Himalayan Journal vol.33
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.33

Publication year:
1975

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. WHAT GEORGE EVEREST DID
    (JOHN MARTYN)
  3. SOME RECENT TRENDS IN MOUNTAINEERING MEDICINE
    (DR. ARNOLD PINES)
  4. MT. EVEREST, 1972
    (DR. KARL HERRLIGKOFFER)
  5. LHOTSE, 1973
    (RYOHEI UCHIDA)
  6. AMERICAN DHAULAGIRI EXPEDITION 1973
    (LOUIS F. REICHARDT)
  7. TUKCHE, 1974
    (YOSHIO OGATA)
  8. MANASLU, 1974
    (K. SATO, N. NAKASEKO, T. KUROISHI)
  9. LAMJUNG HIMAL, 1974
    (DICK ISHERWOOD)
  10. GANGAPURNA, 1974
    (TOSHIO NOSHI)
  11. PUTHA HIUNCHULI, 1972
    (TADAAKI SAHASHI)
  12. HIMAL CHULI, 1974
    (A. BONICELLI AND N. CALEGARI)
  13. THE FIRST ASCENT OF KANGBACHEN, 1974
    (K. OLECH)
  14. THE ASCENT OF SERKU DHOLMA AND EXPLORATION OF THE EAST AND SOUTHEAST AREAS OF PHOKSUMDO TAL, 1973
    (EIJI KAWAMURA, M.D.)
  15. THE ASCENT OF KANJERALWA, 1973
    (FUMIHITO WATANABE)
  16. A TREK TO RARA DAHA LAKE WEST NEPAL, 1972
    (SUMANT R. SHAH)
  17. MOUNTAIN BY MOONLIGHT -THE ASCENT OF CHANGABANG, 1974
    (BALWANT SINGH SANDHU)
  18. THE ASCENT OF UJA TIRCHE, 1974
    (SHYAMAL CHAKRABORTY)
  19. RESCUE ON DEVTOLI, 1974
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  20. THE ASCENT OF CHAUDHARA, 1973
    (SUBHASH DESAI)
  21. HOMAGE TO SASER KANGRI, THE 'YELLOW MOUNTAIN', 1973
    (CMDR. JOGINDER SINGH)
  22. THE ARMY MOUNTAINEERING ASSOCIATION HIMACHAL PRADESH EXPEDITION 1973
    (MAJOR J. W. FLEMING)
  23. THE A.M. A. ROUTE ON INDRASAN, 1973
    (CAPTAIN HENRY DAY)
  24. THE FIRST ASCENT OF BRAMMAH, 1973
    (CHRIS BONINGTON)
  25. PEAKS, PASSES AND PHABRANG, 1974
    (JOHN ALLEN)
  26. SOUTH PARBATI, 1973
    (ROB COLLISTER)
  27. RAKAPOSHI (7788 m.) 1973
    (K. M. HERRLIGKOFFER)
  28. WAKHAN, 1971
    (BRUNO TUSCAN)
  29. THE JURM VALLEY MOUNTAINEERING EXPEDITION, 1973
    (DR. ARTURO BERGAMASCHI)
  30. TIRICH MIR, 1973
    (JOSE MA MONTFORT)
  31. THE SOLOTHURNER HINDU KUSH EXPEDITION, 1973
    (OTTO ZBINDEN)
  32. QUIET CRISIS IN THE HIMALAYA
    (A. D. MODDIE)
  33. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  34. OBITUARY
  35. BOOK REVIEWS
  36. CLUB PROCEEDINGS 1973

MOUNTAIN BY MOONLIGHT -THE ASCENT OF CHANGABANG, 1974

BALWANT SINGH SANDHU

ON a sunny slope in Lidderwat (Kashmir) Chris was dreaming his favourite dream - an international expedition up an exciting mountain. Chris Bonnington is lucky - most of his dreams come true. This one sounded great and incredible, four British and four Indian climbers to climb next summer the 22,520 foot verticality called Changabang. Internationalism in climbing had nearly died after the disastrous International Everest expedition in 1971 and the European expedition a year later. Changabang, a spire of granite north of Nanda Devi in the Garhwal Himalaya, had been gazed upon by mountaineers like Shipton, Longstaff, Tilman and Gombu and had remained un- climbed. Yes, it would be great.

