THE GREAT Karakoram range forms the watershed between the rivers of the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia. The word Karakoram means 'black rock' and there is no doubt that this range has plenty of incredibly sheer and rocky cliffs of shining granite which look more black than grey. In between the rocky ridges lie the white troughs containing a galaxy of glaciers.

For the training of this year's Advance Courses of the High Altitude Warfare School, I selected the Siachen glacier. In 1978 we climbed Teram Kangri II (24,300 ft),1 which was half way up the Siachen glacier. This year we decided to complete the traverse of Siachen from the snout to the source. Our team consisted of fifteen Instructors and forty students of the Advanced Mountaineering Course of High Altitude Warfare School

I, along with the main party reached Leh via traditional Kargil road on 8 June. We had already crossed three mountain ranges — the Pir Panjal, the Great Himalayan Range and the Zanskar range and had come 400 km from Srinagar. Our destination lay another 300 km north of Leh and to get there we had to cross two more ranges, the Ladakh and the Karakoram range.

After a couple of days stay in Leh we moved over to the Nubra valley after crossing over the 18,300 ft Khardung La. We followed the route along the Nubra river which is flanked in the west by the Saltoro range, in the east by the main crest of the Karakoram range, in the south by Ladakh range and in the north it ends in the Siachen glacier. At the head of the Siachen glacier are the Turkistan La and the Indira Col which form the watershed between Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

We crossed the Shyok river at Tirit and went along the great Silk Route passing the villages of Sumur, Tegur and Panamik, well known for its hot springs. Panamik is the last village on the silk caravan route till the traders reached Eastern Turkistan. The caravans had to take 20 days supplies with them before leaving Panamik to enable them to cross the wilderness of the Depsang plains and the Karakoram Pass. At Sasoma the Silk Route branches off to go over the Saser La but we carried on towards north to Tongsted village.

Our next halt was at Warshi the last village of the Nubra valley which consists of only one family—a husband, a wife and a daughter.


  1. See H.J. Vol. 37, p. 107 and HJ. Vol. 38, p. 124.—Ed.


The first lady of the village was very hospitable and served us salt tea.

On the fourth day of march we reached the ice-cave on Siachen glacier where the glacier gives birth to the Nubra river. Here we found an abundance of wild rose bushes which have given their name to the glacier—Sia in Ladakhi means 'rose'. These wild bushes often grow luxuriantly amongst boulders where no soil can be seen or high up on the faces of the perpendicular rock precipices, the colourless surfaces of which they relieve in the most fascinating manner. They look like gems in the sandy and stony wilderness, each tree or group brilliant with every shade of mauve, from the palest pearls to the deepest mauve. We made an attempt to cross the Nubra river near its source but were surprised by the gushing waters of the river as well as ice-chunks of glacier which had fallen into the river acting like icebergs. Having failed in our attempts we climbed up the steep rock faces to get to the tongue of the glacier.

The route followed the rocky moraine troughs which were lined by icy-ridges on both sides. This day's halt was immediately after the U-turn iof the glacier. The most striking sight here was the disappearance of the huge stream of Terong Tukpo beneath the Siachen glacier. Undoubtedly, once upon a time the Terong glacier had extended right up to its junction with Siachen, but now it had receded at least 10 km to the east leaving behind a flat brown valley and the river.

In this placid Siachen glacier many other glaciers and streams from the east and west have joined to submerge their identity. It is over 1000 ft deep, 4 km wide and 90 km long. At times the blue stream just plunges into wells of ice, hundreds of feet deep, not to be seen again. There are huge tunnels in this glacier which were once waterways.

On the second day's march we had to cling on to the steep icy banks of these deep gushing streams. One wrong step would have resulted in certain death. The second stage on the glacier was on the rocky moraine at the junction of the Siachen glacier and a glacier coming down from a 24,350 ft high peak in the west. This magnificent mountain was referred to as K8 in the Survey of India maps. Of all the Karakoram peaks perhaps this can be seen the farthest away.

