Our Team :
GANGA SINGH ... ... High-altitude porter
KRIPAL SINGH (jr.) ... High-altitude porter
KRIPAL SINGH (sr.) ... Guide
PADAM DUTTA ... ... High-altitude porter
PADHER, N. D. ... ... Deputy leader

While returning from our Koteshwar Expedition, 1968, I was sipping tea with Shri K. P. Sharma at Chirbas. In front of us lay a magnificent dome-shaped peak. It was Manda. Only the top was visible and I decided to have a go at it in 1969. Very little is known of this side and the only information I had was that Swami Sunderanandji had taken up a batch of students from Pilani on the Manda glacier a few years earlier. Later Sharmaji wrote to me stating that he had seen the peak from its base to the summit from the right bank of the Bhagirathi from a high ridge.

Padher and I, after collecting equipment from the Climbers' Club, Bombay, reached Dehra Dun on 14 May evening. Here we purchased tinned provisions (fish, meat, porridge, pineapple slices) and next day made Rishikesh where dry rations were procured and kit-bags loaded into porter loads. Uttarkashi was reached by bus the next afternoon and permits to stay in the notified area were obtained and equipment from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering was collected. With great difficulty four porters were signed on. On 17 May Shri Harbhajan Singh, Chief Instructor of N.I.M., gave us a lift up to Harsil. Fortunately, there we could hire three mules and Gangotri was made on 18 May afternoon and we pitched our tents in front of the dak bungalow.

The weather deteriorated on the 19th. There was a heavy snowfall and our tents were half buried. The Engineer supervising the redecoration of the dak bungalow kindly allowed us to move in. During the night I got up and saw that the sky was cloudless and it was bitterly cold. Weather was superb on 20 May but our porters refused to move on that day. Padher became ill and was evacuated back. I met Kripal Singh (sr.), who was our guide for the Gangotri I Expedition during 1965 and who promised to come along with two residents of Gangotri as porters with us.

Dilip Singh, the veteran guide of this region, came up from Harsil along with his son Kripal Singh (jr.) who was to accompany us. Dilip himself was unable to come but reassured us that if the weather stayed fine we could move to Chirbas the next day. In the evening the N.I.M. basic course trainees occupied the dak bungalow.

21 May dawned fine. A robin with a red chest and a white streak going from the forehead through the eyes to the nape was merrily dancing on the snow. After breakfast, two porters and I moved for Chirbas along the mule track on the right bank of the Bhagirathi. There were a couple of landslides on the way. Snow was rapidly thawing. The trainees of the N.I.M. caught up with us. They cleared a few debris from the track and dis¬appeared, we were fortunate to get our track stamped down for us. After reaching Chirbas we pitched our tents. After a quick brew and parathas the two porters returned to Gangotri. The N.I.M. trainees disappeared again very quickly back to Gangotri with their instructors. In the evening the camp site was occupied by the advance course trainees who were returing from their Base Camp. They had a terrible time as the weather had not been kind to them at all.

On 22 May I moved higher up the mule track and most of the Manda dome was visible on the opposite bank. Manda glacier was not seen but a tributary from nearby was coming down to join Bhagirathi and bringing down huge boulders with it. An eagle was circling overhead and a few pilgrims were moving to Gaumukh along the track with some difficulty. In the forenoon Kripal Singh (sr.), Ganga Singh, Padam Dutta, Kripal Singh (jr.) and two porters came up with five loads. After a few chappattis and vegetables with a mugful of tea to wash it down, the two porters returned to Gangotri for the remaining loads.

A lot of damage is done to the once beautiful birch trees of Chirbas, but there are still some lofty deodars standing. The ground was studded with Menthea sylvestaris and shoots of rhubarb were just coming up. A few pine trees are cut down for repair of the bridges over the streams along the mule tracks. In the evening the N.I.M. basic trainees joined us at the camp site.

