In June, 1964, the Inspector-General of Police of Uttar Pradesh, Sri Shanti Prasad, called me to Lucknow for an official interview, mainly to congratulate me and give ‘shabash' for the success of Indian Panch Chuli Expedition, 1964, on three virgin peaks of the Panch Chuli massif. Incidentally, I was one of the members of this team led by Flt.-Lt. A. K. Choudhary. During our talks, the I.G. of Police asked me if I could organize a Police expedition, in the pre-monsoon season of 1965, to one of the peaks in the Kumaon or Garhwal Himalaya. Without waiting the fraction of a second, I said yes. Next morning I was taken to the Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the I.G. of Police sought his blessings for the first Police venture in mountaineering and requested him for funds. The Home Minister very kindly promised us all financial help and I was directed to go ahead with my administrative planning and selection of a moderately high and difficult peak, preferably virgin.

After a careful scrutiny of books and journals on mountaineering, survey maps of the Central Himalaya and consultations with the leader, deputy-leader and other members of the Indian Everest Expedition, 1965, I finalized my choice for Ganesh Parbat. This mountain is situated in the Zaskar Range, overlooking Tibet and towering 21,430 feet above sea-level. The famous mountain ranges of Dev Ban, Mana, Kamet, Abi Gamin, etc., are situated in the close proximity of Ganesh. As it was an unreconnoitred peak, it had been a temptation to quite a few mountaineers.

Ganesh Parbat has been named after the first Hindu God, Ganesh. Sri Ganesh in Hindi connotes ‘the beginning’. It was, therefore, in the fitness of things that the Uttar Pradesh Police made its debut of mountaineering on Ganesh Parbat.

My chief adviser on route and planning was Mr. Gurdial Singh, who needs no introduction to readers of the Himalayan Journal. He had very kindly also given me the references of some high- altitude porters, such as Kalyan Singh, Pooran Singh, Bahadur, Bhim, and others, who had been working with him in the Garhwal Himalaya.

The Government of Uttar Pradesh generously sanctioned Rs. 15,000 for the purchase and hiring of equipment, food, medicines, Sherpas' wages, transport, photography, etc. I bought eight sets of wind-proof suits, eight climbing trousers, two Meade Tents and wool for 16 pairs of socks and stocking and eight jerseys. The knitting was done free of cost both by my wife and the wives of other officers of my Unit. A few items of high- altitude rations like dry fruits, Ovaltine, Horlicks, fruit juices, etc., were received as gifts from various firms and manufacturing concerns. This helped us in keeping down the expenses of the expedition. We spent only Rs. 13,740 and out of this I bought equipment worth Rs.3,500 to serve us in future expeditions.

A seven-member team, including a medical officer of the Indian Army, was selected. All the members had been trained in the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. Since we failed to get a civilian medical officer, Sri H. C. Sarin, member of the Sponsoring Committee of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, detailed Capt. Malik, of A.M.C., to accompany us. None of my members had any previous climbing experience but they were keen and enthusiastic and worked very hard to see us through. I hired the services of three Sherpas from Darjeeling and four high-altitude porters from Garhwal to assist us in ferrying loads and making routes beyond Base Camp.

After about six months of planning and preparations, we left Lucknow on May 22, 1965, for the mountains. Our train journey up to Moradabad and road journey to Tapoban, the roadhead, in District Chamoli were uneventful, except that we had started preparing ourselves for the hills right from our railway compartment.

