(1) Colorado Garhwal Expedition to Manda I, (6510 m-21,360 ft) May/June 1981

THE EXPEDITION arrived in New Delhi on 8 May. Our members were Jim Balog, Tony Herr, Dave Sweet, Mark Udall and Probal Chakravarti our liaison officer. We spent 4 days in Delhi making final arrangements with the IMF, going through the time-consuming process of clearing food and equipment through customs, buying additional supplies and sightseeing. On 11 May we left Delhi. We hoped to make Uttarkashi by evening.

Our journey to Uttarkashi actually took two days. The Matador we hired was beset by numerous problems including a leaky radiator, a broken throttle, an engine fire and finally the front end wheel bearings froze up on a precipitous mountain road at about dusk. We abandoned the Matador and hitched a ride on a truck; the truck left us in Dobata where we spent the night. We all agreed that the trip in the Matador was much more dangerous than our climb would probably be.

The following day, 12 May, we rode the local bus to Uttarkashi. 13 May we arranged for porters and bought last-minute supplies. It was on to Lanka the next day. We found ourselves fighting with the numerous pilgrims for seats on the cramped buses. As we approached Lanka, we had our first views of the high peaks including Skyscraper in the Kedar Ganga, and it was refreshing to sleep Lmder the pine trees.

A short walk through the gorge of the Bhagirathi the following morning and the bus ride to Gangotri brought us to the end of our bus travels. On 16 May I was feeling quite ill with a fever and upset stomach. Consequently, we stayed in Gangotri. The other members of the expedition toured Gangotri and made friends with some of the pilgrims and holy men. The next day I felt better and we walked to Chirbas where we camped on the south bank of the river after crossing the Bhagirathi river on a snow bridge right near the stone house at Chirbas.

The following day we made the steep climb up the Manda Bamak to the shepherd's shelter mentioned in G. R. Patwardhan's article, 'Manda Reconnaissance and Ascent of Unnamed Peaks, 1969'.1 Our base camp was a beautiful site that gave us an imposing view of the 6000 ft NE face of Manda. To the north we could see Sudarshan Parbat, Chirbas Parbat and many unnamed peaks. We all relished the end of our approach and spent the afternoon drinking tea and studying the peaks around us.


  1. See HJ. Vol. XXX, p. 77.—Ed.


Our interest in Manda had been whetted by Patwardhan's article in the Himalayan Journal. We had never seen a picture of the NE face, only a drawing in the same article by Patwardhan. From our base camp our view of Manda's NE face was intimidating. 6000 ft of blue ice and rock rose from the Manda Bamak to the 21,547 ft summit. There appeared to be very few ledges on the entire face. We estimated 4-6 days of climbing to do a direct route on the NE face, most of it at extreme standards of ice and rock climbing. In other words, it did not look promising.

One other line lay on the west side of the face but it was hidden from view by a subsidiary ridge of Bhrigu Parbat. Bhrigu is the peak connected to Manda by a long narrow ridge. In fact, G. B. Patwardhan's drawing made it appear like the more reasonable line on Manda was behind the above mentioned subsidiary ridge. The day after we arrived at base we climbed up to and around the subsidiary ridge of Bhrigu for a better look.

Manda I 6510m

Manda I 6510m

What did we see? We did not see an easy route but we did see a more promising line. On the right edge of the face, a series of ice- gullies and snow slopes led to the summit ridge of Manda. This series of gullies and snow slopes appeared to offer feasible climbing. However, an icefall rockwall combination at about 17,000 ft blocked access to the slopes and gullies above. Not only did the climbing look hard, but we all wondered about the objective dangers both in the icefall rockfall area and in the gullies and snow slopes above. It was, however, our best chance to climb Manda so we agreed to have a closer look in the coming days.

On 20 May, Dave Sweet and I climbed close to the base of the icefall for a better look. We were optimistic when we returned to camp. It appeared either the icefall or rockwall could be ascended safely and then the climbing above would be easier. From 21 to 23 May we made carries to the spot at about 15,000 ft where we first had a good look at our intended route. This spot became our advanced base camp. On the 23rd some of us took a rest day and watched the face for signs of rock or ice fall. It did appear that the rock wall area was occasionally hit with ice or rock fall from above and we decided, therefore, to try the icefall the following day.

On 24 May Dave Sweet and I climbed to the base of the icefall. We then fixed about 500 ft of rope through the icefall to its top. There was some steep ice climbing demanding the use of two tools and ice screws for protection. Dave and I returned to our camp in the early afternoon excited about the prospects for the climb.

Early on the morning of 25 May (3 a.m.) Tony Herr, Dave, and 1 left our camp with 4 days of food and fuel, a few ice screws and rock pitons, and as much courage as we could muster. We ascended our fixed ropes to the top of the icefall, (we pulled up our fixed ropes and left them at the top of the icefall), and continued climbing on a beautiful hot day up our chosen line. Soon after the icefall we stopped and belayed up two pitches of steep ice; above this ice we climbed 800 ft of steep, deep snow to the base of another icefall that guarded the entrance to an upper bowl —- like featured on the edge of the NE face. We hoped to make this upper bowl our camp for the night.

