For the first time in 11 years, a team of Indian Navy mountaineers has successfully scaled a peak over 7,000 metres high. The eight-member team, which exclusively comprised Eastern Naval Command (ENC) staff and also for the first time a lady officer, scaled the 7077-meter-high Mount Kun in the Zanskar region of Jammu and Kashmir in September this year, making it the second highest summit to be scaled by Indian Navy’s mountaineers after Mount Everest in 2004. The feat officially concluded with the flag-in ceremony on Monday, October 19, 2015.This technically challenging expedition was conducted by ENC to commemorate the golden jubilee year of India’s first summiting of Mount Everest on May 20, 1965, by a team of nine led by Captain MS Kohli from the Indian Navy.ENC’s team of eight consisted of navy men of various ranks and ages, ranging from 23 to 37 years. While 37-year-old Chief Petty Officer (medical) Dr Vikas Kumar is an experienced mountaineer who has climbed Mount Everest in 2004 and made it to the North and South Pole in 2006 and 2008, respectively, there were two young first timers – sailors J S Maitei and A S Rana.There were also other experienced mountaineers like Mahesh Kumar, Lt Yogesh Tiwari and team leader Lt Commander Karthikeyan Sundaram. The lady officer Lt Nidhi Taneja, however, is pretty new to the mountains, except for a basic course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling.The team from Vizag reached the summit on September 10, 2015, at 8.20 am after a 15-day climb from the first camp and a six-hour climb from the summit camp (6,350 metres).”Since I couldn’t summit any peak during my basic training at HMI due to the Nepal earthquake, I wanted to have a feel of what it is to summit a real peak and volunteered when I learnt about this expedition,” says Lt Nidhi, who reached 6,350 metres (summit camp) but couldn’t make the summit due to adverse weather.For Lt Yogesh, deputy leader of the expedition, Mt Kun was special it is the highest peak he has scaled till date. “The tough and technical route tested our skills and fortitude but the feeling of triumph atop 7077 metres was unmatched. In 2015, within four months, I successfully climbed three peaks — Mount Saifee (6167m), Mount Stok Kangri (6108m) and Mount Kun 7077 m,” said a jubilant Lt Yogesh, who climbed mount Bhagirathi II (6512 m) at the age of 13.So how did it feel at the very top? “It felt pretty cold at minus 40 degree Celsius and winds blowing at speeds of around 40-50 knots. The actual elation set in when we returned to the summit camp,” said Lt Kukreti. Lt Yogesh said coming down was tougher than climbing up. “We needed to keep calm. While ascending, it was dark and we didn’t see a knife ridge of one-two feet on either side, which we realised while descending. Sunrays also make the snow melt, making it more slippery while coming down.”Talking about the memorable moments, Lt Cdr Karthikeyan said, “We actually go on expeditions to collect stories and memories. As a trophy I brought back frost-bitten fingers that have lost sensation. I took off my gloves to erect the national flag atop Mt Kun and forgot to put them back on. Nidhi went ‘missing’ for three hours on the way to the summit camp frightening the team no end.”What about future plans? “Mount Everest is next on our target in 2017 but as the Everest team needs to gain experience, two more pre-Everest expeditions will take place in 2016,” said Lt Cdr Karthikeyan.