Himalayan Journal vol.43
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.43

Publication year:
1987

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. THE ASCENT OF KULA KANGRI FROM TIBET
    (PROF KAZUMASA HIRAI)
  2. EDITORIAL
  3. KANGCHENJUNGA CLIMBED IN WINTER
    (ANDRZEJ MACHNIK)
  4. GYACHUNGKANG, 1986
    (LT COL JEAN-CLAUDE MARMIER)
  5. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MERA
    (MAL DUFF)
  6. DHAULAGIRI 1984-85
    (ADAM BILCZEWSKI)
  7. DHAULAGIRI I EAST FACE
    (STANE BELAK AND MARJAN KREGAR)
  8. FIRST ASCENT OF SULI TOP
    (RAMAKANT S. MAHADIK)
  9. AN INDO-FRENCH MOUNTAIN ROUND-UP
    (COLONEL BALWANT S. SANDHU)
  10. POLICEMEN IN KEDAR BAMAK
    (P. M. DAS)
  11. INDO -SWEDISH EXPEDITION TO MERU 1986
    (MANDIP SINGH SOIN)
  12. A VERY MODEST MOUNTAIN
    (EMLYN THOMAS)
  13. BASPA AND ROPA, 1986
    (M. H. CONTRACTOR)
  14. A NOTE ON KINNAUR
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  15. MENTHOSA; ALMOST
    (ALOKE SURIN)
  16. SIA KANGRI, 1986
    (MAJOR K. V. CHERIAN)
  17. SASER KANGRI III 1986
    (S. P. CHAMOLI)
  18. THE SOSBUN GLACIER BASIN
    (LINDSAY GRIFFIN)
  19. 1986 BRITISH K2 EXPEDITION
    (DAVE WILKINSON)
  20. AN ATTEMPT ON GASHERBRUM III, 1985
    (GEOFF COHEN)
  21. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  22. IN MEMORIAM
  23. BOOK REVIEWS
  24. CORRESPONDENCE
  25. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1986

BASPA AND ROPA, 1986

M. H. CONTRACTOR

IT WAS MEANT to be an expedition in two different stages. First a family outing in the Baspa valley, wherein some of us would go up a few of the high passes so abundant in the region while the children and some elders would trek upto Nithal Thatang and return thereafter. In the second part, we planned an ascent of Manirang (6593 m) in the Ropa valley.

The initial group of 8 adults and 6 children met at Shimla on 6 May 1986. (This is the official new spelling for this hill-station).1 A particularly intricate maze of bureaucracy had to be negotiated in order to obtain the prized inner line permits, valid for a generous ten day period in Kinnaur and due for renewal within seven days of issual. With the help of some crafty Kashmiri porters, we managed to load our team and luggage into 3 different buses bound for Tapri over a period of two days. The buses follow the Hindustan-Tibet road, which extends right through Shimla, Kinnaur and parts of Spiti. The inner line begins at Wangtu, where one crosses over to the true right of the Satluj.2 After stopping overnight at Tapri we boarded a bus for Sangla in the Baspa valley on the 10th. The route leaves the Hindustan - Tibet road at Karchham, winds over precipitous curves and is busable upto Sangla and Rakchham. We had to trudge the last 7 km there via Kupa village. The Baspa valley with its thickly wooded slopes and orchards is a pleasantly startling change from the Satluj valley. Sangla is a fairly large village with a well maintained rest house. We moved out to Rakchham (3130 m) on the 12th and reached Chhitkul (3450 m) via Mastarang, an I.T.B.P. camp on the 13th. The route was heavily wooded throughout and one member was often heard complaining that it was too green to be good. We also learnt en route that Nepali traders avoid the bother of permits by simply coughing up Rs. 50 at Wangtu. Meantime, our own permits were renewed with the help of a friendly D.C. at Kalpa.

Charang Ghati (pass), (5242 m) connects Chhitkul (3450 m) with Charang village in the adjoining northerly Tirung valley and it was our first objective. Five of us set out on the 14th, following the prominent rock-strewn nala up to a height of 4325 m where a camp was made. Despite the best of intentions, we could start off the next day only at 9.00 a.m., following the mixed rock and snow ridge upto a large snow-basin at 4870 m and camped there. This route is normally bereft of snow in May but we had to plough our way through knee-deep soft snow. From the basin, the route climbed up a prominent central gully to the top but we had to call it off on the 16th about 150 m below the pass due to unsuitable conditions. Retreat was executed swiftly, with the help of several abseils and we reached Chhitkul the same day.
Photos 10-11-12
1. There is no truth in the rumour that the editor is about to change the spelling of his name to Sholi. Beware when you are requested by the Survey of India spelling experts to sit.--Ed.