The Indian Mountaineering Foundation agreed to sponsor the Indo-British Garhwal expedition in 1974. This freed me from arranging the expedition finances and assured the expedition support and guidance of its very able - and very, very busy - President, Mr. H. C. Sarin. Six Indian and two British climbers climbed the unclimbed peak, Brahmna, in Kishtwar in August 1975 - the two British members reaching the summit. After this pre-Changabang expedition, I was confident of a binational group living and climbing together. Chris had three friends - Dougal Haston, Martin Boysen and Doug Scott ready to come out and to these I added Ujagar Singh and Tashi Chewang (both mountaineering instructors) and Kiron Kumar (a paratrooper). Allen Hanknison jonied as expedition diarist-cum photographer and captain Devinder Teet Singh (DJ) as the doctor. And once the Foundation had approved use of the same standard climbing gear for British and Indian climbers, it was time to get on with the mountain.

Photo Plates 17 and 18

53 porters and near 13 quintals of expedition impedimenta on in-numerable goats and we leave Reni (some miles above Joshi- math,) on 9 May. Ujagar Singh stays back to rustle more porters for the baggage now left at Reni. A goat carries approx 10 Kg.
- depends on its size, sex, pregnancy state, disposition and herd status. Working out goat wages is endlessly amusing and eventually we pay for the total weight carried by the herd divided by the number of porters it would have required and add to this the food those porters would eat - Rum Doodlish! The goats are rather content to carry their saddle bags secured front and behind. They protest at the time of loading - if you saw how it is done, it is no surprise they do. Of course, the saddle bag carries small items. This means breaking-up meticulously packed loads for approach, base and higher camps, into a chaotic dump and you never can tell what goat has what untill you unstitch the saddle bags on reaching the Base Camp and pour the contents out-rather like a Sunday Bazar. Both Tashi and DJ are incensed at all their toil of packing wasted and more so when, as menu planners, they cannot get at, say, biscuits or tea leaves. Doesn't make them or the goats very popular.

A four-day walk to Malla Deodi. The goatherd will go no further unless we carry his goats and their loads up a near 2000' feet face. Or perhaps there should be a way around - like it is round most things. There isn't. We are two days short of our Base Camp and the scallywag of a goatherd has dumped our loads and decamped. During the next week we split : to ferry loads, establish Base Camp on the Ramani glacier moraine and reconnoitre a route up the mountain.

Our mountain is a surprise. We had hoped to climb it along the west ridge or up the north buttress. Both are far too steep and covered with thin, unworkable ice. Dougal and Chris go up Rishikot to look into the Changabang glacier. Yes, the east ridge linking Changabang and Kalanka is feasible once we get to the Changabang glacier. We have two problems. A 1200 foot rock face separates the two glaciers and with our lack of porters we are planted on the Ramani moraine. There seems no way now to descend down to the Rishi Gorge and then move up the Changabang glacier. It has to be up the Col (Christened by Chris, Shipton's Col for the help Eric Shipton's pictures of Changabang have been). Martin -- sure on the rock and moving like a lynx, alternating with Doug Scott, an equally gifted climber, fix nearly 1000 feet of rope in appalling weather. Back in camp they tell us how tough it has been. Tashi has had piles and is incapici- tated. Kiron fell off the mountain and is laid up - he unfortunately missed climbing the mountain due to his injuries. We talk into Hank's cassette recorder for he is off to show himself off to his employers - the Independent Television, UK. Hank and I have been down at Deodi doing a bloody job of pushing climbers and the stores. Had it not been for Hank's genial company - he was with Gurkhas during World War II - this job of sitting below the base wheedling recalcitrant porters would have been more bloody.

Chris, Dougal and I leave for Advance Base Camp. After a day of snow we are up early and work a long day refixing and straightening the ropes. The ropes are wet and frozen and my jumar jams on a traverse. After some effort and scarry moments I am across the pitch. Chris now joins me - moving slowly, surely. The effort and lunatic jumaring leave me shaken. Juma- ring up these vertical wet ropes - now sliding down, now stuck and jammed under an overhang, now swinging out uncontrol- ably - I feel like a plumb line gone crazy. I am done for the day and abseil down.

