A chance decision to ‘do something in Garhwal' eventually ended up in Major A. B. Jungalwalla and myself crossing over from Harsil into the Baspa Valley and continuing up the Sutlej and Spiti rivers to Leo Pargial (22,280 feet) just as Marco Pallis had done about 33 years ago (see H.J., 1934, Vol. VI).

‘Why don't you two climb Leo Pargial instead of getting yourselves drenched in Garhwal' asked Gurdial Singh when we sought his advice in Dehra Dun. No sooner suggested than agreed; Jungal flies into action—signals to the appropriate Brigade H.Q. in Kinnaur area alerting them of our arrival through the Buspa Valley—requesting them for volunteers, climbing equipment and stores—signals to the D.C. Kinnaur at Kalpa for permission (o cross the inner line and to attempt the peak.

Two days later we are in Harsil by jeeps and one-tonners scrounged from various sources ; on our way through Uttarkashi wc spend a day with K. P. Sharma at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (borrow some more crampons, boots, ropes and pitons). K. P., generous as ever, arranges for a quick procurement of porters, permits and passes.

September 6 sees us and five porters climbing steeply from Harsil, following the path along the Jelandri Gad. After about two hours the path eases and we are walking on pasture land ; the valley widens and rolling hills on our right contrast with sharp rocky spurs on our left. We alternate from wooded glades to river-bed rock and sand-higher up on our right the slopes are rich grass—shepherds and horses everywhere. That night we sleep in the woods of Gangnani—happy moments—the porters cannot cook so we cook for them, they cannot erect tents so we do that, they cannot light the stove so we serve them tea-we forget that we pay them only Rs.3 per day plus food and clothes and soundly curse them for their ignorance and incompetence— they merely giggle and laugh when their ancestry is questioned- one is helpless in the face of such honest imbecility !

* The mountain has apparently several names—combinations of leo, rio, reo, riwo and rewo with pargial, purguil, purgyol, phurgyol, phargyul. The controversy can therefore assume alarming proportions if allowed to go out of hand (Ref. H.J., Vol. VI, p. 106, and Vol. XXVII, pp. 128 and 182).

The Survey of India ¼ inch sheet 531 (latest edition) establishes it as LEO pargial and we consider it best to stick to this authority. The height has been officially re-established at 22,280 feet instead of the original 22,210 feet.

Incidentally, on the Spiti River, just below Nako village is another village Leo—this may be a coincidence !

Apologies for not fitting the above article in Vol. XXVII—the attempt on the mountain was made shortly after that described in the last issue. Editor.

Next morning we cross the bridge on to the right bank of Jelandri Nal and proceed up the grassy slopes of Kiarkoti and camp on a high ledge—the main grazing ground now lies below us. We can see the nullah which we must follow if we wish to cross the Nela (Chhotkhaga) Pass (16,900 feet), but try as we might we cannot ford the Jelandri to cross to its left bank to get to our desired route. We try higher up—no use—we try higher up still, until we reach a point of no return—nothing else to do but to camp and then attempt the Lamkhaga Pass (17,330 feet), a longer route but which abuts on to the same glacier as Nela, on the other side.

September 9 ; stuck in our 6 intermediate camp' about three miles above Kiarkoti pouring rain—not much point in striking nut especially when a certain amount of route finding is involved.

10th morning dawns clear but starts clouding up for the afternoon precipitation—a normal occurrence. We race towards l he end of the nullah, struggle along the terminal moraine leaving a frozen lake to our left and turn sharp right, up a slope which we reckon would lead to the Lamkhaga Pass. Slow plodding up a final snow slope and at about 4 p.m. we reach the crest— horrifying sight—we are not on the pass at all—we have overshot the correct turn and are now in an amphitheatre at the end of the Lamkhaga Bamak with no escape except the way we had come ! Too late to retrace steps now, better camp here— snow starts falling—yours truly struggles with the wind and Primus—weak tea an hour later for everybody—too tired to cook anything else.

We wake up to the usual clear morning and make haste to retrace our steps and try to gain the real entrance to the pass without losing height—back to the terminal moraine—one more garden path and we realize the mistake in good time. At last a chorten is sighted and soon we are following a regular path upwards—we cannot be wrong this time—to think we had missed this entrance quite early in the morning yesterday !

We follow the path to what we think is the actual pass—over the first crest a valley-like depression, another barrier ahead ! But the chortens cannot mislead—they show us the path over moraine boulders on the left and soon we are over the second barrier—we hug the left moraine (looking towards the pass) and are faced with a third ridge—this surely must be the apex, but by this time the porters are lagging behind and crying piteously that they cannot take another step—time 3.30 p.m. and snow likely to fall any minute. And so, another camp—another round of weak tea, biscuits and fruit cake.

