Originally known as Saicher Gharni, legend has that a small Yarkandi village existed at the entrance of the Teram Shehr glacier where Yarkandis would meet the Baltis. Once Yarkandis descended the Ghyari nala and took away a Balti woman with them to their glacier village.
Baltis contacted a cleric who gave them a tawiz (amulet) for placing on the Bilafond la. Against cleric’s instruction of returning via the Nubra valley, the Baltis, after placing the tawiz on the pass returned the way they had come. A storm visited the glacier and destroyed the settlements but spared the wild roses. This gave glacier its name Siachen (Sia-rose, chen-place of), the place of roses. Today roses grow in plenty near the snout and in the lower valleys.
The glacier lying in the East Korakoram range is one of the longest glaciers in the Himalayas. It is 77 km-long and 3 km-wide and envisages a number of peaks, side valleys as its head lies the Indira Col that divides South and Central Asia. The Nubra river drains the glacier and ultimately joins the Shyok river- a tributary of the Indus River – near Khalsar.
British explorer William Moorcroft reports existence of Siachen Glacier.
American team of Fanny Bullock Workman and her husband, William surveys it for the first time. They found walls of a settlement near Teram Shehr glacier.
July 27, 1949
After prolonged fighting over Kashmir, India and Pakistan entered into UN assisted Karachi Agreement. It demarcated the cease-fire line in J&K but stopped at a point NJ 9842 as both sides agreed the line would be understood to extend “thence north to the glaciers.” the line that later became the LoC was not delineated beyond this point after the two armies restored status quo ante after the 1971 war.
Post Sino-Indian conflict, U.S. Defense Mapping Agency DMA) publishes a Tactical Pilotage Chart (TPC) – being used by pilots – that connected NJ9842 to Karakoram Pass by a line indicating the glacier was part of Pakistan. It is reproduced globally for the use of mountaineers.
Pakistan opened the region for foreign expeditions to Baltoro Glacier, near K2, and to explore the no-man’s-land around the Siachen. By 1981 at least 16 major expeditions climbed up to the Siachen and beyond—11 from Japan, three from Austria, and one each from UK and USA.
Colonel Narinder Kumar, an ace mountaineer who handled logistics for India’s first successful expedition to Everest in 1965 is approached by a German rafter keen to undertake the first descent of the Nubra River from its source at the snout of the glacier. He shows a map that depicts Siachen to be part of Pakistan.
Col Kumar takes his findings – map alongwith the travelogue of a western climber to Lt Gen M L Chibber, India’s DGMO. Kumar leads a team of 40 climbers and 30 porters on a reconnaissance expedition to the Siachen, returns from 24,297-foot Teram Kangri II and traced “labels from tin cans and cigarette packs with Pakistani names, alongwith German and Japanese equipment”.
Col Kumar leads a 70-member team and completed a snout-to-source traverse of the glacier in eight weeks. He published his travelogue in the Illustrated Weekly of India.
Military expeditions from both the sides scan the glacier.
With Chibber leading the Northern Command, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered company strength of 4-Kumaon to go uphill to the Sia La (6160m) and the Biafond La (5550 m) on April 13, 1984. Named `Operation Meghdoot’, Delhi said it was pre-emptive operation following cartographic aggression. On April 17, two Pakistani helicopters were sent out for reconnaissance and fired upon. Colonel Muhammad Farooq Altaf, who piloted one of the two choppers, tells American journalist Kevin Fedarko in 2004 that “They (India) beat us by one week”.
In February Pakistanis attacked Bilafond La but failed to dislodge India. Peak by peak, the two sides ascended the heights only to be face to face at 22,000 feet.
December 17, 1985
Indian Prime Minister and Pakistani President meet in Delhi and agreed to hold talks at defence secretary level on the glacier.
Talks at secretary (January 10-12) level in Rawalpindi resolve to seek negotiated settlement in accordance with Shimla Agreement.
Second round of secretary level talks in Delhi (June 10-12).
Indian battalion 12 J&K Light Infantry captured the 21,000 ft Qaid Post.
November 4, 1987
Prime Ministers meet at SAARC summit in Katmandu and agree to suspended talks.
Secretary level talks in Islamabad (May 19-20)