winch to lift trekkers if required. Without this clearing in the weather and brave pilots, a disaster was waiting to happen. Four porters also returned in the next 3days.

Some members of the party also trekked in the adjoining Dri valley where again due to the storm they had to return early.