On the 12th morning we start on an empty stomach—must cross this infernally extended pass and reach shelter before sundown. The third ridge is ascended and at last the last barrier with chortens and prayer flags are seen. Encouraged that nothing but downward slope lies beyond we make our way gingerly amongst exposed rock and snow—the last bit is really quite steep rock and boulders. We avoid the treacherous snow slope which comprises the main chorten and the official pass— instead we make for a more negotiable route to the left and a slightly higher gap. We now survey our achievement and see what lies ahead.

To our right across the glacier is the Nela Pass—thank God we couldn't cross the Jelandri Nal four days ago !—this is not a negotiable pass by any means, its merely a depression in the ridge. We do not know what it is like on the ascent, but the descent into the glacier on the north is quite beyond all except a strong mountaineering force. The first hundred feet is a pure ice wall, slightly overhanging in the middle. Next, the slope eases very slightly to reveal large crevasses which would not be seen from the slopes above. Three hundred feet of this and a giant bergschrund before safe terrain can be secured—glad to miss this one, what with porters the most ' experienced' of whom prides himself on the fact that he has carried up to Gaumukh on the Gangotri (' Gaumukh returned ' we call him !).

Our way through the Lamkhaga is not quite easy either. A steep slope of treacherously soft snow lies for two hundred feet. Jungal is a tower of strength and confidence as he leads the dithering porters down—cursing them to dig their heels in, and exhorting them not to spoil the steps he has made. Before we reach the safety of the moraine boulders another trough of soft snow lies before us—about five hundred yards of this is full of apprehension regarding crevasses but we have apparently chanced upon a safe route and a chorten puts us back on to the right track for the descent over broken scree. We follow the glacier stream and camp just before its confluence with the Baspa Gad issuing from its glacier debris. The Baspa slabs of slate contrast well with the round boulders of the Jelandri Nal.





Early next morning we cross the Baspa on to its right bank where a regular path leads us straight into the arms of civilization—an advance post of the Intelligence Bureau at Yadung ! Our passes at Uttarkashi are, alas, made out on the back of a criminal confiscation form, which causes a flutter in the LB. ranks and considerable embarrassment to all of us ; but in the end some mutual trust prevails and we were allowed to proceed (the next day) followed closely by half the I.B. force.

We walk to Chitkal about 16 miles away where we stay in the P.W.D. staging hut. From whence we are whisked along to Poo in a jeep via Rakcham, Karcham and Kalpa where our arrival has been awaited since the receipt of our message from Dehra Dun a fortnight ago.

The Baspa Valley is one of the most delightful in Himachal Pradesh. The lower part is full of apple orchards, pine, fir trees and babbling brooks—higher up are excellent grazing grounds— everywhere there are rock and snow peaks within easy reach. Both Jungal and I promise to return some day and have a long session of moderate climbs.

Now, we were experiencing the hospitality of our Border Forces—don't have to walk a step all the way to Poo. We stay two days at Kalpa in order to collect our permits for Leo Pargial from the D.C. (Kinnaur)—take advantage of the break to play some six-a-side hockey with the jawans—at 9,000 feet it is a slightly breathless affair.

Poo (September 18 to 22)

We find everybody at Poo terribly excited at the prospects of mountaineering and in no time we have volunteers, the commandant affording us all the facilities that he can muster. The team now comprises Maj. Inder Valia (leader), Maj. A. B. Jungalwalla, Capt. Satindra Nath, Capt. S. D. K. Patil, Capt. A. Bhadra (doctor) and myself.

Packing starts in right earnest—we are served with excellent high-altitude clothing and equipments—large communal tents which make the difference between mere existence and snug comfort.

The sense of participation pervades the whole sector—Ice-axes are forged by Mr. Gandhi of the Border Roads workshop on the design of my 6 Simonde '—six workable models overnight delivered as we passed by his works the next morning on our way to the mountain. Marker flags are made out of a torn red parachute— tent-pitching practice on the nearby helipad—All-India Radio and the Meteorology Dept. at Delhi are asked for weather bulletins- bureaucratic barriers tumble like nine pins—here is the Sector's own little mountaineering venture started by two lunatics who have dropped down from nowhere and with little warning.

Amidst great excitement and cheers from the jawans the procession of jeeps, one-tonners and Jongas leave Poo on the 23rd morning. 'Take no uncalculated risk but try hard' was the parting advise from Brig. Shinde. He has been an excellent sport to not only harbour us, but actively help in an idea any other commander would have vetoed without a second thought.