Another two days march took us to the junction of Siachen glacier with Lolofond glacier. Lolofond glacier ends in the Saltoro Pass which is the gateway to Baltistan. All expeditions to this area had used this pass for entry into the Eastern Karakoram. So far we could not put our ski to any use as the glacier was full of moraine debris. But now the terrain smiled on the skiers and movement became faster with skis on.

Our next halt was the junction of a huge glacier coming from Saltoro peak on the west, with Siachen glacier. This became our advance base camp (16,500 ft). It was from here that we launched our ski tours to the various parts of the Siachen glacier.

Bilafond La (18,200 ft)

The first trip was made on 24 June to Bilafond La or the Saltoro Pass, as it is sometimes known. We skied down early in the morning to the northern and of the Lolofond glacier. As is always the case, at its junction with the Siachen glacier the area was full of seracs and crevasses and for about a hundred yards we had to take off our skis to avoid going over the huge boulders in the moraine. But once the junction was crossed we found the going smoother till we reached a glacier stream.

The slopes were nice and gradual and the climb almost effortless. I was sure that we would be able to get to the top of the pass at latest by noon. At 2 p.m. our destination still seemed another half-an-hour away. But distances in the mountains can be most deceptive for it was not before 4.30 p.m. that we reached the pass (18,200 ft) completely exhausted.

But what a reward awaited us. The view from the top of the Bilafond La was breathtaking and glorious. To the west lay the magnificent Saltoro peaks while to the east was the most imposing group of Teram Kangri mountains. The pass was first visited by Longstaff in 1909 from the west. The Saltoro pass was originally considered as the main watershed between the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, till Longstaff disproved it. His measurement of the heights of the Teram Kangri mountain created a furore in the Survey of India Office at Dehra Dun. Longstaff's readings showed that Teram Kangri was higher than Everest. Later on, Teram Kangri turned out to be only 24,490 ft.

The mountains on the other side of the pass, though lacking in grandeur size, broke the dull monotony of snow and ice, as our eyes rested on the jungle of rocky pinnacles piercing the sky. We were lucky as the weather was good. After we had had our fill of the spectacular vista of snow, ice and rocks we turned our skis downwards and kept gliding down effortlessly at 15-20 km per hour. To reduce our speed we just had to open the flaps of our jackets. Without taking a single turn we came down for eight long kilometres. The ecstasy of that delightful ski down trip is one I shall never forget.

Indira Col (18,950 ft) and Turkistan La (18,800 ft)

We had to wait for two days till our supplies reached us and then we started off on our expedition to Indira Col. We improvized a sledge by fixing a plywood board on the skis. Six of us then went self- contained for six days hauling our supplies. We left ABC on the 27th. Within half an hour we came to junction of Saltoro-Siachen glacier and saw a magnificent view of the Saltoro peaks, while the Teram Sher glacier lay to our right. Our progress was excellent as the gradient hardly rises a foot in 30 ft. But soon obstacles came our way and we had to cross one big stream after another. It took us time to find really solid snow-bridges which could stand the weight of our sledge. At times the sledge had to be unloaded and taken across one big stream after another. Two hours of travel took us to a highly crevassed area. We tried to circumvent it but could not, due to the parallel streams on both sides of it. Every few minutes the sledge broke through the thin snow bridges and got stuck in the crevasses. Luckily the crevasses were not more than 2-3 ft wide and the sledge did not plunge in. We had to wrestle with the snow continuously to keep the sledge moving. At times, we even thought of abandoning the sledge in disgust. By 4 p.m. we were out of this mess of pot-holes, crevasses and soggy snow and headed north towards the rocky dome-like structure below Indira Col. An hour later we halted for the night near an icy pond of water which was immediately east of a hawk-like peak. We named this peak, Lhagri (Eagle).

