This was an all women's expedition, made up of eight members of the Pinnacle Club.1

We aimed to visit a little-known area, with virgin peaks which could be climbed 'Alpine style' without too much technical difficulty.

Since all but one of us are teachers of some description we had to do during July and August and so needed to choose a non-monsoon area. We wanted a fairly short walk-in from the roadhead to keep porters costs down and maximize our climbing time.

After many discussions with previous expeditioners we picked on the upper Miyar nala, in the Lahul District of Himachal Pradesh. This is a valley running north from Udaipur in the Chenab valley. The Miyar nala, for the upper half of its length, runs up against the Great Himalayan Range, and its tributary glaciers lead to peaks on the main range itself, which was an attractive mountaineering pro-position. We could reach Udaipur by bus and estimated it would take three days to walk in. The upper Miyar nala seemed to offer endless scope for exploratory climbing with numerous peaks between 16,000 ft and 20,000 ft. We pinpricked on the most southerly 20,000 ft peak of the upper Miyar nala as our main objective and booked and paid for this with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. With this 'IMF Peak' in mind we aimed for a base camp in the Gumba nala a side valley running NE from the Miyar nala, about 30 miles N of Udaipur. This was a fortunate decision; we found more than enough climbing to occupy us for a month in the Gumba nala system of valleys alone. Side valleys further N along the Miyar were much more barren and with few easy peaks.

As far as we could discover, the only climbing party that had visited the upper Miyar nala before us was part of the Kings School, Ely, 1978 Expedition (led by Dave Challis).2 Other groups had un doubtedly trekked up the Miyar nala but all climbing expeditions seem to have stopped lower down the valley to attempt Menthosa and Pharbrang. This is perhaps explained by the fact that the upper valley has, until recently, been closed to foreign expeditions and even now parties have to register at the police post in Chaling.

The main efforts of the Kings School Expedition were concentrated on the Tharang nala just above Khanjar. Offshoots of this expedition climbed odd peaks further N but only ones which were easily accessible from the Miyar nala. We found no evidence of previous ascents on any of our peaks except for the one known to have been climbed by Kings School.


  1. The Pinnacle Club is a women's moimtaineering club, founded in 1921 to ‘foster the independent development of rock-climbing amongst women'.
  2. See H.J. Vol. 36, P. 113.—Ed.


Between us we climbed 14 peaks of between 16,000 ft and 19,300 ft all but one of which are thought to be first ascents. (Map 1) Five of the peaks had a second ascent by different members of the expedition. We also reached several high cols and explored the Gumba system of valleys and glaciers and the upper Miyar nala.

We didn't climb the 20,537 ft IMF Peak and we didn't come near to exhausting the climbing possibilities of the area.

It was a strikingly beautiful area with meadows of edelweiss rising to steep rock walls and valleys leading back deeply to barren moraine- covered glaciers which branched with great complexity. This expedition was very satisfied with the area which suited our aims admirably. We very much enjoyed exploring unknown valleys and finding routes up unclimbed peaks.

Journey to Base Camp

Twenty-four hours and three puncture stops took us from Delhi to Manali. Next day we drove over the Rohtang pass to the village of Ruding in the Chenab valley. Heavy rain the previous week had washed away a bridge and caused several landslides which had destroyed the road between Ruding and Udaipur. The hired bus left us at Ruding, 25 miles short of Udaipur—the usual roadhead. Because of a shortage of ponies and porters it took four days to get all the expedition gear to Udaipur. Ponies, a jeep, a lorry, donkeys and porters were all used to move our baggage in stages to Udaipur.

At Udaipur we hired 30 porters who each carried 25 kg for Rs. 25/- per day. (Rs. 30/- for the Sirdar who also carried a load.) They carried for four days and were paid for one extra return day.

The stages were only 7 to 8 miles or less per day. First day: Udaipur to Chamrat, second day to Urgus, third day to just above Khanjar, fourth day to base camp in the Gumba nala. The walking was very pleasant; we had light sacks and easy days so could enjoy to the full this beautiful valley. Khanjar is the highest inhabited village. Cultivated fields and trees end here too.

