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

NILAMBAR EXPEDITION, 1977

RANVIR SINGH

We reached Delhi on 21 May in the morning where I got down and boarded another train to reach Lucknow the same day to collect the necessary letter from the Uttar Pradesh Government for the Inner Line and camera permits. Others continued their journey via Dehra Dun and reached Uttarkashi on 22nd evening where Mukund Bhagwat joined them the same day. On the 23rd collected the letter from Uttar Pradesh Sachivalaya and boarded a train in the evening to reach Hardwar on 24 May in the morning. At Hardwar I hired a taxi to reach Kishikesh where I boarded a bus and reached Uttarkashi the same day by 3.00 p.m. and joined the expedition party at Birla Dharmashala where arrangements for lodging had been made by them. Dixit joined the same day in the evening. Rations were purchased on 23 May. Inner Line and camera permits were collected on 26 May and some equipments from Dias Memorial Fund Stores at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering were collected on receipt of telegraphic instructions from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. Arrangement for porters was also finalised and 18 porters were signed up.

On 27 May, we started by the first available bus in the morning to reach Lanka by midday. We crossed the Jadganga valley and reached Bhairoghati where we boarded a bus to reach Gangotri by 4.00 p.m. While I remained at Gangotri, others proceeded to camp 4 km ahead. At Gangotri we had the first glimpse of Sudarshan Parbat towering above Bhagirathi valley. I met the IIT Bombay's party returning from their successful Koteshwar Expedition and congratulated them on their success. We stayed at Gangotri in the night. Next day Pandit came back to Gangotri to collect some equipment required by us from the IIT party which they very kindly gave us. We left Gangotri at about p.m. At Chirbas we met Minoo and Mukund with some loads left by the porters who had moved to Bhujbas. While Santosh remained at Chirbas with the loads, Minoo and myself started for Bhujbas followed by Mukund and Pandit. To our right we could identify Manda (21,360 ft), Manda glacier and Bhrigupanth glacier. While approaching Bhujbas we could see the Bhagirathi group of peaks. We reached Bhujbas at 6.00 p.m.

On 29 May morning the weather was fine. After lunch, all members and porters started for the Raktavarn valley; leaving some excess load at Bhujbas to be ferried later. We crossed the terminal moraine of the Gangotri glacier and reached Gaumukh the snout of the Gangotri glacier. We continued our journey along the right lateral moraine of the Gangotri glacier. When we reached the confluence of Raktavarn nala with Gangotri glacier, the sun had already set. We turned left, ascended a scree slope to reach the terminus on the Raktavarn valley. It was a suitable camping site, the height being around 14,000 ft.

On 30 May we established 'Thelu nala camp' at about 15,000 ft. There was some delay due to illness before we could set up our Base Camp (2 June) at about 15,500 ft on the right bank of Raktavarn glacier. Camp 1 was sited (5 June) at around 17,000 ft near a large glacial lake opposite the entrance to an unnamed valley. That night at about 10 p.m. the porters' tent was flooded-and they had to be squeezed in with us. The next morning came the answer-the glacial lake had disappeared leaving a high-water mark.

The Raktavarn turns northwards in front of the ridge descending from Ft. 22,100 ft-we followed this to catch our first glimpse of the Nilambar Bamak. We could now see the ice-fall above which Sri Kailas (22,742 ft) towered majestically. Camp 2 was set up at the confluence of the Nilambar and Raktavarn Bamaks - c. 18,000 ft.

Next morning (9 June) the weather was clear. After breakfast went went for a recce towards the Nilambar Bamak and returned by 10.30 a.m. We observed the ridge leading to peak 22,100 ft through binoculars. In the middle, the ridge was broken at a steep angle. Descending from the ridge towards the other side on the ice and snow slope did not provide a feasible route as the lower portion of that slope was dissected with steep edges with no apparent corridor to go up. The ice-fall coming down the slopes of peak 22,100 ft and its south-west ridge, was not a promissing site from the safety point of view. After lunch, we started with loads to find out a site for Camp 3. We had gradually turned north-east and continued our journey over a medial moraine formed by the joining of lateral moraines of Raktavarn and Nilambar Bamaks. We crossed through seracs on our left and reached a camping site on the right lateral moraine of the Nilambar at an altitude of 18,500 ft. We dumped our loads there and returned back to Camp 2.