Next day we crossed the icefield leading to Sia La in the west. The eastern border of Siachen tapered down to meet the glacier from the heights of Teram Kangri. The grey granite and gneiss structure gave way to yellow crystalline limestone. That black dome-like rock feature, a prominent landmark, seemed to us only an hour's journey away. But it turned out to be eight hours of hard skiing and pulling our sledge behind us to reach its bottom. Due to rarefied atmosphere perception of distances at these altitudes becomes haywire and as there are no landmarks to break the expanse of ice and snow the best any climber can do is not to make any guesses. This black rock structure was the place where the Workman expedition had also camped in 1912.

Next day, on the 29th, as per the route given by the Workman expedition, we climbed up a steep ridge. Here we looked back and saw a wonderful vista of the Siachen glacier flowing away into the distance for forty miles. The first half portion was a huge field of white and pure snow. Later on the glacier became ribboned with moraines of different colours as if the entire glacier had been ploughed. From a height the scene looked like hundreds of roads running parallel to each other. Across the ridge we found another snowfield. Thanks to our skis the crevasses of this field could not play havoc with us as they did to the American team of 1912. As we skied up the last ice- ridge we could see the distant peaks of Central Asia. And then we slowly gained the pass. On the north we could see low, arid and brown mountains with red slashes. On the south was the jungle of white snow-covered high mountains. Immediately below the Urdok glacier fell away towards the north. This glacier ultimately feeds the Yarkand river. Immediately towards south lay the expanse of Siachen glacier. The winds were terrible in this gap and at this time were blowing from the south to the north. After having spent almost an hour on the pass, we skied down. Within a few minutes we had descended 500 ft and in the Cwm we felt nicely protected and warm.

While we munched our lunch I felt the oddness of the name given by the Workman expedition to this pass — 'Indira Cor. Col is normally the lowest depression in the ridge. In this case it certainly was not so, as we could see this tapering towards the west. Right in front of us we could see the eastern face of Sia Kangri which had brought down tremendous avalanches of red debris and made the whole hillside look like a bleeding mountain, or like the tears of the Rose glacier which was about to leave the Indian subcontinent and jump over a precipice into Central Asia. As we had plenty of time at our disposal I decided to follow the eastern face of Sia Kangri Though we were terrified by the avalanches on that mountain face, we calculated that the basin was big enough to hold both us and the avalanches. And at 2.30 p.m. we had discovered the real Col on this water- shed This lay in between the ridge coming down from Teram Kangri and the one coming down from Gasherbrum. The Workman expedition had proved that in 1889 Younghusband's team had never reached the Col as claimed by some British authors. Not in any way discrediting the efforts of the American expedition, I can safely say that neither did the Americans reach the real Col, if the terminology is strictly applied to this feature. But this would mean splitting hairs. In that immense spread of thousands of kilometres of ice, 3 kilometres mean nothing.2


  1. See Two Summers in the Ice Wilds of the Eastern Karakoram (William Hunter Workman and Fanny Bullock Workman, Unwin, 1917), p. 184 ha a footnote have named this ridge the Indira Col. Though Kenneth Mason in Abode of Snow, p. 101 says: Younghusband's Col, now Indira Col, 18,950 ft, a possible nass to the head of the Siachen glacier, but not yet crossed'. (1955).l—Ed.


After this we skied directly to our black rock camp circumventing the ridge which we had climbed earlier. We were highly satisfied with the day's work.

Next day we climbed the high plateau again and turned east. Going over easy slopes, in two hours we were in Turkistan La—18,800 ft. We were lucky to get a glimpse of the snowy peaks across the pass before it became cloudy. Down below we could clearly see the Stagher glacier running from southeast to northwest. In two days we had seen the two major glaciers of the Shaksgam valley. We soon started downwards journey. The snow was still hard and we had to take small turns to control our ski speed. At about 18,000 ft we saw a yellow bird merrily resting on the icy slopes. In the beginning we thought it to be a piece of yellow rock but it suddenly flew off as we got closer. It had long bare legs like the water birds and looked very frail. The wing span of the bird was about 24 inches. I have yet to find out what it could have been.

We broke our rock tower camp and came straight to the next camp On 1 July we returned to ABC.

