Major Prem Chand — Lahaul-Spiti’s ‘Snow Tiger’ : The Tribune India

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Major Prem Chand — Lahaul-Spiti’s ‘Snow Tiger’

Earnest Hemingway rightly said: “There are only three sports — bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering. The rest are merely games.”

Major Prem Chand — Lahaul-Spiti’s ‘Snow Tiger’

Major Prem Chand Dogra



Col Dilbag Dabas (Retd)

Earnest Hemingway rightly said: “There are only three sports — bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering. The rest are merely games.”

Major Prem Chand Dogra, son of Chhey Ram, was born on June 7, 1942, at Lindoor in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. He was commissioned into the 13th Battalion of the Dogra Infantry Regiment on May 3, 1964.

Lahaul and Spiti, situated at an average altitude of 14,000 feet across the Rohtang Pass in Himachal, is the fourth least-populous district in India. The inhabitants of the district are sturdy and born adventurous, since for them life itself is a daily adventure. The spirit of adventure came naturally to Prem Dogra. He only needed a platform to pursue it and for good cause. When he grew up, he found the most appropriate and an honourable platform to pursue his dream - the Indian Army. He studied hard and made himself eligible to be commissioned into the Indian Army and that, too, in the regiment closest to his clan.

Indian Army offers a variety of adventure activities, but mountaineering remains the main focus and not without reason, for in the Army, mountaineering is not just climbing peaks, but an integral part of mountain warfare. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) and High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) teach not just scaling peaks, but also surviving skills in high altitudes and uncongenial climate above 9,000 feet from the mean sea level. Expeditions are periodically conceived and planned by the Directorate General of Military Training (DGMT) at the Army Headquarters and executed under the overall aegis of the Army Adventure Cell of the Indian Army.

For Major Prem Chand, a Lahauli Dogra, mountaineering was, and is, an inseparable part of his DNA. He possessed the requisite aptitude, courage, skill and determination to pursue his passion. His mountaineering career started in 1970 with the climbing of Chomolhari, the highest peak in Bhutan. He climbed Nanda Devi in 1975 and its difficult neighbour Nanda Devi East in 1976 and he contributed the most in the Indian Army Expedition to scale the Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world.

The mountaineering exploits of Major (later Colonel) Prem Chand Dogra, did not go unnoticed. Prem Chand Dogra is fondly referred to as the 'Snow Tiger' and the Hero of Kanchenjunga, after he successfully scaled the world's third highest peak in May 1977. In June 1982, he led the Dogra Regimental Expedition to Nun Peak (23,410 feet). On January 26, 1985, Colonel Prem Dogra, KC, was awarded the Sena Medal for his primary role in the successful scaling of Mount Everest by the Indian Ladies Team. He was also awarded the Indian Mountaineering Foundation's (IMF) 'Gold Medal', the highest award of the IMF for his outstanding feat in the field of mountaineering.

A substantiial contribution to remember...

“In March 1977, he made substantial contribution to the Army's Kanchenjunga Expedition. For the expedition, Major Prem Chand Dogra was responsible for opening the advance camp, finding a way through icefall, opening a route to the first camp and also finding a way to establish the second camp. During this expedition, Havildar Sukhvinder Singh, a promising member of the team, lost his life in an accident. This adversely affected the morale of the team and the members dreaded climbing the North-East Ridge, which looked near impossible to scale. Major Prem Chand Dogra volunteered to climb and started work on the ridge. Taking many risks, he opened the route to a point just below the third camp. When the team got stuck due to innumerable technical difficulties in between the third and the fourth camp, he went back and opened the route on the most difficult portion of the ridge. This enabled the team to inch forward. Major Prem Chand Dogra was selected leader of the first summit party. His timely decision was crucial for building up the logistical support for the first summit party. He showed great courage, skill and determination in leading the team to the summit. He climbed 600 metre on the last lap, a remarkable feat in the annals of Himalayan mountaineering. In this expedition, Major Prem Chand Dogra displayed exemplary leadership, conspicuous courage and determination for which he was awarded the Kirti Chakra”

(The writer is a veteran Gunner, 6 Field Regiment)

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