We climbed two belayed pitches up a gully on the left side of the upper icefall. By this point, we were all beginning to tire and were ready to camp. When we reached the edge of the upper bowl after our two belayed pitches, the afternoon clouds began to lower and obscure the view. We moved up through an area of seraes and over Inwards the bowl which was not flat as we had hoped. Instead, it was pitched at a 30-40 degree angle. We carefully traversed these steep snow slopes as a fall would have had us shooting over the ice-cliffs 400 ft below.

Our traverse left us at a bergschrund. It was 5 p.m., our elevation was approximately 19,000 ft and we were able to, at this point, locate a good bivouac site in the 'schrund' (our tent was left at base in the interests of weight). We quickly had a protected campsite. I started the long and tedious chore of melting snow and cooking dinner as we were all very tired from the day's work. The afternoon's clouds gently dropped snow as the sun set, but we were snug in our cave. All the chores were done by 11 and we fell into a needed sleep.

The following morning we started preparing for our day's climbing at 6 a.m. Hopes for the summit that day were high. We thought we could climb the easy-looking snow slopes to the col on Manda's NE ridge and then continue to the summit along the ridge. We thought we might not make it back to the 'schrund' for the night but we had sleeping- bags, bivouac sacks and a stove.

I led off feeling sluggish from the altitude and the previous day's efforts. The easy-looking snow slopes turned into some of the steepest snow slopes I had ever climbed. Every step took care. As we climbed another problem and concern was added as we were bombarded by rocks from the rockwall to our right; this was caused from the sun's heat loosening the rocks that were frozen on snow ledges. After about 600-700 ft of climbing, the snow turned to ice and we were forced to belay for 6 rope lengths. The climbing was exciting but our packs and the altitude caused us to move more slowly than we would have liked. I led the last rope length through a band of very rotten rock and climbed onto steep snow slopes that I hoped would lead to the flat col we had seen from below.

As I reached the 'col', I suddenly realized we would not find any flat spot or col. Tony and Dave climbed up the rope I had fixed as I gingerly climbed to the ridge crest. The crest was a knife edge of snow and ice and the slopes on the other side plunged 6000 ft into the Kedar Ganga. I climbed back down 50 ft to where Dave and Tony awaited and we discussed our situation. A storm also appeared to be brewing — the wind picked up and it started to snow. Our options were to stay or to descend. If we stayed, our camp would be in the open. There was not enough snow to dig a snow cave. We would have to tie ourselves into ice screws and snow stakes and spend the night, hoping the storm would abate. If we descended, we would have to do 6 or 7 rappels down our ice-gully in the dark. Plus, our climbing alpine-style meant once started, we would have to continue our descent all the way to base camp for more supplies before we could try the climb again.

For a number of reasons the decision became mine. I decided that our tired status dictated a retreat. Down we went — our first rappel off a snow fluke, our next off an ice screw that could be lifted out of its hole, the third from a snow stake. By the second rappel it was dark. Our two headlamps were then indispensable. I went last and as I waited at each anchor the snow sliding down the gully would build up between my body and the slope in a matter of seconds. I would then have to change position and let the snow continue its ride down our icy descent gully. Dave's lamp blinked at me as I waited for him and Tony to fix the next set of anchors. After 4 hours of descending, we reached the steep snow slopes above the bergschrund. Tiredly we down- climbed these slopes, knowing what was below but unable to see the thousands of feet of exposure below us. At ten o'clock we reached our previous night's camp.

We were all close to exhaustion, and thirsty above all else. For three hours we melted snow, had hot drinks and half dozed. By 1 a.m. we were all too tired to do anything more so we fell into an uneasy sleep. At 8 a.m. we awoke and had breakfast; by 11 we were on our way down. Two rappels got us by the upper ice-cliff, two more brought us further down past some more ice and a final two rappels put us through the icefall. The last rappel was spectacular as it was overhanging for 80 ft and went through an area of huge icicles. We gladly unroped at the base of the icefall and wearily stumbled down to advanced base. At advanced base we stopped for a few minutes to eat and we then continued down to base. S'ambu, Jim and our cookboy happily greeted us at base with tea and a hot meal. It felt great to be down.

The following day, 28 May, we rested and talked about further attempts on Manda. It was decided that Jim and Tony would walk up to Gaumukh, cross the Bhagirathi, descend to Gangotri, locate porters, and meet Dave and me at Chirbas in 5 days, 2 June. Dave and I wanted to have another look at another line that might lead to the summit of either Manda or Bhrigu. On 30 and 31 May we tried climbing an enormous couloir system on the NE flanks of Bhrigu; the system appeared to lead to Bhrigu/Manda ridge. We approached the gully on the afternoon of the 30th, and started the climb early on 31 May. As we reached an elevation of 17,500 ft at dawn, a storm moved in and it began to snow. We retreated but to our chagrin the storm was gone by that afternoon.

