IAF chopper rescues German climber from Himalayas KOLKATA: The Indian Air Force rescued German climber Dr Steger Helmut Otto from a camp on the slopes of Mt Nun on Sunday. At 7,135 metres, Mt Nun is one of the highest peaks in the Ladakh region. Otto was part of a team of Swiss and German climbers attempting to summit the peak. On Saturday evening, the Leh based 'Siachen Pioneers' received a request for casualty evacuation from the mountaineers. The team feared that it had lost two of its guides in an avalanche. One of the mountaineers was also gravely injured, just a few feet away from the summit. The information available was extremely sketchy though. "The Commanding Officer immediately called for the most experienced air crew available and asked it to start planning. This was extremely difficult when data available was limited. Considering the high altitude, high temperatures, treacherous terrain and non-availability of exact location, altitude and the prevailing cloudy weather condition, to evacuate a casualty that could be anywhere between 23000 feet and 19000 feet, is an onerous task," an officer said. The high level of uncertainties give rise to that many more possibilities and contingencies. On reaching the area while flying the machine at the same time, decisions have to be taken in the nick of time. With not enough time left before sunset, a decision was taken to launch the rescue effort at sunrise on Sunday. A two-helicopter rescue team got airborne at 5.45 am. The rescue team was led by CO Wg Cdr UKS Bhadauria himself and included Wg Cdr P S Babu, Wg Cdr A S Rajput and Sqn Ldr A K Bharmoria. Expecting the elevations to be in excess of 21000 feet, the helicopters reached the expedition site area. The team soon realized that coordinates provided were grossly out from the actual location. This is a common error in rescue missions for a number of understandable reasons. Not sure of the position of casualty and deteriorating weather in the area, left only a small window of time for rescue before onset of full 'Whiteout' conditions where it's like flying inside a ping-pong ball with no external cues for the pilots. This would force abandoning of mission. "Here, experience of the aircrew came in handy. The helicopters first started combing the peak from top for picking up the avalanche site at 23000 feet, which is the extreme limit of their 'Aircraft Flight Envelope'. Thereafter, they flew downwards till they made contact with the foot tracks left by the mountaineers on the surface of the snow. The helicopter formation picked up the location of the casualty at one of the camps by following the snow trail and proceeded for landing at that the camp site. This called for Wg Cdr Bhadauria to put to fore his extensive flying experience in manoeuvring the aircraft so as to carry out the landing at 19000 feet on an unprepared and snow covered surface. In the meanwhile, the second helicopter, captained by Wg Cdr Rajput maintained a close vigil from the top. He continued orbiting overhead and monitored the situation, to ensure the safety of both the casualty and the machine. After picking up the casualty who had survived a fall of approximately 300 feet at the summit and was stuck on his fixed rope with a few broken ribs and head injury, the formation set course and landed back at Leh at 8.45 am," the officer added. Continuing with the Unit tradition, the "Siachen Pioneers" crew displayed highest level of professionalism, courage daring without fearing for their own safety, leading to successful completion of the mercy mission which was more than evident from the convincing smile on Dr Otto face. When the team of two helicopters was daring the uncharted valleys, Air Cmde S P Wagle, Air Officer Commanding, AFS Leh, ensured that all necessary services worked in sync towards successful execution of this mission. "Once again Air Force Station Leh and "Siachen Pioneers" lived up to their motto - "WE DO THE DIFFICULT AS A ROUTINE, THE IMPOSSIBLE (MAY) TAKE A BIT LONGER". ".......... Well this one was quite close to the impossible of our motto.....", the CO remarked when contacted after the mission.