More work on the ropes on 28 May : Jumaring on the overhangs is bloody; we have completed the route up and the route down to Changabang glacier is safeguarded. Ujagar Singh is sick and returns to camp. Cook Ang Chu, Tashi, Doug and Martin come up. 29th is a big day : we carry all that we r^eed to climb the mountain from Changabang glacier - food, tents, fuel, climbing gear, film, camera and books. And a chess set between Chris and I. We expect to finish the mountain by 2 June and should be back in Advance Camp by 4 June. Despite all the hopes and our familiarity with the ropes, it is not easy hefting 40 lbs sasks up these ropes. Tashi has problems and his load has to be hauled up. He is making a heroic effort - his piles painted all over his face! 30th is a rest day : Martin and Doug climb Pt. 6235. We watch them - two dots-rise slowly to the summit. They return late and Mowed.

To avoid having to wait at the foot of the ropes wre leave at hourly intervals. By mid-night Dougal is somewhere up in the dark. Two ropes later I hear him beat the mountain with his hammer. I watch the pencil point of his torch progress very slowly : tearing ice off the ropes must be a devil. I climb blind : my torch would not fit my crash hat and I can't breathe if I hold it all the time in my mouth. In the dark, I cross my safety kara- biner with one of the jumars : remove one glove, hold the torch in my mouth - nearly gives me osculatory frost-bite; with numb fingers the errant karabiner is undipped, tie tape unravelled and reclipped - correctly - below the two jumars, the torch back in the sack and it is up again. Right jumar and right foot up, weight to the right; left Jumar and left foot up. 3 ropes gone. Dougal's voice floats down : "Balu, if I were you I will come up slowly : the ropes are frozen and you will have to wait". Sane - very sane; Dougal rarely talks during a climb and when he does it is sense. I give myself a tie at the next anchor and become small : a continuous avalanche of chipped ice and snow courses down and past me. Next 500 feet are straight rock and overhung in places : vive 1' artificial climbing.

Dtmgal is up the last rope before I get up by 5 a.m. It is a narrow ridge - and I anchor myself and my rucksack. We uncover our respective loads - the ferry we did on the 29th. Two cans of paraffin, two stoves, a tent, a rope go into the rucksack. Stuff my personal gear on top and the friendly rucksack is not a friend anymore. I must be an Atlas carrying this down. I tie my camera on top and outside the rucksack-through some mischance, Karrimor have omitted the outside pockets. Slip the anchor and a huge hoist has the rucksack on my back. The huge hoist sends the camera off rolling and I watch it disappear. Wonder, what went wrong? We plod off down a snow gully : the comby snow crunches intimately under the crampons and slowly, top heavy, we plunge down. In front and beyond are the two Nanda Devis : massive and unwon despite all the conquering. To the north is another flesh-toned mountain : impressive, high virginal and impregnable-our mountain. The east ridge is narrow and a profusion of ice seracs deck it all the way from our proposed Camp to the col between Kalanka and Changabang. Some mountain and some defence. Doubts. An avalanche peels off and crashes down where it is still dark. More doubts.

10 a.m. and we reach Camp; erect tunnel tents and lie panting under shade. And it is hot. I get my gear out - and find it free of paraffin. Screw the bits of the pressure stove together, shovel some snow into a billie, light the stove under the billie and doze off. 20 minutes and another shovelful of snow and another nap. Martin and Doug weary after their yesterday's ascent trudge in at midday-tired and burnt.

We eat and doze fitfully : pack loads for the morning; Chris and I have two games of chess. "Start in the morning at 2 a.m., Good Night Chris," and Good Night to all those the mind races to but dares not conjure in this cold, cold, world.

Snow at 7 p.m. and more snow at 1 a.m. No go up this mountain with all this snow. Intermittent snow during the day Martin discovers a pool of water and we fetch from it - saves paraffin. Henry Miller and Rab Buttler; loose in ches to Chris. Borrow a camera off Doug - photography. An unholy activity in the tunnel tent occupied by Martin and Doug. Some animal in the tent; Doug streaks out holding his Long John and looking keenly at its seams, alternately scratching his crotch and yelling, 4oh bloody hell'. All of us now out of our slumber. "Chris, what do lice look like - is this a lice"? "Ya, of course it is". Chris is not so quick at identifying fauna, usually. Doug's clothes are pealed out on the snow. Glacier lassitude cured in a minute by a few lice. Are they the highest lice in the world? Will they service in this cold? Would'nt the 'Antis' back home be in an uproar? Should'nt Doug carry the poor eggs (he finds some in his 'next- to-skin' sweater) back? What about a lice stew; in China they breed lice for eating. How fast can the lice walk? or do the damn things jump while you sleep peacefully? Martin has shared a tent with Doug for two weeks! He sits through all this with typical British phlegm. Perhaps, Doug's lice could'nt hop to Martin without "Livingstone, I presume". He is right for he has no lice.

