NEW DELHI, June 9 (PTI): The ‘Soul of Steel’, a mega high-altitude endurance challenge rolled out by a group of special forces veterans and the army in Garhwal Himalayan region in January, has entered its final phase after months of gruelling sessions on jungle and mountain survival skills, rockcraft and navigation.
The first-of-its-kind initiative, aimed at promoting adventure sports in glaciated terrains and to complement the Centre’s ‘vibrant villages’, was launched by defence minister Rajnath Singh on January 14.
The final phase of the ‘Soul of Steel’ was flagged off by brigadier Aman Anand, the Commander of 9 (Independent) Mountain Brigade Group on Thursday in Auli and it was attended by school students, youths from local villages and officers and soldiers from the Indian Army, officials said.
“SoulofSteel Himalayan Challenge, joint initiative by Indian Army and CLAW Global, was flagged off from Auli, Uttarakhand. The three months long Skill and Endurance Challenge will culminate on 18 Jun,” the Army’s Uttar Bharat tweeted.
The CLAW (Conquer Land Air Water) is a group of special forces veterans.
The ‘vibrant villages’ scheme seeks to develop remote border villages in the country by promoting adventure tourism and arresting migration through revenue and employment generation while fostering the spirit of adventure amongst the youths.
The final phase of the ‘Soul of Steel’ began after two-and-half months of gruelling training on ice climbing, glacier negotiation, snow shelters, jungle and mountain survival skills, rockcraft, navigation and search and rescue operations, officials said.
The challenge attracted interest from 1,401 highly skilled athletes, adventure sports enthusiasts and armed forces aspirants, including 94 women.
These applicants were put through a gruelling two-stage screening process that tested their mountaineering and endurance skills. Only 23, including two women, were finally selected to undergo a 10-week-long extensive training under the joint team of experts from Indian Armed Forces and CLAW Global.
“The final phase of the event will be held from June 10 to 17 in which the 23 competitors will set out on a challenge to compete as teams along the rugged mountainous terrain of the Garhwal Himalayas, at an altitude of 17,000 feet,” said one of the officials.
“They will be required to cover a distance of 65 kilometers through glaciers, ice walls, rock faces and snow-capped Himalayan peaks. The challenge will test their self-sustained mountain climbing, survival and navigation skills, psychological endurance and physical toughness,” the official added.
Brigadier Anand also awarded certificates to all the participants on the completion of the training.
The ‘Soul of Steel’ challenge is an evolutionary merger of the best of learning and experiences from military-style high-altitude operations and the Himalayan adventure sports, said an organiser.
“It is a blend of specialised self-sustained mountain climbing skills, survival training, expedition planning, psychological endurance and physical toughness,” he said.
The closing ceremony of this event is planned on June 18 at Gamshali, Uttarakhand, post the culmination of the final phase of the challenge.