Sia Kangri (24,350 ft)

After a day's rest at ABC I skied up again to the base of Sia Kangri Camp 1 was on the Siachen glacier, at 17,800 ft and was named Andaman. It lay in the shadow of the Sia group of mountains. This time we turned west towards Sia La and followed the western face of the Sia massif. We camped below Sia Kangri II which had been named by the Americans as the Queen Mary peak, We had to cross a heavily crevassed area. This could have been circumvented by going a little higher towards Sia La and then turning right. But we found this alternative only' when the crevasses' opened up later. From the camp we had a magnificent view of the 24,000 ft high twin peaks and the silver plateau to their west. These peaks were named Ghent by the Workman expedition, but this name has not been accepted by the Survey of India.3 Other names not accepted, by the Survey of India are King George Y for Sia Kangri I and Queen Mary for Sia Kangri II.


  1. Ghent, though not officially recognized, is now a commonly accepted name by usage.—-Ed.


Upper portion of Siachen glacier. Saltoro glacier (left) and Teram glacier (right). (I) Sia Kangri. (2) Gasherbrum I. (3) Indira Col.

Upper portion of Siachen glacier. Saltoro glacier (left) and Teram glacier (right). (I) Sia Kangri. (2) Gasherbrum I. (3) Indira Col.

Saltoro Kangri. Route of ascent. On left is rock tower, main peak in the centre and Saltoro Kangri east peak on the right.

Saltoro Kangri. Route of ascent. On left is rock tower, main peak in the centre and Saltoro Kangri east peak on the right.

Baltoro glacier from the summit plateau of Sia Kangri. Karakoram peaks on the horizon.

Baltoro glacier from the summit plateau of Sia Kangri. Karakoram peaks on the horizon.

Next day on skis I reached the' 20,500 ft high col where the Camp 3 on Sia Kangri had been established. .Here I caught up with the advance party which was preparing an assault on the summit. The sunset here turned out to be the most beautiful I have ever seen. Towering mountains of the Western Karakoram stayed silhouetted m the north. Immediately west of me rose the Baltoro Kangri, or the Golden Throne, and right in front of us to the north was the famous Conway Saddle at the head of the Baltoro glacier. It looked near enough to throw stones. The only thing that separated me from Conway Saddle was the head of the Kondus glacier. Here was the point where three major glaciers of the Karakoram meet. All of them touching the slopes of the Sia Kangri massif. The mountains here were so lovely and the weather so good that the whole setting seemed out of a fairy tale. It was unbelievable that'the same mountains could become so ghastly in foul weather.

But then a storm overtook us and stayed with us upto 12 July. Not for a minute did the sky become visible. The storm lashed at our tents, obliterated our tracks and virtually pinned us down to our sleeping-bags. Visibility in the blinding blizzard was not more than a few yards. White-outs were complete and worse than the blackouts where at least the eye could get used to the darkness. Whenever the zip of a tent was opened, the snow swept in and swirled into the interior, covering everything with, ice-crystals.

By and by our supplies began to dwindle, and finally there came a day when there was not enough kerosene oil to melt snow and get some drinking water. In desperation we decided to go down to a lower camp and fetch some supplies for ourselves. We similarly asked all the lower camps to move up supplies—specially kerosene oil. While going down we marked the route carefully with ski-sticks so that even in the foulest of blizzards, we would not have any difficulty in finding our way back. If the weather had remained bad for another couple of days, we would have abandoned our attempt on Sia Kangri entirely. But luckily for us, the weather improved and not only did we receive fresh supplies from below but we were also able to push Camp 4 to a height of 22,500 ft on the western slopes of Sia Kangri. The route lay first over an icefall and then over a ledge to the bottom of a rib. This turned out to be the only safe place for our camp.

Though Sia Kangri had been climbed before from the Baltoro side 4 we were making the first ascent from the Siachen side and therefore had to select our own route. The entire mountain face seemed dangerous except for a small rib which led us to a huge overhanging ice- wall. We could not fathom as to what lay beyond for the real summit of the mountain was not visible from where we were.


