the Chamba-Lahul Expedition, 1958, consisted of Hamish McArthur, leader, and Mrs. McArthur, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Solari, Miss Margaret Munro and M. Emile Bayle. As in 1955, when McArthur led the Central Lahul Expedition,1 the leave available restricted activities to what could be accomplished in six weeks London-to-London during July and August, with a further week for an advance party to negotiate Customs clearance in Bombay. The party was joined in Pathankot by Ang Tsering, veteran of Nanga Parbat 1933 and many other expeditions, and his son Dawa Temba. At Manali, four local porters were engaged through the kindness of Major H. M. Banon—Dorje, Ishi, Sonam (an old friend from 1955) and Wangyal; all but Sonam were Ladakhis. Namgyal contracted to provide our ponies and mules which were led by Gangaram.
We left Manali on July 24 for Kothi and the Rohtang Pass, and reached Base Camp at the head of the Third nulla at 13,800 ft., approx. 76° 55' 30" E., 32° 46' 30" N. on August 1, after a splendidly varied march. We made camps on the way at Kothi, Granphoo,8 Sissu, Thorsang, jalma, Ch'okhang and above Ningahar all of them excellent except that at Jalma which, being in the village, was grubby and over-populous. The track gave good going everywhere except for the last rise over moraine to Base Camp and an occasional detour to avoid narrow or washed-out sections of track along the nulla. The camp on the true right bank of the river was in a fine setting, well provided with good water and decorated by a handsome and varied flora with plentiful meconopsis horridula, corydalis, chrysanthemum, saxifrage, polygonum and primula, but the ponies had to go back down the nulla for about an hour to find grazing sufficient for our stay.
Approach route of Chamba-Lahul Expedition, 1958.
A little above Base Camp the going is hemmed in between a high cliff with evident signs of recent rock falls on the north and a large moraine and glacier on the south, but once through this rather unhealthy gap one enters a wide cirque with several glaciers. The V Survey map 52D/13 of 1922 appears to be accurate and complete, though some recession of the glaciers seems to have occurred. So much so that our ideas of tackling Peak 20,042 ft. by the long glacier which descends from it to the S.W. were hastily dropped. A reconnaissance by most of the party from Peak 16,859 ft. revealed a probable way through the glacier immediately to the north of that peak as an approach to the skyline, which is not only the local watershed but also the limit of the 1921 survey and of Sheet 52D/13.
A climbing party consisting of McArthur, Munro, Bayle and Solari with Dawa Temba, Dorje, Sonam and Wangyal climbed the glacier easily to set Camp III on the watershed at 17,500 ft. beneath the N.W. ridge of Peak 18,958 ft. From here, a top of rather more than 18,000 ft. on the watershed was climbed by two routes and gave fine views, particularly of the country to the east of the watershed not covered by the 1921 survey. Dominant to the east was the dark truncated cone of Peak 20,730 ft., beyond the Barsi nulla, and to the south the fine white pyramid of Peak 20,218 ft., which was climbed by the enterprising Italian party in 1945 from the Gangstang glacier (Universe), 1950, No. 2, pp. 241-3). To the S.W., and flanking the Thirot nulla, was the rugged bulk of Peak 20,020 ft., which looks formidable from this aspect with its twin gables and long narrow fluted ridge. Further round and more or less west, forming the North flank of the Thirot nulla, was Phabrang, 20,250 ft., looking most attractive with an elegant practice peak rising in the foreground from its glacier. And to the north, Peak 20,042 ft. appeared to be a continuation of our ridge, but to the east of it was a substantially larger and higher mountain, part rock and part ice, and we made this our main objective. To reach it we planned to traverse the eastern flank of the watershed on an unmapped glacier, and perhaps to set a high camp on the ridge.
While the majority of the party descended to Base Camp for more food, a rare storm kept Bayle and Wangyal in Camp III for a day, to emerge on August 12 to traverse Peak 18,958 ft., which gave steep and delectable climbing and a fine rocky top with views of still further unmapped glaciers to the S. and E. The next day, the party traversed the glacier towards the large mountain to the north and set up Camp IV beneath its East ridge. On the 14th, Bayle and Dawa Temba attempted the mountain from Camp IV while McArthur, Munro and Solari with Dorje, Sonam and Wangyal set out to put a light camp on the ridge at about 19,000 ft. for a further attack the next day. We reached the intended camp-site by early afternoon, to be met by Bayle and Dawa Temba descending. They had found the mountain too big to complete in a day; Dawa Temba had been unwell, and the prospect of much obviously difficult and exposed climbing along the very extended ridge had caused their return from what must have been over 20,000 ft. The rest of us were not feeling fit, so we abandoned the mountain. During the descent McArthur was taken ill and had to be helped back to Camp IV, where he appeared to recover and retired to spend a good night. He was taken seriously ill early the next morning and it is now believed that he died at that time, from a cerebral haemorrhage. Dawa Temba devised a stretcher-si edge from a tent and we brought him back over the col at Camp 111 and down to the moraine above Base Camp where he was buried the next morning at about 76° 57' 15" E., 32° 47' N.
Gangtang peak, 20,218 ft., from head of thirot Nulla. Peak 18,053 ft., right foreground.
Peak 20,730 ft., from head of Thirot nulla.
We returned to Manali in six days, with a detour to Keylang to report to the police.
The mountains of the Thirot nulla are of much interest and beauty, with several peaks of merit over 20,000 ft.9 Beyond its watershed, to the east, is an extensive glacier system with many tributaries headed and divided by fine ridges which would give much attractive climbing of a genial order. This area might be better approached via Darcha and the Barsi nulla, if the Inner Line does not intervene. The weather was excellent for most of the time, but it was notable that better conditions were enjoyed at the head of the Thirot nulla and to the north and east than to the S.W., where monsoon clouds sometimes penetrated.