15 Things to Know About Traveling to Siachen Base Camp

by Neeraj Sinha

Siachen Base Camp (SBC for short), has been on the bucket list of all ardent Ladakh lovers – mostly because it was very difficult to get permission to visit. The usual ILP (or Inner Line Permit for Indian Citizens) allowed one to visit till Sasoma (and later Warshi), but getting beyond that was entirely on the permission of army and very few people have been able to make it. In this article, we talk about 15 things you must know about travel to Siachen Base Camp!

To Travel to Siachen Base Camp, one had the following options:

  1. Be part of the army’s annual Siachin Trekking Expedition.
  2. Having connections in the army
  3. Camping and canvassing at either Leh, or preferably Partapur (ahead of Hunder)
  4. Simply trying your luck at Sasoma / Warshi – at times they’d allow solo travelers to go.

However, an announcement yesterday by Hon. Defense Minister Shri Rajnath Singh will change all this:

He has announced that now civilians would be able to go to not only SBC, but further up to Kumar Post. While there would be pros and cons of the decision and social media will create groups supporting and opposing the idea, let’s get to some basic facts.

1. What is Siachen?

Siachen is a Glacier in the Karakoram range of Northern Himalayas, just near the LoC with Pakistan. It’s highest point is at Indira Col at an altitude of 5753 meters and it’s tail is at an altitude of 3620 meters which forms the source of Nubra river.
Siachen Glacier has strategic importance as it also lies very close to China border. Indian army created it’s outposts on the peak and surrounding passes during April 1984 and since then it is also known as the Highest Battle Field in the world.

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2. What is Siachen Base Camp?

Siachen Base Camp or SBC is an army camp near the tail of the Glacier at an altitude of 3,658 meters. This is the last point up to which a driveable road is present. Further up is a 60 km trek to the Indira Col.

3. Is Siachen Base Camp different than OP Baba Shrine?

On Google Maps, you can see a road going through Sumur, Panamik and terminating right at the OP Baba Shrine. OP Baba Shrine is within the Siachen Base Camp area itself.

4. Is Siachen Base Camp the same as Pratapput / Partapur army area?

No. Partapur is the first base where the regiment planning to go to Siachen posting arrives. They acclimatize here for 3 months before they are sent to Siachen Base Camp. Further 3 months later only they are sent to various posts at Siachen Glacier. This is for gradual acclimatization to the altitude. The posting for a regiment on the Siachen Glacier is only for 3 months.

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5. What is Kumar Post?

Kumar Post is an intermediate army post on way to Indira col from SBC, named after Colonel Narinder “Bull” Kumar who captured the Siachen Glacier during Operation Meghdoot. Due to the altitude and rarefied oxygen presence, soldiers and porters going up to Indira col trek up only for 2 hours a day and rest for remaining period to recover from the exhaustion. Kumar Post is at an altitude of approx 4572 meters.

6. Where can I get ILP (Inner Line Permit) or permits to visit Siachen Base Camp?

Although, the announcement has just been made, the modalities will have to be worked out between Civil Administration and Army. Most likely, you would be able to apply for it as part of usual ILP (Inner Line Permit) process. Since the army will have a major say in this, the number of people allowed to visit the glacier will be strictly regulated. The army will do a background check of all applicants, evaluate their medical condition and then decide who is fit enough to deal with the extremities of the glacier. There is a strong possibility that permits could be given out to private tour groups and mountaineers.

7. Do I need to trek to reach Siachen Base Camp (SBC)?

There is an all weather motorable road from Leh to Siachen Base Camp (via Khardung La), so there is no need to trek to reach Siachen Base Camp. Yes, to reach Kumar Post, you will need to trek.

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8. What health considerations do I need to keep in mind to reach SBC?

The base camp of the glacier is located at 11,000 feet. Kumar Post, which will be open to tourists, is at 15,000 feet. At such an altitude, the oxygen is very rare and it needs a trek as well. It surely is not for those with weak lungs or don’t have prior trekking practice or experience. Even battle hardened soldiers fall to frostbites and high-altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness, so tourists will of course have to be physically fit. The army may even dictate some basic training in mountaineering and acclimatization will be mandated.

As a request from all of us at ScoutMyTrip, we implore readers to not fall prey to the 2N/3D packages for the Siachen Base Camp which will soon mushroom from travel agents across India. 

9. Can I stay at Siachen Base Camp for night?

While night stay isn’t available, we can say from experience that the army people are very helpful and in case of an emergency situation, they’d extend all help to make sure you get something over your head for the night. However, please note that this is not a fancy area and food, clothing (basically everything) that you consume is meant for the army and comes at a heavy cost. Try to avoid such scenario.

Ideally, stay at Panamik where there are stay options available and make a day visit to Siachen Base Camp.

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10. Is photography allowed?

Photography is strictly forbidden at Siachen Base Camp, except for the OP Baba Shrine and the signboard that announces Siachen Base Camp and it’s altitude. In any case, this is a sensitive military area and you should not click and post pictures on public sites.

11. Where is Siachen Base Camp and How to reach Siachen Base Camp?

From Leh, once you cross Khardung La and go ahead of Khalsar, the road splits into two. The left fork goes towards Deskit & Hunder and further to Turtuk / Tyakashi / Thang, while the the road towards the right goes to Sumur & Panamik. This is the road that you need to take. Pass by Sumur-Panamik-Sasoma-Warshi to arrive at SBC.

Route to Siachen Base Camp. Travel to Siachen Base Camp

Route to Siachen Base Camp

12. How far is Siachen Base Camp from Leh?

The total distance from Leh town is approximately 200 kilometers and should take 8-9 hours to reach.

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13. What is the Ladakh itinerary with Siachen Base Camp (SBC) ?

It’s going to add a couple of days to the overall Ladakh itinerary; and the base would be Panamik where stays are also available. Here is the complete Ladakh circuit with Siachen Base Camp. Panamik to Siachen Base Camp would be around 65kms which is a drive and back the same day. However, if you want to go to Kumar Post, it would add easily add 7-10 days because it is a very difficult trek and not advisable without training.

Travel to Siachen Base Camp. Siachen Base Camp

14. How will this affect the environment and ecological balance at SBC?

The thermal footprint of soldiers on either side (India and Pakistan) is already causing the glacier to melt. There is also the issue of garbage. It has taken the army close to 1 year and 6 months to clean up Siachen Base Camp by removing 130 tonnes of waste. But the army generates around 236 tonnes of waste every year, and with tourists it will only worsen. Going by our past record as tourists, we are least considerate of this fact. A reason attributed to Ladakh becoming the highest dumping ground of waste in the world.

We would like everyone planning a trip to SBC to remember – do you want the army to clean up after your garbage, or do you want them to protect our borders?

15. Who can plan a trip for me to the Siachen Base Camp?

To go to place like Siachen Base Camp, one needs all the advice one can get. Which is why, ScoutMyTrip has large and curated directory of travel experts you can hire for your trip to Siachen Base Camp, Ladakh, Spiti and other mountainous regions in India. Hire a Scout today to plan your trip to Siachen Base Camp and use the promo code ‘BLOG20’ for a 20% off at the time of checkout!

 

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