From the roadhead our 19 to 20 quintals of load were carried further by about a dozen porters and 25 Bhotia ponies to our Base Camp in Raikana Kharak near Sem Kharak and East Kamet glaciers, at an altitude of 15,000 feet. Starting our trek on May 27 from an altitude of 9,500 feet, we were in the Base Camp on the 30th. We halted at Bampa village for a day, on account of a landslide ahead of village Niti on the mule track. It was cleared, and a breast-wall which had given way was repaired by the muleteers. Earlier, when the motor road was only up to Chamoli, the expeditions for Kamet used to trek for nine to ten days to reach Base Camp in Raikana Kharak. Our Base Camp was scheduled to be sited practically at the same place as that of the previous expeditions to Kamet. I had read accounts of these expeditions and was under the impression that the Base Camp's approach and location would be through scree and boulders. This year, however, the snow-fall was unusually heavy and late, and our trek was across snow from the Dhauli River, which some of us crossed over natural snow-bridges. The Bhotia ponies forded the icy current early in the morning, when the water was only knee-deep. Short of our Base Camp, our mules were seen sinking in loose snow up to their bellies and practically crawling their way through. The porters, the muleteers and the mules were reluctant to proceed further. We had planned to set up our Base Camp another mile or so at 15,500 feet, at the actual site of the old expeditions but there was no way out. Although I outwardly expressed my dissatisfaction over the performance of our transport, I was more than satisfied and was quite content to keep my Base Camp at the site where we had arrived after the day's toil in loose snow. It was the day of Bhotia ponies rather than of the mountaineers. Their performance in loose snow, without any training in a mountaineering institute, was, if not better, as good as ours. The announcement that we were not going to go any further, and would put up our Base Camp here only, was very welcome to members, Sherpas and high- altitude porters. The happiest were our wireless operators. At last we were on our own (seven members, two wireless operators, three Sherpas and four high-altitude porters) in the wilderness of snow and rugged rocky ranges.

The sorting-out of equipment and high-altitude rations started in full swing on the 31st morning. After breakfast, porter Kalyan Singh, having fairly good knowledge of this area, accompanied me to show me the actual site of the previous Kamet expeditions' Base Camp. He felt rather embarrassed when he failed to pinpoint the location. Snow conditions had completely changed the landscape and a stream, one of the important recognition signs of this site, had not come up so far, I could see his worry and he strongly pleaded his argument of unusually heavy snow-fall this year. We, however, proceeded further from the so-called vicinity of previous Base Camps and selected a site for our Advance Base at 16,000 feet, just above the junction of the Raikana and East Kamet glaciers at a distance of about four miles from Base Camp. On June 1, we started ferrying loads to this site and called it the acclimatization phase of the expedition. Members and Sherpas were advised to carry according to their capacity and eat according to their requirements. Sharga and Tewari, the wireless operators, had in the meantime opened up their ‘shop' and established contact with Lucknow. I am rather an impatient person and much against the advice of Capt. Malik, custodian of our health, I left for reconnaissance of Camp I site on June 1. Our initial plan was to go further towards Uttari Raikana Glacier but Kalyan told me that Mr. Gurdial Singh had once mentioned to him that the only possible route to Ganesh Glacier was through the nullah on the fall of which our Advance Base was situated. This information was corroborated by survey map sheet of the area. I, therefore, thought that I had probably wrongly understood the route on the map as explained by Mr. Gurdial Singh and should pay heed to Kalyan. Two of my members, Balwant Singh Pal and Aug Chhatter, Kalyan and myself got into this nullah which was completely frozen with a fairly thick layer of loose snow.

Another party of two Sherpas, one porter and member Ramesh Shahi was sent to see the route I had initially selected, which required us to negotiate a rocky ridge to get into Ganesh Glacier. Both teams were in contact through walkie-talkie sets provided by the State Radio Officer, Sri Joshi. In the first two hours the progress of my party was better than that of Shahi who, speaking on wireless set, gave an impression that the route followed by him may not be worth adopting for ferrying loads, as it required use of all the fours together on tricky rocks. I, therefore, advised him to retreat and we carried on our march till we reached a snow-field at an altitude of 18,000 feet. We selected this place for Camp I. It took us four hours to climb 2,000 feet from Advance Base Camp-site. Since we had started from our Base Camp, we practically worked whole day before we could get back to our shelters. I felt rather guilty for my impatience when I found all the members of both parties almost half-dead. The Sherpas took it lightly but the members and porters including myself must have cursed me. Tewari, one of the wireless operators, with a ready sense of humour, was heard remarking, ‘some persons are fully acclimatized today we all had to be persuaded by Doc to eat our dinner.

