AT the head of Yangchar Glacier stands the Rhalam pass in the Kumaon Himalaya. Ghaudhara rises straight from this pass to the south. Adjacent to it further south is Rajramba {21,446 ft.). Both these peaks are north-westerly neighbours of the Panch-chuli range. Rajramba was the main objective of our expedition in May-June, 1973.

We reached Munsiari on 16 May after four days' journey from Bombay-up to Kathgodam by train and from there-on by bus. Through green forests and along the roaring Goriganga, the route march was of five days to the Base Camp on Shivu Glacier. This march branches off at Lilam-the first halt-from the main Milam Glacier route. Lilam to Pilthi-Pilthi to Sapa Udhyar and then to Rhalam village. This route is almost parallel to the Milan route. One can cross a pass-Bhanjang Dhura-in half a day from Rhalam village and arrive at Martoli, just short of Milam.

From Rhalam, on 22 May, we crossed the main Rhalam Glacier at it's snout and climbed the steep gorge of the Shivu Glacier to reach our Base Camp at 13,500 feet.

After a day's rest at B.C., the Advance Base Camp was established in two more days at the height of 15,300 feet. The full team occupied it on 25 May. Five high-altitude trekkers who were accompanying the expedition team also climbed upto A.B.C. and returned to Base Camp to continue their programme of visiting Milam Glacier

Our team was led by Prof. A. R. Chandekar and consisted of Nayan Katira, Mahesh Desai, Subhash Desai, Chandu Wakankar, Prakash Shrinarpure, Dr. Vasant Desai, Dilip Sardesai, Kishore Dalai and Jayant Nakhva. The trek team was led by Ashok Bhosekar, and acompanied by Raj an Karbhari, Vimal Desai, Niranjan Bharwada and Dr. Mukesh Jhaveri. This was Giri Vihar's fourth Expedition-cum-High Altitude Trek Programme.

The terrain from B.C. to A.B.C. is a normal glacier floor with high mountain walls enclosing it on both the sides. The A.B.C. was situated, on the highest grounds of the Shivu Glacier and at the foot of the Chaudhara ice-fall, that is directly beneath its western face.

The route from A.B.C. to Camp I climbs by the side of ice- fall on the steep slopes of the ridge of Shivu Peak which extends high to the east, to culminate into Chaudhara-Rajramba massif. This ridge-on the other side of Shivu-turning to the northwest direction connects Tihutia. The site of Camp I was a clear shell in the vicinity of innumerable seracs of the ice-fall, the height was 17,500 feet.

Camp I was stocked by members and porters on 27th and occupied by five of us on the same day. Both the Sherpas were excellent in their capacity and spirits. Ajeeba, a grand old man of sixty with thirty-five years of distinguished mountaineering record and the tough alert youth Kami, who also surprised us with his expert cooking.

On the 28th, we started to recce the route for Camp II. A pleasant morning spree of climbing brought us to a steep ice-gully. Cutting steps, was an exercise in exhaustion. We gained height slowly. Fixing ropes at two places, we proceeded to the south where Rajramba (21,446 feet) reigns.

A rising slope gave way to a small icefield. To the east of this ice-field was a suddenly rising snow and ice face with a rocky cap, which connects to the final ridge leading to the summit of Rajramba. To the south was the ice-fall rolling down to the glacier below. Westwards was a descending slope, going down abruptly to meet the ridge of Shivu. North /north-west was from where we had climbed up. Here we dumped the load we had brought. This was to be our Camp II, the altitude was nearly 20,500 feet.

One important observation wras made. What we saw from A.B.C. as an ice-hump to the north of Rajramba, was the peak Chaudhara. It was jutting higher than the rest in the north-east.

We returned to Camp I, in the afternoon. To our surprise we found that only two loads had been brought by the porters and the two porters who were here wrere suffering from altitude sickness. Prakash went down to A.B.C. to assess the situation. He took with him the two sick porters. Just after they left snow% started drifting in and the storm struck in full fury as they were nearing A.B.C. It abated towards early morning leaving us in an exhausted state.

