[The names ‘Bidhan Parbat' and ‘Gauranga Parbat' have been retained in the article and the sketch map for identification purposes only. Gauranga Parbat is not featured as a surveyed point on the Survey of India or the Swiss map of the area.

It is not suggested that these names be adopted as final titles—Editor.]

The Mountaineers' Club, Calcutta, organized the expedition to two unnamed peaks (c. 20,000 feet and 21,390 feet) in the North Garhwal-Himalayan region during May-June 1968. The peaks were climbed on June 12 and 15, 1968, respectively. After the climb we christened the unnamed peaks as Gouranga Parbat (c. 20,000 feet) in memory of the late Gouranga Sundar Choudhury, a renowned mountaineer of West Bengal, who was lost in the Gangotri Himalayas in 1965, and Bidhan Parbat (21,390 feet) in memory of the late Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, former Chief Minister of West Bengal, who was one of the founders of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling.

  1. The Mountains
  2. The Team
  3. The Details of the Expedition
  4. The Trek
  5. The Base Camp
  6. The Reconnaissance
  7. A Peculiar Coincidence



The Mountains

Bidhan Parbat (21,390 feet); It is situated on the eastern end of the famous Mana (23,860 feet) ridge which stretches from the east to the west for about 7 miles. This ridge is characterized by broken rocks, steep cliffs on both faces on the north as well as on the south. The continuous line of Mana-Deoban-Bidhan Parbat is situated between the two famous glaciers—Purbi Kamet glacier on the north and Bankund glacier on the south. The shape of Bidhan Parbat is almost triangular. The route we followed to this peak was through Sem Kharak Ka glacier. The peak was first climbed by the great mountaineer, Frank Smythe, through Bankund glacier in 1937.

Gouranga Parbat (c. 20,000 feet): It is situated at the head of Sem Kharak Ka glacier, just south-east of the Bidhan Parbat. The distance between these two peaks is about 1 1/2 mile. The eastern face of it is a steep rock while the western face bears some patches of ice and snow. The rocky south-western ridge is the only passable route to the summit. Ours was the first ascent of it.



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The Team

The team was composed of 10 mountaineers from West Bengal, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The members were: Sunil Chaudhuri (Leader), Biswadeb Biswas (Tech. Adviser), Baidyanath Rakshit (Dy. Leader), Samar Banerjee (Manager), Santi Ghosh, Pranesh Chakraborty, Amiya Mukherjee, Dr. Bimal Bhusan Ghosh Dasti- dar (Medical Officer), Gurdeep Singh Malia of Delhi and Hukum Singh Bist of Uttar Pradesh.

Sheoraj Singh, ex-Vice-Principal, Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, now Commandant, Border Security Force, who was included in the team, could not join the expedition due to exigencies of work.

Six Sherpas were also included in the team from the Sherpa Climbers' Association, Darjeeling. They were given the status of full members. They were Sherpas Pasang Tshring, Thundu, Kami Rita Mote, Sonam Gyatso II, Sona and Topkay.

Thirty porters and 30 mules were engaged for carrying the expedition gear and other loads from Malari.



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The Details of the Expedition

On May 28, 1968, we left Calcutta by the Doon Express for Hardwar. Samar Banerjee and Amiya Mukherjee left Calcutta on May 22 for Joshimath to arrange transport, ration and porters. Gurdeep Singh Malia joined them at Joshimath direct from Delhi and Hukum Singh Bist, the famous guide of the mysterious Rupkund (16,000 feet), joined us at Hardwar direct from Wan village on the 30th. We arrived at Hardwar on May 30 before noon. The U.P. Government was kind enough to sanction a Govt. Roadways Passenger Bus and a 5-ton truck to carry our members and expedition gear from Hardwar to Malari and back free of charge. We availed ourselves of the U.P. Govt, chartered transport on the same day and arrived at Devprayag in the evening.