  1. See HJ, Vol. VIII, p. 145.—Ed.


On the fateful day of the 13th a summit party of 5 members led by Maj Chopra, the deputy leader of the expedition, left Camp 4. In the meantime I decided to take the support party to Camp 4 in order to be as near the summit party as possible in case an accident overtook them. This camp offered a tremendous view of the Baltoro Kangri plateau and its four high points.

The next morning, though not with much enthusiasm, we laid out a plan of action to attempt Sia Kangri again. We divided ourselves into two parties. The first party consisted of Capt Pathania and Hav Eana who were to leave the camp 45 minutes ahead of the second party. The second party consisted of Sub Des Raj, Hav Yinod Kumar and myself. Thanks to the steps already made by the party on the previous day our progress was tremendous. What the earlier party had covered in five hours we were able to do in two hours. In fact my party caught up with the first party just as they reached the wall. Here we decided to avoid the icy traverse completely and circumvent the wall from, the right. Many steps were cut and crampon climbing was resorted to on the last portion. Then we suddenly found overselves on a level with the upper portion of the icefall. Here we were surprised to see a huge ice-plateau. On the western end of the plateau was a rounded feature which had looked like a peak from below. On top of this we saw a flag fluttering away. This was the peak climbed by the party a day before. On the northern end of this plateau was a sharp tooth-like peak, which to me was undoubtedly Sia Kangri. Towards northwest we could see the huge towers of the Gasherbrums (I, IT and HI), a whale-like peak was the highest of them all, Gasherbrum I. At 26,470 ft, it is only next to K2 in height hi Karakorams.

One of us made a wild guess that it would take us less than an hour to get to the summit from where we stood. In fact all guesses turned out to be wrong and it took us solid three hours to get to the top of Sia Kangri. To begin with the plateau turned out to be almost 3 km wide and then we were sinking 6 to 8 inches in the soft snow. It was already 1 p.m. To cut steps for 500 to 700 ft would have taken too much time. So one of us took the lead and climbing on crampon points carried the rope up for 100 ft and anchored it there. Others came up with the help of the rope, this process was repeated six times till we got to the stony portion 30 ft below the summit. Here we found a flag-mast left behind by an earlier expedition. As the actual summit was badly corniced we decided to have our traditional cup of tea and juice on this rocky projection instead of the summit. After this breather we all climbed the remaining 30 ft to the summit in turn. From the summit we oould look into Afghanistan, Russia, Chinese Turkistan, Tibet, India and Pakistan. Weather was extremely clear and we were able to take some cine-film from the summit. We also observed the Baltoro glacier, Khondus glacier, Rudok glacier and of course Siachen glacier.

But the return journey did not turn out to be as pleasant as the journey upwards. We started downwards at 3.30 p.m. It was 9 p.m., engulfed in utter darkness, that we reached Camp 4. Maj Chopra and the others had watched us from below go up like a bullet but they watched us now coming down at a snail's pace. They were convinced that an accident must have taken place and that we were bringing down a casualty with us!

On the return journey Maj Chopra and I made a trip to Sia La, 18,500 ft. We had an excellent view of Chogolisa (Bride Peak). Baltoro Kangri and Kondus glacier, which turns to the left in a snake-like movement.

Saitoro Kangri I (25,400 ft)

Saitoro in Tibetan is ‘Gsl-gtor-po the giver of light, maybe connected with the appearance of the glacier glittering in the sun. This peak was triangulated at the same time as K2 and was given the number K10. Later on, not only was its local name discovered but was given to the subsidiary range of the Karakoram which runs southwards from Sia Kangri and divides the Western, Karakoram from the Eastern Karakoram. It also gave its name to the pass which was earlier considered to be a connexion between Baltistan and Yarkand. Saitoro Pass (18,200 ft) is also called Bilafond La.

Before going to Indira Col and Sia Kangri, I along wiiih Capt D. K. Biarah made a trip towards the base of Saitoro Kangri on 23 June. After an hour walking up the Siachen glacier saw the first and the most magnificent view of the peak.

