2. HUINCHULI, 1962




In June, 1961, Brigadier Gyan Singh visited Sherwood College at Naini Tal and founded a Mountaineering and Rock Climbing Club. Later a member of the staff qualified from the Basic Course of the H.M.I., and equipment was received from the latter for him to teach rock climbing to selected members of the Club. As a result the Sherwood Himalayan Operation No. 1, known as ' Hop 1was carried out from October 15 to 30, 1962, to look for a permanent climbing area in the Kumaon Himalaya, near a roadhead, for the Club. The expedition, under the sponsorship of the Principal of Sherwood, the Rev. R. C. Llewelyn, was led by Commander J. S. M. Atkinson, I.N.: a parent, with an operational party of eight members of the Club, five of them members of the staff and three boys between the ages of 13 and 16.

The original intention was to carry out a reconnaissance of the Mrigthuni (Sukaram) Glacier area, and an assault on the 20,010- foot peak, Tharkot (Simsaga). Sunderdhunga valley, south of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary Wall, had been climbed in May, 1944, by J. G. Rawlinson and C. W. F. Noyce, who later described it6 twisting snake-like down from the Sanctuary Shield \5 Noyce and Rawlinson turned west up the Sukaram Glacier and climbed what appeared to be Simsaga, then descended to Sunderdhunga and climbed through Maiktoli Gorge to Maiktoli and on up to the 17,500-foot Col between south and east Maiktoli Peaks. It was down the Maiktoli Gorge at Sunderdhunga that Shipton and Tilman had appeared after making the first exit from the Sanctuary in 1934,2 and Noyce found the east Maiktoli Peak ‘the loveliest peak I have seen'. South and east Maiktoli Peaks were the names given by Noyce, but the peaks were later marked on the map as Bauijuri (19,430 feet) and Panwali Doar (21,860 feet). Noyce subsequently climbed south Maiktoli Peak from a camp at 16,000 feet.6


  1. See H.J., Vol. XIII, p. 95. Peak 20,010 is called Tharkot and not Simsaga on Survey Sheet 53 N.S.E.
  2. See Alpine Journal, No. 267, for his account of the expedition.
    Editor's Note : The following is an extract from a letter received from Commander J. S. M. Atkinson, I.N.:


For this first college expedition, personnel and equipment were moved the 154 miles from Naini Tal to the roadhead at Brari in a private hired bus. At Brari they were met by their porters, and camped for the night. During the next five days they marched by easy stages to Loharkhet, Dhakuti, Jatoli, Dyinga Doon and to Sunderdhunga. The following day they covered six or seven miles to the Sunderdhunga Base Camp, just below the snowline on the Sunderdhunga Glacier, having walked in all just over forty miles. The route they chose climbs the left shoulder of the bank of the Sukeram Glacier stream through the rhododendron forests to a track running above the tree-line, and passing approximately 2,000 feet below Devi Kund. It then goes down to the stream below Dhanoti (18,520 feet) and up the other side to the Alp just below the glacier. Here they established their Base Camp at approximately 13,500 feet. They considered the shorter route along the cliffs on the right side of the South Glacier stream too treacherous. They now dismissed all but ten of the porters and using two suitable high-altitude porters, established their Base Camp at a point shown as Sukaram, on the half-inch Survey of India Map. One member of the party with a high-altitude porter climbed to recce the glacier for their Advanced Base Camp, while the leader and two of the boys made a climb to about 15,000 feet. Next day they moved to the Advanced Base Camp at about 16,500 feet. On the way up one boy was taken ill and returned to Base Camp with the leader, who came up the next day. Three of the adults then recced the south-east end of the approaches to Tharkot getting up to about 18,500 feet. The leader and the two of the boys that evening returned to Base Camp, followed next day by the rest of the party. They returned to Naini Tal via Nand Kund, spending one night at Ranikhet on the way.

The operation was a satisfactory guide for future expeditions with larger numbers, and valuable experience was gained on such matters as the checking and labelling of equipment, medical cover, and the handling of porters, as well as establishing good relations with the local people for the purpose of arranging porters and supplies. The weather, which was at its best in this area at this time of year, was good. One of the aims of the operation was to find out how the boys would stand up to it. In his report to the Principal on his return to Naini Tal the leader had said7 in view of the worsening political situation the expedition did not attempt an assault on Tharkot ', but it was added that after experience of the three boys above the snowline it was felt that only the adults would be able to manage the assault, although it was not a difficult peak and with more time available for basic training at least two of the boys could have done it. It was also felt that members were not fit enough at the beginning of the operation and that more pre-expedition training was necessary, after which it would be feasible to take more boys of the 13 to 16 age group to this climbing area next year. It was considered that the operation did justify the school's outward- bound activities as a whole as a valuable means of building character, and that as a recce for the school's annual expeditions the operation was an unqualified success.