The aftermath was worse. Thick blanket of snow covered the entire area. The route down to A.B.C. was in disarey and as the sun came out later, avalanches made it extremely unsafe to tread.

Two porters, with the help of Sherpas did reach Camp I around 1-30 p.m. and brought loads as well as the news. Prakash reached A.B.C. to find that the porters who had come up to Camp I two days ago were snowblind, as they had not cared to wear snow- goggles. Consequently, the ferry of loads was put off. Members had not come up because of the prevailing weather conditions.

However, on the 30th, we moved up from Camp I with the supplies we had. The stock was enough for four of us for five days. We had a late start, visibility was poor and the slopes were covered with deep snow. The initial climb of nearly three hours offered no difficulty and we neared the ice-gully. It had started snowing and we were enveloped in a thick mist. We kept on going for sometime. Then it was impossible and far from safe to do so. We searched for a flat ground, pitched the tents as fast as we could and were just in time to shelter ourselves from a gale which was unleashed. In the evening, the sky became clear and we saw that we were in an ice-field above Chaudhara's ice-fall. In that gale we had dragged ourselves in the northwest direction. The night was absolutely cloudless. The height was 19,500 feet, and the two huddled tents became our Camp II.

The weather had changed since that blizzard, which was curious if not amazing. During the day clouds lurked around to snow at will and often they brought along the wind. The evenings were pleasant with clear skies.

We relaxed on 31 May at Camp II and recouped. We decided to attempt Rajramba straight from here. A late return from the climb would not be difficult as the evenings had promised to be more comfortable than the day time.

Next day at 6-30 a.m. all the four of us (Nayan, Subhash, Ajeeba and Kami) left Camp II to attempt Rajramba.

In nearly four hours we reached the ice-field, our original site for Camp II. Much of our time had taken by the recutting of steps. After a breather, we started climbing the immediate slope leading to the rocky hump. Climbing further we faced the rocks. Now, we were confronted by a rock face which was curved and continued upto the summit ridge of Rajramba. From this point, we could see deep down into the Rajramba glacier valley, through the clouds.

After surveying the entire rock region, it seemed that to reach the ultimate ridge which was then leading to the summit, would require a rope upto 500 feet in length to fix along the rock face for safe traverse. That operation alone would take nearly three days, and so higher camp would be essential. It would be four days or even more to make an attempt on the peak which could be final. Also in our mind, were the weather conditions and the porter shortage. We dropped the idea of attempting Rajramba.

Ajeeba and Kami climbed higher on the rocks to have a look at Chaudhara and assessed that it would 'go'. On the way back we collected the load from the ice-field and brought it back to Camp II. The total time we were on the climb was ten hours.

On 2 June, the same four climbers started off from Camp II at 6 a.m. to attempt Chaudhara. After climbing the ice-gully we moved northwards to the west face of Chaudhara. Over the slopes of deep snow, intersected by crevasses wre pushed ourselves higher. The route then was through snow-fields till the base of main summit cone. The inclination was nearly 60 degrees and it was all ice. Cutting steps, we rose higher to the broad plateaulike summit of Chaudhara, in the hazy atmosphere. It's cornices were jutting out to the north-east. We were there at 2 p.m.-an eight hours' climb. The highest point of the summit is the top of the cornices. We moved, taking every care possible and crouched on to the summit, least any jerk should send the cornice cracking, into the precipice beyond.

Through the clouds we could see the green alps on the eastern side of Chaudhara. We could not see the Rhalam pass to the north as the very body of the mountain hid it from view.

To the south was Rajramba. We reached Camp II at 6-30 p.m., utterly exhausted. It was a fine climb of over twelve hours in which we had scaled a beautiful virgin peak.

The next day, 3 June, we wound up the higher camps and moved to A.B.C. Ajeeba seemed to be the happiest, as he had added one more to his innumerable summit climbs in his glorious career. (See obituaries-Ed.).

We reached Rhalam village on 5 June, and were in Munsiari by the 8th.