Himalayan Journal vol.35
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.35

Publication year:
1979

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. THE STORY OF THE HIMALAYAN CLUB, 1928-1978
    (JOHN MARTYN)
  3. FIFTY YEARS RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT
    (TREVOR BRAHAM)
  4. THE PASSANRAM AND TALUNG VALLEYS, SIKKIM
    (DR EUGEN ALLWEIN)
  5. NANDA DEVI AND THE SOURCES OF THE GANGES
    (H. W. TILMAN)
  6. THE MOUNT EVEREST RECONNAISSANCE, 1935
    (ERIC SHIPTON)
  7. THE SHAKSGAM EXPEDITION, 1937
    (MICHAEL SPENDER)
  8. GANGOTRI TRIANGULATION
    (Major GORDON OSMASTON)
  9. EVEREST, 1976
    (MAJOR M. W. H. DAY, R.E.)
  10. LHOTSE, 1976
    (KANJI KAMEI)
  11. THE SECOND ASCENT OF LHOTSE, 1977
    (DR HERMANN WARTH)
  12. MAKALU, 1976
    (ANDERS BOUNDER & OTHERS)
  13. THE CLEAN-UP TREK, 1976
    (MICHAEL CORDELL)
  14. THE THIRD KOREAN MANASLU EXPEDITION, 1976
    (JUNG SUP KIM)
  15. THE HONGKONG KANJIROBA EXPEDITION, 1976
    (DICK ISHERWOOD)
  16. AVALANCHE ON SISNE, 1977
    (R. A. L. ANDERSON)
  17. DHAULAGIRI IV, 1975
    (KUNIAKI YAGIHARA)
  18. NORTH SIKKIM, 1976
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  19. NANDA DEVI FROM THE NORTH, 1976
    (H. ADAMS CARTER)
  20. NANDA DEVI SANCTUARY - A NATURALIST'S REPORT
    (LAVKUMAR KHACHER)
  21. A BOTANICAL SURVEY IN THE NANDA DEVI SANCTUARY, 1974
    (N. C. SHAH)
  22. AN ATTEMPT ON NITALTHAUR, 1974
    (MANIK BANERJEE)
  23. CHAMRAO GLACIER EXPEDITION-1977
    (M. DEY)
  24. CHIRING WE, 1977
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  25. KINNAUR-1976
    (LIEUTENANT-COLONEL BALWANT SANDHU)
  26. BLACK PEAK, 1976
    (MANDIP SINGH SOIN)
  27. NILAMBAR EXPEDITION, 1977
    (RANVIR SINGH)
  28. POLISH K2 EXPEDITION, 1976
    (JANUSZ KURCZAB)
  29. A CRAWL DOWN THE OGRE
    (DOUG SCOTT)
  30. ISTOR-O-NAL NORTH I, 1976
    (RONALD NAAR)
  31. THE ASCENT OF SHERPI KANGRP 1976
    (PROF. KAZUMASA HIRAI)
  32. AFGHAN DARWAZ, 1975
    (RYSSZARD W. SCHRAMM)
  33. SWISS THUI EXPEDITION, 1975
    (DR ADOLF DIEMBERGER and HANS SCHIBLI)
  34. CLIMBING SHERPAS OF DARJEELING
    (DORJEE LHATOO)
  35. OF MOUNTAINS & MEMORIES
    (SITU MULLICK)
  36. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  37. OBITUARIES
  38. BOOK REVIEWS
  39. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
  40. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1976
  41. EXPEDITIONS 1975-1977

THE HONGKONG KANJIROBA EXPEDITION, 1976

DICK ISHERWOOD

THE big mountains in Nepal are arranged so compactly that after flying from India to Kathmandu a few times you can begin to feel that you know them, even if you haven't actually been near them on the ground. Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Everest, Manaslu, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri-they all line up for their photographs as the tourists climb over you with their big cameras. I think it was partly this experience which made the Kanjiroba Himal-which you don't see so easily-seem more attractive to me than the other areas, of Nepal which are open for climbing. Ron Giddy felt the same way, and after reading John Tyson's various articles[1] we soon had a plan for a small expedition in the autumn of 1976. Dave Holdroyd joined us after; we reckoned three people plus a climbing Sherpa would be just enough.

Our initial plan was to approach Kanjiroba Main Peak (22,583 ft) from the west, over the Patrasi Himal-almost the only route which Tyson, in his three exploratory expeditions, did not try. We changed our minds, however, when we got an account of the first ascent of the peak by an Osaka City University party in 1970. They had taken this approach, crossed the Patrasi ridge at 18,000 ft and spent a fortnight descending a steep loose face to the Base Camp, using a good deal more hardware than we intended to take in total. This didn't seem like fun, so we looked at the maps again. By piercing things together we calculated that Tyson's original attempts up the Jagdula khola had reached a point only two or three miles short of the lowest point to which the Japanese party had descended. 'What's two or three miles?' we asked ourselves and opened some more beer to mark our finding a workable plan which still had a bit of exploration in it.

