IN 1974, as soon as HAAJ (Himalayan Alpine Association of Japan) got the information of the revised "Inner Line", the planning to send an Indo-Japanese joint expedition to Mt. Nun & Kun was enlarged to organise an expedition to the Garhwal Himalaya also. As a matter of course, we dhose Hardeol (7,151 m.) which is the highest unclimbed peak in Garhwal Himalaya. How¬ever, the Government of India refused us flatly. Next, we again asked to climb the unnamed peak 6,992 m. high on the northern watershed of the Nanda Devi Basin, but were not granted per¬mission. At last we got the permit to climb Changabang (6,864 m.) which we could change to Dunagiri (7,066 m.) as an alternative. We preferred to climb Changabang because we wished to visit the northern area of the Nanda Devi Basin.
We left New Delhi on 8 August 1975 by a chartered mini-bus with two tons load. In Kumaon Hills, we were perfectly entranced with the awesome road along the steep Alaknanda river. We left Reni, the village at the junction of the Rishi Ganga and the Dhauli Ganga, in four separate parties due to the difficulty of getting porters.
We crossed the water stream of the Uttari Rishi glacier by a rope bridge, and went into the northern section of the Nanda Devi Basin. Our Base Camp was set up by the side of the glacial pond situated at the junction of the Changabang glacier and the Uttari Rishi glacier, on 1 September, eleven days after we started from Reni. A lot of flowers were in full bloom on the beautiful grass¬land, and many bharals (wild sheep) which seemed to be surprised by the strange visitors. We were quite happy there. Our happi¬ness was increased to find wild blue poppies, and furthermore by the fact that no human beings had come here for forty years since Mr. Shipton and Maj. Osmaston's survey in 1936.
The glacial pond, about three hectares, was named "Haaj Kund" after the name of our association, from an idea of our porters. It is incidentally quite good as this means "Lake of the Saint" in Urdu language. We found the old camp site there, surely the great pioneers' "Junction Camp"
Our members were Sadashige Inada, Masato Nose, Kazuya Konno, Jiroh Imai, Akeo Hagiwara, Hideo Tateno, and Kiyoshi Shimizu (leader). Our liaison officer was Capt. B. P. S. Hundal from a parachute regiment of Indian Army.
After several days for rest and arrangements to load, we started to climb Changabang from the Changabang Gal. The following day, 6 September, we established the Advance Base Camp (5,180 m.) on the huge granite moraine of the glacier. It seemed too difficult to attack Changabang by the front rock wall (South¬east face). We looked for some routes on the snow and ice-wall hanging between Kalanka (6,931 m.) and Changabang. We examined the best route, and got the idea to climb the wall of Kalanka and to go to the summit of Changabang through the col between Kalanka and the mountain. The key point of this route depended on the avalanche conditions of the ice and snow-wall below the col. The many dangerous ice blocks hanging on this wall looked like falling any moment. It was necessary to make careful observations for at least one week.
Unfortunately we met bad weather for five days after the settle¬ment of the Advance Base Camp. We could not thoroughly look at the route and attempt it, as there were several avalanches almost every day even though there had not been much snowfall.
On 11 September, all of us returned once again to the Base Camp. I discussed with members about the conditions of the wall and our situation. It seemed that we would fail, taking account of the circumstances of the snow and the ice-wall. We reached the conclusion that this assault was impossible without much risk. We wanted to shift our target to the interior watershed of the Uttari Rishi glacier though this problem had a difficulty regarding permission from the Government of India. Our liaison officer Capt. B. P. S. Hundal well understood this. I consulted with him about our wish and sent a request letter at his suggestion to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.
On 13 September, we made reconnaisances to new peaks from the south ridge of Mangraon (6,568 m.), and also from the foot of the icefall of the main Uttari Rishi glacier. We also started to remove the Changabang Advance Base Camp. We set up the new Advance Base Camp on the lateral moraine of the interior of the Uttari Rishi glacier at 5,000 m. just crossing the small branch glacier from the west side of Mangraon on the eastern watershed of the basin.
We reset our aim to the beautiful snow peaks on the northern rim of the basin lying on the ice plateau at the head of the main glacier. There are two big peaks. One is unnamed peak 6,992 m. which we were previously not permitted to climb by the authorities. It was the highest unclimbed mountain in the Nanda Devi Basin at that time. Mr. Shipton and Mr. Tilman who were the first men entering the basin had tried to climb this peak twice in 1934. However, they could not reach the top due to the dangerous snow conditions. After our first ascent, this peak was named "Rishi Pahar".
We hope that these two namings would be admitted by the Indian authorities and mountaineers.
Another peak was a phantom mountain formerly. At first we found this peak on the photograph of the panorama from Ghori Parbat in the west taken by Mr. Andre Roch. But we could not identify it for a long time on various maps, but after careful study we confirmed this peak as the untriangulated peak just west of Pk. 6,992 m. "Rishi Pahar". After its ascent we also named this peak "Saf Minar. Returning to New Delhi, we learnt that the exact height of the peak is 6,911 m. by the new meter scale map of the Survey of India. But we could not get this map in hand.
ASCENT OF PEAK 6,992 M.—RISHI PAHAR
We tried to climb the central stream of the icefall of the main Uttari Rishi glacier in order to escape the avalanches coming from the walls of the watershed of the left bank. But we could not find a good route. At last, we climbed along the left bank keeping as far as possible from the avalanche cones. The speed above the middle step of the ice fall was more violent than our expecta-tion. We could avoid accidents though there occurred collapses of seracs several times. We were sometimes shut off by huge crevasses and ice-cliffs at the middle step. We traversed un¬willingly from the left bank to the right bank, then climbed up.