  1. You will be pleased to learn that, led by Mr. K. P. Sharma, a school party of 14 proceeded to the same area between May 20 and June 7, 1963.


A successful attempt was made on Tharkot, 20,010 feet, by the leader Mr. Thappa, the school P.T.I., Leading Stores Assistant Ambasta and two Sherpas loaned from the H.M.I. The peak was climbed at 0922 on lune 1. Mr. Gardener, a master from the school, and two of the boys reached Camp 2 at 18,600 feet.'

Commander J. S. M. Atkinson, I.N.



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In September, 1962, a small party comprising my wife, Sarah, Miss Jane Knudtzon and myself left Pokhara to make a reconnaissance of Huinchuli Patan to the west of the Dhaulagiri Massif. With us were two young Sherpas and six Tamang coolies, recruited in Kathmandu, who remained with us throughout the two months' trek. The outward journey took us via Baglung, up the Mayandi Khola, crossing the 10,000-foot pass above Lumsun before dropping down to Dhorpatan. We continued down the Uttar Ganga, making an unnecessary detour to avoid the rope bridge at Zaung, below Sehragaon, which we were warned off by the locals, but which proved perfectly easy for the two girls on their return journey. At Gongagrali (Gongrali on the map) we turned up the Sisne Khola traversing high on the western side of the valley, often on a barely perceptible path, to make our Base at Sisne village under the eastern flank of Huinchuli. I made a week's foray with two Sherpa boys to explore the apparently only climbable northern end of the mountain. It is a beautiful, detached twin peak of about 19,400 feet high and a worthy objective for Himalayan Alpinism. We climbed a small peak opposite the north-east face, which we called Amji Himal (Doctor's Peak), 17,500 feet. This gave an excellent view of the two northern ridges. The north-east ridge is, I believe, the key to the mountain ; difficult of access in its first 500 feet but then a long, sharp, and excellent ridge of 2,000 feet of pure snow. The smallness of our party prevented an attempt on the mountain, but a satisfactory way to the approach was found. (Sketch map and article will appear in Alpine Journal).

Following this I crossed the Toridwari Banjang on my own with four of the boys. We reached the Barbung Khola which we followed to Mukut from where crossed the Mu La, 18,500 feet, on November 1, and reached Jomossom in three days. From Jomossom to Pokhara, alone, took a further three days.

Our Tamangs were superb and can be highly recommended. They went well at all altitudes and carried 80 lb. with ease. The two- month trip cost the three of us under £100 each.

Dr. P. R. C. Steele



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‘I’ll arrange to send you some application forms', I had told Capt P. S. Bakshi, before we parted after completing the 29th Basic Course at the H.M.I., Darjeeling. His wish to become a member of the club, alas, was not to be realized!

This is the first time that an Indian ‘Sahib' has lost his life in a climbing accident in the Himalayas (Lieut. Bhagat died of blood- poisoning from an ice-axe wound on Kamet in 1952; Major Jayal succumbed to pneumonia on Cho Oyu in 1958 ; others have also died of either pneumonia or heart failure).

Soon after our return to Darjeeling from Base Camp, ‘Buck' (as we called him for short) was busying himself with thoughts of an expedition to Leo Pargial—a few of us were approached but only Capt. J. N. Wadhwa and Lieut. H. V. Bahuguna were able to join-—the rest of us could not possibly get leave. On his way back to Kasauli where he was stationed, he was able to contact the Army Mountaineering Association at Delhi and obtain their support.

The team which assembled at Simla on June 2, 1962, comprised Capt. P. S. Bakshi (Leader), Capt. J. N. Wadhwa (Deputy Leader), Capt. Sharma, Lieut. H. V. Bahuguna, Lieut. Bargva (Doctor), Sirdar Gyalzen Mikchung, Sherpa Karma Wanchoo, and Sherpa Ang Dawa (Cook). The party left Simla for Poo (on the Hindustan Tibet Road) on June 6 in jeeps. Poo was their administrative headquarters. Base Camp at 16,400 feet was established on June 12 and Camp I at 19,000 feet after a few days of acclimatization.

