Himalayan Journal vol.14
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.14

Publication year:
1947

Editor:
H. W. Tobin
Index
  1. SASER KANGRI, EASTERN KARAKORAMS, 1946
    (J. O. M. ROBERTS)
  2. A SHORT EXPEDITION TO THE NUN KUN MASSIF LADAKH, MAY-JUNE 1946
    (CAPT. RALPH JAMES, F.R.G.S.)
  3. THIRD CHOICE-PADAR REGION
    (FRITZ KOLB)
  4. NANDA GHUNTI, 1945
    (P. L. WOOD)
  5. NANGA PARBAT RECONNAISSANCE, 1939
    (L. CHICKEN)
  6. SKI-ING IN GARHWAL
    (R. V. VERNEDE)
  7. A PRE-SWISS ATTEMPT ON NILKANTA
    (C.G. Wylie)
  8. EXPEDITIONS
  9. IN MEMORIAM
  10. NOTES
  11. REVIEWS
  12. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  13. EDITORIAL

EXPEDITIONS

THE BAGROT VALLEY, GILGIT

The Bagrot valley in the Gilgit Agency is at once one of the most attractive and little-known places in that area, although it is easy of access from Gilgit town. Starting from that place, the way leads over the suspension bridge across the Gilgit river, then down the left of that river for about 4 miles, until just short of its left confluence with the Hunza river, which is crossed by a very clumsy ferry-boat to the important settlement of Dainyor, as the map calls it, but which is more usually known as Dyor. There is very considerable cultivation in the doab formed by the junction of the two rivers, and many of the supplies of Gilgit come from this place.

From Dyor a rather dreary and decidedly hot track leads down the left of the Gilgit river to the mouth of the Bagrot Nala, a most uninteresting spot too; but as so often happens in this country, one which entirely belies the true character of the nala. No one looking up the stony and dismal opening of this valley would ever believe that it contained so many hidden charms.

Immediately at the mouth of the Bagrot Nala is the Hunza 'colony’ of Oshiktan, where the barren plain has been irrigated, ploughed for crops, and planted with fruit-trees, thanks to the industry of the settlers. There are few desert places that can resist the skill, tenacity, and perseverance of the men from Hunza, and the local food situation would show marked improvement if these splendid agriculturalists had been encouraged.

The path now left the main Gilgit valley, and turned up the Bagrot or Rei Nala, and at first was very rough and stony, as it wound up the steep ascent on the left. Although it was early September, the heat was intense. As a matter of fact this is nearly always a hot month, as on the weather depends the ripening of the second series of crops of the country. Indian corn in particular depends largely on the sun of September. We were black with sweat as we plodded along, and devoutly wished that we had made an earlier start. After passing a small hamlet we reached the village of Sinakkar, with fine cultivation which was the more remarkable as the land was irrigated from a spring, and a villager only had his share of water once in nine days. The grapes were ripe, and were a great consolation.

After Sinakkar, the valley opened up, and rapidly improved, and revealed its true alpine character. Next day we camped at Bulche, where the cultivation was considerable and very luxuriant, as well it might be, with the abundance of good water for irrigation.

Here the valley divided. The right arm, which descended due north, was occupied entirely by the Hinarche glacier. The left arm, which came down at first in a south-west direction, and then turned due west, held the Burche glacier. Both these ice-rivers flowed from the eastern part of the Rakaposhi or Dumani massif, of which the main peak, height 25,550 feet, was not visible as it was hidden by the minor right affluent of the Hinarche glacier.

Bagrot Valley

Bagrot Valley



From Bulche we ascended the latter glacier but with rather disappointing results. One of the objects of this climb was to examine the approach to the main peak, but we found that the actual distance by this route was too great, and devoid of any corresponding advantages. Another objection was that the climb itself to the summit would be stiffer and over worse rock than from the Dyor Nala, which certainly is the easiest line of attack. A local expert said that the only time for the climb to the top of Rakaposhi was the first fortnight in August. I am sure that this is too late. The reason he gave was that the wind was then almost negligible, and that the surface of the Snow was just right. He had never been up, of course, and was merely giving his opinion as a result of living near the mountain and noting the conditions. I should say that his vh ws were sound, on the whole.

The lower parts of the Hinarche glacier were wooded, and the cultivation extended a good way up, as there was abundant water from a minor glacier on the left.