The next day we left Devprayag early in the morning. Amiya was waiting at Chamoli, the district headquarters of North Garhwal, with rations, supplied by the U.P. Govt. Food Department on a special permit. We halted for about three hours at Chamoli for loading the rations and to obtain free gate-permit 7 from the S.D.M. On the same day we arrived at Joshimath at 8 p.m. when Samar and Gurdeep received us at the bus-stand. We put up at the Birla Dharamsala.

June 1 was a hectic day for us. We secured the inner-line permits for our members and Sherpas and camera-permission from the Tahsildar's Office at Joshimath. The Tahsildar and his staff were very co-operative and hospitable to us. Here we met Major Cheema and Fit. Lt. V. P. Singh, Leader of the N.D.A. expedition team to Changbhang and Kalanka. We came to know that Major Bahuguna and Gurdial Singh had taken a 12-member cadet team of the Indian Military Academy and left Joshimath two days earlier to attempt Deoban (22,490 feet).

On the morning of June 2 we left Joshimath by the same bus and were held up at Tapoban. An important bridge over the turbulent Dhauli River had washed away by landslide near Rini village. However, it was soon rebuilt by the D.G.B.R. engineers and we reached Malari (10,000 feet) in the evening of June 3.

Next morning Kedar Singh and Pratap Singh, porter and pony mates respectively, came to Malari dak bungalow early in the morning with their porters and ponies. They packed up loads for 30 porters and 29 mules. With this caravan of loads we left Malari at 10 a.m. on June 4.



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The Trek

With heavy loads on our back we walked up and down through a beautiful road constructed by the D.G.B.R. and P.W.D. Crossing the thickly populated Malari village and the turbulent Dhauli River over a suspension bridge the heavenly road went towards Niti, the last Indian village in this region. Most of the road was shaded by deodar and rhododendrons and we did not feel exhausted though we had trekked about 15 miles that day. We camped at Niti (11,000 feet) for the night. On the way we crossed the beautiful Bampa, Gamshali and Temersend villages.

Leaving Niti on the 5th morning we arrived at Sepuk (12,500 feet) before noon. Sepuk is the confluence of Dhauli and Raikana rivers. We pitched our colourful tents on the bank of the Dhauli River.



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The Base Camp

On the morning of June 6 Baidyanath, Pranesh, Pasang, Thundu and myself left Sepuk camp to reconnoitre the Base Camp and the natural boulder-bridge. We crossed the Dhauli River over a natural ice-bridge and followed the hanging valley of Raikana towards the north-west. We crossed the Raikana River over another natural ice-bridge-these rivers had no bridges constructed by the P.W.D. Traversing the mixed terrains of boulders and scree we reached the snout of Sem Kharak at about 1 p.m. It was a beautiful plain camping ground with abundant supply of fresh water and fuel. Just over the snout and only half a furlong from the camping ground there was heavy accumulation of snow. So, we decided to establish our Base Camp on the plains of Sem Kharak. On our way back to Sepuk we found the natural boulder-bridge over the Raikana River. It was about half a mile from the Base Camp site.

Next morning we dismantled Sepuk camp. The ponies were sent unloaded to cross the natural ice-bridge and we transhipped the loads on the other side of the Dhauli River. We followed the hanging valley of Raikana through the eastern bank up to the natural boulder-bridge. The Base Camp was established at 12.30 p.m. at Sem Kharak (14,300 feet) on June 7, 1968.



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The Reconnaissance

Camp I was reconnoitred on June 8. Biswadeb, Pasang, Thundu and myself left Base Camp early in the morning and pushed off towards the Sem Kharak Ka glacier. Crossing the snout of Sem Kharak we climbed up the snow-covered lateral moraine of the glacier. The main glacier flows from east to west and another small glacier follows the same direction parallel with the former on the other side of the lateral moraine. At the head of the lateral moraine there was a small space where two camps could be pitched. We selected the place for our Camp I. Its altitude was 17,000 feet. From this point the glacier takes a turn towards the north-east. Biswadeb, Pasang and Thundu went up a bit to find out the peak which was hidden by an alp covered with fresh snow just in front of Camp I. They returned after an hour and reported that just at the head of the glacier they found the snow-clad pyramid type peak and a black rocky peak side by side—Bidhan Parbat (21,390 feet) and Gouranga Parbat (c. 20,000 feet)—in the extreme west.