Mountains like people have their individuality and character, some are always commonplace no matter how high they tower. But this mountain is so noble in its build, strikingly tall and graceful—and it is so supremely picturesque and beautiful that it is like those few commanding personalities you meet so rarely in life.

From here we turned left and followed the glacier coming down from the twin peaks of Saitoro. The going was excellent and I agreed with an earlier expedition's report that this glacier is the gentlest of all the Siachen's tributaries. After 10 km the glacier ended in immense flawless snow expanse encircled by Saitoro Peaks, Sherpi Kangri and four more peaks above 22,000 ft. What a feast for a climber's eyes! But our eyes were set on the graceful sublime set of Saitoro jewels. We studied a line of ascent. The route selected went south till base of Saitoro and then up its eastern face, The first obstacle, the icefall about 2000 It., in height . It appeared dangerous and deadly but then there was no alternative. This route" meets the south ridge at about 23,500 ft and then follows the ridge to the summit. Having been satisfied that the route could go we started our return journey.

As the weeks passed many crevasses opened out. This was a devil's glacier full of death traps to entice unwary men into its pitiless jaws. Surprising that the longest western affluent of Siachen glacier (16 km) has no name. So we decided to name it Saltoro glacier after the peaks at the head of this river of ice.

On 30 June, Camp 1 was established at 17,600 ft at a place a little short of the point reached by us earlier. On the next day Camp 2 was established at 19,000 ft at the foot of the east face. This camp gave us the inside view of the Saltoro amphitheatre. Towards west was the towering monarch of the Saltoro range. We had to literally sprain our necks to look at the Saltoro summits. In the north, two 24,000 ft high peaks seem to challenge you and towards south was the gap between likah glacier (south of Dong Dong glacier) and Saltoro. Lord Hunt had used this gap to come from. Khapalu. in 1935.5 For us this gap was the bringer of bad clouds. Lord Hunt's expedition had to turn back when they were only 800 ft from the summit due to danger of avalanches. The eastern view was obstructed by low-lying mountains very close to the camp.


  1. See HJ, Vol. VIII, p. 14.—Ed.


An overhanging ice-wall which kept on breaking every now and then obstructs the route up the eastern face of the mountain. But there is a 15 m wide gap, a weakness in' the mountain in form of cornice as at the end of a steep slope. This takes you to the higher plateau of ice which is about 300 m wide. On this icefield, we put our Camp 3 at a height of 21,000 ft on 8 July. Rope was fixed on the cornice to help the people carrying heavy loads.

Now onwards we had to really battle our way up the mountain. The first party fixed six 200 ft ropes to overcome lower portion of the icefall and when they had reached a ledge half way up, a huge ice-avalanche broke just south of them and headed for Camp 3. The whole slope was covered with avalanche cloud and they thought Camp 3 had been buried. When the cloud lifted, they saw Premjit Lai, Kalam Singh and Thandup running for their lives not wasting their time to look back even after the avalanche had halted. Huge ice- boulders stopped only 100 m short of the camp.

The remainder portion of upper icefall, like the lower one, had only one opening and that was through a steep snow-gully, which seemed extremely risky due to avalanche danger. The party consisting Capt D. K. Duarah, Hav Kanshi Ram and Sharma opened a route through this gully and put Camp 4 at 22,500 ft. On 13 July, 10 members occupied Camp 4 above the gully and thought of attempting the summit. But at night two of the toughest fell sick and vomited. The sick were sent down and the party decided to respect the altitude and put another camp - just below the ridge at the height of 23,400 It. There- were no technical difficulties from Camp 4 to 5. However, avalanche danger could not be ruled out. This camp was occupied by Capt Duarah, Hav Kalam Singh. Capt Premjit Lai and Hav Kanshi Ram. Next day Hav Kanshi Ham suffered severe chest pain and came down. The other three went for the summit. After a while Premjit felt sick and returned. In the meantime Rattan, Sonam and Subhash moved to Camp 5 encouraged by Capt Premjit Lai who was coming down. They decided to make use of the beaten track and go for the summit. There were no technical difficulties, just ploughing through the soft snow. Kalam-Singh broke the trail most of the time. En' route they came across a huge rock tower, which they kept to their left. They continued till 3 p.m. but the summit was not in sight. The lateness of the hour and sheer exhaustion compelled them to return when they were about 300 ft below the summit. Capt Duarah skied down to Camp 5. It was a tremendous achievement.