On June 20 Bakshi, Wadhwa, Gyalzen and Karma left Camp I at 8 a.m. to reconnoitre for a site for Camp II. A suitable spot was found at about 21,200 feet, but in reaching this they had a considerable rock face to negotiate which Bakshi reckoned to be unsuitable for laden porters. He therefore decided to descend over an apparently easier route which avoided the rocks. They started to descend at about 3 p.m. but by 4 o'clock were enveloped in a thick fog, which reduced their Visibility to about five yards or so. They were then on an ice pitch, and had not realized that they were traversing along the edge of a precipice. When progress looked dangerous, they waited for the fog to lift, but as fate would decree they spied some rocks which looked safer for resting than the slippery ice, and the four of them made for the spot. They were all on one rope with Gyalzen leading, followed by Bakshi, Wadhwa and Karma. Suddenly Bakshi slipped and was being held by Gyalzen and Wadhwa, but a few seconds later Karma also lost his stance and fell, now dragging Wadhwa and Gyalzen in turn—a few yards and they were over the precipice, hurtling down about a thousand feet over rock and ice.

At about 5.45 p.m. a battered and bleeding figure approached Camp I—it was Wadhwa. Lieut. Bahuguna and Ang Dawa immediately set out for the scene of the fall, retracing Wadhwa's trail. All three had succumbed to head injuries—there was no other apparent hurt. Impossible to move the bodies—untie the rope- leave them together—come back tomorrow.

Next day Bahuguna, Ang Dawa and six porters go up—no use— can't get them down over difficult ice-slope—bury them in a nearby crevasse—a rucksack, an ice-axe, a prayer.

* * *

One does not require six weeks to size up a person, in the mountains—during the Basic Course ‘Buck' had endeared himself to all and with like-minded chaps, he would discourse at length on birds, trees, flowers, fruits—a real mountain lover—a complete mountaineer, not merely a climber, a technician. Often, he would carry the packs of students feeling the effects of altitude (Wadhwa and Bahuguna were as obliging)—I marvelled at their fitness and their patience with some of the ungrateful recipients of their help. I can still see him (and Capt. B. P. Singh) rubbing the colourless feet of a Tibetan porter with all their energy—racing against time—another half an hour and the man would have lost his feet—frost-bite. They pinched and slapped for a full hour or more, till gradually the unwilling blood slowly flowed back and the wretched man howled with welcome pain. A wonderful blend of intelligence and humility —the type of mountaineer and soldier India requires right now.

The orchid collection at the H.M.I, would, today, be a poor affair if it hadn't been for 4 Buck' who collected no less than thirty different varieties and potted them himself aided partly by Col. Hla Aung of Burma. His last act of kindness to me was to present two of the hardiest varieties to me. I wish I could place them alongside the rucksack and the ice-axe in the crevasse on Leo Pargial.

Karma Wanchoo, son of the great Ajeeba—another loss to Indian mountaineering—hardly twenty years old—a short life amongst the mountains. He was with Sukumar Roy on Nandaghunti in I960, with Biswadeb Biswas on Mana in 1961—a Basic Course at the H.M.I. in 1962, and on my rope, too—a lovable figure always ready to help—few words, lots of action. But why, why lose him so quickly ?

* * *

Gyalzen Mikchung—H.C. 163—Tiger Badge Makalu 1955—the best years of his life lay ahead ; born in 1929 he started his career in 1949 with Lohner on Pyramid Peak and Charlton Thomas on Panch Chuli. After that his record reads like a catalogue. Kailas with Charlton Thomas and Solo Khumbu with Tilman in 1950— Panch Chuli again in 1951 with H. Thomas—Harki Doon with Gibson and Sugar Loaf with Dodson in 1952—Dhaulagiri with Schatz and Nun Kun with Pierre in 1953—Makalu with Siri and again the same year with Franco, fitting Baudha with Styles in between, in 1954—again Makalu with Franco and Kulu valley with Waller in 1955—Lumba Sumba with Jenkins and Trisul with Bun- shah in 1956—Annapurna with Wallace in 1958—West Nepal with Skoulding in 1959—Trisul and Ganesh Himal with Wallace and Kangchenjau with Iengar in 1960.

Less than two months ago he was standing with the French on the summit of Janu (25,294 feet), a mountain of exceptional technical difficulty—surely the gods wrought an unjust revenge—a senseless and spiteful action.