On 23 May Kripal Singh (sr.), Ganga Singh, Padam Dutta and Kripal Singh (jr.) with three loads went along the right of the Bhagi¬rathi, leaving the mule track high up, crossed the Bhagirathi over a log bridge and made a dump near Phalhari-Muni-Ashram on the left of the Bhagirathi; Kripal Singh (sr.) stayed there and the rest returned to Chirbas. In the meantime two porters from Gangotri had arrived with loads—they were paid off and they quickly returned. A kit-bag was stored in the Chirbas rest- house. After a quick lunch we broke camp and Ganga Singh, Kripal Singh (jr.), Padam Dutta and I started for the dump. The footpath goes along the right bank of the Bhagirathi under a canopy of birch trees. A few pine trees were scattered around and we could locate the old dharamshala on the Bhagirathi's left bank. This building was a busy spot a few years earlier when the track to Gaumukh went along the left bank and had sheltered many a needy pilgrim.

We crossed a number of streams devoid of water. There was a huge snow tongue where I had some difficulty in crossing over. We were going very near the Bhagirathi and there were many boulders big and small and progress was rather slow. We approached the Matri stream, the bridge over it lay high above us and the stream is divided here in many streamlets as it joins the Bhagirathi. We located the Manda stream on the opposite bank a little distance below us. The streamlets of Matri have plenty of juniper amongst them and a few birch trunks are scat¬tered amongst it, whilst crossing a streamlet Padam Dutta slipped over a slippery stone and the tin of kerosene he was carrying banged against a stone. No serious damage, however, was done. Padam was soaked through, the tin had a hole at the bottom and he had to carry it upside down till the kerosene in it was consumed later. We used to tease him about his dip, but he used to have a hearty laugh.

The log bridge over the Bhagirathi was made of a birch trunk and a pine trunk was there to support the birch. The two were not at the same level and both ends rested on big boulders. As one crossed it, the trunks shook horribly and the fast flowing Bhagirathi did not make matters any easier. We crossed it, how¬ever, with the help of Kripal Singh (sr.), arrived at the dump, paid our respects to Phalhari-Muniji and pitched our tents. Kripal Singh (sr.) soon produced hot tea and my memories were revived. A few years earlier I was lying quite helpless at the same spot for a couple of days and Muniji had produced cup after cup of tea from almost nowhere and was very kind to me. Phalhari-Muniji is average in height, slightly bowed down, has blue eyes, does not wear anything except a piece of cloth attached to a string round the waist. His skin is very tough and smothered over with ashes and his hair is tied at the top in Ajanta style. A fireman's steel shovel was lying about and a wooden plough was in a corner. He is very successfully harvesting potatoes and has harnessed even a few streamlets to good purpose. Bhujbas is a flat piece of ground with many birch trees. A few streamlets cross it and there is good water very handy.

On 24 May after a breakfast of fried rice and mugfuls of tea Ganga Singh returned to Chirbas to bring one more load. Kripal Singh (sr.), Padam Dutta, Kripal Singh (jr.) and I collected our ironmongery, ropes and a few odd things and crossed the Bhujbas plateau. We were heading towards a small col in front of us towards the Bhrigupanth glacier. We followed along a stream, snow was nicely hardened in patches and we kept clear of it over a shepherd's path. The going was easier at first but soon the hillside became very steep and we had to come over to the snow again. We made the col in two hours. It was devoid of snow, had a beautiful alp near a small shepherd's shelter, plenty of juniper and water rather low down. We left our ironmongery and ropes in the shelter, emptied our Thermos flasks and descended by the spur towards Bhagirathi. This spur is full of rhododendron bushes which had already blossomed but a few pink and white flowers were still there. The spur led us to Krishnamataji's Ashram ; we paid our respects to her and came back ,to our camp, where Ganga Singh had returned already and his kettle was steam-ing. After a mug of tea we had a nice lunch of ‘khichadi’ , ‘papad' with pickles. In the evening a mother bear with her cubs paid us a visit. They were grazing quite peacefully till Kripal Singh (sr.) was attracted by them, he began to shout and raised an alarm and the mother with her cubs soon disappeared over a snow tongue in the rhododendron bushes.

25 May was a fine day. We gathered five days' supply, broke camp and as we were about to start towards the col we noticed the N.I.M. basic course trainees coming up towards the log bridge. We waited for them a while. Their instructors decided to join us with the trainees and after reaching the shelter we collected our ropes and ironmongery. After some rest we started going up the spur. It was steep, full of juniper bushes and the Bhrigupanth glacier lay far below us. As we climbed further up there was a small alp and the glacier had suddenly risen up in level with us. There was a bit of ground free of snow and here we decided to have our Camp I. The trainees, both the Kripals and Padam Dutta went to the left lateral moraine to roam about. I carved platforms for our tents and Ganga Singh after collecting some drift wood put his kettle on. After an hour the Kripals, Padam Dutta and the trainees came back when they had had enough of the snow. The instructors had a quick brew with us and they along with the trainees returned to Chirbas. The height of our Camp I was about 15,000 feet.

