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

CHAMRAO GLACIER EXPEDITION-1977

M. DEY

The main purpose of the expedition organized by the Mountaineers Youth Ring, Calcutta, was to study the main glaciers of the Saraswati and Alaknanda basins, particularly Satopanth, Bhagirath and the Chamrao glaciers from the view-point of glaciology and geomorphology. Also the landforms of the areas adjacent to the snouts of the glaciers were to be studied in some details in order to understand the impact of glacial, peri-glacial and fluvio-glacial processes on the landform with particular emphasis on micro-geomorphological characteristics. In addition to the above, the participants also decided to take samples of soil for analysis in scientific laboratories in order to understand the possibilities for future extension of agriculture in the areas beyond the highest elevations up to which agriculture is practised today. Moreover, some of the members were also interested in the nature of human habitation and the way of living of the people in the locality, since the ultimate aim of such scientific expedition cum exploration is to see how far the natural resources of the area could be utilized for man's benefit.

With this purpose in mind the main party, consisting of 14 members left Calcutta on 8 May, 1977, by Doon Express to reach Rishikesh on 10 May. An advance party consisting of two members reached Rishikesh the day before in order to arrange accommodation for the main party at Rishikesh as well as for making other arrangements such as reservation of bus for journey from Rishikesh to Badrinath, etc.

From Rishikesh again, two members were sent to Chamoli, Gopeswar and Joshimath as advance party in order to contact the Civil and Army authorities for obtaining necessary permission for visiting the restricted areas beyond Mana and taking photographs of scientific interest in those areas.

The journey from Rishikesh to Badrinath cannot be performed in one day by public transport-a halt for one night at Pipulkoti is necessary. Next day at about 10.00 a.m. the party reached Badrinath. Accommodation in a dharamsala was quite comfortable. The party rested at Badrinath for a few days. During the stay at Badrinath a ponywala from Dhantoli, Nandan Singh, was appointed as a guide who agreed to accompany the party with two ponies for transport of luggage as well.

It was decided to visit at first the Satopanth and Bhagirath glaciers at the source of the Alaknanda river and, after returning from there, to visit the Chamrao and other glaciers in the Saraswati basin. Food and other essential items such as tents etc. were packed accordingly for the first half of our programme, i.e. for the Satopanth-Bhagirath glaciers. In the meantime the two members of the advance team reached Badrinath from Joshimath with the necessary permit for entry and photography in the restricted areas beyond Mana. Next morning the party started for the Satopanth-Bhagirath glacier complex.

The first half of the journey was quite comfortable with clear sky, fine weather, bright sunshine and obviously high spirit of the members. About half of the team moved fast with the guide and the ponies in order to set the camp in a suitable place. The rest of the party followed slowly taking scientific observations on the geomorphological features. In the afternoon, all of a sudden the weather deteriorated; strong wind started blowing followed by heavy snowfall. The big boulders, which were once transported and deposited by glaciers, were all covered with thick, soft snow. More dangerous were the gaps or depressions between successive morainic boulders which were concealed beneath the thick cover of snow, and hence, were more treacherous than before. In spite of that the rear party managed to negotiate two such tributaries of the Alaknanda to reach the camping ground in front of the Satopanth-Bhagirath glaciers. But alas, the front party had already crossed the river Alaknanda with all the tents, food and other equipments. The Alaknanda at that moment was so violent with the snow-cover on the boulders peeping through its furious water that the idea of crossing it had to be abandoned. As such, the rear party decided to take shelter in a morainic cave on the left- bank of the Alaknanda whereas the front party also sheltered in two caves on the other side of the river. The caves were formed by big chunks of morainic rocks heaped up by the glacier in a more or less stable condition. Heavy snowfall continued throughout the night with a gloomy sky and strong wind and with violent sounds of avalanche and rockfall occurring frequency.

In the morning the sky became clear, snowfall ceased and the members came out of the caves and contact was established between the two camps. The members started working on the moraines and the river. The moraines were mostly covered with thick snow but a few of them were peeping through the snow cover and some of the lichens (Rhizocarpon geographicum ) growing on them were selected for dating and were also marked for establishing their growth rate. Then the party returned to Badrinath.

The front party proceeded first towards the snout of the Satopanth glacier and then, after crossing the terminal moraine, took observation on the nature of the moraine and the glacier there. Then they proceeded further to the west along the glacier and approached the Satopanth Tal and observed the moraines, crevasses, moulins and other glaciological features en route.

Then, after completing the work the party returned to Badrinath and met the other party. We then proceeded towards Ghastoli with the hope of getting fair weather during our stay- in the upper Saraswati valley. On our way to Ghastoli, we collected a few samples of soil from the right side of the Saraswati valley. It was found that the soils were quite fertile and were suitable for growing crops which could resist the low temperature and short frost-free period as prevailed in the area.

The party reached Ghastoli safely and camped on the wide grassy meadow, an ideal pasture ground for the ponies.

Next morning one party moved towards the north for surveying the Chamrao glacier. Another party moved to the north-east to survey the West Kamet glacier. A third party moved to the west following the Arwa valley. It was observed that the Arwa valley near the confluence was covered by relatively older moraines which suggested that the area was not invaded by the Arwa glacier during the Holocene time. However, both Chamrao and West Kamet glaciers gave definite indications of Holocene advance down to the margin of the Saraswati valley. The push moraines in front of the West Kamet glacier also gave evidence of recent advance during the Little Ice Age.

Lichens have been marked at several places for dating the moraines in the Arwa, Saraswati, West Kamet and Chamrao valleys. It was not possible to proceed beyond the Chamrao glacier because of the adverse snow condition. As such, study of the Balbala, Tara and other glaciers as well as of the Mana Pass area was abandoned. With limited time and financial resource it was impractical to expect a greater success than what was achieved by the party. In future, however, we hope to visit the area again with better equipment and particularly during a more suitable time (preferably during August-September) when snow condition will not give serious opposition to further advance towards the north.