Camp I was established on June 9 at 17,000 feet on the lateral moraine. Pranesh, Amiya and two Sherpas occupied the camp while other members, Sherpas and porters dumped foodstuff and equipment and returned to Base.

Next day Baidyanath, Samar, Gurdeep and myself went up to Camp I to help Amiya and Pranesh. Doctor Dastidar, Biswadeb and Santi remained at Base Camp. Pranesh and Amiya had reconnoitred the upper basin of Sem Kharak Ka Gal in the morning and found out a good site for Camp II. The altitude of the place was 18,500 feet. They also dumped some rations, tents and ropes there. In the evening the weather became dull, thick black clouds assembled in the nearer gullies and within a short time they covered the whole area. A strong wind was blowing. We were anxious of our tiny tents as they were pitched on the narrow ridge of the lateral moraine.

On the morning of June 11 I had decided to send back Sherpa Topkay and a high-altitude porter to Base Camp as they had severe abdominal pain and fever since the previous evening. With the help of two other high-altitude porters they were sent back to Base. Due to shortage of high-altitude porters we had to carry heavy loads for establishing Camp II. It was established at the head of the Sem Kharak Ka glacier at 12 noon. From Camp I we climbed up the steep alp which was covered with snow and followed the northern bank of the snow-covered glacier. We traversed an ice-fall very carefully without using any fixed rope. Climbing up and up, wave after wave on the glacier, we felt breathless. After walking for about three hours we were at the foot of an ice-wall standing like a giant in front of us. Pranesh, Pasang and Thundu found a zigzag way and fixed ropes on the ice-wall. Amiya and myself waited there for the porters who were also carrying heavy loads.

After half an hour four porters came up with their loads. They were all suffering from headache. Amiya received them with hot tea from his flask. Taking a little rest we allowed the porters to climb the wall first. When they were near the top of the wall we started climbing through that zigzag way slowly and silently. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top of the wall. The colourful high-altitude tents were found far off on the glacier. The glacier was almost level for about 2 miles from this point. The width of it was about 2 furlongs. It was surrounded by two long and high walls. The main wall which stretched from south-west to the east divided the famous Deoban and Sem Kharak Ka Gal. With this panorama of scenic beauty the white snow-clad pyramid of Bidhan Parbat (21,390 feet) and the black rocky Gouranga Parbat (c. 20,000 feet) stood in the background.

A clear dawn of promise heralded the advent of June 12 morning. The previous night we had decided to send Pranesh and Amiya to reconnoitre Gouranga Parbat. If possible they would climb the peak. Accordingly, at 9 a.m. Pranesh, Amiya, Pasang, Thundu and Kami Mote left Camp II (18,500 feet) with pack lunch, climbing ropes, fix ropes, ice and rock pitons and hammers. They formed into two ropes, crossed the glalcier with good speed and started climbing up a small ice-fall and an ice- wall just at the base of Gouranga Parbat. They claimbed up the wall and followed the south-western ridge of Gouranga Parbat which was steep with loose rocks and soft snow. I was observing, with my binocular, their progress. Soon a patch of cloud was found on Deoban glacier and within half an hour it enveloped the whole sky and they were engulfed by mist.





The summit party returned to Camp II at 4.15 p.m. with the news of triumph. They reached the summit of Gouranga Parbat at 1.05 p.m. They hoisted the National Flag that was presented by Mr. Dharma Vira, Governor of West Bengal, and the Club flag on the top. Pranesh placed there a bronze statuette of the Lord Buddha presented to him by Sri Probodh Kumar Sanyal, President of the Himalayan Federation, Calcutta. They spent about an hour on the summit.