10 June morning was clear, although it had been snowing during the previous night. We reached Camp 3 site, kept our loads there and proceeded up for a recce. After walking up the right lateral moraine of Nilambar Bamak for some distance, we turned right and started moving over the snow-covered surface of the glacier. Peaks 22,100 ft and 21,990 ft were in our full view. Peak 22,298 ft was hidden behind the south-west ridge of Peak 22,100 ft. This ridge was heavily corniced. The slope of this ridge towards Nilambar Bamak was broken to form a big ice- fall more than 2000 ft in height. There were ice-blocks sticking to the ridge connecting peaks 22,100 ft and 21,990 ft. The slope of this ridge towards the Nilambar Bamak was quite steep in its upper reaches. Because of the overhanging ice on the ridge, the lower reaches did not provide any safe camping site. Between the overhanging ice-blocks and the ice-fall descending from the south-west ridge, there was a steep corridor towards peak 22,100 ft, occasionally marked by crevasses. This corridor was, however, avalanche prone. In its lower reaches there appeared to be a small camping site but just above it the overhanging ice and avalanche slopes made it completely unsafe. Finally the southwest ridge of peak 22,100 ft being highly corniced right up to the top of the peak would have made climbing in the upper portion difficult and dangerous. We continued going over the vast snow surface of the glacier right up to its head at an altitude of around 19,000 ft. In front of us was a depression and then the gradient increased. After making observations all around we returned by 4.30 p.m. to Camp 3 where we had left our loaded rucksacks. We had a meeting in the bungalow tent and considering the dangers involved in climbing peaks 22,298 ft and 22,100 ft within the limited resources at our disposal, we decided to attempt Sri Kailas. After lunch we started with loads towards the higher reaches of the Raktavarn glacier. We dumped the loads on a medial moraine ridge a little below the ice-fall coming down from Sri Kailas and were back at the Nilambar Bamak Camp by 6.00 p.m.

On the 12th morning the weather was clear. We wound up the Nilambar Bamak Camp to shift it to the Raktavarn glacier. We started at 11.00 a.m., descended to the Raktavarn, caught a medial moraine ridge and continued over it. No sooner had we reached the previous day's dumping point, it started snowing. After some time we turned left and gained another medial moraine ridge.

On 13 June we started at about 11.00 a.m. for a recce and establishing Camp 4. We moved up through a snow corridor in the ice-fall. We reached above the level of the left portion of the ice-fall to find a big snow-field sloping gently towards south and west and rising abruptly in the east. At the base of the steep slope was a crevasse chain. Further up, where the slope gradient eased there were other crevasses. We ascended the slope, skirting the crevasses to reach a snow-field above the right portion of the ice-fall. There we turned left towards north. We were above the base of the subsidiary of Sri Kailas. By then the clouds had already formed and were rushing towards us. We reached a place where the slope increased again. By this time the porters were unwilling to move further. We, therefore, had no alternative but to camp at an altitude of 20,500 ft.

