In response to my inquiry about a suitable area for an impecunious climber intent on visiting the Himalaya, T. S. Blakeney drew my attention to Kulu in the Himalaya of the eastern Punjab of India when he wrote on February 28th, 1958:
‘You might make a trip from Tos over to Andrasau,2 a high mountain and probably a difficult one, that is unclimbed and not properly surveyed. If you made this your main big objective, you would have pulled off probably a harder thing than Deo Tibba, and done a useful piece of work by mapping the glaciers of the mountain.'
Indrasan, 20,410 feet (alias Andrasau), is still unclimbed after one brief skirmish and one serious assault. The first tentative probe inspired by Blakeney's letter and supported by valuable advice from Dr. A. E. Gunther, the late Hamish McArthur and Major Geoffrey Douglas is described in the Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXI, 1958, p. 102. It describes the expedition in which Basil Poff of the N.Z.A.C. and I reached the upper neve of the Malana glacier—the third shelf—which supports the final summit cone of Indrasan.
The second took the field in 1961 as the Derbyshire Himalayan Expedition and received generous support from His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, M.C., the Mount Everest Foundation, Messrs. Long- land and Hodgkin and numerous other individuals and firms in Derbyshire. The total cost of the expedition was £4,500 ; one-third of this sum was contributed by the European members of the party.3Other objectives were: to make a useful contribution to the map of the Kulu/Bara Shigri Divide, a job previously tackled by Colonel J. O. M. Roberts4 ascend the 18,000 feet Ice-pass observed by Gunther in 1954 and believed by him to offer a way into the Bara Shigri from Kulu5; and reconnoitre the splendid granite obelisk of 18,000 feet, assumed by me to be Ali Ratni Tibba, which dominates the head of the Malana nullah, a tributary of the Parbati (see sketch- map).
We were all set to follow in the carefree footsteps of Kim without the hint of surveillance which an official liaison officer, however friendly, usually brings. Forty-eight hours off Bombay a cable to the ship announced that Captain Balgit Singh of the Regiment of Artillery, Indian Army, was appointed official liaison officer to the expedition. This was our first intimation of a ninth man. Later a letter which originated in the Ministry of External Affairs on April 29th, 1961, was forwarded by air from England. It explained the situation, but had been sent by sea mail and the expedition sailed from Liverpool on May 5th! There were, we decided, two consolations from this appointment. First, Balgit Singh rapidly became one of us and made a significant contribution to the survey work. Second, we were sure that the fact of his appointment would persuade the powers-that-be to deal kindly with our request for exemption from customs duty and sales tax on our food and equipment. The second shock, administered close on the first, was that the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, has no power to exempt expeditions from customs duty or sales tax as suggested in the Mount Everest Foundation document: ‘Baggage— Conditions to be observed by expeditions going to Pakistan and India.'
Any concessions must come direct from the all-powerful Central Board of Revenue, where our numerous appeals directed to such diverse authorities as 'The Chief Controller of Imports', etc., eventually ended. Perhaps slight concessions were made, but we boarded the Pathankot Express the poorer by £400. Of this sum £100 was a non-recoverable payment of sales tax on our consumable stores. The £300 was placed in bond against the re-export of our non-consumables. Almost more wearing than the handing over of expedition cash was the eight-hour vigil in the Customs House whilst a detailed re-costing of our gear was made by the authorities according to current prices in the Indian market. Our case was put by the admirably energetic Freddy Buhariwallah, a shipping agent heartily recommended to all India-bound expeditions.
Late on May 28th six travel-stained Englishmen descended from the dust-coated train at the terminus of the broad gauge railway, Pathankot, to be met by the immaculate Captain Balgit Singh. Motor transport had been arranged from Pathankot to the Beas valley in Kulu as being more convenient than the narrow gauge railway to Jogindernagar. Adding forty gallons of paraffin and several thousand rupees to the paraphernalia now threatening the stability of the two Mercedes short wheel-base trucks, we roared off through the Pathankot bazaar en route for the tortuous but admirably engineered road through the gorge of the river Beas on May 29th.
Our enthusiasm for the mountains was regenerated by the sight of the glittering ribbon of snow tacked on to the green-mantled slopes of the Dhaula Dhar range which forms the east wall of the Kangra valley and is now skirted by the road to Kulu, truly used by 6 All castes and manner of menThe town of Mandi is memorable for a shaky suspension bridge over the turbulent Beas and a marriage feast which brought atmosphere, but banished sleep, from the Dak bungalow in which we broke the journey for one night.
Forty miles on, up the Beas at Nagar, another bridge marked our disembarkation from mechanical transport 12 miles south of Manali, and the acquisition of 57 ponies, 11 muleteers and, not least, our six Ladakhi porters headed by Wangyal, the Kulu veteran. John Banon, nephew of Major Henry Banon who is locally revered as 6 Chini Sahib '—unfortunately taken ill with a stroke at the time of our visit—came down the valley to make arrangements for our mail and to speed us on our way. He brought with him Renu Ram, a famous shikari who accompanied Major Geoffrey Douglas and Hamish Mclnnes on their Kulu yeti-hunting expedition of 1957-58. Renu very kindly offered to see us over the Chandra Kanni Pass, 11,617 feet, as far as the site of Base Camp in the Malana nullah.
The next day, May 31st, Burgess and Read equipped with large black umbrellas set off up the Chakki nullah, opposite Nagar bridge on the east side of the valley, to investigate disquieting reports about the impassability of the passes even at this date when all the winter snow should have melted quietly away. Several mountaineers were of the opinion that we were rather late for this region of the Himalaya. However, Colonel Roberts has since told me that his preference would be for the month of June: Had we gone earlier it is certain we would have met with heavy additional expense getting our stores over the snow-bound passes and it is probable that we would have been valley-bound and bankrupt.
Meanwhile everyone fell to converting the shipping crates into pony panniers—each pair to weigh 120 lb.—to be carried at a cost of seven rupees per day as against five rupees for porter loads of 40 lb. This represents a saving in transport charges of 50 per cent in this region of the Himalaya provided, of course, the approach is negotiable by ponies. Burgess and Read returned on June 2nd full of pessimism about the route. But the caravan was loaded and impatient and the same day we set off for the Chandra Kanni, some 7,000 feet and eight miles away.