Pranesh and Amiya reported to me some strange news. On the way to the Gouranga Parbat they found some dumps of foodstuff and tents just on the top of the wall which divided the Deoban and Sem Kharak Ka Gal. They took a marker flag from the dump and kept our flag there with a letter addressed to the unknown party. I was sure that Major Bahuguna's team had dumped those articles there. They were attempting Deoban.

June 13 was the day of rest at Camp II. We were sorting foodstuff, equipment, tents, etc., allotted for Camp III. At noon Biswadeb, Samar, Hukum, Sonam, Sona and some porters came up with food and other provisions. Gurdeep had come up on June 12 afternoon. The weather was bad for the whole day but in the evening it was clear after a light snow-fall. We had a meeting in the afternoon and it was decided to send Biswadeb, Samar and Gurdeep with Pasang, Sonam and Kami Mote for the summit of Bidhan Parbat next morning.

On June 14 the summit party left Camp II for Camp III. Pranesh, Amiya, Hukum, Thundu and Sona went up with huge loads to establish Camp III, while Biswadeb, Samar and Gurdeep— our three summiters—carried light rucksacks. Climbing a little up Samar felt giddy and he decided to give up. He returned to Camp II and I had to send him down to Base for rest.

At 4.30 p.m. Amiya, Pranesh, Hukum, Thundu and Sona returned to Camp II. They established Camp III at 20,000 feet on the broad shelf of Bidhan Parbat (21,390 feet). They said that the route was very tough and long up to Camp III. They followed the same route as they did during their climb of Gouranga Parbat and returned through a new route. They descended vertically from the north-eastern ridge of Bidhan Parbat towards the east traversing the dangerous ice-fall situated at the foot of the mountain. It was a short-cut route and the distance was half the route they had followed in the morning.

On the morning of June 15 we found that the summit party was climbing through the north-eastern ridge of Bidhan Parbat. The weather was clear. I sent Baidyanath, Hukum, Thundu and Sona with some foodstuff to Camp III to support the climbing party.

At about 3 p.m. the summit party and the support party came back to Camp II with the news of success. We embraced them with great joy. Topkay greeted the tired and exhausted summiters with lemon barley water and hot tea.

Biswadeb reported to me that Gurdeep, Pasang, Sonam, Kami and himself had left Camp III (20,200 feet) at 6.30 a.m. on June 15. They formed into two ropes and started climbing the northeastern summit ridge of Bidhan Parbat. They reached the summit at 9.27 a.m. and spent 50 minutes there and took photographs all round. They hoisted the National and Club flags and offered chocolate, cashew and rum. Gurdeep placed a Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, on the summit.

We dismantled Camp II and Camp I on June 16 and returned to Base. We left Base Camp on June 18 and arrived at Malari on 20th. On the way we had to make a rope bridge across the Dhauli River as the natural ice-bridge had by that time melted away.

On the morning of June 22 we left Malari by the local army vehicle which carried us up to Rini village and from there we got a lift by the local D.G.B.R. car up to Joshimath. We arrived at Joshimath in the evening.



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A Peculiar Coincidence

On the afternoon of June 26 we met Gurdial Singh and Major Bahuguna, Leader of Deoban Expedition, at Joshimath. While we were happily discussing our expedition, Gurdial Singh and Major Bahuguna told me that they also climbed Bidhan Parbat (21,390 feet) on June 17 and 20 with all their team members, instead of Deoban. He found our flag and other belongings intact which our summiters had placed on the summit on June 15.

When they occupied their dumping camp on the wall of Deoban and Sem Kharak glacier they found our red marker flag. Next morning, i.e. on June 17, when they were climbing up towards Bidhan Parbat they found our footprints and afterwards our Camp III site. They were short of salt, of which they got a lot from our camp site. They were astonished and were wondering who were the people who had camped there ! Later on they found our marks through the ridge up to the summit. Gurdial Singh remarked that it was probably the first time in the annals of mountaineering that without knowing about each other's plan two teams had climbed the same peak through two different glaciers and routes during the same period.

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