Stocking of our Advance Base Camp continued till June 4, when all of us shifted here except the wireless operators and two porters, Bhim and Bahadur. We were loaded like mules with our kit and equipment and ploughed through loose snow at a snail's pace. The Advance Base Camp, in its bid to acclimatize us further, welcomed us with cold winds, dark clouds and ultimately snow-fall which remained incessant for 44 hours. This immobilized us for some time but we were not caught unawares as the warning had been given to us by the Meteorological Department in a special weather bulletin issued by All-India Radio. This prolonged spell of snow delayed our plans to stock Camp I (18,000 feet). We were forced to remain idle on the 5th and 6th. On June 7, loads were ferried to Camp I and on the 8th five members, two Sherpas and two porters occupied Camp I. Doctor, with another ailing member, Dhek, who was mainly included in the team for photography, was to join us next day if Dhek's swelling on face and feet subsided. Since he did not respond to Doc's drugs, it was decided to send him down to Base Camp to give company to our wireless staff. Dhek was rather reluctant to go back but Doc apprehended complications and convinced him of the wisdom of return. There was no serious trouble as such but he just could not acclimatize. At Base Camp, he remained in perfect health.

Generally, the mountains cheat the climbers and make them go up and down before reaching a particular height. Ganesh was, however, exceptionally kind and straightforward in its dealings with us so far, in that we either descended or ascended according to plan and there were no upsets.

From Camp I, the survey maps indicated two routes for Ganesh Glacier. We organized two parties on June 9 to survey these approaches. Sherpa Aila and porter Pooran with Ramesh Shahi were sent to assess the route on the west of camp-site. Ang Chhatter, Sherpa Sangboo and myself negotiated the ice-fall to our east for selecting a suitable site to Camp IT.

Both teams reached dead-ends after climbing up to more than 19,000 feet. Ramesh with others reached the top of rocky ridge providing a fencing to Ganesh Glacier below. Ganesh Peak showed majestically but the team could not get anywhere near it. My team's plight was no better. We reached the high ridge on the north-east of our goal, and lower regions of Ganesh Glacier were a few thousand feet below us, having no approach. We all returned to Camp I in the afternoon, cursing the inaccuracy of survey maps.

Without losing further time, the painful decision was taken of abandoning Camp I immediately. It seems incredible but we really closed down this camp, stocked in three days, on the 9th afternoon itself. All of us decided to load ourselves unusually heavily. Sherpas and porters, besides their rucksack and man- pack loads, devised a sledge system for pulling our heavy stores, like ropes, utensils, etc. When, with heavy hearts, we set off on our mission of tactical withdrawal to our Advance Base, the weather gods also decided to have a dig at us. We were caught in a snowstorm, with blizzards and visibility became almost nil. We groped in the snow and only a sense of direction, coupled with will-power, enabled us to reach the Advance Base Camp, which we had deserted for good only a day earlier. Poor Doc's labours were wasted. Plodding his way on steep ascent in loose snow, he had not even reached Camp I, when he sighted us rushing back. He passed some anxious moments before we got in his hearing distance to tell him the reasons of our retreat. Sharga and Tewari, in Base Camp, contacted us on walkie-talkie sets at the scheduled hour in the evening. Tewari was heard saying, ' Base Camp calling Camp I, Base Camp calling Camp I. Report my signal over.' He got the shock of his life when I spoke from this end, 'Leader speaking from Advance Base and not, repeat not, Camp I.' Detailed reasons for this withdrawal were dictated on set to be passed on to Lucknow, with a special request to Sri Joshi, Police Radio Officer, who had so kindly taken up the job of publicity officer for our expedition. The request read: ‘Our retreat from Camp I likely to be misunderstood by general public. Request do not give it to press.' I learnt later that our tactical withdrawal did cause concern to the sponsoring committee members of our expedition and this news had hit the headlines in the Lucknow Press.