While the gear was moving slowly along the road to Udaipur an advance party walked from Ruding to Udaipur and up the Miyar nala, reaching the Gumba nala three days ahead of the main expedition. They found a good site for base camp and made preliminary explorations of the Gumba nala and upper Miyar nala.

The whole party arrived at base camp on 24 July, about 6 days later than originally estimated.

Attempts on IMF Peak (Map 3)

Peak 20,537 ft was booked with the IMF and is hereafter called IMF Peak'. It is situated near the head of the Gumba glacier, just on its eastern side, on the Great Himalayan Range. There is one slightly lower peak between it and the Gumba Col at the head of the glacier. We never got close enough to make a real attempt on this peak.

The main approach to IMF Peak was made up the Gumba glacier from Camp 1. The face of the mountain falling to the Gumba glacier is very steep and about 5000 ft high, with icefalls, avalanche tracks and steep rock ridges. It was well beyond the objectives of the expedition.

Gumba Col (about 18,000 ft) at the head of the Gumba glacier was reached. There may have been a route from the col onto the subsidiary peak north of IMF Peak, although it did not look easy.

We were not prepared to employ the siege tactics which would have been necessary to make an attempt on IMF Peak by this route. We were further deterred by the objective dangers and by a heavy snowfall which occurred while we were at Camp 1.

The ridge leading south from IMF Peak formed the east wall of the Gumba glacier and presented a steep face to the glacier all the way along. The ridge itself was very complex, in places knife-edged and with numerous rocky peaks along it. There was no possibility of traversing this ridge to reach the main peak.

We also looked round the other sides of the IMF Peak for possible routes.

From the upper Miyar nala we climbed to the Tandung glacier and saw the back of the subsidiary peak, north of IMF Peak (Map 1). It was even less accessible from here than from the Gumba glacier.

From Zaskar Col and Cathedral Col (Map 4) we looked down on the Zaskar glacier which leads Up to behind IMF Peak. Despite icefalls this looked the easiest approach to the mountain, although we could not see the whole route and our map stopped at the main ridge separating Lahul from Zaskar. However, we could not cross to the Zaskar glacier and a totally different approach would have to be made for an attempt from this side.

Peaks, Camps and Cols

The 1925 Survey of India one inch to one mile map was used, Apart from receding glaciers this was fairly accurate and proved adequate. We found a consistent discrepancy between the map heights and our altimeter readings. With the altimeter set at base camp to the map height of 13,050 ft summit readings were 400 ft lower than map height. Heights quoted in this report are map spot heights where these are given, or adjusted altimeter readings to the nearest hundred feet (that is, altimeter height plus 400 ft).

Base camp was situated at 13,050 ft on the W bank of the Gumba river just above the confluence with the Nakori nala (Map 1). The site was a lovely meadow, between the river and a spring-fed stream. The advance party had chosen the site and the porters arrived on 24 July.

Around and below base shepherds from the Punjab lived with their flocks during summer. Consequently there were rough tracks up the main valleys as far as the grazing extended. There was a bridge across the Gumba nala just below base. The Nakori nala was not bridged. It was waded once but was too deep and fast-flowing to cross again. The only other access to peaks S of Nakori nala was by the bridge crossing the Gumba nala above its confluence with the Miyar nala.

The weather was unsettled during the walk in and for the first 12 days at base. There were about four very wet days. The rivers were very full, sometimes carving new channels, and even bridged crossings were impassable on some afternoons. During this time we made single day climbs from base, and a four-day trip at low altitude up the Miyar nala to the glacier snout. For the last fortnight at base camp the weather was much more settled and several high camps were established and climbs done from these.

The following list is in chronological order of ascents. All peaks and cols except the main top of number 7 below and the col in number 18 below are thought to be first ascents. See maps for locations.