Organisation in Hong Kong was simple, though fund-raising was hindered by the presence of a "rival"-the Army expedition to Annapurna South Peak.[2] We did, however, receive substantial support from the Mount Everest Foundation, the British Mountaineering Council, and a number of individuals and companies in Hong Kong, to all of whom we would like to express our gratitude.

"You'll be lucky to fly into Jumla before October 1st' said the pundits in Kathmandu. This was over two weeks away and the alternative-to fly to Surkhet in the lowlands of far west Nepal involved an extra nine days walking. We had a total time of just over seven weeks, and Mike Cheney's comment that people with limited holidays and rigid deadlines should perhaps avoid remote areas began to seem relevant.

Fortunately Royal Nepal Airlines had a more flexible view of things. One day they were sure they could fly us in, and our spirits rose. Next day there was water on the runway at Jumla. Then the story came that they had no contact with Jumla at all, but thought there might be water on the runway. Finally we took off on 18 September to give it a try-three expedition members, two Sherpas, liaison officer and gear just fitting into the Twin Otter. Cloud obscured all the mountain views but cleared as we reached the Karnali river system, and we landed in beautiful weather. Needless to say there was no water on the runway.

The people of Jumla seem to be notoriously bad porters even when there is no festival in the offing-which is very seldom. With the Dusshera celebration approaching, we had difficulty finding twenty-five people, and our first group lived up to the local reputation, covering a very short distance in two days and then staging a sit-down strike. Fortunately replacements were close by at the Tibetan refugee village of Chotia, and they served us very well.

We reached the village at Hurikot, at the foot of the Jagdula khola, in five days from Jumla and found to our surprise an excellent new footpath leading up the valley. The Government, we were told, was building a road to Kanjiroba. Our porters, furthermore, knew the route all the way to the Base Camp, and it would take us only three days from here. We were still wondering whether to be pleased or disappointed by all this when, after two more days, we came to Tyson's Base Camp site and were shown a mountain, in totally the wrong place, supposedly called Kanjiroba. Further questions revealed that all the mountains for miles around were called Kanjiroba. We began to appreciate John Tyson's achievement in finding and mapping the heighest peaks of this complex group despite the total inaccuracy of the old Survey of India maps. Armed with his map3 and some other recent material, we were able to point ourselves in the right direction with reasonable certainty, and to persuade our porters to leave the "Government road" and follow the trackless flank on the main Jagdula.

It was here that we really appreciated our Tibetan porters. The root lay across some steep grass, at first high above the river but later descending to the bed to avoid a series of rock buttresses. We passed the remains of one shikari (hunter) whose quest for musk deer had come to a nasty end, and heard of another who had disappeared in the gorge.

3. Geographical Journal, September 1967.
In the river we ran into problems. The cliffs descended to water level and the obvious route involved two crossings of the waist-deep water. Dave and I tried to set an example, taking a load across safeguarded by a rope, but the porters were totally unimpressed. 'O.K. for all Europeans', but we will be up to our necks in that,' they said. Fortunately, Pemba, our sirdar, found a route through the cliffs above, ending in a 150 ft abseil down vertical grass to rejoin the river. We began lowering loads down this section, but the novelty of swinging on ropes soon infected the whole party, and several porters went down hand over hand with 70 lb loads. Rates of pay by now had doubled to Rs. 40 per day but at least we were still progressing.

Four days beyond Tyson's camp we reached a meadow overlooking a major junction in the valley. Here, it seemed, the route really became difficult, and none of the various alternatives was likely to be suitable for porters. We paid them off, and established cur pre-Base Camp, an estimated eight miles from the mountain, which none of us had yet seen. Directly opposite our meadow was the "maidan" reached by Tyson's 1964 party who had used a much longer route over the flanks of Lha Shamma (21,000 ft) east of the river.

We soon saw that a continuation on the west bank of the Jagdula was not feasible. The river here ran in a most impressive crevasse-like gorge, above which was a monstrous fissured rock wall, reminiscent of those parts of the Dolomites which you only see if you get lost on a descent. Dave and I climbed some very steep grass to explore the high ridges above, but the prospect here was just as bad-days of climbing across steep loose rock with no water whatever. Ron and Pemba found the depths of the, gorge equally daunting, but they did spot a possible roundabout route to the opposite bank and the maidan.

The following day the four of us set out for a longer exploration. The river crossing again needed a rope, but a tenuous route through the cliffs on the east side proved easier than expected thanks to well-rooted juniper bushes. Five hours' strenuous work took us to the maidan. Earth cliffs looked through the birch forest ahead but were fortunately avoidable, and after some scrambling over steep loose slopes, too near the brink of the gorge for comfort, we reached the river bed above the crevassed section.

We were still well short of a Base Camp but we thought we were over the worst, so I took a chance and sent Pemba back to begin ferrying loads with Pasang Gyau, our cook. Ron, Dave and I went on for another long day, up and down the valley sides, in and out of the river, and reached a camp site below a mountain which we thought was probably Kanjiroba. The upper valley was much more open than the gorges below, arid we had some excellent close-up views of "bharal" (blue sheep) on the juniper-covered hillsides.

