Day seven after trekker Richard Joseph Kher, 28, a resident of Wadala, fell into a gorge while scaling the 17,000 feet-high Castle Peak in Miyar Valley of Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh, Sunday mid-day spoke to Jagat Thakur, senior instructor from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali, who is heading the search and rescue operation. On August 29, Kher had fallen down a cliff on the Miyar-Jaskal track, nearly 30 kms ahead of the last inhabited village Khanjar.
Thakur’s four-member team was all set to return to Manali after unsuccessfully trying to reach Kher in hostile terrain with no mobile signals.
Although they had managed to locate Kher, they failed to descend to the spot where he lay without the help of specialized drilling tools and extensions boards only available with the Army.
Thakur said two vertical cliffs separated by uneven and dangerous terrain stood between them and Kher. Two probable reasons for the accident include Kher and his friend compromising on safety during descent at 6.30 pm, in fading sunlight and temperatures that dip below zero. The second could be acute exertion.
“Soon after the accident, Richard’s friend Sunny took the brave decision to rappel down to assist him, but by error of judgment, he removed the overhead ropes that would have given us easier access to the accident spot. The Army will now have to open a fresh route to reach the spot,” he said. Dr Amit Guleria, sub-divisional magistrate, Udaipur Distt Lahoul & Spiti (HP), who is overseeing the operations, informed that an Army helicopter had been deployed but the search proved futile. They were considering other options, but that could take another 24 hours to yield results.
Kher’s parents, Judith and Brij Kher, who are in Udaipur for the last two days, are hoping against hope to see their son alive.