The Chakki nullah is memorable for its magnificent pine forests and lordly situations offering unforgettable views over the well- cultivated Beas valley. The first camp-site—half a day short of the expected distance because the leaders had lost patience with the pony wallahs and had got themselves lost—was opposite the terraced village of Nagar, an ancient settlement from which the Rajahs and later the British once ruled Kulu. By noon on June 3rd we reached the snow-line bordered by clumps of rhododendrons near which we made camp. The track now disappeared beneath drifting snow which filled the terminal basin of Chakki nullah and lapped up against the crest of the spur dividing the Malana from the Beas. The pony wallahs were unwilling to risk their ponies but each day's delay added £30 to the cost of the caravan. We agreed to spend June 4th preparing the route by digging trenches with the snow shovels, whilst at Renu's suggestion a runner was despatched to the nearby village of Phulinga to call up reinforcements for our manpower. At dawn on June 5th the caravan crossed the floor of the basin, floundered up steep slopes to the rim and then came to a full stop at the prospect along the crest.
On the east side the snow had long since melted and the springy turf was revealed in vertical slopes which fell uninterruptedly into the tantalizingly close Malana nullah. The true pass, a mile to the north, could only be reached along the west or Chakki side of the crest and here the track was again covered by massive steep-angled drifts of hard snow lying the whole length of the precipitous wall. The unhindered passage by ponies could only be achieved by removing the panniers, which would be carried across the pass by manpower, and leading the animals across unladen. As temporary porters the men of Phulinga were excellent, cheerfully negotiating the steep drifts in bare feet, bearing 60 lb. boxes on their backs by means of thin rope loops. Half a day's work earned them five rupees each and they saw us, a reloaded caravan, on our way into the Malana nullah with happy grins and waves. Returning in the monsoon rain along the same track now reminiscent of the Heather Terrace on Tryfan, it was difficult to recall the scene of the distressed but tenacious ponies.
Enclosed in great forests of blue pine and deodar, spruce and fir, with occasional patches of horse chestnut, maple and walnut, the column wound up the Malana nullah which sweeps grandly round to the snout of the Malana glacier, for another two days. The second camp-site in the nullah on a promontory above the swirling glacier torrent became ‘Tick ' camp, since previous inhabitants literally got under our skins! The ponies' last day, June 7th was also the most 8 arduous because, in its upper reaches, the valley narrows to a deep gorge and we had planned to place Base Camp at the highest level site on the west side of the river-the true right bank. The Ghaddi trail climbs steeply to gain a shoulder high above the chaos of torrent and moraine. Here, by a colossal perched block at 12,600 feet surrounded by flowers and partially beneath the shadow of Ali Ratni Tibba, we made our Base Camp. Seven miles and 8,000 feet lay between us and the summit of Indrasan. In the five-day journey from Nagar bridge only one item had been lost from a pony's back —a bale of sisal rope of which we had plenty. The sturdy stone bivouacs of the nomadic shepherds were requisitioned for the stores and one made an excellent kitchen which was soon occupied by Jigmet.
Next day, June 8th, Renu and his retinue began the descent to Manali where he promised to meet and direct Smythe and Ashcroft, who were due to join, and make arrangements for a return pack train on July 20lh. Handley and I left the same day to reconnoitre a way on to the glacicr which is the main outlet for the vast Malana neves.
Indrasan, 20,410 feet, and its near neighbour Deo Tibba, 19,687 feet, comprise the superstructure of a triple-decked ice-cap as seen from the Malana nullah. The plan was simply to put a camp on each deck or shelf until we were in striking distance of the summit cone of Indrasan, some 2,000 feet in height. From the upper plateau we also expected to climb Deo Tibba by the route of the first ascent (from the north-west), for an end-on view of Indrasan's west ridge as well as pleasure, photography and acclimatization. Complications have arisen on account of the two distinct summits rising from a common plateau. Writing in 1914, Lt.-Col. the Hon. G. C. Bruce6describes an attempt on the Deotibi ridge from the Hampta nullah by his Swiss guide, Fuhrer. He and a Gurkha orderly, Lallbahadur, got to the ridge at two points, 7 after some rather exciting work'. Bruce goes on to describe the whole ridge leading from Deotibi to Penguri (?) as wonderfully fine: ' The ice scenery is of a really high order, with masses of hanging glacier.'
In 1922 H. Lee Shuttleworth, I.C.S.,6 when describing the Malana nullah refers to Indrasau, a 20,417 feet peak at the head of the Malana glen on the Beas/Chenab Divide. Accompanied by a different Lallbahadur (one assumes!) Colonel J. O. M. Roberts8 tried to get to grips with Deo Tibba in 1959. He reached the second shelf or lower neve from the Jagat Sukh nullah, but found the route to the summit barred by the transverse steep supporting wall of the third hell' Returning to Manali, Roberts next gained a view of Deo Tibba from the Hamta nullah. 4 The survey map gives the height of Deo Tibba as 19,687 feet and of a mountain to the north as 20,410 feet. This mountain is much less impressive than Deo Tibba, and there certainly does not appear to be a difference of over 700 feet in their heights.’ The ' mountain in the north ' is, of course, Indrasan. Charles I-vans" followed Roberts's and Peck's routes to the second shelf via the Jagat Sukh nullah and from there tried two lines on the ice-crowned wall of the third shelf, Piton ridge and Watershed ridge. Both failed to yield a route on to the upper plateau. In a brief reference to de Graaf's couloir, Evans describes it as, 'Uninviting, but perhaps worth a trial in certain snow conditions'.
I Peck,9 in a description of his observations from the second shelf at a height of 17,155 feet, refers to 'The rocky spires of the north summit, presenting an inviting bare red-rock surface in contrast to the icy gullies of the Piangneru (west) and the Hamta (north) faces.' Is it possible that Bruce wrote Penguri for Piangneru ?
Indrasan finally gets a separate identity from a composite article in The Mountain World, 1954, p. 218: ' It is a pointed rock summit vaguely resembling the Zinal Rothorn, and probably attempted by Fuhrer in 1912. On the Survey of India \ inch sheet 52H/SW it remains anonymous as height 20,410 feet.'
