A 57-member second batch of Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrims was airlifted early today by IAF helicopters from Naini Saini airstrip here to Gunji base camp to avoid weather-related risks along the treacherous trek route. Four IAF choppers ferried the 57 pilgrims to Gunji at around 7 am this morning, Pithoragarh District Magistrate C Ravishankar said.
Though the trek route from Lakhanpur to Gunji is alright, pilgrims were airlifted to avoid weather-related risks and also because it would save them some time which they could use to enjoy the homestay facilities at Nabhi and other high altitude villages, he said. It is a hard 18-km steep trek from Lakhanpur to Gunji. The second batch of pilgrims had reached Pithoragarh Tourist Rest Centre of Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN), the nodal agency for the Yatra via Almora last evening, the official said.
“The airlift is meant to facilitate home stay for pilgrims in high altitude villages on the route and avoid hard trek for the pilgrims” said KMVN GM T S Martolia. SDM Dharchula said the trek route to Gunji from Lakhanpur is in good shape and the villagers and defence personnel are using it to reach Gunji.
“However, in high altitudes the risk of landslides at this time of the year is always there especially along a 670 metre sensitive stretch between Lakhanpur and Nazang,” SDM Dharchula R K Pandey said.