Camp 2 was set up at 5,750 m. on the snow-field above the ice fall, on 18 September. The next day, J. Imai and myself climbed to the col at the watershed ice plateau of the northern rim of the Nanda Devi Basin. From there we could look at the magni¬ficent mountain view in Garhwal over the moraine-covered Bagani glacier in the north and west. At the back of us, lofty Nanda Devi stood high showing us its steep north ice-wall.
On both sides, two peaks, Pk. 6,992 m. (Rishi Pahar) and Pk. 6,911 m. (Saf Minal), were standing. We wanted to climb Rishi Pahar first. J. Imai and myself started up the west ridge of Rishi Pahar to make the route. I thought, we could reach the summit within two days if the weather was good.
We set up Camp 3 at 6,230 m. on the ice plateau of the col on 25 September. The following day, T. Tateno and myself fixed 600 m. rope on the crevassed snow and ice face of the 'Shoulder’ of Rishi Pahar. We returned to Camp 2 directly on the same day, and J. Imai and A. Hagiwara occupied Camp 3 in order to attack the summit. Meanwhile S. Inada and the doctor M. Nose came up to Camp 2 so as to be in company with us.
On 27 September, J. Imai and A. Hagiwara started from Camp 3 at 3.00 a.m. But unhappily, they could not find the fixed rope which was covered by the snowfall of the previous night. They were obliged to climb by another route where there was no fixed rope. They scaled the snow and ice slope, about 35 degrees, to the 'Shoulder’ in the dark. We, four men, started from Camp 2 to 3 when they had almost passed the 'Shoulder'. The weather was clear, we could see them on the slope and the ridge. But when they reached the 'Saddle' just under the summit, the weather changed. It started with a strong wind and mist. They eventually reached the summit on Rishi Pahar at 11.30 a.m. The summit was a knife-edged snow ridge lying from north-east to south-west about 100 m. horizontally in length. The northern side of the top was the steep rock cliff 2,000 odd m. long falling below to the Bagani glacier. To my regret, it was very cloudy and they could not look out well over the Himalaya except around Nanda Devi.
Interior of Uttari Rishi Valley
On the descent they struggled hard against wind and mist and after having some narrow escapes with losing their way they finally reached Camp 3 without any accident.
The following day (28th) the remaining four, S. Inada, M. Nose, H. Tateno and myself also reached the summit. Hereby we accomplished our desires of all members climbing to the summit. This day, it had a strong wind, but no clouds and we got an extraordinarily fine view over the Garhwal Himalaya. The two Paing porters helped us to carry goods to Camp 2 several times, but to Camp 3 only once. They could work no more. Pk. 6,911 m.—"Saf Minal"
After ascent to "Rishi Pahar", we examined the possibilities to "Saf Minal".
Prudently attacking, we fixed rope on the steep slope of the south-east ridge of the triangular mountain. On 2 October, J. Imai and A. Hagiwara started at 3.00 a.m. for the summit. This peak stands on the wide plateau, like a pyramid, the Bagani side consists of the steep rock wall, and the Rishi side consists of a simple snow and ice face. They continued the long plod and reached the summit at 1.30 p.m. after eight hours' climb on an average slope of about 40 degrees. The weather was excellent; they enjoyed a 350 degree view over the Himalaya. Especially they were happy to look at Mt. Kailas in Tibet and mountains of Western Nepal.
On the other hand, M. Nose and H. Tateno tried the Pk. 6,547 m. lying just west of Saf Minal. They however, reached only the col (6,300 m.) between the two peaks on the snow plateau. They stopped climbing because they were afraid not to ascend to the top within the two or three remaining hours of daylight. Ramohu (6,303 m.)
In the meantime, K. Konno had to return to Japan because of the end of his vacation.
Konno chose Bamchu (6,303 m.) which is one of the peaks on the eastern rim of the watershed of the basin for a quick attempt before leaving the expedition. Peaks on both sides of Bamchu are Deo Damla (6,620 m.) and Sakram (6,254 m.). The left side, Deo Damla was climbed in 1936, and the right, Sakram in 1934, both by Shipton's party.
We could not help him, as the main part of the expedition had already started into the interior of the Uttari Rishi glacier. He was accompanied by the liaison officer Capt. B. P. S. Hundal. On 16 September, they reconnoitred the branch glacier from Deo Damla, through the ablation valley of the Uttari Nanda Devi glacier. They made a dump at the point of the Advance Camp, then returned to the Base Camp. The next day, they joined porter Narain Singh who was sent by me from the Advance Base Camp. Their advance camp was set up on a foot of the south ridge of Bamchu.
After one day's route-making, on 19th, K. Konno and Capt. Hundal attacked the summit. They climbed the south ridge of the peak. They were forced to cross the crevasse crossing the ridge. After climbing about 1,500 m. of the long knife-edged snow ridge for ten hours, they reached the summit of Bamchu at 3.05 p.m. The summit consisted of three tops. The first and second were dangerous and the third top was the highest point. Unfortunately, as there was much cloud and mist, they could not get any view from the summit. Especially it was regrettable they could not look down upon the Milam glacier in the east.
K. Konno left the Base Camp on 21 September—a sorrowful parting for all of us.
All the members were down at the Base Camp by 4 October. After rest, we made light exploration and trekking forays to subsidiary valleys and little peaks in the basin. In those days it was frosty every morning. We started our return march on 9 October. All of us felt it very hard to leave the sanctuary. It was truly a sanctuary, in every sense of the word.
P.S.: Our Association was renamed as HA J (Himalayan Asso¬ciation of Japan) in April, 1976.
Mangraon South Ridge