I joined this party at Camp 2 on 17 July. They had received a thrashing from the mountain. Most of them complained of exhaustion, severe chest pains and some had vomited their guts out. But their morale was very high. 18 July was bad weather day and we discussed the climb which had been abortive and made plans for a new attempt. On 19 July a party occupied Camp 3. That night it snowed heavily. On the 20th morning when we opened our wireless set there was a commotion in the mess tent. People on top were shaken up and were yelling A huge ice-avalanche came last night and our tents were uprooted with blast'. Thank God, the camp was safe. We shifted it a little further away from the tumbling icefall. Camp 4 and Camp 5 were safe but our route high up had been completely obliterated.

In twenty years of climbing, I had never seen snow volcanoes. I saw two of these now. These were huge holes in ice-wall through which every now and then snow spurted out from frozen lava. And one of these was very close to our route. And-this was one ice- wall, I prayed that it should come down quickly. If it broke off the route would be safe. One evening we heard a deafening thunder. The entire ice-wall seemed to be peeling off the mountain. It was almost in slow motion, it looked supernatural and awe-inspiring. Vast masses of ice toppled over, leaping in thin air, rolling over each other, smashing themselves against the rock with hissings, growlings and crashings, as if the mountain was venting its anger. And then the ice turned into a cloud, as if by magic. But then I looked back on the mountain. I was horror-struck, only half the wall had come off, the other half was even more precariously balanced now then ever. Now we had to wait till the remainder of the wall broke. At night I was woken up by a thunderous sound. It was pitch dark but I knew the second half of the ice-wall had come off. At last the mountain had fully spent his first line of defence. This was one avalanche we all celebrated. Now we remade the route to Camp 4. On 31 July Camp 3 was reoccupied and on J August the summit and support team once again passed through the icefall and suicide gully and went straight to Camp 4. Camp 4 was skipped. Once the support party returned after leaving four of them at Camp 5, I felt relieved. Now there was very little danger due to objective hazards.

On 2 August the weather dawned clear but as usual the cloud hung over the top portion of Saltoro peaks. We saw the summit party consisting of Kalam Singh. Tandup, Caj Bahadur and Swam go up. Kalam Singh was climbing the same peak almost the second time. Two weeks earlier he had missed the summit by a few hundred feet. They headed north, traversing the main slope, and then they were out of sight behind the snow-knoll. We could do nothing except wait, and it was a long wait. Only at 6 p.m. the party was seen again returning to Camp 5 and at 7 p.m. all were in safe and sound. Kalam's voice was jubilant, they had done it. They reached the summit at 2.45 p.m., put two flags ion either side of summit. The eastern side was cloudy, but the western side was a little clear and they took pictures of Sherpigang glacier. They could see some villages in Kondus valley. Next morning when, the mist cleared one of the jawans fixed the spotoscope. I thought he was focussing on the camp till he shouted 'The flag, the flag'! I looked through it and could clearly see the 'flag' fluttering away in the wind on the highest point in the Eastern Karakoram. Before leaving the mountain, we dried, up the pass south of Saltoro which leads to Sherpigang glacier and Western Karakoram.

They say 'A mountain is like a sea, an exacting mistress, but one ever ready to give her favours to those who woo her with great devotion'! At last we were rewarded.

Eastern Karakoram (Siachen Glacier)

Eastern Karakoram (Siachen Glacier)

View from Sia La. Bride peak on left and Baltoro Kangri on right .

View from Sia La. Bride peak on left and Baltoro Kangri on right .


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