Whenever cloud lifts we watch the seracs - avalanches during the day - these gravitate towards the south. Hopeful this, for our route would approximate to across the glacier and along the eastern edge of the icefall. Our meals are skimpy : packs made for the mountain are not to be touched. By evening - we judiciously pinch food meant for high camps and between Martin and Tashi is rigged a meal of soup, stew and mash potatoes. Low clouds and a smugglers moon now and then. We go up if the clouds lift by 9 p.m. If they don't, it will be back to base, for rest, sleep and eat and return for the ascent. It is clear by 9 p.m. and we pack camp and leave. Clop, clop across the glacier and then up and up across deepening snow. We take turns ploughing ahead - quiet and determined. Midnight. Last of the clouds gone to roost : a brilliant moon. A 20-30 foot ice face bars the way. It is an hour and 5 'warthogs' (Drive in, screw out iron peg) when the first man is up. Cold feet. Thoughts of frost-bite. Move front-pointings; running rope belays required more often. The moon sinks at 3-30 a.m. and we can't see a thing. After 10 minutes the mountain tops lighten and we are on the move again. More difficult ice/snow pitches, feet getting colder. Dawn. Nanda Devi - gold tinged and imperious all the way to its twin, Nanda Devi East. Nanda Devi East is my love unrequited : I had sat out a week of snow and cold in 1964 and had been finally avalanched off the mountain. Somewhere lie frozen and broken, two Frenchmen who tried the traverse in 1938. Surely, the traverse would be the blue-ribband of Himalayan Climbing?.

It is 8 a.m. and there is a welcome horizontal shelf in this perpendicular world. An occasional spindrift of snow. We work like sleep-walkers-surely and slowly and fade into our pits - three to a tent.

A stew in the evening : we are now reduced to one spoon in the party and it does for a laddel and community spoon - Dougal preferring his rock piton. Flapping of the wind and the occasional avalanche. Silence. Total silence except our breathing. For once I am so tired that my thoughts also sleep. Wake and try an inconclusive chess game and we share a bag of 'Busy' nuts (Pine Kernels) and shovel stew and mash potatoes in the evening.

Set my mental clock for a 1 a.m. start. Swallow a pill each of vitamin, calcium and iron, and sleep. Ah, the sleep and the deep frozen silence of the hills. Stray thoughts of places, people : unreal and uncertain-dreamlike.

Chris is up; so is Martin. What is the weather like? Crystal clear. Scratching of match sticks and pumping of the stove. Muttering of a stove and now a steady hum. We eat cold porridge out of the billie. Duvet, spare gloves and socks and a torch in the rucksack. Descender, hammer, short ice-axe, a share of pegs and rope, a bar of chocolate, a packet of raisins, and amble off into a moon-filled silence. 10 meters and the first pitch begins up a partially filled crevice : continuous spindrift blinds and wets us. Chris is somewhere up groping his way. Balance front- pointing up an ice slip that requires the ice-axe and the pick hammer and the angle eases. It is now front-pointing and the ice axe. Dawn, a beautiful dawn - like the morning of life : no cloud and no wind and a lot of big mountains and some cold. Where on earth are my toes?

An easy-angled snow slope with occasional rock leads to Kalan- ka - a straight cramponing peak. More soft snow across an easier slope now and we are on the col, on the east ridge joining Changabang and Kalanka. In the far distance to the north lie blue- covered distances of Tibet, distances of God. Far to the east rises the Kailas massif. A hint of breeze from the north. Good, this.

East ridge at last. Snow-covered and delicate; easy-angled to start but rearing in a vicious squiggle towards Changabang's 22,520 foot virginal top. We drop our rucksacks and rope. Tashi, Doug and Dougal on one rope : Chris, Martin and I on another. Rotten, loose snow. Moving one climber at a time is slow. I estimate we will reach the summit by 2 p.m. Straddle the ridge with a boot each down the Bagini glacier and the Changabang glacier and somehow keep moving. Initial euphoria is gone. The ropes alternate lead. I finish the roll in my borrowed camera and leave it at that. Some circus balancing and weight distribution and one is up some nasty patches. Unfortunately, they come often and all bad. Exhausting work. Thirsty now and often out of wind; we are now close to the summit. Not quite : another rise beyond and you carry on. The snow is now truely awful and the angle steep : clouds swirling about us and the sun past the zenith and near the Karakorams. Two, Dougal and Doug, would be faster in the lead and Tashi joins our rope.

