Our small party of four climbers and two wives crossed over the Chandra Khanni Pass on 21 May accompanied by a motley crew of Kulu men and welcomed by a foul day of wind-driven sleet. One more day of walking enabled the large boulder- kitchen on the last pasture of the Malana nala, to be reached in yet another stormy day. Opposite this boulder the great pyramid of Ali Ratna Tibba reared up. This mountain had been climbed by a Scottish Expedition in 1968 (A J., 74, No. 319 and H.J., Vol. XXX, 1970). Our aim was the gaggle of granite spires around A.R.T.; only two parties had previously visited these, climbing Ram Chukor Peak ajid perhaps one of the spires to the south of A.R.T. (H.J., Vol. XXVI, 1965). We soon established a first high camp on the South Malana glacier at the foot of A.R.T. A few days of commuting up and down the glacier saw us well stocked and ready to have a crack at the easier looking peaks. From here, without intermediate camps and climbing alpine style, we ascended Peaks 17,812 ft. (South Malana Peak) and 17,391 ft. (one of the Manikaran Spires Group). These offered little resistance except bad snow conditions and required only a few pitches of roped climbing.
The next step was to attempt a superb rock spire on the east side of the South Malana glacier, to the south of Ram Chukor Peak. We think that this peak is the one named as A.R.T. on the Survey of India maps and in fact it has a good claim to the name since the local people call 18,013 ft. Dharmtula. However, we called it Bari Ungli, which we hope means 'the Big Finger V Our next step was to knock the finger off. The first attempt failed some three hundred feet below the summit, where it seemed to need artificial climbing. Retreating through atrocious snow was a weary business, the final slope down to the icefall above the South Malana glacier being solved by tobogganing down on our backsides. Before attempting Bari Ungli again, two of us managed to climb Paptula, the secondary summit to A.R.T. (or Dharmtula). A long couloir led up to the col between the two mountains from where we followed a broken ridge towards the top. Difficulties were slight but the weather was miserable and we had only one axe since Geoff had left his below a rock step further down. A final small rock wall guarded the summit. The snow drifted quietly down. Defeat again, but no, one piton, lean across on a sling to a good crack line and it's beaten.
After this Geoff and Wangyal went up to the plateau below the South Face of A.R.T. to set up a second camp. Mike and I went down to the delights of Base Camp for two days, then returned to try Bari Ungli whilst Geoff and Wangyal went for their rest spell. A long snow approach and ten rope lengths (Grade II, III, IV) led us up to our previous high point. We didn't need the pegs, but got up by some difficult free climbing ; an overhung icy chimney (V), a thin slab (VI), then one pitch of Grade IV, and a snow slope. Abseils followed till we reached a ledge where we had left the bivouac gear. A warm night with a beautiful sunrise over the peaks of the Bara Shigri followed. Geoff and Wangyal were already back from the holiday camp so we all settled in on the plateau at Camp II. The second and third ascents of A.R.T. (Dharmtula) were made from here following a route across the south face to the SW. ridge. It proved to be easy, taking only three hours to the summit. Previously, it had been climbed from the A.R.T. East glacier via a ramp and a rock buttress to reach the SW. ridge, a much more difficult approach. As a finale, Geoff and I climbed a spectacular peak, the Obelisk, which rises from the plateau. The turret-like mountain had a beautiful snow crest to its south, which gave a really enjoyable day s climb. We could have been in Chamonix ... but without the crowds.
The area offers very pleasant climbing at an amenable altitude. Access is easy—only three days from the Kulu valley via the Chandra Khanni Pass. Further possibilities remain: Peak 17,696 ft. (one of the Manikaran Spires Group) is unclimbed ; there is an attractive rock route up the North Face of A.R.T., and one could make a grand traverse of the peaks from Ram Chukor to South Malana Peak. For the Indian climbers it offers an area where they could raise their technical climbing standards (and enjoy it) without fixed ropes or Sherpas and at a very reasonable cost.
Members: Graham and Wendy Clark.
Mike and Annette Luetchford. Geoff Moss.
|Pk. 17,391 ft. (one of Manikaran Spires Group)— 1st ascent,
E, Ridge. G. Clark, M. Luetchford, G. Moss.
|Pk. 17,812 ft. (South Malana Peak)—1st ascent,
SW. Ridge. G. Clark, M. Luetchford, G. Moss, S, Wangyal.
|Paptula, 17,500 ft. (estimated)—1st ascent
via Couloir to S. Ridge. G. Clark, G. Moss.
|Bara Ungli, 17,600' ft. (estimated)—1st ascent,
N. Ridge and NE. Face, G. Clark, M. Luetchford.
|Ali Ratni Tibbia (Dharmtula), 18,013 ft.—2nd ascent,
S. Face to S. Ridge. G. Moss, S. Wangyal.
|Ali Ratni Tibba (Dharmtula), 18,013 ft.—3rd ascent.
G. Clark, M. Luetchford.
|The Obelisk, 17,200 ft. (estimated)—1st ascent,
S. Ridge. G. Clark, G. Moss.
Editor's note: The Survey of India map shows Ali Ratni Tibba in the position of the peak named Bari Ungli by the expedition—on the east side of the South Malana glacier. Bari and Chhoti Ungli and Obelisk are expedition names, the latter being derived from the ' Pass of the Obelisks' (named by Pettigrew in 1963) separating this group and the south face of Ali Ratni Tibba.
The last of the (still) unclimbed Manikaran spires (pk. 17,696 ft.) Photo taken from the pass of the obelisk (i.e. from the east)
Peaks seen from base camp Left to right: Paptula, Ali Ratni tibba (18,013 ft.) and Manikaran spires group (17,696 ft.) The latter being the same peak as in Photo 1
View of the same peaks as in photo 2 but from the west, after crossing the Chandra Kanni pass