From Bulche we intended to cross out of the Bagrot valley into the Darchan Gah, one of main nalas of Haramosh. The track from the village led up the right of the upper Bagrot valley, crossed the snout of the Hinarche, and came to the hamlet of Sat, where the coolies were changed.

From this, the last settlement, the path led over an old moraine with a good growth of juniper, and with fine pines near at hand on both sides. We then crossed the moraine of the Burche glacier. It was, on the whole, an easy march over a well-marked track; and turning south we arrived at a wide level plain, with forest on either side, and in every respect a delightful place. This was the summer grazing steading of Gargoi or Gurku-the exact name seemed to be unobtainable, and the map was silent. Here there were huts, and a large quantity of animals' droppings. Shortly after the tents were pitched heavy rain fell, with a good deal of thunder.

The entire day following, the weather was unsettled, and it was impossible to move. Fortunately the ground drained well, and the coolies were comfortably housed in the huts; but of course it was a sheer waste of time.

One of the main features of the Bagrot valley, and one which is to be seen from Gilgit, is the upstanding rocky summit of Dobani, with its twin peaks. It is true that the height is no more than 20,126 feet, which is nothing in these regions where a height of 25,000 feet is a common average for the greater mountains. That may be so, but mere height is not everything, even in the Karakoram, and Dobani is a lovely mountain, especially lovely as its pinnacles seem able to catch the rosy hues of dawn and dusk more adroitly than do its bigger neighbours.

From Gurku, we ascended the right of the nala of the same name. At first for a mile, it was easy over grassy moraine, but it then became difficult and tiring over rock and scree. The weather too was poor, mist lay on the high hills, and the views suffered. There was some rain, as well as sleet, and there were snow scurries on the top, by no means normal weather for the 18th September. It took five hours to reach the summit of the pass, the Rakhan Gali, height 14,920 feet. The coolies were lightly laden, and went well, but the weather and the track were alike unfavourable, and delay was inevitable.

Looking up to Babrot valley

Looking up to Babrot valley



Ascent to Rakhan Gali (pass) from the Bagorat side

Ascent to Rakhan Gali (pass) from the Bagorat side



Snout of the Hinarche glacier and torrent

Snout of the Hinarche glacier and torrent



The descent was extremely steep on the far or Haramosh side of the pass, and in the reverse direction the climb would be very stiff. We went down and down, and it really seemed as though we should never stop. Immediately below us was the head of the Darchan Gah, a valley which flows directly into the Indus, a little above Sasli. The scenery was delightful. The stream flowed tranquilly through a grassy plain, while dense forests of pine clothed the mountains and the contrast with the aridity and bleakness of the usual Kara- koram scene was startling. We continued down this charming sylvan valley until we reached Darchan, the summer quarters of the people, whose village is Khaltoro, some six miles farther down. Here, 31 hours after leaving the top of the pass, we camped by the stream where abundant fuel made us very comfortable. We found that there was little or no traffic over the pass, as the people prefer to go down the valley to the main road, and so to Gilgit.

R. F. G. schomberg.

(A note by the same author, on the Afdigar pass in Hunza, appeared in vol. xiii of the Himalayan Journal.-Ed.)

BANDARPUNCH II

(White Peak, 20,720ft.)

Maps: No. 53 J, 53 J/ne, 53 J/se.

A party consisting of Sgt.-Major F. Hepburn, R.A.M.G., Warrant Officer H. Sergent, R.A., and Pte. R. D. Leakey, 2nd Bn. The Duke of Wellington's Regt., made, I think, the eighth recorded attempt to climb Bandarpunch mountain in Tehri Garhwal State. They left Chakrata on the 19th April 1946, and reached Nisani village, about 1,000 feet above the junction of the Jumna and the Hanuman Ganga or Bin-Gad, on the 23rd April.

The objective was to form a Base Camp on the tree-line at the upper reaches of the Bin-Gad with the purpose of climbing Bandarpunch II (White Peak), 20,720 feet, by the south-east ridge. There are three vague paths to this point from the Jumna. One is from Kharsali village going east across a ridge of hills, down to the source of the Bin-Gad, and on over the Bamser pass or Bam-Saru-Kal to the Bhagirathi ridge at Harsil. Another is from Nisani village along the 13,ooo-foot ridge separating the Bin-Gad valley from Dodi-Tal; and the third is directly up the Bin-Gad valley from Nisani village.