I find it difficult to credit that Fuhrer got anywhere near it. He is far more likely to have been involved seeking a route to the 18,000 feet col between Deo Tibba and Indrasan via the Piangneru face. But this was not the last word. Professor Kenneth Mason lumps the two together again. Writing of the Pir Pinjal between the river Sutlej and the river Kishtwar, he mentions many rocky and icy peaks including the snow dome of Deo Tiba (note spelling), 20,410 feet, visible from Simla, seventy-five miles distant. Later, when describing Kulu, he writes,' Some of the glaciers are still only roughly sketched, and excepting Deo Tiba's two summits (19,687 feet and 20,410 feet) little has been attempted.'
To describe the mountain Indrasan as merely the north summit of Deo Tibba is to describe Lliwedd as the south-east summit of Snowdon. It also gives a false impression of the topography and scale of the upper neve, the third shelf. Every party that has stood in the col at 18,000 feet has unhesitatingly conceded a separate identity to the fine mountains on either hand.
Having located a suitable site for Camp I, Handley and I returned to Base Camp to prepare for full scale ferrying journeys which were to start immediately. Panther was very breathless and complained of feeling exhausted. We put this down to an acclimatization failure since he had been ill throughout the march-in. However, on June 9th whilst ferrying loads to Camp I he collapsed on the glaciated slabs just short of the snout of the Malana glacier at about 13,000 feet. He complained of severe chest pains, had difficulty drawing breath, and I estimated his pulse rate to be 180 to the minute. After a short rest he recovered sufficiently to move slowly back to Base Camp with the assistance of a porter. A few days later he decided, on his own initiative, to descend to Manali via Jari and Bhuin. After an arduous passage of the Malana gorge he reached Bhuntar and from there took plane to Bombay. He then returned to England. Another early casualty was Captain Balgit Singh. He twisted his knee during the descent from Camp I on June 10th. Fortunately for the strength of the party, reinforcements were arriving in Kulu in the persons of Ashcroft, the surveyor, and Smythe—the last named joining for a brief period of local leave.
Pathfinding on the gently inclined Malana glacier—the first shelf —Handley and I found easy going on the coverlet of winter snow which still persisted in the main stream of the glacier. Veering olf to the west the route to the second shelf took a tributary ice-stream flowing from the lower neve containing the 4 Dhunhagen Pass',10first reached by Colonel Roberts in 1939. A steep little ice-fall provided interesting diversions before we emerged on the undulating surface of the lower Malana basin at 16,000 feet, three years later to the very day that I had reached this same place from the Jagat Sukh nullah with Basil Poif for an unsuccessful attempt on Deo Tibba.11 Here Camp II of the current attempt was established. It was later to be shifted 1\2 mile to the west opposite the lowest spur of Piton ridge. We descended the same day to Camp I, where successive ferrying parties had begun to stockpile, and we continued through to Base Camp. A large caravan returned over the glacier on June 11th, spent the night at Camp I, then consolidated Camp II at the new site by the foot of Piton ridge on June 12th.
From the second shelf there are three feasible routes up the transverse supporting wall to the final plateau. First, by the extreme western edge of the upper shelves, known as Watershed ridge, which was first climbed in 1954 by Herr Rott, after several parties had observed and recorded it as a possibility since 1939. Second, moving east across the second shelf, by a great couloir which was used by Mr. Jan de V. Graaf's party when he made the first ascent of Deo Tibba in 1952 ; and which is thought to have been used by three Italian prisoners of war on parole leave (Bianchini, Fusellia and Mamini) attempting Deo Tibba in 1945 when the highest point reached was the southern edge of the third shelf immediately above the couloir, the Punta San Marco, 18,076 feet. The couloir was also descended by Basil Poff and me returning to the second shelf after climbing Watershed ridge in 1958. Third, on the extreme eastern side of the massif by the main ice-fall of the Malana glacier caused by the upper neve spilling into the valley glacier. There is no record of an ascent of the ice-fall. The least hazardous of the three routes seemed to be the couloir, which was then chosen as the ferry route and main avenue between camps on the second and third shelves.
Burgess, Gray and Wangyal tackled the couloir for the first time on June 13th and succeeded in establishing Camp III—a four-man Hillary tent on the third shelf at 18,000 feet. From the route between Camps I and II they appeared as minute spccks moving infinitely slowly two-thirds of the way up the couloir. Cloud and a rib of rock soon hid them from view, but they seemed determined atoms. We discovered their success on June 14th on arrival at Camp IT with fresh supplies. However, they were unhappy about the practicability of a route which had taken them nine hours to climb and which ranged in angle from 45 degrees at the foot to 65 degrees at the top. Recalling my descent of the couloir in 1958, Handley and I next approached via Piton ridge. We climbed steep snow in the form of a ramp on the east side of the ridge to gain the prominent notch which is marked by a great gendarme—noted by de Graaf. Hence we entered the couloir approximately half-way up by contouring in from the left-hand west side. This proved a definite psychological aid and the climbing time was reduced to about six hours. Unfortunately Handley and I blotted our copy-books by spending the night in the skeleton Camp III, 18,000 feet, without sleeping-bags or food. We had taken refuge from a short but violent snow-storm and, since it got dark, we had to stay and make the best of it. To keep warm we pitched a Black's Mountain tent inside the four-man Hillary and found this experiment reasonably successful. One drawback was that Ang Chook never really regained his good humour because of the fumes he imbibed whilst keeping a primus stove alight all night.
Early on June 16th Burgess, Gray and Wangyal anxiously climbed the couloir to locate us. Afterwards we fixed a 200-foot length of fixed sisal rope hanging down over the route in the couloir from the rocks at its head. June 17th was spent resting on the second shelf and plans for a reconnaissance of the west ridge of Indrasan were worked out. The next day everyone climbed the couloir to install Burgess, Gray and Wangyal on the upper plateau.
Camp IV in the 18,000 feet col between Deo Tibba and Indrasan, close to the foot of the west ridge, was occupied by the recce party on June 19th ; in worsening weather conditions they made the fifth ascent of Deo Tibba, 19,687 feet, on June 20th. The weather, which had looked doubtful for two or three days on account of the rich colouration of the southern sky, broke completely during the night of the 20th and we were confined to our respective camps by heavy snow-falls for five days. Unless future parties on Indrasan can be equipped with walkie-talkie radios (we could not afford them) there will always be the danger of complete isolation owing to the easy failure of normal communication between the second and third shelf. Life at Camp II dropped to a low ebb as each amusement was exhausted and we were reduced to playing 6 Battleships'. We were fairly certain that the outpost at Camp IV would be similarly placed but laid plans to try and reach them if, after seven days—the estimated limit of their food and fuel—they had not withdrawn down the wall.