Bhrigupanth glacier is about 400 yards wide here. Beyond the right lateral moraine lay a peak 19,650 feet which had a remarkably close resemblance to Shivling. Shivling peak itself was not visible from our camp. The Shivling-like peak (19,650 ft.) led to a high ridge towards the south; on it there were two peaks, 19,830 and 19,560 feet. Towards the south-west lay Bhrigu peak (19,810 ft.) which had an appearance like Manda. From a little beyond, a small tributary glacier was joining Bhrigupanth. This tributary was bifurcated at its head, the right branch going towards Manda and the left towards an unnamed peak 21,547 feet. To the east lay Gaumukh and beyond it lay the Bhagirathi group of peaks. To our north lay a group of four needle-like peaks. They were cascading down boulders occasionally and a good amount of scree was formed. The tributary glacier was very narrow and there was danger of stonefalls. A shoulder of Manda was visible through it but it was risky to reconnoitre through this branch. We decided to attempt the third needle-like peak about 18,500 feet the next day and see what lay beyond it. Ganga Singh gave us a nice lunch of chappattis, dal, tinned fish and tea to wash it down. On the nearby rock a group of red-billed choughs were waiting eagerly for us to finish our lunch.

The night was very cold, we kept our lantern alight on the nearby rock to scare the bear from giving us a surprise visit. On 26 May we got up early, had a breakfast of porridge, fried left-over chappattis and washed it down with tea. Ganga Singh very graciously stayed behind. We started from Camp I at 0600 hours. The sun was already up. We crossed the ablation valley and entered the juniper bushes. Going through the bushes was difficult—it became steeper—we crossed the scree. There lay a snow tongue in front—we crossed it and had some rest on a boulder. The peak was still a thousand feet above us. Weather was superb. Most of the snow had disappeared on this side as the sun hits it direct. We started to go up; as we approached the peak, I decided to go over the rocks, but Kripal (sr.) was against it and he wanted to skirt the needle by going over the snow. Kripal (sr.) tied on his rope with Padam Dutta at the other end. I tied another rope and took Kripal (jr.) with me. We went round the base of the peak. Snow had become soft and our feet were sinking in. The last slope was very steep and we made the top at 1000 hours. Bhrigupanth glacier lay below us. Manda was not visible as a needle came in between us. To our south lay Bhrigu, to south-east lay the Meru group. The Shivling-like peak was almost level with us. Only the top of the real Shivling was visible and beyond it lay the Bhagirathi group, Vasuki, Photo Peak, Bhujbas Dhar, Thelu, Sudarshan, two un¬named peaks, Matri and Parvati from south-east, east to north¬east in that order. To our north was a snow plateau and beyond it lay peaks on the right of Manda glacier. We had some sardines, biscuits, pineapple slices and emptied down our Thermos flasks. We offered sweets and a few biscuits to the peak and buried our empty tins of sardines and pineapple in the snow nearby. We stayed for half an hour and descended to our camp.

Ganga Singh saw us returning and came up a bit with his ever- ready kettle, which we needed very badly. We thanked him for this and appreciated his generosity in staying behind, as he had allowed the younger ones to climb up.

After lunch we wound up our Camp I, Kripal Singh (sr.) left in a hurry as he had to proceed to Dharali and he was afraid that the hot sun would flood the Bhagirathi which could destroy the log bridge. The rest descended a bit later. The sun was fierce and as we were nearing Bhujbas there was a terrific crash and a huge boulder came down to our left. We were far away from it, after the boulder a stream of water gushed down. Later, mud mixed with small stones followed like lava from a volcano. Ganga Singh and I were a bit ahead. Padam Dutta and Kripal (jr.) ran away to a higher ground covered over with rhododendrons and they were not seen. The cascade continued for nearly 10 minutes and then suddenly it became all quiet again. The two youngsters reappeared after some time and when we reached our dump Phalhari-Muniji who was working in the field gave us a glance and continued to dig the field as if he had not seen or heard anything. We pitched our tents and noticed that the log bridge was still there and Kripal (sr.) had advanced on the opposite bank and was waving at us from the mule track.