Owing to snow on the higher ground, the party were obliged to choose the route along the Bin-Gad. Rain and a conspiracy by the local guides resulted in the journey to the Base Camp taking 2 ½ days instead of the one day it should have taken. Good camping-places are on either side of some terrace gardens about 2 miles above Nisani village through a patch of forest. Beyond these gardens an inconspicuous path follows the Bin-Gad about 1,000 feet, up on the left bank, comes down to within a few hundred feet of the river after ( tossing a land-slide tributary bed, then climbs steadily, goes over a second tributary, and then up a steep gully in a high precipitous spur that crosses the valley at right angles. From here the path drops steadily down to the Bin-Gad at a point where there is (or was) a tree-trunk bridge, and just across a convenient rock shelter or 'Gupta5. The track then closely follows the right bank through rhododendron and silver-birch scrub, coming out after some 4 miles in an open grassy valley at a place called Beebe.

A deserted shepherd's hut at the limit of the tree-line served as a Base Camp for the party's coolies, and Camp I was established on the snow-line on the left bank of the valley leading from the snow- fields south of Bandarpunch. Bad weather from then on caused very slow progress; and it was not until the 5th May that Camp V was established on the ridge on top of a piece of conspicuous glacier just before the ridge turns sharply upwards.

The next day, a gale from the north prevented climbing; and the last of the food and fuel was finished. On the 7th May the party started early for an attempt on the top. Progress up the ridge was easy enough, and snow conditions good. But at 14.30 hrs. there still appeared to be about 700 feet to go, and as there was a patch of step-cutting to be done, it was decided to abandon the attempt for fear of a night out on empty stomachs. The tent at Camp V was reached at dusk.

The accident

On the 8th, the party started down. Soon after leaving the ridge, a slope of ice thinly covered with snow had to be traversed diagonally downwards. It looked impossible for a slip by one of the party to be held by the others, and just below there were projecting rocks which were far enough down to be disastrous if a roped party fell and the rope got snagged. Someone recalled having heard of another climber having fallen without injury in this locality, and it was decided to proceed unroped in the hope that if a fall did occur, the victim would reach the snow gullies below without hitting a rock.

H. Sergent, the novice of the party, on his first climb, did fall. He shot off into space, disappeared from sight, and was next detected coming to rest in a snow gully about a thousand feet down.

One of the party managed to glissade to him in a matter of minutes. He was alive, but bleeding from sundry cuts and bruises, had a sprained back which prevented walking, and was suffering from slight concussion and shock. Conveniently near, however, was a flat rock on which a tent could be pitched, so he was put to bed.

The coolies, in the meantime, had evacuated with all kit and food to Nisani village because (as they said later) they had run out of food and thought the climbers dead because they had overstayed their planned time on the mountain by some four days. The accident happened at about 12.30 hrs. on the 8th, but due to hail and sleet the member of the party who went for help did not get to Beebe until about 15.30 hrs. Finding no coolies he proceeded at once down the valley on a night march through the forest, and got to Nisani at dawn. He sent one party of coolies back at once, and followed himself with others at 11.30 hrs., reaching Beebe alone at 23.30 hrs. Then, after four hours' sleep, he climbed to the others, reaching them at 13.00 hrs. on the 10th, with their first food for four days-all this he did with frost-bitten toes.

Bandarpunch I (20,954 ft.) ‘Black Peak’ from Camp V with 10,930-ft. Peak right centre

Bandarpunch I (20,954 ft.) ‘Black Peak’ from Camp V with 10,930-ft. Peak right centre



South-east ridge of Bandarpunch II. The arrow marks site of Camp Von ridge. The two crosses mark the extent of H. Sergent’s fall

South-east ridge of Bandarpunch II. The arrow marks site of Camp Von ridge. The two crosses mark the extent of H. Sergent’s fall



Camp V and ridge up to Bandarpunch II (White Peak) (20,720 ft.). The limit of the 1946 climb is where marked ‘X’

Camp V and ridge up to Bandarpunch II (White Peak) (20,720 ft.). The limit of the 1946 climb is where marked ‘X’



Bandarpunch III (20,020 ft.) from south east ridge of Bp. II showing south spurs

Bandarpunch III (20,020 ft.) from south east ridge of Bp. II showing south spurs



Southern slopes of Banderpunch III (20,020 ft.) taken from south-east ridge of Banderpunch II