  1. Index Point 16,000 ft Map 3. (25 July and 2 August)
    A short day from base to help acclimatization. Moraines and boulders followed by good (Mod.) rock at the top.
  2. Deception Point 17,600 ft Map 2. (26 July and 19 August)
    Up SW ridge from base to the first summit of the 'Towers' ridge. Numerous rock steps (Diff.) Descent by an easy gully to Nakori nala.
  3. S Peak 17,536 ft Map 2. (26 July)
    From base up Nakori nala until it was possible to cross the river. Up the valley to Hidden Basin and then the S slopes of the mountain and W ridge to the summit. Scree and small snow patches. Difficult river crossings on the descent.
  4. Base Mountain 17,775 ft Map 1 (the peak NW of base) (28 July) From base, down the Gumba nala and up the S slopes of the mountain, over grass, mud, scree and snow patches. Scrambling at the top to a sharp summit.
  5. Sentinel 18,141 ft Maps 3 and 4. (1 and 4 August)
    From base into Yosemite valley and up the SE side of the mountain. Loose boulders but then excellent (Diff.) climbing on good rock at the top.
  6. Walk up the Miyar nala Map 1.
    A four-day exploratory trip when rain stopped climbing.

    (i) 30 July. Walked from base up the Miyar nala (shepherds' track) to camp opposite Pimu nala, at about 12,700 ft.

    (ii) 31 July. Continued to Chudong nala. This was too deep to wade easily so camped on its S bank (about 13,000 ft). Walked up to about 14,500 ft to get a view into the Chudong nala glacier basin.

    (iii) 1 August. Returned down Miyar nala. Walked up the Tan- dung nala (to about 15,000 ft) to get a view of the glacier system and the back of Gumba Col and IMF Peak, Continued down the Miyar and camped about two miles N of the Gumba nala confluence.

  7. Bivi Peak 17,809 ft and The Towers 17,972 ft Map 2 (3 August)

    (i) On 2 August a bivi was made at about 15,500 ft above Nakori nala, on the S slopes of The Towers ridge.

    Nakori Basin

    Nakori Basin

    (ii) Despite a wet night and misty morning the party continued, climbing easily north-eastwards onto Bivi Peak (17,809 ft). The ridge was then followed over (or round) four rock towers to the highest point of the ridge at 17,972' ft (alpine grade AD). The final tower between the highest top and Deception Point was not climbed. From the N side of the highest tower a gully was descended to Nakori nala. Abseil slings were found here, believed to belong to the Kings School, Ely, 1978 Expedition.

  8. Solo Point About 16,500 ft Map 1 (the peak SW of Hidden Basin. (5 August)
    From base down the Gumba nala and across the bridge above the Miyar confluence. From the glacier basin to the west of here onto the ridge on the S side. The first top was reached. Steep scree. An enforced overnight bivi was made when the bridge back over the Gumba nala was found to be under water.
  9. Camp 1 (Gumba glacier) Map 3.
    The camp was established by four members of the expedition on 5 August, on a snowfield at the W side of the Gumba glacier, at 15,800 ft. The remaining two members of the team carried up on 7 August and one member made a second carry of extra food on 8 August.
  10. Gumba Col About 18,000 ft Map 3. (6 August)
    From Camp 1 up the E side of the Gumba glacier. A couloir of doubtful snow led up to a broad col. (PD)
  11. Steph's Peak 19,300 ft Map 3. (8 August)

    (i) Stella's Ridge (7 August)
    The central ridge between the main glacier of Steph's peak and the large snow basin was climbed from Camp 1 to a height of 17,900 ft (AD). The ridge was gained at a notch which was approached over moraine and a snowfield. Excellent rock up the narrow ridge (Diff. to V. Diff. depending on the line taken) to a high point below a knife-edge section.

    (ii) Steph's peak was climbed on 8 August from Camp 1 up the snow basin to the E of the summit, reaching the col (Jay's Col. 18,000 ft) at the top of Stella's ridge and climbing the summit rocks above and right of the col. (D). Descent by a snow-gully further S and a traverse back to Jay's Col. Unplanned bivi on the descent a short distance below the summit (in a bergschrund at about 18,800 ft). One member bivied in a snow hole on Jay's col! Return to Camp 1 on the afternoon of 9 August.