Another 30 minutes and a shout - 'we are there'. I pull up to the end of land-up to the summit. A narrow place with clouds a whirl. Vast vision, vistas?

I draw my anorak tight around my neck and try and get my breathing unhinged. My limbs don't seem to believe that there is no more pumping up and up. Someone mutters, 'Bloody anti climatic'. Jhonsonian all the way. We stay anchored to the rope and Tashi produces the flags. Someone has forgotten the Union Jack; my regimental and airborne flags are adopted to represent all the missing flags. Sit amidst swirling cloud for a glimpse of the world of mountains around us. Doug and Dougal wander about for a while to see if the mountain does fall about us. It does.

An hour gone and we too have to be gone. A 'Dead-man' is pushed down and down; a rope through it and we walk off the mountain. It is like walking on stilts - long uneven steps down steep slippery snow. Rope after rope, rope after rope. A thousand feet down and we are out of the cloud and into a brilliant moon. Is there someone walking with me - step in step? Bright moon and this inner gold? All my loves being with me this wintry, savage night?

Effortless sailing down the mountain, down the mountain. I trip over my crampons and crash into the mountain face - burying my own in the snow. Up and shake myself. Balwant Sandhu, sleep-walking as if on a blasted Route March in Agra. Rub snow on my eyes and wake up. Bone dry and parched. The traverse above the col was bad in the morning : and now? It is vile. Chris lets a rope down off a 'Dead-boy' (same as a 'Dead-man' with a smaller blade) and abseils down to a shelf that promises to bypass the dangerous traverse. His rope is short and puffing like a hippopotamus, he jumars up. Martin and I venture off on the traverse kicking wells in the wafery snow. Doug huffed at missing the activity, lets fly a shout in the g^aming. I watch Martin disappear and retrace my steps to rope up with Chris. Once across the traverse our pace picks : homing horses. Chris and I come last, rope-length after rope-length, rope after rope. Pick our rucksacks and weary and mindless, plod off into the dimly-lit endless footsteps to the camp. A silent white night. I lie listening to the stove humming away. For once my thoughts are not quite dead. They seem to float about our mountain - moonlit and naked.

We pack slowly in the morning though we have overslept and wearily plod off across shiny firm snow, over and across seracs.

We had crossed the ice-wall at night and looking at it in daylight is like looking at a childhood friend grown old. I tarry long, savouring the silence, the nearness of our mountain and reach Camp II last. Before the Camp there is a rill of crystal water and I dip my face in it, swallowing and spluttering great gulps of cool water. Another brew; dry our socks and boots and doze under a merciless sun. Pack the Camp - carrying all that we can - and lighter than when we had crossed over, we leave after sun-down.

Sinking deep in the snow we free climb to the col. Doug and Dougal are down the ropes. I hear Doug slashing, and swearing

- above all swearing - as he tears the frozen ropes off the rock face. I follow soon as Dougal is a rope below mine. My crampons scraping snow down on Dougal; and Martin scrapping it down on me, it is a lousy descent. And a dark descent, dark with fore-bodings and all the unslept sleep.

Base of the fixed rope - unclip and walk off. Walk slow and deliberate. First free walk after days. Flashes of torchlight way up on the ropes where Chris and Tashi sort their ropes. Martin and I wade off down to the Advance Base. To mugs of tea and cans of juice and a bouquet of cheer from Norbu, Rattan Singh and Mahmdoo. The back-slapping seems un-real, duff. Not so the third-deep gulps of cold and hot liquid and yet unslacked. And D J? He has run the Advance Camp while we have been across on the Changabang Glacier hoping that his medical skills would not be called upon and yet expecting these might me. Ye Gods.

Rucksacks and crampons off and we crawl on to a pile mail

our first in a month. Letters from wives, children and friends. Ten of us have climbed a mountain and in no small measure have surmounted our personal vanities. And among us friends, there would be more mountains to plan, to climb. Certainly, to plan.


Changabang from near A.B.C.- Kalanka on right

Changabang from near A.B.C.- Kalanka on right



Final east ridge-summit on far left

Final east ridge-summit on far left