S. S. Mehta



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4 KULU NOTES, 1962-63


The season was opened by another ascent of Deo Tibba (19,687 feet), appropriately enough by a new route on June 7, 1962, by Pa Narbu and Harnam Singh of the climbing school recently established in Manali.

They chose the ice-fall which descends directly from the neve which forms the summit snow dome to the glacis in the vicinity of the Chandar Tal (c. 16,000 feet). This steep little ice-fall is bounded on the west by the south face of Deo Tibba and on the east by the Watershed ridge. It is clearly shown in the photograph opposite page 104 in Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXI, of 1958.

The party approached by the usual route through the Jagatsukh (Dunangan) Nulla, and eventually camped in the basin adjacent to Chandar Tal, west of Watershed ridge and south of Deo Tibba, on June 5.

The head of the solang nulla, Kulu Himalaya. The 16,891 foot pass into the Bara Bangyal is marked. (Bob Pettigrew)

Photo: Bob Pettigrew

The head of the solang nulla, Kulu Himalaya. The 16,891 foot pass into the Bara Bangyal is marked.

JELN 10 b1944. (Bob Pettigrew)

Photo: Bob Pettigrew

JELN 10 b1944.

By lunch time the next day half the ice-fall had been climbed, not without difficulty, and a camp was sited close to the crest of Watershed ridge. Here their ice-fall route merged with the Watershed ridge route taken on previous ascents and the ice-fall gave way to firm neve.

The summit was reached at 2.45 p.m. the next day, June 7, after 9 ½ hours of climbing. During the descent unpleasant snow conditions were encountered and the party was lucky to survive two serious falls caused by the balling-up of crampons.

During the post-monsoon period the same massif was again visited by the successful Japanese Expedition from Kyoto University led by Professor Konoshin Onodera. On October 13, 1962, this party achieved the first ascent of Indrasan (20,410 feet) by a remarkable and daring route on the very steep south face. The face was gained from a camp on the upper Malana neve (the third shelf) at 18,300 feet. A photograph of this aspect of Indrasan appears opposite page 102 in the Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXI, for 1958. The climbers made use of a couloir on the east side of the great buttress, which is a conspicuous feature of the west ridge. Once clear of the ice-cliffs which dominate the face, they took to the summit pyramid of snow and climbed directly to the top. As was expected by their predecessors to the mountain, the difficulties encountered were prolonged and severe. On the same day yet another ascent of Deo Tibba was made by other members of the Japanese Expedition. They shared the same camp as the Indrasan party and climbed the mountain from the south-east—a natural line above the Watershed ridge.

During the pre-monsoon season of 1963 only one important expedition passed through Manali. This was the Central Lahul expedition organized by Mr. Justice Cramm of Nyasaland, a member of the Alpine Club, which left Manali for the Rhotang Pass and Lahul at the end of May, 1963.

Bob Pettigrew and Frank Thompson won brief spells of leave from a strictly family holiday in Manali and made excursions into the attractive Solang and Malana nullas.

The first Solang trek, between May 2 and 4, made with Dr. Peter Snell, a keen trekker now resident at the Lady Willingdon Hospital, Manali, fell far short of its objective, the 16,391-foot pass into the Bara Bangyal. However, the party observed many fine but difficult peaks and inadvertently stalked an enormous brown bear to within 20 yards.

On the second trek into the Solang nulla, between May 13 and 16, Sonam Ang Chook replaced Peter Snell. In Arctic conditions the party reached the foot of the pass but turned back on account of frequent powder snow avalanches across the slopes beneath it. These fell from the east face of the great spur which descends south from Mukar Beh (19,910 feet). The climbers concluded that they were still too early in the season—every day saw fresh snow—so they withdrew.

The Malana nulla trek lasted from May 27 to 31. The Chandra Khanni Pass (11,617 feet), still snow-covered, was crossed on May 29 and a camp was made just beyond the watershed. The next day Peak 14,522 feet, the last major summit in the long spur running south from Indrasan which divides the Beas and Malana valleys, was climbed by easy snow slopes and a short rock ridge. Just below the summit an engraved block was found bearing the enigmatic' J E L N 10' and the date 1944Is this more evidence of the excursions of the Italian climbers during their wartime imprisonment in the Kangra Valley ? A full panorama was photographed before the climbers returned to strike camp and head for home.

Further climbs in the mountains above the Malana nulla are being planned by Bob Menzies and Bob Pettigrew for the post- monsoon period in 1963.

