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

BLACK PEAK, 1976

MANDIP SINGH SOIN

On the 18 May the money came in. On the 21 May the St Stephen's College Hiking Club launched its expedition to the Tons glacier in the Garhwal Himalaya. Led by Ajay Tankha, an ex- Stephenian, the objectives of the expedition were to study the area, impart training to the inexperienced and to attempt the summit of Black Peak (Bandarpunch I).

With approval from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and the university Grants Commission, our chief sponsors, the expedition was on a firm footing. On 21 May we braced ourselves for an eighteen hour journey to Purola. We halted for a day at the well maintained Forest Rest House and then moved on to Mori, a nerve racking journey on the precipitous road piloted by an over enthusiastic daredevil of a driver. We hired mules at Mori and started a short trek of two hours to Naitwar along the river Tons. There we met our advance party-Dahiya and Ambasta, who were waiting eagerly after having done a fine job of fixing up the porters for the journey ahead. Since repairs were going on at the road, we marched on to Taluka next day which one will soon be able to do by jeep. Just out of Naitwar we saw the entrance to the Supin pass. All along the road, there were large apple orchards and work in progress with the pine-rosin tappings and their despatch.

From Taluka we set off towards Osla. This route lay through a heavily forested area-the treetops couldn't be seen and neither rain nor sunlight could come through. The ground was a mossy carpet with wild roses sprinkled about. There were horrifying insects and beautifully coloured birds.

Later we came upon an opening and we saw the villages of Gangar and Pauni which seemed precariously perched on the mountainside. Moishar Singh, chief porter, took us to his village.

At Osla, we rested for a day, preparing loads of 25 kg for the porters_we employed thirty in all. The next dawn saw our expedition rambling along the Tons and we skirted the path going to Harki Doon. We had to rest frequently as the porters would smoke their chilams full of crushed hashish leaves. The hashish grew wild over there and the porters had tremendous capacity for smoking it.

Two hours later we suddenly came up to a stiff climb of about 500 ft. We emerged on to a plateau and what we saw was really breath taking. In front of us was spread a carpet of green grass with butter cups and anemones swaying gently. The rhododendron bushes with pink and white flowers grew along the right and the tall deodar trees on the left. We reached the lip of the p a b and suddenly our hearts beat wildly, for right in front lay the Bandarpunch range and a tiny wisp of cloud on the majestic Black Peak,

We descended from the plateau and started a grueling trek along the River Tons which was gushing in this green valley of silver birch trees. After a ten-hour day, we reached Ruisher Tal, a turquoise-blue lake at 12,000 ft with trees and boulders all around. A profusion of flowers greeted us-primula denticulatas, involucratas, irises, androsace, fritillaria and the inevl the "buttercups. We were lucky to spot a few of the rare Primulae Murcroftana.

The next day we marched through moraine. Sometimes steep gullies had to be negotiated and by the time we reached Kiarkoti, our Base Camp, we were very tired. We paid off the porters and set up camp.

Kiarkoti, at a height of 14,000 ft, had nearly everything a small stream nearby and large patches of snow and ice not far off. For the next two days we concentrated on ice-craft and rock-climbing and got toned up for the real thing.

Plans to set up further camps were mobilized into action. A recce party consisting of Bambai, Moishar and myself left find a suitable route and site for Camp 1. We traversed along the true right of the glacier but this route was hazardous and at many a place fixed ropes would have been necessary. So we decided to explore the possibility of finding a route on the main glacier. This proved to be fruitful and we placed marker flags all along the high points of the route. And so, the next day, while the recce party rested, the others ferried loads to Camp 1.

Leaving Kishory, the cook, at Base Camp, all of us moved on to Camp 1 (15,500 ft). We negotiated the ice-fall and though Saith had a knack of disappearing into crevasses of which there were many, we finally set up Camp 2 at a height of 17,000 ft.

At Camp 2 our troubles began. The wind was blowing at about 70 km p.h. and our improvized kitchen was constantly blown apart. The two primus stoves used to peter out every now and then. The sleeping quarters were cramped and most of us had splitting headaches due to the height. We took all this and next morning prepared to leave for Camp 3. Though the weather was fine, the snow conditions were rather bad. We were quite heavily laden and we sank to our calves. After five hours of plodding and making very slow progress we reached a short traverse from where it was impossible to move further. So we pitched our solitary tent and it became Camp 3 at a height of 18,500 ft. From here, Dahiya, Ambasta and Bamzai went back to Camp 2.

At Camp 3, the five of us sat out in the evening, hoping we would have another day of good weather, but an hour later our spirits were dampened as black clouds started creeping up from the valley. They came on steadily till it got dark and suddenly there was a flash of lightning. And sure enough, its outcome was a raging blizzard.

At about 3 a.m. Tankha wakes up with a start and inquires about the weather. I am nearest to the entrance so I put my head out the sky is dark and the snow is falling silently. The rest are awake now and I give the weather report to Tankha. He is pensive for some time and then he arrives at a decision we shall give ourselves half an hour to get ready for moving towards the summit if the weather clears, or descend to Camp 2 if it continues to be bad.

After working with numb fingers for about twenty minutes, we see a break in the sky. We pray. Another fifteen minutes and the sky is definitely less threatening. In that twilight we decide to push towards the summit. We rope up. Tankha and Moishar on one rope and Sunil, Chandan and I on the other.

We start off. The snow conditions have not improved in the least. There are many false ridges and it is quite frustrating going up and down and not covering much distance. Later, the monotony of false ridges is broken and we come up to a fresh one climbing up and up. The gradient increases to 45° and our going is slowed. Now it is three hours from the start and fatigue is showing. I develop a severe headache and find leading quite taxing and Sunil takes over. The climb seems never-ending and breathings becomes more laboured-Moisher complains of nausea. Tankha is winded and Sunil stops often to regain breath. Chandan, too is in bad shape.

We sit down for a rest and munch our chocolates. We gaze at the summit ridge which is just about one hour away. 'We will make it,’ is thought. The gradient sharpens some more and I cut steps. Soon Tankha takes over and after what seems ages, we reach the summit ridge. We are now at 20,000 ft and the summit is at 21,000 ft. We take a deep breath and smiles flicker on our faces. We decide to hurry up and beat the weather to the summit. We put on our crampons to negotiate the blue ice further up. Chandan and Moishar do not feel up to it and so the three of us are off. Scarcely ten minutes pass when we have another look at the sky-it is most disturbing. Five minutes later it starts snowing, and suddenly a snowstorm is raging. It is hitting us hard, our faces become numb and the snow gathers on the goggles. It becomes darker and the visibility is down to ten feet. We realize bitterly our helplessness and, casting a glance towards the summit that snow couldn't be seen, we start going down defeated.

Though it may have been a defeat, we came back wiser people.I quote Michel de Montaigne who said,

“There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.'