On 27 May Padam Dutta, Kripal (jr.) and I started for a recce. Phalhari-Muniji had told us of a shepherd's camping ground high up. About a thousand feet higher up there was a big plateau, which was being bombarded by stonefalls from the group of needle peaks. We cautiously went up for about 500 feet then traversed diagonally through rhododendron forest in which there were many snow tongues and a few streams, we went over these and then climbed up a steep slope. Under the lee of big boulders there was a camping ground. Shepherds' fuel stock was still there. There was no running water. Kripal (jr.) went in search for it but could not find any. We finished our snacks, emptied our flasks and descended down a goafs track towards the left bank of the Bhagirathi and followed it through a birch forest towards our camp.

Ganga Singh gave us a nice lunch and we wiled away our time watching the pilgrims plodding towards Gaumukh on the opposite bank. The mule track was cut in many places and they had a hard time. As evening approached we saw a herd of bears on an alp on the Matri glacier. They stayed there for a long time and then retreated along the Bhagirathi higher up and disappeared towards the Gaumukh col.

It dawned fine on 28 May. We took five days' supply, broke camp and were about to move when suddenly Phalhari-Muniji came towards us banging a kerosene tin like a drum. Before we had realized what he was doing he opened a kit-bag and emptied the tin in it. It was full of potatoes. We had no option but to accept his gift; he disappeared very quickly saying, 6 You won't be able to cook dal higher up.7 We took our loads and followed the goat track along the left bank. As we approached the birch forest we saw debris carried down by a new stone and ice avalanche down a stream. There were boulders big and small, broken branches of rhododendron and birch trees and lumps of old snow. We made a path very carefully through it and started to ascend the spur which was leading to our new Camp I. Going at first was along a goat track, but very steep. In places we had to hold on to rhododendron bushes as the track had disappeared. In some places the bushes were very thick and in open spaces we had 6 to appreciate the scenery' often!—the straps of my rucksack began to bite on the shoulders and at noon when we reached our new Camp I we had to rest a good deal. Ganga Singh was as fresh as ever and he immediately began to gather fuel and hurried Kripal (jr.) into bringing snow in a big cooking utensil. Padam Dutta and I pitched our tents. It took a long time for lunch.

In the afternoon Kripal (jr.) and I strolled up for about 500 feet and stamped a track through snow. While returning Kripal found a running stream, it was rather far away, but Padam Dutta that evening s cook decided very correctly to bring water from it for our supper ; the night was very cold and the sky was clear. Far below us we could see the lantern of Phalhari-Muniji. Our height was about 16,500 feet. We decided to attempt a flat-topped peak on the right of Manda glacier next day and study the approaches of Manda,