A search of the slopes around the camp revealed a small pile of Japanese refuse, so, reassured that we were in the right place, we looked for a route up the mountain. A rock band separating two ice-falls seemed to offer the only safe approach to the south face, but didn't look too easy. We left the tent and returned to pre-Base.

Pemba and Pasang had made two carries by the time we returned, and a third day's work for the five of us, with a little overloading all round, was enough to establish us at a midway camp in the gorge. Dave's rock-climbing enthusiasm was stimulated by the rock band, so he and Pemba went ahead with fixed ropes and ironware while Hon, Pasang and I completed the load carrying.

Three days later we were all at Base, pleasantly surprised to find that the rock band was very easy. One more carry was enough to put three of us in a camp at 17,000 ft with, we hoped, enough food and gear to finish the job. At this stage, unfortunately, Dave was suffering badly from altitude sickness, which left Pemba and myself as the climbing party,

We had hoped to find a new route to the summit of Kanjiroba, but from the southern glacier, whose edge we were now on, the original Japanese route was by far the most obvious and safest way. This climbs a subsidiary spur running south off the long east ridge of the mountain. Access to the spur looked difficult as it ended in a line of ice-cliffs, but we found a ramp of steep snow ice leading easily through these. We detoured around some large crevasses and reached the crest at lunch time. We camped that day just below the steepest section of the spur, at 19,500 ft by the - altimeter.

Next morning we continued up the spur-all snow, but steep and narrow enough to need belays in some places. Higher up it merged into the south face of the mountain. I had been expecting ice here but the good snow coninued 11 the way. We were both feeling the height now, having come up seven thousand feet in just over two days. We reached the south-east ridge and had our first good views of the eastern basin of the Kanjiroba group Serku Dolma, Tso Kharpo Kang, the "hanging glacier peaks'below which we had come, and others further away toward Ringmo lake. In the far distance we could see the Dhaulagiri ranres the Annapurnas and the Manaslu group, all looking very close together by comparison with the vast expanse of lower peaks stretching north into Tibet.

Pemba took the lead for a while from here. In most respects he was very safe, but his attitude to the large cornice was a little casual for me. At one stage he stood astride a junction between old and new sections of the cornice pointing to a small crack between his feet. 'Look, sahib, crevasse.' It was difficult to decide whether to break all the trail myself, or stay behind to watch him.

We followed the ridge to an almost level spot at 21,300 ft which was probably the bivouac site of the 1970 Japanese party. As it was only 11.30 a.m. we planned to go on to the summit after pitching the tent, but as usual the camp site was not level as it looked, and after an hour and a half's digging we had enough work for the day. We spent a long afternoon brewing up and periodically worrying about the wisps of high cloud moving over from the west-the first hints of bad weather for two weeks or so.

Fortunately we woke to another clear morning on 16 October and an hour's climbing took us, surprisingly, to the top where we were relieved to see that we were higher than any other peak for a long way around. The view again was magnificent, and we could see the Patrasi and Sisne Himal to good effect. We picked out the Japanese approach route; it seemed unlikely that they had hit on the easiest crossing of the Patrasi.

The north summit of Kanjiroba, which I had imagined to be a half-hour walk from the main top, now looked a long way off probably a two-day round trip for us in our semi-acclimatized state. Lack of food was an adequate reason for not attempting it, and Pemba's fascination with the summit cornice was further incentive for going down, so we were soon back at our camp for a second breakfast. The descent was straightforward all the way and we rejoined Dave the same afternoon.

Dave by now had recovered and was keen to climb. Ron, however, had decided that 46 was an appropriate retiring age for mountaineers and was busy burying his ice-axe. Neither Pemba nor I could face a repeat performance, so reluctantly we prepared to go down. I spent a pleasant day in the sun, drinking endless cups of tea and watching the remarkable spectacle of Ron Hiding expensive equipment in the boulders to lighten his load. while the two Sherpas were simultaneously sorting the Japanese refuse for anything saleable. A good aluminium ice-stake fetches 50 rupees and raw material for cooking pots. Pasang found a very heavy white rock, and was persuaded only with difficulty that it was quartz and not valuable Tibetan salt.

The return was straightforward; at pre-Base we found two of our former porters and three local shikaris, surrounded by large quanties of meat and anxious to do ten men's portering for ten mens wages. The lower gorge was studded with small traps set for mouse-hares, weasels and the like, but we never discovered how they trapped the "bharal" whose carcases appeared here and there along the route. At Hurikot we switched to dzos (yak-cow hybrids) and reached Jumla, with a week to spare, on 31 October.


[1] Alpine Journal, vol. 67, 70 and 75 ; Geographical Journal, September 1967 ; Mountain World, 1962-63.

[2] In the autumn 1976 season one-third of all foreign expeditions in Nepal wore* from Hong Kong. See article in this issue.

Camp I on Kanjiroba. The route follows the spur in the foreground till it joins the main (SE.) ridge (right sky line).

Camp I on Kanjiroba. The route follows the spur in the foreground till it joins the main (SE.) ridge (right sky line).



Looking north up the Jagdula khola towards the main peaks of the Kanjiroba Himal.

Looking north up the Jagdula khola towards the main peaks of the Kanjiroba Himal.