On the 14th morning the weather was clear and six members -Antia, Santosh, Minoo, Pandit, Mukund and myself and 2 porters Gopal Singh and Pratap Singh-started for the summit attempt at about 6.30 a.m. After going a few steps up Mukund, having been affected by the altitude, returned to Camp 4. We crossed a hidden crevasse over a snow-bridge. Moving up we reached a place where the gradient of the snow slope increased, and above this we came to a big snow-field. On our right was a subsidiary peak of Sri Kailas. Pandit was feeling the effects of altitude and returned to Camp 4. We could now see the west and south cols of Sri Kailas. The ridge leading to the peak from the south col between the main peak and the subsidiary appeared shorter with occasional ice patches. The ridge leading from the western col was much longer with less gradient and appeared to be covered with snow all along its length. Ahead of us the slope increased abruptly. While we were moving up, the steep slope ahead of us started covering the higher reaches of Sri Kailas. By the time we reached the base of the slope the main peak had completely disappeared behind it. Where the lower gentle slope joined the upper steep face it formed a depression culminated into a big chain of crevasses. We probed the depression with ice axes crossed it and started the ascent of the steeper slope. Here Pratap Singh gave up and turned back. The slope above appeared to be quite long and the angle started to ease. Gradually the main peak started projecting. We were nearing the final slope of Sri Kailas and reached a point from where the south and west cols were at almost equal distance and almost at equal heights. Here we had to decide which of the two ridges to catch to climb up the peak. We decided to catch to the western ridge because of its easy gradient and being snow-covered all along its expanse although longer than the southern ridge which looked steeper and had occasional ice patches. We turned left towards the west col. At this stage, Minoo's feet were getting cold and he wanted to go back. Gopal Singh, the only remaining high-altitude porter with us, was asked to accompany Minoo to the camp. While seeing off Minoo we turned towards the Raktavarn valley to find that the .clouds had formed there and were rushing towards Sri Kailas. Wind velocity also started increasing. Towards the col, the face leading to the col was marked with crevasses. To our right was a traverse to reach the col but just below were big crevasses making the route unsafe. In front of us where the col joins the dome, there was a snow corridor on both sides of which were crevasses. To our left was a mini ice-fall coming down the dome. Now only three of us remained, Santosh, Antia and myself. We gained the slope of the col, Antia leading, myself in the middle and Santosh at the end. The gradient of the slope gradually increased. Here I took the lead to make the route. We had to kick steps, which was a tiring job at that altitude. We started to traverse towards our left, as just in front of us near the crest of the ridge, there was a big crevasse which had to be avoided. By this time the clouds had encircled us. We saw Sri Kailas and its subsidiary disappearing under huge cloud formations. Wind velocity increased enormously and it started snowing. The visibility gradually lessened. We found, just before reaching the crest of the ridge, that the snow cover had been blown away by the wind exposing the ice. We reached the crest of the ridge to find it very narrow at the col. Not only was the side of the col which we ascended very steep, the other side appeared to be almost a drop with dangerous cornice formations. We roped up and kept on moving carefully, keeping a safe distance from the corniced edge. Wind velocity had increased considerably and intensity of snowfall had increased to reduce the visibility to a few feet. While we were proceeding up, a portion of the cornice just ahead of me gave way. Instinctively we moved towards our right, stopped for a while, assessed the risks involved in continuing and started ascending the ridge again. Suddenly, a portion of the cornice collapsed again just in front of me. We again moved to safety on our right. The snowstorm was in full force. Visibility was almost zero. The time was 2.30 p.m. We had been climbing for about 8 hours. The approximate height we stood at was around 22,000 ft. We waited for about half an hour but it did not clear. We therefore decided to turn back. The return journey was a struggle. Our footprints had disappeared due to heavy snowfall. Somehow we made it to the base of the col. The slope gradient eased. Since nothing was visible we had to find out our direction by guessing, which fortunately happened to be correct all along the descent route. Ultimately we spotted our tents through a corridor in the mist after it cleared around them. The tents again disappeared in the mist within minutes. Finally we reached our camp at about 6 00 p.m. Mukund had come out of the tent. He said that Minoo and Gopal Singh, while coming down were entrapped in the blizzard and had missed the route and had reached the camp only some 15 minutes before. I intended to establish another camp higher up next day but the porters, two of them exhausted and ill, refused to move. Antia and Minoo had to go back for some urgent assignments. They, therefore, wanted to leave on 15 June, the date they had fixed earlier.

On 15 June, except for Santosh, Mukund, Gopal Singh and myself, all others moved at 8.30 a.m. towards the lower camp. That day at Camp 4 we decided to have a rest day. We planned to attempt the peak again the next day. It had, however, been snowing all the night and continued till 6.00 a.m. On 16 June, Santosh and myself got ready and started for the summit at 7.00 a.m. Mukund and Gopal Singh remained at the camp. However, after a while Gopal Singh also joined us. We made the route alternately and reached the base of the final slope to Sri Kailas. Clouds rushing from the valley had started enveloping the peak. We waited for some time to clear but had no alternative except to turn back. With heavy heart we moved down to the camp site, wound up the camp and somehow managed to reach Camp 3 below the ice-fall. Within the next few days we wound up all camps, ferried down loads to the roadhead at Gangotri and returned home-each choosing his own way.

Members : Hormazd Antia, Minoo Mehta, Ranvir Singh (leader), Santosh Gujar, Vidyadhar Dixit and Virendra Pandit.

High-altitude

Porters : Buddhi Singh, Gopal Singh, Kripal Singh, Pratap Singh and Vijayapal Singh.