Here in Advance Base we were planning to re-reconnoitre the route given up earlier and stop consulting the survey map for the present. On June 10, a party of five (three members and two Sherpas) set off early morning under the command of Ramesh Shahi. They took their haversack lunch and resolved to go as far as possible to find a passage. Suresh, the doctor, and myself left for the Base Camp to assess whether our food would suffice under the changed circumstances. We returned to the Advance Base Camp in the afternoon and waited anxiously for the recce party to return, with our fingers crossed. No sooner did the party arrive than we could read on their beaming faces that they had succeeded in their mission. This discovery was celebrated by opening up tins of ‘Shami Kababs '. Next day's programme was chalked out and each one of us realized the value of time ahead. On June 11, double ferry was done by each member of the expedition over a distance of four miles to establish a camp at 17,000 feet. This height was not small by any standards of mountaineering for setting-up Camp I but, in view of our earlier achievements of naming Camp I at 18,000 feet, I did not have the heart to name 17,000 feet location as Camp I and decided to call it 0-5 Camp only. Naming and numbering camps does not materially affect the climb but for persons like me, it is difficult to overcome complexes. Our camp was situated on a spur overlooking Raikana main and Uttari Raikana glaciers. Ganesh, though visible from Advance Base, had now disappeared from our view.

In between our goal and our new camping ground was a steep climb to reach the top of the ridge encircling Ganesh Glacier. It was throughout on snow which turned loose towards the early afternoons, especially on sunny days. In the early morning of June 12, Ramesh, Balwant, Angchatter and myself, with our two Sherpas, Aila and Sangboo, and porter Kalyan left bag and baggage to pitch our Arctic and Meade tents somewhere on Ganesh Glacier, the base of our mountain. Sherpa Hisse and porter Pooran helped in setting up this camp. They returned to 0-5 Camp after leaving their loads of essentials for us.

Our Camp I (18,500 feet) was located in the middle of Ganesh Glacier snow-field. We felt very safe here as, except the impossible fall of Ganesh mount itself, there was no ridge or ice- wall nearby to bury us in our sleep, the fate which many unfortunate expeditions have met in the mountains at the hands of cruel avalanches. We wanted to stay in this camp a little longer but we were having a race against time and therefore decided to leave next morning. The only approach now was through one of the arms of Ganesh extended along the glacier towards the east. To hit the arm almost at the elbow we started the ascent in the direction of our nose from Camp II. It was tough going. A few patches were of loose snow and the others were of hard slippery ice. Crampons were a nuisance in loose snow but compensated on hard ice.

After struggling for about six hours, we reached our Camp II at 20,000 feet. Ganesh Peak appeared to be at a shouting distance from here. In the moonlit night it looked still closer. All the time that we remained out of our tents, practically each one of us was wickedly staring at the mountain. The peak, however, did not blush and smiled now and then to encourage our advances.

It was the 13th day of the month, which is considered rather inauspicious in Hindu mythology. For me it should be the luckiest as I owe my birth to this date in this wonderful world. Doc, Padam Singh, Sherpa Hisse and porter Pooran starting from Camp 0-5 had taken our places in Camp I. Balwant and Kalyan had also joined them, after leaving us at Camp II. In this lone fairyland, there were now two townships fully inhabited, i.e. Camps I and II. We could see each other's locations and even movements, with the help of binoculars.