We had a quick breakfast on 29 May and started at 0600 hours for the unnamed peak. The weather was superb and Ganga Singh led all the way. For the first half hour our track was already stamped down the day before, which helped us a bit. Afterwards the snow nicely hardened and gave a satisfactory crunching sound. Here and there a few grass tufts were coming up. The ground became steep. The peak was all rock on the Bhagirathi side ; on our left there was a spur, which had minor eminences and beyond it lay the plateau we had seen from peak 18,500 feet. It was full of stonefalls and was still under snow. We rested for a while and had a good look at our peak. The rock on the Bhagi¬rathi side was rotten and we decided to go towards a ridge high up and then climb from the south-western side. It was very steep and we had to rest after every 15 minutes. We reached the crest and from thence the going was easy. The top of the peak is flat and on the north-eastern end there was a big boulder about five feet in height. Ganga Singh planted a staff on it which he had carried all the way up for this purpose. We had made the top at 11.45 hours. We sat down and had a grand-stand view of the whole Manda glacier, which lay far below us. Manda glacier runs from south-west to north-east. Manda peak (21,360 ft.) is like a top cut in two and its north-eastern face is a sheer drop of nearly three thousand feet. For the first time we were seeing Manda from its base to its summit. The summit is a fine dome. Its northern shoulder falls to some triangular rocky peaks on the true left of the Manda glacier. Its southern ridge leads to a col and then proceeds towards the needle group of peaks on the true left of the Bhrigupanth glacier. Its eastern ridge arising from the col leads towards us. On this ridge a little below there is a huge monolith and beyond it lay the snow-covered plateau. It was full of boulders which evidently must have fallen down from the needle group peaks. To our south beyond this group, the Meru group and Shivling were just visible. Beyond them lay the Bhagirathi group, Vasuki, Satopanth, Chaturangi, Photo Peak, Bhujbas Dhar, Thelu, Sudarshan, an unnamed peak, a forked unnamed peak, Matri and Parvati from south-east, east to north in a big horse-shoe in this order. Bhagirathi was running north¬west but the Chirbas rest-house was not visible. Below us lay the Manda glacier and there was a fine alp on the true left of the Manda glacier with plenty of juniper bushes on it and a small lake was formed on the alp. The sides of the Matri stream were very steep, there was a minor icefall below the Matri col and a tower-like peak which one can identify even from Gangotri if the sky is clear. Beyond this there was an icefall which came down in between Sudarshan and the unnamed peak 20,800 feet. Beyond this there lay other forked unnamed peaks 21,830 feet and 21,500 feet (height of two ends of the forks), which rose from a common base. From the north end of the fork a ridge led to Matri. Matri looked like a pyramid slightly sliced off. In between Matri and Parvati there is an 6 armchair' which led into a glacier below. Kripal (jr.) told me that this glacier leads into a small stream which cascades down like a waterfall on the mule track to join Bhagirathi near Chirbas. The height of our peak was about 19,200 feet. We offered sweets to the peak. Finished our sardines, biscuits and pineapple slices and left the empty tins in a hollow. We spent about half an hour on the peak. How I regretted that we did not have a photo permit.2 The weather was superb and the view most magnificent. We retraced our steps to the new Camp L and descended very quickly. On our way we saw that beyond the monolith there was a sheer drop of more than 200 feet to the col and there was no route for Manda from this side.


  1. Visitors and expeditions to Garhwal are required to obtain a special permit to carry cameras in areas beyond Uttarkashi—a piece of petty bureaucracy of the worst type which denies genuine expeditions like the present one from having a record of its activities—made more vicious by the whims and fancies of the S.D.M. who is the sole judge as to who should or should not have this privilege. One looks for security reasons for this misuse of power—all in vain!—EDITOR.


Sketch Drawn From Manda Glacier (16,500 Feet), North-East Face

Sketch Drawn From Manda Glacier (16,500 Feet), North-East Face

The next day we traversed towards the true right of the Manda glacier from our camp. The going was difficult. There was a goafs track but in places it had disappeared under the snow. We descended to the ablation valley and went towards the right lateral moraine. We crossed the glacier with some difficulty and ascended the left lateral moraine. Beyond, lay the fine alp we had seen yesterday. There is a well-built shepherd's shelter on it. We climbed a spur beyond. In front of us there was a small glacier which descended down to Bhagirathi near Chirbas. At the Bhagirathi end of our spur there is a small vertical stone, probably a landmark of the surveyors. We left here our broken Thermos flasks and went up along the top of the left lateral moraine for about an hour and a half. This moraine led into a small gully which led towards the rocky triangular peaks and from this side the not-so-steep shoulder (northern) of Manda could be reached and then the top was not far away and did not seem too difficult. We were not competent enough to push our reconnaissance into an assault but enough was seen and there is no doubt that an able team will scale Manda one day. We crossed the glacier once again and came back to Camp I. To our horror we saw that the log bridge had been carried away by the Bhagi¬rathi. We had a quick lunch, broke camp and descended down to Bhujbas Dhar. There was no place to build a new log bridge. We had no alternative.

On 31 May we followed the left bank of the Bhagirathi. This track is in disuse. There were many landslides as this side of the mountain side is crumbling fast, we had much "difficulty in crossing over boulders and screes. We crossed a snow bridge below Chirbas, which was still intact, spent the night on the right bank of the Bhagirathi and reached Gangotri on 1 June. We were lucky to get a train of mules on 3 June.

Ganga Singh and I visited Dodital from Uttarkashi, ascended a pass towards Hanumanganga to study the approaches of Bunder- punch from this side. . To me it seemed possible to climb Bunder- punch from this side.

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