Southern slopes of Banderpunch III (20,020 ft.) taken from south-east ridge of Banderpunch II



The casualty was wrapped in a sleeping-bag and tent, and slid off the mountain; then carried back to Chakrata on a stretcher. He recovered with no ill effects. For the benefit of other climbers, there should now be quite a respectable track from Nisani to Beebe after all the energy that was spent cutting a way through the jungle for the stretcher; and a fit party might now reach Beebe from Chakrata in six days. It is not, however, advisable to take mules, because local coolies are expensive and not very co-operative, and the path is not muleable except on the Pilgrim Route up the Jumna, which is often blocked by land-slides.

As regards weather, on the way there and back it rained and hailed most afternoons, but usually cleared up at dusk (the 1946 monsoons arrived early?). On one occasion it snowed right down to about 10,000 feet, with nearly 3 inches at Beebe, but it all melted by midday. On occasions also, the mountains had fine weather when it appeared to be raining in the valleys and foot-hills. No avalanches were seen, and snow steps could be kicked in all but a few of the steeper south-facing patches.

The climb failed chiefly because of bad weather, the fact that t he only food available was in heavy tins, and because the final camp should have been pitched higher, where there is a good place at about 19,700 feet.

R. D. Leakey.

(A previous attempt by this member, in November 1946, appears in vol. xiii of the Himalayan Journal.-Ed.)

CHOMO YUMMO SEBU LA GHOMBU

I n October 1946, useful additions to previous knowledge of north- east Sikkim were made by an expedition led by T. H. Braham, who with J. H. Fleming and W. N. Phillips examined some of the outliers of Chomo Yummo. Leaving Thangu rest-house on the 16th October, and moving up the Tashuphu valley, with a view to trying Chumnakang, they ascended on the 17th to some 19,000 feet. Further progress was checked by difficult ice-falls, and next day heavy snow forced a retreat to the rest-house, where they were weather-bound for three days. On the 22nd October the party went up the Jha Chu valley to the club hut in good weather. From here they reconnoitred the ridge running south from Kangchenjau to the Sebu La, but thigh-deep snow again made progress very difficult. On 25th October they traversed below the southern and western cliffs of Kangchenjau, a fairly easy route, and joined the Kangra La track near Lungma. On the 26th, an attempt on peak 20,320, north of Chomo Yummo, and locally known as Ghumo Yapche Yapchung, was begun. After working up to a big snow-field at about 19,000 feet, the leader's badly worn boots forced a descent to camp. Next day Fleming and Phillips again attacked the peak and got to about 20,100 (within 300 feet of the summit), when waist-deep snow stopped them, and on the 28th the return journey from Thangu began. The party had the services of four Sherpas and were able to get supplies at reasonable prices as far as Thangu. There and at Donkung, mutton and also yaks' liver were procurable. The whole trip took four weeks from Calcutta.

Abridged from an account by T. H. Braham.

THE TALUNG VALLEY

The material from which this account has been compiled comes from two sources, viz.: an excellent description by Sergeant J. R. Ewer of an expedition led by him in March-April 1945, and the writer's notes of his own experiences in 1920 and 1929.

Sergeant Ewer's party set out from the little bazaar at Mangen (on the Gangtok-Thangu bungalow route) where a path drops sharply to the wooden suspension bridge spanning the Teesta. A furlong beyond this bridge the path divides, the left fork leading up to Lingtam being steep and rocky. The right fork, well defined and fairly level, follows the right bank of the Teesta as far as its junction with the Talung where it turns up the latter to a cane bridge directly below Lingtam. Grossing to the left bank of the Talung and traversing the hill-side well above the river, the hamlet of Namprik is reached. This is convenient for a bivouac or shelter in a Lepcha hut, but an active party can well reach Be the same day. Just before entering Be the Ringbi Chu, coming down from Lama Anden, is crossed by a good cane bridge. From the hamlet, where a little foodstuff is sometimes obtainable, the Talung route climbs steeply to Phontong and then down to a rather shaky cane bridge across the Talung. Another stiff climb from the south side brings one to the charming little alp of Sakyong, where shelter can be had, and perhaps milk and eggs. The few inhabitants are shy but friendly. About three miles farther west is a little clearing known as Singnok, a pleasant camp site. From Singnok the going is very rough with steep ascents and descents as well as galleries and ladders. Several line waterfalls delight the eye, and at one point the wild Talung foams through what is literally a slit between sheer precipices of some 500 feet. Throughout this march and the two successive marches, the dense rhododendron jungle imposes continuous and strenuous cutting with kukri, dah, and axe. Ewer's party crossed the Talung about six hours above Singnok by a low-level log bridge, to bivouac at Lepcha Gave, recrossing to the right bank next day about three- quarters of a mile higher up. Numerous side torrents had to be negotiated on the way to the Rungian Ghu. This, at all seasons a serious obstacle, rushes down to the Talung from the Pandim jubonu snows, but there is plenty of timber for bridging. Ewer's party had to turn back, short of food, two, or perhaps three, marches below the Guicha La.

