Home / Features / C.L.A.W Operation Blue Freedom – Success on Siachen

 

Team C.L.A.W Global and eight people with disabilities, with help from the Indian Army, make history by climbing the Siachen Glacier and reaching Kumar Post at an altitude of 15,632 feet

C.L.A.W Land World Record

Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Team C.L.A.W (CeeJay and Deepak Singh)

‘True freedom is a collective experience. Either we all have it or none of us do’ – C.L.A.W Global

What a powerful combination of words. It may have been one of the things that ran through Major Vivek Jacob’s mind when he decided to establish C.L.A.W (Conquer Land Air Water) Global. The major and his team of ex-special forces operators now constitute team C.L.A.W Global aand they have been making the impossible possible for PWDs (people with disabilities).

C.L.A.W Land World Record

At the flag-off

Now fast forward to an August evening in Leh and I found myself engaged in conversation with Major Jacob himself. At the end of that talk, I was fully convinced that many things that most of us perceive as inevitable are just illusions. Veils of responsibility, the quest for a secure future, and the endless marathon involving acquisition of worldly possessions hinder some of us from experiencing true freedom. Particularly so for the PWDs. They are often deprived of the chance to perform to their full potential on account of their disabilities being cited every now and then. This mindset has to change. They must be free to do what they are capable of and be given opportunities to contribute to the society in full capacity. What better way of making this statement than setting three world records? Yes, the men and women at C.L.A.W Global aim big. That is where Operation Blue Freedom comes in; a series of three world records aimed at tearing through the fabric of what we perceive as human potential.

C.L.A.W Land World Record

The first of these was the land world record and the mission was to scale the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield, with a group of PWDs and prove beyond doubt the extraordinary potential of human willpower and resourcefulness. With 20 PWDs, the event was flagged off from Delhi on Independence Day by Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Dr Virendra Kumar. Mahindra Adventure stepped in as a sponsor and supplied the crew with 10 sturdy, touring-ready cars (slightly modified Scorpios and the new Thars). Mobil India also put their best foot forward and whole-heartedly supported this endeavour.

C.L.A.W Land World Record

The team drove through the mountains and some stunning scenery, egged on by the support of the locals. On the way, they had to undergo multiple rounds of training and acclimatization to prepare themselves for the challenge that lay ahead. During those periods of training, I got a chance to meet the participants. They hailed from all over India and each one had their own story; of lives that meandered through difficulty and achievement. Some were above-knee amputees, some were completely blind, and some had lost an arm or two, but the one thing they had in common was an indomitable spirit that they drew from a seemingly endless reserve of willpower. They strictly adhered to the training schedules and went at it day after day, each one determined to scale the Siachen Glacier.

C.L.A.W Land World Record

Good ol’ roadtrip

In fact, the only days off were the ones we spent on the road, motoring across the vast and beautiful scenery of Ladakh as we headed towards the Siachen Base Camp (SBS). The Mahindra cars lived up to their touring and off-road credentials well. They tackled the region’s amazing zigzag roads and the off-road sections equally well. After switching to Mobil oil in the Scorpio I was driving, the car’s engine was noticeably smoother, as were the gear-shifts, and it set the tone for a wonderful drive all the way to the SBS. Far away from the traffic jams and errant motorists of the city, Ladakh’s roads (and sometimes, the lack of them) were overland paradise and our convoy snaked through mountains that resembled sleeping giants and shot across plains that stretched away as far as the eye could see. Through heat and cold, the cars performed well, as did Mobil’s magical engine oil and we did not have a single breakdown along the way.

C.L.A.W Land World Record

Physical and mental fitness were key for this expedition

With the medicals done, we were finally inducted into the SBS where the Indian Army played the role of a generous host during our stay. In those days, the PWDs trained alongside the Indian soldiers at times. Watching them train I could not help but notice a similarity in their missions. While the soldiers were being trained to defend the country’s sovereignty, the task at hand for the PWDs was to help everyone realize their freedom.

At this point, C.L.A.W Global had to make their toughest decision yet and it may just have been more difficult than the record attempt. Although each participant was a fighter and willing to scale the Glacier in the face of all odds, it is a four-day, high-altitude climb where each day’s route must be completed within a certain time-frame, failing which the participants will have to face the vagaries of the weather, often with fatal consequences. To assess and evaluate how many participants were capable of meeting those conditions, we embarked on a six-kilometre trek over the moraine that lay before the glacier. The loose terrain and altitude were challenging enough for me but it was almost hell for some of the amputees who struggled to keep the pace. At the end of the trek, team C.L.A.W had to make a choice based on the participants’ speed and fatigue level. Nine were selected to do the climb and the party set off on 7 September 2021 from the Siachen Base Camp.

C.L.A.W Land World Record

The final team to scale the glacier

Over the next four days, the participants and team C.L.A.W scaled the glacier. Each day, they halted at one of the camps en route to Kumar Post and, on 11 September 2021, they made it. After braving the weather and the extreme conditions, eight PWDs reached Kumar Post, having scaled an altitude of 15,632 feet. History was made and in such a resounding fashion that it would not be forgotten any time soon. What many may have thought impossible for 100 per cent blind people and amputees had been achieved, proving without doubt that PWDs are only limited by the support system around them. With small accommodations here and there, they are just as resourceful as any of us and, after this expedition, I can say for a fact that they are simply more determined.

C.L.A.W Land World Record

While we celebrate this success, team C.L.A.W Global have already withdrawn to the drawing board because there are two more world records to be set; one in the water and another in the air. With C.L.A.W’s planning and support and, of course, the participants’ sheer grit, those look like they are already in the bag too.

  • C.L.A.W Land World Record

‘Your freedom is your responsibility, my friend’

— Major Vivek Jacob, founder, C.L.A.W Global

 

About the author: Joshua Varghese

 

Would gape at fast cars. Still does but now has a chance to drive some of them. Hates driving in traffic but makes up for with a spot of off-roading or the occasional track outing. Insta: @motoknight

 

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