Mountaineers will regret that Major H. M. Banon, Chini Sahib has had to give up his duties as the Honorary Local Secretary, Kulu, on account of ill health. For many years he was a most able holder of that office and the Club, as well as many individuals, will remember his work with affection and gratitude.

Fortunately, John Banon, H. M.'s nephew, a noted shikari, and an equally vigorous member of the family, has agreed to take on the multifarious tasks connected with acting as host to expeditions climbing from Manali and he has been appointed Honorary Local Secretary, Kulu.



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(Climbing Camp—Valley of Flowers—May-June, 1961 ; a summary of a report by Jagdish Nanavati.)

In the summer of 1961 a Climbing Camp in the Bhiundhar Valley in the Garhwal Himalayas was sponsored by the Mountaineering Committee, Bombay (now the Climbers' Club). The object of the three-week Camp was to introduce twelve (young climbers to mountaineering in the Himalayas. The Valley of Flowers was selected since it offered an easy access from Joshimath and contained modest peaks of climbing interest. The Camp was in charge of Jagdish Nanavati.

Considerable difficulty was experienced in obtaining the required number of porters at Joshimath to carry about 3,200 lb. of stores and equipment. But the party finally assembled at the Base Camp (c. 11,200 feet) in the Valley on May 20. A few days were spent in reconnaissance, acclimatization and practice climbs under the guidance of three Sherpa climbers headed by Nowang Gombu (of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling). Notable amongst these one-day climbs was the one to Sapta-Sring range (c. 16,500 feet) over soft snow-covered slopes rising to about 4,700 feet above the Base Camp.

The effort of the Camp was directed to an attempt on Nilgiri Parbat, 21,240 feet, which is situated on the north-east corner of the Valley. It is an outstanding peak. The south rocky face of the mountain rises above the head of a minor glacier for 6,000 feet. The southern and eastern ridges are steep and rocky, offering little hope of a route to the summit. The mountain was therefore approached from the Khuliagarvia Valley after crossing the Khulia Ghata pass (c. 16,500 feet) and the attempt was made up the north-western face of the mountain. Nilgiri Parbat was first climbed by Frank Smythe in 1937 by this route. He had summed up his climb as 'unique for its beauty and interest, indeed the finest snow and ice peak I have ever climbed

Intermediate Camp (c. 14,200 feet) and Pass Camp (c. 16,500 feet) were set up before establishing on May 28 an Advanced Base Camp at about 15,400 feet on the snow-covered Khuliagarvia moraine. Nilgiri Parbat rose to the east of the Camp. The head of the Khuliagarvia glacier was towards the north-east and rose in two steps over small ice-falls. The upper plateau was crevasse-ridden. Above the plateau the route turned to the north-western face of the mountain through semicircles of ice-walls and cliffs. The upper part of the mountain contained more ice-walls one over another, running right across the face. There was no obvious route to the summit. After two days of reconnoitring, Gombu and Phenjo succeeded in finding a route by-passing the lower obstacles, and on June 1 set up Camp I with two climbers, Gawrang Choudhuri and Ankur Purohit (who being 16, was the youngest member of the team). Early next morning at 4.44 a.m. they left Camp I for the summit. The route above Camp I took them immediately to a large snow plateau. They avoided the huge ice-cliffs above this snow-field by crossing the plateau towards the east and reached the lower edge of the ice-wall and climbed to the upper slopes which gradually steepened. They soon came up along a huge ice-wall running diagonally from east to west. Aiming to overcome the ice-wall towards the upper western side the climbers continued to about 19,500 feet where they found some snow-filled crevasses across their way. It was 7 a.m. Gombu estimated the climb to the summit to be more than a day's return from Camp I and found the snow conditions unfavourable with dangers of avalanches from the series of ice-walls above. Indeed the route was far from certain. It was decided to return. By 8.30 a.m. the summit team returned to Camp I where, shortly afterwards, it was joined by the support party consisting of Jagdish Nanavati, Shapur Panthaki and three porters, who had climbed up from the Advance Base Camp. In view of the prevailing hazards and the short time left at its disposal for the required reconnoitring and setting up of Camp II, further attempt on the mountain was not made. On June 3 the party returned to the Base Camp in the Valley of Flowers, The loads were brought down from the higher camps and repacked for the return journey. The climbers left the Valley on June 6, reaching Joshimath on the 9th.


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