At Maling Dogri—the roadhead, the Border Road Organization have also played their part in contacting Man Singh and his boys from Nako village—the same porters as Gurdial Singh had employed for his expedition earlier in the year.

September 24 sees the full retinue of mules and porters descend on Maling Dogri. As packages are loaded introductions with the porters are made—Gurdial's name is invoked—the porters and the ‘sahibs' size each other up. The loading is quick and thorough—the Kinnaur porters are certainly as good as the Sherpas and are yet untouched by sophistication—as cheerful and hardy—much stronger than the miserable Garwahli—they are a joy to the mountaineer.

Passing through their Nako village is dangerous—boiled potatoes and chhang flows freely, in a typical exhibition of trans-Himalayan hospitality—we beat a reluctant but hasty retreat up the hillside before we could be incapacitated for the day ! Our camp that night is at the grazing ground of Karak (14,000 feet), we move quickly to Base next morning—Man Singh has chosen a suitable site, higher than that of Gurdial's on account of the lack of water which is the main problem—what with the fast approaching winter, and the summer streams drying up. We were in a comfortably sheltered spot—protected from the wind but also from the sun which is up late and goes down early, making our outdoor day rather short. A few yards away from our tents, we have our first glimpse of the mountain.

Ferrying to Camp I and acclimitization commences on September 27. Unfortunately Capt. Patil, the signalman and the army cook cannot acclimatize—we had probably come up to Base (c. 17,000 feet) too quickly. They leave for lower heights along with the doctor and do not return.





On 29th our last ferry to Camp I comprises Jungal, Satindra Nath, Man Singh and Sonam. In a fantastic burst of energy and sheer whip, Jungal drives the team further up the slopes from Camp I to the north-west saddle of the mountain—reccee, and Camp II dump (two tents and some food) all rolled into one. He sees the ice slopes that lie ahead, looks into the brown plains of Tibet—the Leo Pargial South can be seen in perspective, rising majestically in a splendid pyramid of rotten rock and ice from the ridges of Shipki-La. Dominating all is the pure ice of the North Peak as the path of the mountaineer curves east and then to the north up to the final summit rocks.

Camp I is occupied on September 30 by the whole party, porters and all. Two are sent down to Maling Dogri to collect a sheep that has arrived after frantic remonstrances on the walkie- talkie. The next two days are for stocking Camp II and then some fast strong pairs will try for the summit on October 3 and 4. Of such stuff dreams are made. The first man out of the tent the next morning steps into a white landscape—his emergency-clad feet sink into eight inches of snow—last night it had been brown earth and clean boulders !

October 2 dawns as heavily as the day before—more snow and absalutely no chance of going up. Can't stay here eating up the loads brought up with sweat and toil. Back to Base the next day a clear morning—shall we go down—yes, in any case can't move to C amp II until the snow consolidates on the slopes of the saddle which would mean at least another three or four clear bright days.

Local leave in commercial firms is never long enough for lunatic mountaineers—if I have to maintain a safe margin for road blocks and full trains I must leave on the 4th—I wouldn't have done so if 1 had been in support of the summiters—but alas we are back at Base—Camp I will not be reoccupied before the 7th, then another week for the expedition to wind up and reach Maling Dogri—impossible—not even the success of the venture would save me from a hard kick in the pants in Bombay.

A tearful farewell and I leave the boys in their favourite position in their sleeping-bags. The fact that I reached Bombay on the 8th a record breaking dash past all road blocks and barriers is a tribute to the wonderful spirit and organization of the Armed Forces who treat me like an urgent message from the outpost to H.Q.

As I climb the slight slope before descending to Maling Dogri the dirty grey clouds of the low-pressure belt can be seen milling round Kinnaur Kailas—this is the tail-end of a cyclone that has swept East Bengal and Assam and has destroyed several expeditions all over the Himalayas—when the boys recover from this, they will run slap into the early winter which has been predicted— they cannot see this from the protected trough of the Base until it is well upon them. At Poo I send a personal message to Jungal; Brig. Shinde turns it into an order to pack up, mollifying Jungal by promising him another bash next July / August. Added to this the AIR special weather bulletins paint the gloomiest of pictures. One is helpless against the vagaries of weather.

On October 6 all hands clear Camp II and the next day Camp I is evacuated safely—but just in time. The party leave Base on the 8th as the full fury of the early winter strikes. Nako village receives the battered bodies and treat them to the usual hospitality—Poo is reached by motor transport the same day.

I can't remember having had such fun and hard work and partaken of such a gigantic scrounge all the way from Dehra Dun to Bombay via the most impossible of routes. Beautiful scenery, the fresh air, the dizzy heights, the most wonderful of companions —what more can one ask for ?

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