What happened to nova iter’22 expedition?
Group of Writers
“Forty Four climbers were commanded by a Professor-a veteran Mountaineer to the highest mountain in Nagaland on 17th of March, 2022. How it happened? What was the motivation? Mt Saramati has already been climbed for more than thousand times, then why people in Nagaland and outside have been talking about these Forty Four people and their Commander? Why NOVA ITER’22 EXPEDITION should be placed in the history of Mountaineering in India? What is so special about these people and what EXACTLY they did”?
The story of NOVA ITER’22 began while WE- Dr Aniruddha Babar, Moamlemla Longchar, Vekhrope Koza, Tumchobemo Kithan, Chandrasingh Limbu and Fuloka were climbing down Mt Japfu after successful midnight summit. Thought of climbing Mt Saramati was born somewhere on the steep slopes of Mt. Japfu in the fertile brain of our friend and Commander Dr Aniruddha Babar. This led us to discuss the possibility of attempting Mt Saramati during winter with our friend and a guide Fuloka, a student of Japfu Christian College.
The real discussion on Mt Saramati Expedition started to take place among the executives and Founder of Tetso Mountaineering Club somewhere around a last week of November 2021, right after successful summit of Mt Japfu. We gathered as usual in one of the corners of empty class room and began our discussion which lasted for more than an hour. The topic of discussion was not just about climbing Mt Saramati but how to climb it. That was a moment when we unanimously decided that we will develop a unique approach to Mt Saramati Peak by avoiding or completely bypassing the conventional route that goes all the way up from Thanamir village.
The decision was not random. The decision was based on an age old saying that “There are multiple routes exist to reach the top of the Mountain”. As Dr Aniruddha who himself is a veteran Mountaineer and Explorer said once, “The real glory of Mountaineering Expedition lies NOT in scaling the Peak from regular, conventional route which has been traded by millions of footprints but attempting an assault on the Peak through unconventional, virgin, invisible, unimaginable, non-existent route”. His words became the “Expedition Doctrine”.
The President of Tetso Mountaineering Club; Tumchobemo Kithan, Vice President; Vekhrope Koza and Secretary General; Moalemla Longchar- all experienced climbers decided to bring the vision of climbing Mt. Saramati through an unconventional route into reality. A primary research was initiated with the help of Google Maps and Satellite images of the targeted areas which divided into ‘sectors’. Weather Reports in the region were studied. Bearings of the targeted areas were discovered and recorded.
Finally two sectors were zeroed in- that is – Mimi sector and Khongjiri sector and the hypothesis was drawn that the routes to Mt Saramati likely to be possible through these sectors. Necessary orders were issued to Navigation Platoon Commanded by Rongseninla Jamir to submit detailed report. With this hypothesis we called a meeting of members of Tetso Mountaineering Club and presented our ‘Hypothesis’ in a detailed form. The members also approved our idea and finally we decided to take it up before general public of Tetso College that is our student community.
A Brochure was prepared to give a call for selection of members for NOVA ITER”22 Expedition. The care was taken to properly reflect and advertise the objectives of Expedition that is to explore, study and document the new route to the top of the highest mountain in Nagaland and attempt to reach to the top through the same and climb down through another (i.e. Fakim Village) route. Our detailed research has shown us that the attempt that we were trying to make was going to be unique as such attempt has never been made before. We received record response to our advertisement and finally 54 people have been selected for early morning training activities out of which 45 made to the final Expedition Team.
The training was scheduled on the lines of a strict Military discipline. The selected team divided into four Ropes that is Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta; each having one Rope Commander. We formed Navigation Platoon headed by a Navigation Commander, Guards Platoon headed by Guards Commander and also formed an office of Quartermaster. All the Platoons and Ropes were put under the supreme command of Expedition Directorate headed by Expedition Commander assisted by an Adjutant. Finally, a TMC station command led by Station Commander was also set up to communicate on behalf and in absence of us with families of expedition members, College authorities and the media. Also, the Liasoning Squad was formed to deal with local public, Thanamir & Khongjiri villages, other technical requirements and formalities. We were all ready.
Soon we figured out that exploratory expedition of such a kind will need heavy logistical support. Being a Mountaineering Team of a college, we had our basic well recognized limitations. While exploring possibilities we decided to reach out to the Rangapahar Military Station through our local Tetso College NCC channel. It is to be noted that we have received good number of male and female participants from Army Wing of National Cadet Corps of Tetso College who gradually became very helpful in our liaisoning with RMS. Officers at the RMS were cooperative and helpful who immediately understood our Expedition Plan and basic requirements. As a result of their good gesture we were offered fifteen tents, handmade Map of the terrain, basic guidance and other logistical support like food, water, medical support en route.
We made sure that each and every member of the Expedition be made well acquainted with the actual aims and objectives of Expedition. It was made sure to make each member understand the hazards and dangers involved in the entire course of expedition. Moreover, the medical fitness forms (signed by MBBS Medical Practitioner) and consent forms (Signed by Parents/Guardians) have also been taken from the participants of NOVA ITER”22 EXPEDITION. We, the Executive Members personally contacted parents/guardians of each and every member of expedition to make sure no foul play has been involved in the matter of “FREE CONSENT”.