Kangchenjau from Jha Chu valley

Kangchenjau from Jha Chu valley



Sketch Map of the Talung Valley

Sketch Map of the Talung Valley



The same route in reverse had been taken by the late Harold Raeburn and the writer, in August 1920, when they attempted a reconnaissance of the Zemu gap. Ascending from Yoksam to the Guicha La by a high-level route via Aluktang (by-passing the normal Dzongri route), they dropped down to Tongshyongpertam. This was formerly a grazing-ground for upland sheep and was also visited by the Yoksam lamas. It is just far enough from the Talung saddle for the frequent ice avalanches to miss it. But for lack of fuel, it is a good camp site. Half a mile down is the snout of the Talung glacier, and hard by, the confluence of the Tongshyong, descending from Zemu gap. From the Tongshyong, the route followed was through dense rhododendron above the right bank-very stiff going. We took five days from the Guicha La to Sakyong and two days on to Dikchu.

A most interesting alternative, or diversion, is from Be, up the Ringbi Ghu to the Tulung Gompa, Yeumtso La (more often called the Keshung La), and the Zemu. The writer returned by this route from Paul Bauer's base camp in 1929 and found the track in very fair condition. These uplands are much used by sheep and yak herds. At the remote Tulung monastery, the Sikkim crown jewels were formerly kept in times of danger to the State. The 'Abbot' is also responsible for keeping up the bridges in his 'diocese'. A little north of the Tulung Gompa, the Ringbi Ghu, fed by the snows of Lama Anden and Siniolchu, plunges over a 400-foot cliff in an unspeakably beautiful waterfall. Its Lepcha name is Tidzong Babsar. From Yakthang on the Zemu, by the Yeumtso and Be to Dikchu took me four days.

A claim has been made that by the Talung route less time is taken to reach the 'more accessible part of the Narsing Jubonu-Pandim cirque' than by the normal Dzongri route, but the difficulties of getting loaded porters through the tangled rhododendron jungle seem to have been ignored. The Talung has also been suggested as a quick 'get-away' from the Simvu-Siniolchu massif.

Well-in 1931, two members of Paul Bauer's second expedition, Allwein and Pircher, tried it and only just got through, and in September 1936 it took Karl Wien, one of Bauer's best men, with three Sherpas, sixteen days to get from the Simvu saddle down to Mangen.

A final caution about this interesting valley: its name, Talung, signifies in the Lepcha tongue 'Rock avalanche'. Verb. sap.

The precarious-looking cane bridges might well be marked, as in the Tyrol, Nur fur die Schwindelfrei.

Editor.

SEBU LA

T. Eliot Weil of the American Embassy, New Delhi, sends an account of a trek made over the Sebu La in September 1946, and two photos reproduced here show Kangchenjau and Ghombu with the club hut on the Jha Ghu in the foreground. He reports the hut in good order, and warmly thanks the Himalayan Glub, His High-ness of Sikkim, and his Durbar for their assistance and hospitality.The following extract from his letter may be useful to intending visitors to north-east Sikkim:

'Having been told that landslides on the route to Sebu La would make it impossible to take pack animals, we set out on the 18th with twelve porters (including two to carry the coolies' rations), a sirdar-cook and his assistant, and a syce. Two trekkers who really wished to travel light and depend largely on local supplies of eggs, fruit, vegetables, and mutton, could manage the trip with half the number of coolies, but we had a considerable quantity of bulky stores such as tinned fruit and vegetables. While some supplies are available in Gangtok, it is advisable to bring along most of one's stores and gear, including waterproof sheets to cover the coolies' packs.'