During the early evening of June 24th a faint shout brought us rushing from the tents, looking upwards at Piton ridge. Just discernible through flurries of snow were three tired muffled figures descending doggedly through the thigh-deep stuff. They had beat a successful retreat down the couloir which, in places, was chest deep. The tension broken, we spent a riotous evening over a bottle of brandy, celebrating their safe return.
Heavy snow-falls over the last few days made avalanches imminent, the team was jaded through inactivity, and we agreed to withdraw to the foot of the glacier leaving the camps intact. The evacuation took place on June 25th.
Having taught the Ladakhis to play cricket in the two-day rest, Burgess, Read and I with four porters on June 28th found an improved route high on to the Malana glacier by contouring the great spur on its true right bank. We ascended to Camp II the same day. That night an intensely brilliant moon gave light for the remainder of the team to wearily join us. At dawn on June 29th Burgess and I with four porters were plodding up the steep ramp which led from just above the site of Camp II to the breach in Piton ridge. Here we rested before the flog of the couloir climb. Steep slopes fell away from the contour line to form the left wall of the couloir. The saving feature of the great gully was the little rock outcrop on the left margin which enabled us to break the ascent into ' legs' and take a breather, under shelter, from the hard work.
A deep black groove scored in the bed of the couloir was evidence of a fairly regular bombardment but down a well-defined line which, once crossed, could be avoided. More difficult to foretell was the probable course of several giant Damocletic icicles which overhung the right side of the couloir. On this occasion we crossed the avalanche trench one at a time without incident and soon gained the far side of the route. After \\ hours on snow of mixed consistency we scrambled thankfully on to another outcrop and rested there whilst Burgess looked in vain for the fixed rope—buried under last week's snow-fall. After 200 feet he located it and extricated it to the relief of a tired party. The funnel-shaped upper section of the couloir consisted of new snow which gave good steps but the leader grew impatient, veered left and tackled the cornice direct. Standing on the Punta San Marco, a few yards away from Camp III, we were once more in striking distance.
Chosfel became ill and appeared to suffer violent head pains. We were nursing him when the rest of the expedition arrived—and brought with them a deterioration in the weather. When Basil Poff and I reached the southern edge of the third shelf on June 11th, 1958, we failed to grasp the scale of the plateau stretching across to Indrasan. It is 2\ miles wide and, in bad conditions, a journey across it can be arduous and exhausting. So we found it on June 30th. The going was terrible, a light crust which broke frequently jarring knees and reducing a purposeful march to a humiliating flounder. We cursed freely and it seemed weary hours before we reached Camp IV. It was planned that Burgess and Gray should go for the west ridge on the morrow, whilst the new arrivals at Camp IV should climb Deo Tibba.
The latter were away at 5.30 a.m. on July 1st, aiming across the plateau at a conspicuous broad snow bridge over the first berg- schrund. Beyond, the slope steepened up to another great crevasse. Detouring and bridging we worked out across the face until we were out of range of the ice-cliffs immediately below the summit and gaining on the north-west ridge. This bore us speedily to the plateau- like summit and gave spectacular views of Jabri, Allaini and Piang neru nullahs. From the last named it is possible to reach the Hamta Pass by which several parties have tried to prospect a route to Indrasan from the north. Only Hamish Mclnnes is reported as holding out some hope for this approach. Attaining the summit of Deo Tibba was the fulfilment of a three-year ambition for me. The aneroid barometer now read 19,850 feet, but a storm was brewing up and after a hasty round of photography we descended to Camp IV in half an hour.
At 3 p.m. Burgess and Gray returned from the west ridge of Indrasan. They had reached a point half-way along the ridge and found the climbing severe. The switchbacking progress over the numerous steeple-like gendarmes—forty in ½ mile section of ridge —was especially wearing. However, they were anxious to make another attempt the next day. It was arranged that, as an alternative, Read and Handley should seek a route on to the east ridge, whilst I should photograph several panoramas from our camp. Meanwhile, the rest of the expedition was deployed along the string of camps since Ashcroft and Smythe had now commenced the plane-table survey from Camp I on the Malana glacier. The west ridge pathfinders descended the steep snow tongue from the crest of the ridge at 4 p.m. The eight hours' climbing—which had almost exhausted them—was alternately rock and ice. Moreover extreme difficulty, often encountered along the crest of the ridge, had forced them alternately on to both north and south faces of the mountain. Despite a swifter pace than the previous day they had halted at a point on the north face less than two-thirds along the ridge. The climbing was of such difficulty that they could not envisage our Ladakhi porters, or even ourselves, carrying loads along it for additional camps or bivouacs. Read and Handley reported that a steep chimney on the south side of the east ridge appeared to be the only weakness by which the crest of that ridge might be gained.
July 3rd dawned fine. We attacked the shadowed south wall of the east ridge by way of the sugary snow slope falling two hundred feet to the third shelf from the foot of the earmarked chimney— which overhangs at its base. Read led off to a stance at the foot of the right retaining wall, and this shortly accommodated Handley and me. Read climbed on, chiefly by bridging, until 20 feet higher he met the overhang. Beyond this the difficulties became severe. Read here inserted a piton and draped a fixed rope down the lower section of the chimney. The piton gave very little assistance to the strenuous swing required to overcome the bulge and re-enter the chimney. Eventually, after a good tension pull on the rope, Read surmounted the overhang and gained the uneasy interior of the ice chimney. Fifty feet higher he transferred with great difficulty to the left retaining wall, making use of the now disintegrating snow at the back of the chimney. Now we were reunited but further probes by Read were very discouraging. We had taken six hours to climb 200 feet. This rate compares well with the reported times of three Italian climbers who visited Kulu in the same season but operated on the eastern margin.12 They made the first ascent of the Kulu Makalu, 28,800 feet, with ridges identical in nature to those of Indrasan. To avoid benightment, which was their fate, we abseiled off in two stages using the fixed ropes already in position, which were left for the other two. If their progress was good further supplies would be ferried up from Camp II.