The plan was absolutely foolproof, however, as experienced Mountaineers we acknowledged the fact that no matter how good the plan is- it will never work in the hostile environment and war like situations in the Mountains especially when you are setting for an unexplored, unknown terrain. We made our ROPES well aware about this fact in following words- “IN MOUNTAINS EVERYTHING IS BOUND TO GO WRONG, ONLY YOUR DISCIPLINE, DETERMINATION, PATIENCE, COURAGE AND UNCONDITIONAL TRUST IN YOUR LEADERS WILL SAVE YOU.”
On March 11 2022 at 12 p.m. first team and on March 12 at 12 p.m. second Team left Dimapur in NST Bus. The departure ceremony was held at Tetso College Auditorium on March 11 with Colonel Md Raza Israil, Sena Medal, Commandat, 5 Assam Rifles as the special guest. Also, a special prayer and blessings for the departing teams was invoked by Subedar K Kamei, Unit Pastor, 164 Naga TA. Finally with the encouragement from Director of Tetso College Kvulo Lorin, we all left for the journey into the unknown.
As we reached Khongjiri we realized that despite constructive support from Khongjiri Village the things that we planned are not going to turn out as we imagined. Despite positive assistance of Khongjiri Village Council for NOVA ITER”22 expedition, due to surprising, unforeseen, unavoidable circumstances further marred by strange political undercurrents involving Thanamir and Khongjiri Village, Expedition Leadership was ‘FORCED’ to retreat and reach Thanamir Village to climb from regular route. Our ‘forced’ retreat defeated the primary objectives of Expedition- 1. We failed to trace and document the new (but already existing) route 2. We failed to climb to the Border Pillar No. 138 i.e. top of Mt. Saramati through a new (but already existing) route 3. We failed to climb up from Khongjiri through Border Pillar No 136, 137 to 138 and climb down from Pillar No. 138 through Fakim Village Route.
Sudden change of circumstances brought Expedition leadership under severe criticism. Initial restlessness among Rope Members turned into Mutiny against their Commanders. Some of the Expedition members launched merciless attacks of accusations on the helpless Commanders without having any knowledge about real facts. The situation got cleared once the village council members of Khongjiri came to meet all of us on the evening of our departure to Thanamir and declared during discussion that “Leaders, Commanders and Liasoning Squad of Expedition were not at FAULT nor they failed in their duties and Khongjiri Village will always be there to support modern ideas and visions in the best interest of the people not only just in the Khongjiri Village but also in the entire region”. All misunderstandings among the Expedition Team members cleared, we moved ahead with full JOSH and renewed TEAM SPIRIT.
However, our journey from Khongjiri to Thanamir was not destined to be smooth. First Vehicle met with an accident around 2.00 HRS. All passengers were safe and sound. The situation was professionally handled by the Officer from Nagaland Police who came running with his Jawans from Pungro at a call from our Expedition Commander Dr Aniruddha Babar.
Battling all odds NOVA ITER”22 Expedition finally reached Mt. Saramati with the Tricolour Flag of our Nation, TMC Banner and Flag of Tetso College.
NOVA ITER”22 EXPEDITION FAILED. We did not achieve what we planned for. Merely reaching on top of Mt. Saramati through an easy, garden route of Thanamir did not serve the purpose of Expedition. Tetso Mountaineering Club did not have any ego mongering desire to reach on top, click pictures and get famous. We Are Different!
Who knows, our vision, our attempt, our ideas were miscommunicated and wrongly interpreted by those who opposed us. We were not there to claim Mt. Saramati. How can we claim a Mountain which is our GOD’s beautiful creation for entire humanity? We were there at Khongjiri just to fall in love with what our heavenly Father gifted us. However, we were deprived of it. We failed NOT because of natural calamity or deadly circumstances, but because of the ‘Ignorance, Insecurities, Narrow mindedness and sheer Blindness of Man’.
Many will not believe our story. Many will ask for evidences which we will readily provide. Many will keep on criticizing Commanders and Expedition officials. Many will even laugh at us. However, it was our Indian Army that remained with us throughout our struggles and pains which witnessed what we actually went through.
We have nothing much to say now, but we believe, more Expeditions in the future will surely come in-search of new routes to Mt. Saramati, and they will find our footprints there. We left Khongjiri with a determination to surely come back; HOWEVER, our hearts and our footprints will remain there telling the story of valor and determination of Forty Four Climbers and their stubborn, brave Commander Dr. Aniruddha Babar to the generations to come.
Writers - Tumchobemo Y Kithan (President, Tetso Mountaineering Club), Vekhrope Koza (Vice President, Tetso Mountaineering Club) and Moalemla Longchar (Secretary General, Tetso Mountaineering Club).
Vetted by Kekong T (Rope Commander & Liasoning Officer, Nova Iter”22 Expedition), Rongseninla Jamir (Navigation Commander Nova Iter”22 Expedition)
March 27 2022