  12. Camp 2 (Yosemite Lake) 16,400 ft Map 4.
    On 10 August two members carried food and equipment from Camp 1 to a dump in Yosemite valley (at about 15,400 ft) before returning to base. Camp 2 was established on 12 August on a small snow patch below the lake at the Yosemite glacier snout. All members moved up to Camp 2 on 12 and 13 August.
  13. Half Dome 19,100 ft Maps 2 and 4. (14 and 19 August)

    (i) From Camp 2, on 13 August, a bivi was made among boulders on the W ridge of Half Dome at 16,400 ft.

    (ii) The rock of the W ridge was very loose and on 14 August we traversed onto the glacier S of the peak and ascended it to the col (17,500 ft) leading over to the Nakori nala glacier system. From the col the SE ridge was climbed, up snow, then summit rocks and snow (PD). Return to Camp 2.

    Gumba Basin

    Gumba Basin

    (iii) The route was repeated with a bivi on 18 August and climb on 19 August with descent to base the same day.

    (iv) This was the only occasion the map was notably inaccurate: Half Dome is not linked by a high ridge to the peaks on the main watershed of the Great Himalayan Range but is con- nected by a low col which leads up to the watershed ridge across several vertical rock pinnacles.

  14. 14. Camp 3 (Pinnacle) Map 4.
    From Camp 2; up the glacier- on 14 August to establish Camp 3 at 17,600' ft on snow below the mountain wall of Pinnacle peak.
  15. 15. Pinnacle Peak 19,000' ft Map 4 (15 August)
    From Camp 3 a snow-gully was climbed to Zaskar Col (18,600 ft) and the rock ridge followed N to Pinnacle peak (PD).
    Yosemite Basin

    Yosemite Basin

  16. 16. Citadel Col 17,900 ft Map 4 (15 August)
    From Camp 2 up the glacier and snow slopes to the col N of Citadel. The snow ridge leading from the col to the summit rocks of Citadel was climbed for a short distance. The summit rocks were steep and rotten and were not attempted.
  17. 17. Camp 4 (Cathedral) 17,500 ft Map 4 (16 August)

    (i) From Camp 2 up an easy snow glacier to establish Camp 4 on the glacier below Cathedral Col.

    (ii) On the same day, the second party moved direct from Camp 3 to Camp 4.

  18. 18. Cathedral Col 17,900 ft Map 4 (16 August)
    A short but very loose scree slope above Camp 4 led to the col. The far side of the col fell in big crags to a glacier in Zaskar. Not a pass across the ridge. Cairns were found on the col, builders unknown.
  19. 19. The Keep 18,100 ft Map 4 (16 and 17 August)
    An easy snow plod from Camp 4 (F). A 'Dru' shaped rock peak when seen from Camp 2!
  20. 20. The Castle 18,800 ft Map 4. (17 August)
    From Camp 4 the route to The Keep was followed to a snow plateau below the summit of The Keep, then over snowy rocks and a snow ridge to a sharp rock summit (PD).

The Walk Out

The main expedition left base on 21 August and walked out to Udaipur in two long days, with an overnight stop at Chaling. The ten porters carried between them 11 loads of 25 kg. each.

One day (23 August) was spent in Udaipur and Triloknath Temple was visited on the day of the summer fair.

Public buses were used for the journey back to Delhi. The road was now open all the way to Udaipur. We travelled to Manali on 24 August and from there to Delhi overnight on 25 August. The buses were overcrowded and not particularly comfortable but were very cheap. The luggage cost as much as the passengers!

Members: Sheila Cormack (leader), Stella Adams, Sheila Crispin, Jean Drummond, A. Stephanie Rowland, Angela Soper, Jacqueline A. Turner, Denise Wilson and Sushma Mahajan (liaison officer).


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