Handley and Read were first away on July 4th on a ferrying mission via the couloir, whilst Burgess and Gray set off for the east ridge and I arranged for Camp IV to be struck and pitched in a more accessible position for the east ridge. Before the camp had been re-sited the pathfinders returned empty-handed. They were convinced that Indrasan offers no easy alternative route to the summit via the east ridge. The only route which would seem to offer any hope of attaining the summit would be a frontal attack in a diagonal line, utilizing the tilt of the strata before taking to the steep snow of the south face. As this is continually swept by avalanches from a calving hanging glacier directly below the summit, only an assault by night would be feasible.
Indrasan had beaten us, and it was a morose party which sat down on rucksacks to eat a frugal lunch before quitting finally the third shelf. The couloir was still menaced by the gigantic icicles so it was a taut, carefully swift plod with top-heavy rucksacks to the traverse of the stone chute area. We lined up on the right-hand side so as to cross with the least delay. Half-way across Burgess called a warning to Gray, who was leading, as two boulders whirred down on him. Retaining his axe he dived to avoid the first, and managed to arrest his slip on the snow. Recovering he was barely able to throw himself the other way to dodge the second, which struck his axe and bowled it down the slope. He slid down the snow until the rope tightened and he was held, unhurt, by Jigmet. Nothing more fell during the few minutes it took to cross to the shelter of the rock outcrop. By traversing a steep bank the col was gained and a rapid descent made to the friendly amenities of Camp II.
Here we found that Wangyal was nursing Chosfel who appeared to be mentally ill. He was unfit to carry loads and seemed determined to do himself a serious injury. Striking Camp II strained our resources to the limit and the Europeans descended with unaccustomed weights of 80 lb, whilst the Ladakhis stoically bore upwards of 100 lb. A cache of abandoned food boxes crowned with a flag in a nest of sisal rope gave our late camp the air of an Antarctic food depot. The last man of the last rope,' Doc Sahib ' (Gray), had several harrowing experiences since Chosfel repeatedly fell down in delirium and, at one stage, tried to drive the pick of his axe into his head. By dramatically diving on him and wrestling in the snow Gray both disarmed and subdued him. But the descent became prolonged and awkward since Chosfel moved like a sleep-walker even in difficult ice steps. Below Camp I we cut across the chaotic debris of a mighty rock-fall to contour easily on to the grassy slopes leading to Base Camp.
Until July 9th we languished at the base enjoying the flowers and the fried liver of the late camp mascot, a sheep, despatched, butchered and cooked by the Ladakhis. Chosfel recovered very quickly but it was obvious that he could not take part in the second half of the programme.
The party divided—one half to carry out a plane-table survey, col search and climb on the Bara Shigri/Kulu Divide; the other to reconnoitre the virgin peak we suppose is Ali Ratni Tibba and its neighbouring aiguilles.12
Ashcroft, Burgess and I, with Jigmet and Ang Chook, took the Malana glacier to a point just above the first ice-fall. From here Ashcroft and Ang Chook commenced to climb the col to the east with the intention of starting the survey, whilst Burgess, Jigmet and 1 diverged to forage for supplies in the old Camp I.
It proved impossible to take a direct line from the old Camp I off the edge of the glacier towards the col leading into the Tos nullah. Eventually we located an easy ice spur which bridged the awkward margin and landed us on steep ground beneath the col. During the ascent, looking back, we obtained some striking views of the ice avenue to Indrasan. Breasting the top of the pass at 3 p.m. amidst freakish scenery of tottering rock aiguilles, we soon rejoined the survey team, This is probably a new pass between the Malana and Tos nullahs. It is now possible to get from Manali in the Beas valley to the head of the Tos nullah direct, and would represent a journey of three days' duration via Jagat Sukh nullah, the Malana Ice-pass, the Malana glacier and, lastly, the pass we had recently made. We camped on the far side of the col at 16,000 feet, some 2,000 feet above the snout of the Tos main glacier in an attractive rock-girt site.
July 10th gave no opportunity for survey because an aggravating mist filled the valley. We caught occasional glimpses of White Seal, 21,148 feet, which we identified and earmarked for future attention. The tents were struck at 10 a.m. and we moved down a snow-field which soon surrendered to grass in the shape of a spur. We continued to descend for about 1,300 feet when suddenly the mist lifted and we were astonished to see a very large glacier snout barely emerging from a vast tract of moraine. A strong current flowed away into a green valley. The Survey of India sheet 52H/SW reliably depicts the features of this region, but it came as a distinct shock to find that our navigation had been correct. Since there is an exit from the Tos nullah north to the Chandra river in Lahul via the Sara Umga La, we decided that the existence of a well-beaten track would confirm our position. No sooner had we settled triumphantly on such a track than there appeared a Ghaddi making for Lahul leading two pack horses and an enormous herd of sheep and goats. Bringing up the rear was! a small boy accompanied by a fierce- looking dog.
Keeping the torrent on our right-hand side we turned towards the head, of the nullah. In 1941 Colonel Roberts wrote of the Tos14: ‘Certainly the lower four miles of the Tos constitute just about the most boulder-strewn, dirtiest stretch of glacier I have ever seen.’It has not altered since he went there. Rain fell, but we decided to push further up the valley and find a site opposite the junction with the Tos east glacier. Less than an hour later, in a shingly but level patch adjacent to a noisy torrent, we hurriedly pitched and occupied the tents to escape a drenching.
July 11th was lost to the weather since the rain had continued throughout the night, cloud sat at glacier level and fears were expressed that the monsoon had broken early. All such fears were dispelled by a sunny start to July 12th. Ashcroft used an elevation above the camp for a survey station and panoramic photography. At 10 a.m. we embarked upon the Tos east glacier-an arduous and ugly terrain unrecognizable as ice. When we stopped for some lunch we were clear of the worst. The moraine was now composed of tolerably small stuff but the route still weaved between massive boulders.
The wall to the south—on our right hand as we ascended the glacier—was an impressive and awesome sight being draped in masses of ice forming hanging glaciers. The peaks stand 4,000^-5,000 feet above the glacier and are super versions of the Chamonix Aiguilles—-suns telejcriquc. Sheet 52H/SE incorrectly shows the whole of the East glacier to be covered by moraine. This is true for only half its length. The upper section is a normal glacier. Here we enjoyed good going underfoot until the afternoon slush brought scowls and wet feet.
'A.J., Vol. 53, 1941-42, p. 326.