On 2 June we met Tony, Jim, Sambu and porters at Chirbas. We were on one side of the river and they were on the other. We threw a rope to Jim and then set up a tyrolean traverse. In a couple of hours we ferried all our equipment across the river. The walk back to Gangotri went quickly and we were able to make Lanka by nightfall. The following day we rode the buses to Uttar- kashi and then on the next day we made it all the way back to Delhi. It felt like we had never left the plains of India and that the Garhwal was just a dream.

In conclusion I would say that Manda is climbable by our route but it will not be easy. The summit ridge that we reached looked very exposed and the climbing might be very slow along the ridge. There was a lot of exposed ice on the ridge, so good ice climbing gear is a necessity. Take a tent for upper camps.

Manda's summit will be reached some day soon but the successful climbers will have to work hard and probably even suffer a little.

Mark Udall


(2) The First Ascent of Manda, 1981

FOUR OF us, Minoo Mehta (doctor and leader), Danesh Kalyaniwala, Muslim Contractor and I planned a small climb in the Garhwal region. We were joined by Nandan Singh, our exceptionally strong and capable high-altitude porter.

The peak had been suggested by Dr Patwardhan who also helped Minoo with the most difficult part of any expedition, the planning.

Danesh and I went ahead with most of the gear and successfully scrounged some food from a party leaving the Jogin peaks. They also confirmed our identification of Manda, as our only map was with Muslim who had yet to come.

We spent a week relaxing in the sun and watching a herd of bharal, until Minoo, Muslim, and Nandan joined us.

The next few days were spent looking at (and dreaming about) Thalaysagar, an impressive peak to our south, while ferrying loads to our base camp on the moraine.

The first bit of climb was on the icefall. Starting late one morning, we were greeted by the rattle of small stones and ice-chips coming down. Minoo had just started climbing, when a few rather large boulders rocketed past, narrowly missing everyone. That sent us scurrying back to camp. In between numerous rest days, Danesh and I found a route through the icefall to the snow basin below the final climb. We all ferried one large load to a dump there. We then left early one morning, with all the necessary gear for the higher camp. Muslim and Minoo, however, weren't feeling too well While Minoo left his rucksack halfway, Muslim returned to the lower camp.

A few days of cloudy/snowy weather kept us in our tents and Muslim left for home. After Minoo had fetched his gear, three of us left for the top. Going slowly, we ascended an obvious snow gully which due to perfect conditions, was easier than it looked. By four in the afternoon, we were about halfway up, and after excavating a small shelf in the snow beneath a large boulder, we burrowed into our sleeping-bags, A brief flurry of snow, and the clouds cleared revealing a starry sky. When we started at five the next morning Minoo's feet froze and we returned to camp later that day.

Danesh had to leave, and as Minoo wasn't feeling too well, Nandan and I decided to try a quick bash for the summit. Leaving early the next day, (at around 5.30 a.m.), we made good progress and passed our previous high point after around three hours of climbing. A little later, after climbing one steep ice-pitch, the angle eased and at 2.00 p.m. we reached the top (4 June 1981). We munched the few bars of chocolate hoarded for this moment, and took a couple of photographs. We zoomed down and reached camp late that evening.

North face of Manda I from Camp 2 on north ridge. The route of ascents followed the right skyline.

21. North face of Manda I from Camp 2 on north ridge. The route of ascents followed the right skyline. Article 9

Route of attempt on NE face of Manda I.

22. Route of attempt on NE face of Manda I. Article 9 (Photo : Mark Udall)

Sri Kailas from Raktavarn glacier. Route of two-man ascent. 1982.

23. Sri Kailas from Raktavarn glacier. Route of two-man ascent. 1982. Photo: S. Kulkarni Article 10

The following day, Minoo and I attempted a neighbouring peak 'Skyscraper5. We then moved down into a valley full of grass, flowers and sunshine. A day went by, looking at Thalaysagar, and drinking vast quantities of soup (we had forgotten to bring our food down). We returned to Gangotri, over lovely forested hill-sides.2

Rustom Anita



  1. The second ascent of Manda was made by a Japanese expedition led by M. Sasaki on J.8 June 1982. They climbed the north ridge from Camp 2, (600 to). They approached from the Kedar Ganga valley,—Ed.


View from ABC. Chaturbhuj (6054 m) on centre left and Sudarshan Parbat on centre right.

View from ABC. Chaturbhuj (6054 m) on centre left and Sudarshan Parbat on centre right.

6000 ft NE face of Manda 1 from ABC.

6000 ft NE face of Manda 1 from ABC. (Photos: Mark Udall)


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