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

AN ATTEMPT ON NITALTHAUR, 1974

MANIK BANERJEE

The object of our expedition was to scale the virgin summit of Nitalthaur (20,480 ft) situated 6 miles south-east of Tirsuli, to the east of Milam glacier in the Zaskar range, in the district of Pithoragarh, U.P. A Himalayan Association Expedition under K. P. Sharma had attempted it in May 1965, returning from an abortive venture on Tirsuli. They could not make much headway, presumably due to their poor condition after their earlier endeavour. Unofficial reports suggest a foray by Lt. Commander Kohli's pre-Everest team in 1964. Attempts had also been made by the ITBP mountaineers in 1973 and 1974; and the ill-fated Indo-New Zealand ladies' expedition of 1974.

We attempted Nitalthaur in autumn 1974. The team consisted of myself (Manik Banerjee, leader), U. Ganguly (Dy. leader), C. K. Mitra, A. K. Deb Hoy, P. Chatterjee, B. K. Sarkar, A. Dutta and Dr. Alfazuddin Ahmed.

We had a tough time procuring Sherpas as almost all the best ones in Darjeeling had joined the ITBP or migrated to Nepal and there was a plethora of expeditions during the same period. However, Tshering Lakpa, a veteran of many expeditions, and young Sherpa Tarchen were available.

We set out from Howrah Station on 18 September and reached Knthgodam on the morning of the 20th.

The first leg of our bus journey took us to Bageswar the same day.

Early next morning Chanchalda (C. K. Mitra) went to Pithoragarh to obtain the inner line permits. The D. M. and the A. D. M. were out on tour but the young S. D. M. was very helpful and issued the permits very quickly. Our relief at this was short lived when we discovered that there was an acute shortage of gasoline and no buses were running. Our persistent efforts resulted in one R. T. O. official finding just enough gasoline for a bus to take us up to Munsiary.

We arrived at about 4 p.m. on the 24th amidst a light drizzle. We received generous assistance from the local Tehsildar in procuring rations and fuel, but faced another bottleneck over porters aid muleteers. The porter agent who had exploited the Indo- New Zealand Ladies' expedition, asked us Rs.23 per mule and Rs.12 per porter per day, to cover the distance up to Base Camp in seven days' march instead of the normal five. We decided to open direct negotiations with the porters and the rate was eventually settled at Rs.19 per mule and Rs.8 per porter, reaching Base Camp in five days.

Leaving behind all these unforeseen problems, we commenced the march-out stage on the 26th. The Dak Bungalow of Lilam lies about 8 miles from Munsiary. The going was mostly downhill and we covered it in about 3 hours.

From Lilam we proceeded to Bugdear in a gruelling march by a new route over "Man Singh Top" (12,410 ft). There followed an arduous 11 miles to Martoli, and it was raining when we arrived.

We awoke next morning in glorious sunshine to dazzling views of Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Tirsuli. After a brief visit to the Nanda Maye temple, we set off, arriving at Base Camp on the afternoon of the 30th, to be greeted by light snowfall in the evening.

The pay parade, packing and repacking of loads, fitting crampons and a shake-down of other high-altitude gear allowed us (particularly the newcomers to the region) to recuperate the next day.

On 2 October we set off early from Base Camp and cut across the grassy slopes to the east. Four hours later we established Camp 1 at an altitude of about 17,000 ft on the boulder-strewn dry moraine of a hanging glacier, which has now receded considerably. Water was; available from a nearby moraine pond. The support party, comprising Ujjal Ganguly, Dr. Ahmed and Bidyut Sarkar along with the porters, returned to Base Camp, while Chanchalda, myself, Sherpa Lakpa and Tarchen, and our cook Puran Singh stayed at Camp 1.

From our perusal of the map and earlier visits to this area, the only negotiable route to the summit of Nitalthaur appeared to be by its south summit ridge. On 3 October, Chanchalda, Lakpa, Tarchen and myself set out to reconnoitre a route up to this ridge and to find a suitable camp site.

We crossed the boulder-strewn moraine diagonally to the southeast and arrived at the foot of the eastern face of Nitalthaur after about an hour and a half. To get near the south summit ridge seemed extremely difficult; a couloir menaced by a rock- fall appeared to be the only chink in the armour of the face. It was imperative to climb it unroped because of the threat of avalanches. Accordingly, Lakpa started climbing in the middle of the couloir, Chanchalda and Tarchen along the northern edge, and myself along the southern rim. The couloir became steeper and rocks of various sizes started wizzing past. It was only by chance that we escaped a direct hit. Finally the gully gave way to a crumbled ridge with a sheer drop on the south side, at about 18,000 ft. We made some exposed rock climbing to gain another 100 ft or so.

The elusive south summit ridge still looked quite far away, and the route extremely difficult. The crumbled ridge continued for some hundred yards more, where it ended in a vertical, rotten rock-wall about 800 feet high. This did not look negotiable, either by free climbing or with fixed ropes. There was hardly any place on the ridge for setting up camp. Moreover, the couloir with its loose boulders was both difficult and dangerous. So we had no alternative under the prevailing conditions, but to abandon this route and return to Base Camp.

After a thorough study of the map, we tried to force a route through Langar, 2 km below Base Camp. This was to no avail, as it terminated at a menacing glacier discharging occasional avalanches. On 6 October, Ujjal, Bidyut and Sherpas Lakpa and Tarchen made another vain attempt through the 1965 route, following the rocky gendarmes of the south-east ridge. Next day we went to Dhulianthar, across the Milam glacier, to look at conditions from the Bilanlari glacier. The smooth granite wall of Nitalthaur rose vertically from the Bilanlari glacier for thousands of feet, and to find a route up this wall seemed impossible.

We evacuated Base Camp on the 8th and returned to Milam. On the way back we thought of reconnoitring the area for the future. While we halted at Burfu village a small party went to have a closer look at the 20,400 ft Burfu Dhura. On the 10th, in cloudy weather, Chanchalda, Bidyut, Tarchen and Lakpa made a valiant attempt to find a suitable camp site, but in vain. The same night the weather broke. By the time the rear party reached Bugdear, there was heavy snowfall as far as Burfu. Winter had set in and it seemed to be the correct time for withdrawal from the mountain.

Perhaps a strong, mobile and faster team might succeed via the south summit ridge in the pre-monsoon season, when there would be less chance of rock-fall in the couloir. This ridge appeared on closer inspection to be girdled with crevasses and hanging glaciers. Any team attempting Nitalthaur should be ready to tackle this problem after they have succeeded in negotiating the couloir and the crumpled rock-wall. They would also be well advised to make their Base Camp about 2 km below ours on the alp of Nitalthaur.