Just after 5.30 p.m. we gained a large flat-topped block at the terminus of a fragmentary moraine, which proved to be an ideal sunbathing and drying station. This determined the site of our second survey camp in the head of the Tos east glacier. From this position we identified the col reached by Roberts, and later Gunther, on the south wall of the glacier. In line with our camp, on the farthest rim of the neve, was an obvious, low col which leads into the Tichu nullah. We wished to locate and climb the col between the Bara Shigri glacier and ourselves. Subsequently we discovered that any route to the Bara Shigri via the head of the Tos east glacier must, additionally, cross the upper neve of the Tichu glacier.
To the north of the obvious col was a higher, rocky depression in the main ridge line of the neve. We decided that it might give access to the Bara Shigri. That night we ate a three-course meal and retired as soon as the sun went down. At 4 a.m. we awoke, quaking with fear at a tremendous barrage of falling ice from the hanging glacier to the south. The rounded ice-fall at the head of our basin gave a climb of 2,000 feet over a distance of one mile on the morning of July 13th. The final dome which abutted up to the ridge was contoured on small ice-steps and we arrived in the col at 9.45 a.m. We expected a new world and rushed to the far side to stare, not into the Bara Shigri, but into the upper neve of the Tichu glacier. We were standing on a rock terrace deserted by the snow, beneath which we could see a route down into the basin. One and a half miles away, in the main wall of the Divide, we saw another col and this time there could be no doubt that it would eventually reveal the Bara Shigri. I persuaded Burgess to join me whilst Ashcroft and his two survey assistants climbed to the highest point of the rim of the Tos east basin, now behind us.
Descending rapidly, first a slabby groove, then 30 feet of snow arete on to a steep corner, we took a traverse of scree-covered ledges to enter the basin. This gave a hot but gentle march, unhindered by crevasses, to a scimitar-curved rising ridge of snow which we took as far as the small neve beneath the col. It now came into sight. From here, looking west along the wall we could also see a steep, ice-sheeted col to the left of our destination. This is the true Gunther's Ice-pass and is separated from the D.H.E. Ice-pass by a peak perhaps 1,000 feet higher than the cols. The Abinger Expedition of 1956 named it Dome. Immediately ahead was a great ice-cliff, while on the right a steep ramp of snow gave another line to the rough red rocks of the col at which we were aiming. However, it soon became apparent that there was a couloir hidden around the corner of the ice-cliff and we chose it to make the ascent. In places the soft, sugary snow lying on ice made climbing laborious- it also caused us to glance apprehensively at a great bergschrund yawning beneath us. Once we had reached the foot of the rocks, the labour was over and we scrambled excitedly to the col. Derrick was on satisfying his thirst, but I walked a few paces towards a cornice and, looking down the north, immediately recognized the icy junction of Concordia and the orderly, virtually snowless, peaks of the Bara Shigri. The contrast between the area before us and the one in which we had been climbing could not be greater. From our position ice-slopes of 70 degrees swept down to the Bara Shigri and the descent did not seem feasible. Similarly, Gunther's Ice-pass, whilst easily accessible from the north (Bara Shigri) side, would present a severe climb from the south (Tichu glacier) side.
We estimated the direction of flow of the Bara Shigri glacier to be north-north-west; there is an acute-angled bend at Concordia where a tributary stream joins from the east-south-east. Both have a textbook appearance with lateral moraines straight from the drawing board! Our final task, the building of a cairn, took half an hour, and at 2.30 p.m. we left the col for a tiring return across the two snow basins.
We supped, in the declining moments of the day, on the warm flat surface of the boulder which had proved so useful as a dining and drying platform. As we retired for the night the hanging glacier from Peak 19,061 discharged noisily.
The camp was slowly struck on the morning of July 14th and we moved back down the Tos east glacier in glum silence. In our enthusiasm for a lightly loaded, swiftly moving party we had brought insufficient food and this antagonized our porters. By strict rationing we could afford to spend three more days climbing, so we decided to attempt the second ascent of White Sail, 21,148 feet.
The upper neves of White Sail are drained by a steep little tributary glacier which joins the Tos east glacier in a chaotic junction of moraines and seracs. First we cached our surplus equipment beneath a prominent boulder ; then we picked our way gingerly up the steep bank of moraine bordering the White Sail glacier on the true left side. Crossing the crest of the moraine we entered a sheltered basin free of ice and offering level camp-sites with running water. The height was 15,000 feet. Against the stupendous back- cloth of precipice which forms the south wall of the Tos east glacier we erected the tents, re-designed the menu by supplying bully beef and soup for breakfast the next day, and eyed the wisps of alto- cirrus cloud with disquiet.
July 15th dawned grey and we awoke to the patter of rain on the canvas. We were determined to gain the upper neves whatever the weather, so we quickly struck camp and regained the crest of the moraine. Now and again during the climb we noticed ibex slots— the first sign we had seen of these creatures. In its upper section the approach moraine is studded with massive boulders and it eventually abuts against the retaining wall of the lower basin. We gained this basin by traversing across loose moraine beneath the wall. The basin opened out into an ice-field which we crossed on firm snow towards the upper ice-fall of White Sail which is divided by a great pinnacle. The right-hand side, though steep, looked straightforward so we chose it. It was an exhausting route and taxed us severely. As soon as we emerged near the col under the south face of White Sail we saw that the ice-stream on the left-hand side of the pinnacle led circuitously, but easily, to the same place. It thus became the descent route two days later.
We pitched camp early a little way from the col but out of range of White Sail's numerous ice-cliffs. During the evening we enjoyed some remarkable views of the transformed peak of Ali Ratni Tibba and our old antagonist Indrasan.
At 3.45 a.m. on July 16th I anxiously inspected the weather and the glittering stars announced it to be perfect. After some delay over the provision of soup and tea, Burgess, Ashcroft and I set off for the col due south of White Sail. Acclimatizing to the day we were at the foot of the steep ice slope beneath the col by first light. Less than an hour later we were again looking down on the Bara Shigri which Roberts13 was the first to see from this col during the first ascent of White Sail in 1940: ‘To the north rock precipices fell abruptly to the Bara Shigri glacier, which here runs as straight as a main road, and beyond the Shigri was the maze of Spiti mountains, and beyond them Tibet.'
Before us, to the north rose a shattered, scrambly ridge which gave out in places on to snow and eventually terminated in a snow dome. Above this a line of ice-cliffs formed the most conspicuous feature and obviously contained the crux of the climb. Above the cliffs snow slopes ran together to form the summit pyramid.