On the 14th we (three members and two Sherpas) left at 04.00 hours, with the intention of marking route to the summit for final assault. Wishfully thinking that if we surmount major obstacles we might reach the summit, the National and Uttar Pradesh Police flags were also taken. It was a fight against blue hard ice today on a steep gradient varying from 45 to 70 degrees. Each step had to be cut beyond 45 degrees angle. We fixed 500 feet of manila and ten ice-pitons, the total in our stock that day. Working till 13.30 hours continuously, we reached a point from where the peak only appeared to be about 250 feet. Since our resources of rope and pitons were exhausted, we had no other alternative but to withdraw and try our luck again after getting more ropes and pitons from camps below. Undoubtedly, we were very sorry not to have been able to attain the highest point of the mountain and yet we consoled each other with the words, 'After all, we were not assaulting the peak today. We had only intended to make the route safe to the summit.' We returned to Camp II at 17.30 hours-dog-tired. At 18.00 hours I talked to Doc in Camp I on the walkie-talkie set and indented more ropes and pitons. All day long Doc had been watching our progress with binoculars and during our conversation on the wireless set he had tactfully avoided the subject of our return from the vicinity of the peak. Like a fool, I started relating the whole incident to him and his diplomatic indifference made me doubt his sincerity for the expedition. Doc immediately assessed our requirement and he stuffed our location next day with pitons and ropes. The poor fellow had to arrange pitons from our 17,000- foot camp (0-5). All of us, in our air of complacency, while leaving 0-5 Camp, had thought that a dozen ice-pitons would be more than enough.

Since the final ascent required step-cutting and rope-fixing throughout, we decided to practically raid the mountain in as large a number as possible, to share the hard work ahead. On the afternoon of June 15 all of us (six members, three Sherpas and two high-altitude porters) congregated at our assault base. To our great discomfort, at about 17.00 hours, the clouds appeared suddenly in all the valleys around, rose into the air and enveloped us from all sides. To add insult to injury, it started snowing also. It was probably the first strategic move of God Ganesh to deter us from implementing our plans. The snow-fall did not stop until practically everybody forgot about next morning's final assault and started snoring. Here I was one up on Ganesh. The snow-fall had stopped at 00.30 hours of June 16, and I was still awake. At 01.00 hours, seeing the moonlight on the shoulders of Ganesh, I came out of my tent and like an ancient warrior in the battlefield shouted for my men, ‘Get up, my sons. The hour has come. Get ready and come out of your tents.' I was sorry to disturb them all on so tranquil a night. The boys reacted promptly to my call. Stoves were lit, tea prepared and consumed, and all of us roped up in three teams. Doc had wisely decided to stay behind and take care of us on our return.

To have better control over this mad crowd rushing towards the heights at such an unearthly hour, I got into rope No. 2, practically in the centre of them all. At 02.00 hours when we left, the moonlight disappeared, clouds re-formed and we had no option but to use torch-lights for looking ahead and proceeding forward. We reached the point where we had left off on June 14 as early as 05.30 hours. The next six hours were spent on fixing another 750 feet of rope, cutting steps and also prayers to God Ganesh for mercy. The weather all this time remained threatening—cloudy and windy, with occasional snow-fall. It looked as if Ganesh tried to hide the process of our climb from the rest of the world and entered into a conspiracy with the thick clouds to achieve his aim, but in vain, as we touched the summit in spite of this at 11.30 hours—all ten of us. A little lower than the top, we had seen Ang Chhatter murmuring, with folded hands and bent knees, ‘Jai ho Ganesh Maharaj ki’. Unconsciously, we all were doing the same.

All great things have their grace and so did Ganesh. We were granted two to three brief spells of sunlight to take photographs of the National and U.P. Police flags planted so proudly by the team on the top.

The descent was comparatively easy and quick. The large steps cut by as many as ten persons, and 1,250-foot rope fixed, fell very handy and we got down to our 20,000-foot camp as if on pucca stairs. The camps were wound up in record time. On June 17 we closed Camps I and II and on the 18th reached Base Camp to get back to Joshimath on the 22nd.

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