Burgess led, with myself second and Ashcroft as third man. Two sections required 4 pitching '—one, a delicate and airy traverse to the left along a slight gangway flecked with verglas. Second, a steep ice gully by which we regained the spine of the ridge. The work was most enjoyable, we were gaining height rapidly and the weather was perfect.
I felt very optimistic of the top. Rock and snow alternated until we reached the foot of the dome where it was necessary to don crampons. We had promised ourselves a good rest at the top so we sprawled over rucksacks and ropes, eating breakfast and examining the ice-cliffs from close quarters. There appeared to be two possi-^ bilities. One, later to be chosen, was roughly on our contour but the approach was overhung by a fantastic array of Damocletic icicles! Beyond this cage the cliff angle relented slightly and there were prospects of a footing. Secondly, to the left of our position the slopes from the summit pyramid again met the gentler angle of the snow dome, but the way was barred by numerous seracs and a maze of crevasses which would have cost hours of route finding. We decided to risk the icicles and tackle the cliffs direct.
Installed beneath the wall and therefore safe from falling ice, Ashcroft and I belayed Burgess from within the cage formed by icicles 12 feet long and one foot in diameter. Encouraged by the thickness of the icicles he made a bold move out of the cage on to the lower, vertical ice-wall, where he clung for some minutes before surmounting a gutter-like feature to arrive on easier ground. He had climbed the crux. We joined him with difficulty and were engaged for a further three hours climbing the cliffs. The presence of hard ice called for continuous step cutting until the slope merged with the west ridge.
It was a distinct relief to move together again along the ridge and up the south face with which it eventually merged. Underfoot was hard frozen stuff which occasionally broke and made heavy going. Gathering clouds caused us some concern and eventually consumed our late adversaries Deo Tibba and Indrasan. The snow slope was featureless so we aimed for a small black boulder on which to rest before the final effort. Immediately above us were the steep and inhospitable rocks of the west ridge. The top section was a sharply tilted slope of frozen snow which Burgess climbed rapidly, sensing the top. We saw wisping alto-cirrus, felt the summit breezes and heard Burgess shout that he was there.
The time was 1.30 p.m. and the ascent had taken hours from the camp which we could see far below. On a rock outcrop 100 feet below the summit we could make out the remains of a cairn so we descended to it in the hope that Roberts had deposited a note. There was no trace of a message from the first ascent over twenty years before. We rebuilt the cairn and left a note of our climb before resuming the descent. Like Roberts we found that, in descent, the steep section from the base of the summit cone to the shoulder required great care and only one man could safely move at a time. The rock ridge permitted continuous movement again and the last stage was a free-for-all down the slope below the col. However, it made poor glissading so we ran down together to be greeted at the camp by Ang Chook and Jigmet who had spent the day watching us do the climb.
Two days later we entered Base Camp with happy memories of the Divide, not the least of which was the chapatti feast provided by the Ghaddi whom we met again in the Tos nullah.
We learned that Handley and Gray, with Wangyal and Zangbo, had made two first ascents in the cluster of aiguilles to the east of Ali Ratni Tibba but had been unable to pursue a route on the latter because of the onset of the monsoon.
Through sheets of rain, negotiating the first of many swollen torrents, we began the march out of the Malana valley on July 20th and arrived in Manali one week later.
The Derbyshire Himalayan Expedition, 1961
The Survey Report
A secondary objective of the D.H.E., 1961, was:
'To solve some of the cartographical confusion which at present exists on the maps illustrating the watershed between Kulu and the Bara Shigri.'
This to a certain extent was fulfilled but, unfortunately, time did not permit extending the plane-table survey beyond the head of the Tichu glacier. A route was traversed and surveyed between the Malana glacier and a col at the head of the Tichu glacier which looks down on the Bara Shigri glacier (Concordia Platz). The survey was supplemented by photographic panoramas.
In 1954 an attempt was made by A. E. Gunther, P. J. Webster and R. Handley to cross an 18,000-foot ice-pass on the main Kulu Divide from the west to the so-called Concordia Platz on the Bara Shigri glacier (Geographical Journal, A. E. Gunther, Vol. CXXI, 1955). This pass had been observed by Gunther in 1953 from the Bara Shigri side. His party was warned off trying the Tichu nullah route by Snelson who reported that the snout of the glacier ended in a deep gorge 100 metres wide and was rotten and dangerous. They therefore took the glacier going east from their Base Camp at the foot of the main Tos glacier. They reached the col at the head one mile east of Peak 19,061 and looked down on the Tos east glacier. The col was marked by a cairn left by Colonel J. O. M. Roberts when he ascended Peak 19,061 in 1940. From this point they noted a col at the extreme head of the Tos east glacier which they considered would give access to the extreme head of the Tichu glacier under the 18,000-foot ice-pass which was their main objective. However, weather conditions were bad and time did not permit attempting to cross into the Tichu glacier.
In addition to the above information, the D.H.E. left this country with the map and report) by J. P. O'F. Lynam (Geographical Journal, J. P. O'F. Lynam, Vol. CXXVI, 1960) and the knowledge that the Abinger Expedition had attained a col in the Divide from the Bara Shigri side in 1956.
Our objective in the field, therefore, came to finding and climbing Gunther's Pass and surveying and photographing throughout the route.
The survey was carried out with plane table, telescopic alidade arid Indian clinometer (used to calculate certain heights). All stations were re-sected from Survey of India triangulation points and spot heights on peaks. It had been intended to start from a Survey of India triangular point at the mouth of the Malana valley, but the time available after the assault of Indrasan did not permit this.
1.On July 13th Pettigrew and Burgess climbed into the col hitherto supposed to be Gunther's Ice-pass, as located by A. E. Gunther and attained by the Abinger Expedition (see Introduction).1
Their observations revealed that two cols exist and that they had not,2 in fact, reached Gunther's Ice-pass. The col observed by Gunther and attained by the Abinger Expedition is one mile due west of that reached by Pettigrew and Burgess. When this was realized the latter was named D.H.E. Ice-col. The Gunther Ice-pass, whilst easily accessible from the north (Bara Shigri) side, would present a severe climb from the south (Tichu glacier) side. The opposite is reported of the D.H.E. Ice-col. No difficulty was experienced climbing into the col from the south (Tichu glacier), but ice-slopes of 70 degrees were observed falling to the north (Bara Shigri). It is extremely doubtful whether either col offers a feasible route between Kulu and the Bara Shigri. It is quite likely that similar cols, with opportunities for pass making, exist but none were observed.
2.The existing Survey of India 1 inch sheet 53H/12 generally lacks detail. The definition of peaks, ridges and glaciers is very poor. In preparing the expedition map, the head of the Tichu nullah, except for the ridge between Pinnacle and Chapter House, has been delineated from 52H/12 and detailed from photographic panorama No. 9.
3.Difficulty was experienced in identifying the peaks between 19,510 feet and Gunther's Ice-pass in relation to the heights shown on the map drawn by J. P. O'F. Lynam (Geographical Journal, Vol. CXXVI, 1960). The ridge line over this section has, in the main, been taken from Lynam's map, however. Reference to the Abinger Expedition map (Mountains and Memsahibs, 1958) and discussion with Dr. A. E. Gunther has resulted in the names shown from Tiger Tooth to Kulu Makalu. Altitudes are not shown to the peaks Pinnacle, Tiger Tooth and Dome since the distances to these peaks are doubtful. However, the vertical angles measured from Observation Point are shown in the table of height observations for future reference.
4.The Peak 19,960 feet is assumed to be Cathedral Peak, climbed by Mrs. Eileen Healy nee Gregory, Abinger Expedition, in 1956. On Survey of India sheet 52H/12 this location is marked 19,960 feet and indicated as a Trijunction Cairn. This suggests that surveyors have attained this point at some time. This hardly seems feasible, but what is the definition of a Trijunction Cairn ? It is possible that surveyors of a past era made intelligent suppositions from a distance regarding the 19,960 feet summit and the head of the Bara Shigri glacier to the north. This resulted in the false length of the Bara Shigri glacier which in turn prompted the recent research into the validity of sheet 52H/SE.
5.Observation Point was re-sected from 19,061 feet, 20,830 feet and 21,760 feet. Plane-table rays taken into Deo Tibba, 19,687 feet, and Indrasan, 20,410 feet (off the plane-table sheet in use at the time), closed with very little error. This reasonably proves the correct positions of the Bara Shigri/Tos Divide peaks in relation to Deo Tibba and Indrasan.
DERBYSHIRE HIMALAYAN EXPEDIITON 1961
6.From an examination of the article and photograph by Snel- son in the Himalayan Journal, Vol. XVII, 1954, it would appear that the peak climbed on that occasion and named Rubal Kang is peak 19,150 feet, and does not reach 20,830 feet as hitherto supposed. The latter, Kulu Makalu, is recently reported to have been climbed for the first time by three Italian climbers from the Rome section of the Italian Alpine Club (American Alpine Journal, Vol. XIII, 1962, p. 275). Moreover its position is now known to be on the main Kulu Divide above the Bara Shigri and east of 19,960 feet.
7.The peak identified on a photographic panorama taken by Charles Evans from the second shelf of Deo Tibba in 1951 (Himalayan Journal, Vol. XVII, 1954, p. 118) as Ali Ratni Tibba seems in doubt. Evans himself fails to recognize it on an accompanying page when the caption is written: ' Unidentified peaks of the Malana nullah'! The peak is undoubtedly the finest and most distinctive peak as viewed from the north but the Survey of India sheet 53H/SW, ½ inch to the mile, definitely marks a peak 2 miles to the east of peak 18,013 feet as being Ali Ratni Tibba. Either the name Ali Ratni Tibba is misplaced on sheet 52H/SW or peak 18,013 feet has been wrongly identified. There are so few peaks named in this area that one would expect only the most distinctive to bear names. On the other hand, thd peak marked Ali Ratni Tibba on the Survey of India sheet may look distinctive when viewed from the Tos nullah. The D.H.E. left England firmly convinced that peak 18,013 feet and Ali Ratni Tibba were one and the same on account of Pettigrew's panorama (Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXI, 1958, p. 101) being incorrectly identified (apparently) throughout its entire length.
8.The existing Survey of India sheet 52H/SW, 1\2 inch to 1 mile, with its eastern edge forming the east side of the Tos nullah, is substantially correct in the Malana glacier and Indrasan region. Peaks and passes were easily identified and the plane-table rays taken from Base Camp and the Malana glacier and delineated to infinity gave a correct layout of the surrounding ridge lines.
9.The height of Indrasan requires further investigation. The evidence, which unfortunately rests on only one clinometer reading, suggests that it is less than 20,410 feet.
10.Regarding heights in general, these were determined by sighting back from known peaks to derive the plane-table station altitude. Most of the peaks sighted on to tied in with the heights marked on sheet 52H/12 and sheet 52H/SW. However, in the case of Picture 1 and Picture 2 these obviously worked out too high, which throws suspicion on the re-sected stations 3 and 4—and, in turn, questions the fixed points used for re-section. However, any error present would only result in the ridge line of Picture 1 and Picture 2 being a little further west.
It was unfortunate that the morning on which the plane table was set up at Station 3 (Camp B) cloud gave trouble in sighting, particularly in reading angles.
In conclusion, if I may quote from Colonel J. O. M. Roberts, Alpine Journal, Vol. 53, 1941-42, 4 Kulu Revisited': 'Heights above sea level in the Himalaya are, pernicious and variable things and until the modern surveyor comes along and stops all argument Himalayan mountains seem to wax and wane in an alarming manner.5
J. Ashcroft, A.M.I.C.E.,
The expedition acknowledges invaluable help from many sources, but especially the following:
The Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
Shri Balbir Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon, Punjab.
The Mount Everest Foundation.
The Royal Geographical Society.
His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, M.C.
Mr. J. L. Longland, M.A.
Mr. R. A. Hodgkin, M.A,
Dr. A. E. Gunther.
Mr. J. P. O'F. Lynam, B.Sc.
Shri Keki Bunshah.
Photo: Bob Pettigrew,
MALANA GLACIER FROM SOUTH-EAST SHOWING SECOND AND THIRD SHELVES, DE GRAAFE COULOIR, AND INDRASAN (20,410 FEET), PUNJAB HIMALAYA.
south branch of malana glacier, peak 18,413 and manikaren spires, looking south from third shelf
Indrasan from 16,000-foot col, looking north west