2. Survey of India has incorporated the spelling 'Satluj' on the latest map

On the 18th after witnessing a ceremony dedicated to Kali we digested tsampa with mild black tea and non-committal remarks about the weather by the wizened lama and left Chhitkul for Rani Kanda (9 km). We employed ten local porters. On the way we passed through the I.T.B.P. camp at Nagasti (3 km) where the welcome was as friendly as ever. The trees yielded to shrubs soon after Nagasti and we crossed over to the true left of Baspa at Rani Kanda, camping beside the dilapidated I.T.B.P. bunkers. The calendar indicated summer but the weather gods seemed to differ. It snowed even as we finished putting up our tents and overnight there was about half a metre of snow. We moved into the bunkers next day finding them more hospitable than our tents The LT.B.P. out of concern, sent a patrol up on the 20th to see if we were okay and being dejected with the weather we followed them down to Nagasti and reached Chhitkul that very day. It snowed continuously on the 21st and the merits of the local millet rakshi were looked into. Loads were retrieved in the next two days. We returned to Sangla on the 23rd and moved to Kalpa the next day. Four days of fickle weather marred the consolation provided by the magnificent view of the Kinnaur Kailash range from the excellent rest house at Kalpa. Arun Samant arrived on the 28th, after a pleasant trek over the Balsheo pass in Kulu. Some dithering over plans followed and finally on the 31st Harish and Jagdish left, as had all the others by now, for Bombay while Arun and I decided to proceed to Manirang.

Ropa valley
We, along with our 4 Kumaoni porters, got on the Rampur-Chango bus at Rekong Peo, the bustling town below Kalpa and reached Shi Asu (Shyaso) Khad after a four hour journey which uplifted our spirits considerably. Shyaso boasts of a couple of tea shops, a provision store, a sign-board indicating distances up the Ropa valley and a bridge over the Ropa. We walked the 9 km to Sunnam, happily noting that it had not rained here for a few days.

The Ropa valley is quite narrow and not as wooded as the Baspa. In its higher reach it is Spitian in its barrenness. Sunnam is a large village with a prominent temple displaying some intricate wood work. The credulous traveller is warned not to believe the sign on the bus when it says 'Kalpa to Ropa', the bus has in fact never reached beyond Sunnam. We spent the night at a hospitable grocer's house. The next day was a short walk. We passed through Giabong (3 km) where the road takes one through apple and apricot orchards to Ropa (3 km). Ropa (2925 m) is the last village in the valley and is well stocked as regards basic provisions and kerosene. On 2 June Arun, still smarting at his facile defeat in the kabaddi match by the Ropa schoolboys the previous day, made sure we started early. We walked on the shepherd's trail on the hue left of the Ropa gad. A gentle flat walk for about 1 km was followed by a steep continuous climb upto Rangbor Thachang. Above this was a high point en route called Manessar (3950 m) from where a traverse led to Panktil. Panktil (4010 m) is a large meadow on a gently sloping hill side and has shelters built by shepherds. It lies directly above the confluence of the Ropa and Chhuktayanjan rivers. We descended to this confluence point in order to recce the longer and alternative approach to Manirang la via the Chhuktayanjan nala. A rest day was had at this point while our porters went to bring up some supplies from Ropa. Two days of strenuous going over scree found us at Susing Thach from where we decided to return to Panktil, reaching there on mid-day on the 6th.

From Panktil, we followed the shepherd's tracks which descended gently and it increased greatly our admiration for those hardy men who so far this year had not bothered to go up the valley. The route was blocked by debris and ice in places, making progress somewhat slow and we halted en route due to impending nightfall. The next morning, we reached the junction of the Rakhogang and Ropa gads (3630 m) and crossed Sumdo Thach, a wide meadow at 3660 m. We now left the Ropa river and climbed up about 300 m to a rocky prominence on the true left of the river, Then we traversed through gnarled birch and juniper in a gentle descent to Pamachen. Between Sumdo and Pamachen is a large rock overhang where a camp, well stocked with fire-wood, has been made by shepherds. Pamachen (3960 m) itself is the last meadow in the valley and because of unseasonal snows this year, was not as yet fed by any streams. Hence we camped about 500 m away at about 3900 m at a site which was windy but close to the river.

On 8 June, we recceed upto Rankali (4420 m) at the foot of the Manirang la. The route to the pass, flanked by two icefalls, was clearly visible in the impressive amphitheatre of mountains arising from Rankali. We moved camp to Rankali the next day and sorted out food and equipment for 5 days. Next day four of us set out for the pass, According to local information, it takes about 8 hours to reach it from Rankali when the ground is freĢ of snow. The route follows the centre of a gentle gully. Snowed up as it was, the slope rarely exceeded 35°. The soft snow made progress punishingly slow and we camped at 5090 m on a platform flattened on the true left of the gully, the porters reaching there in 8 hours, two hours after we did. Next morning we reached the saddle of the pass in two hours. From there (c. 5600 m) we had a grand view of the peaks across the Satluj to the south and of $piti to the north. The route descending from the pass to Spiti is very gentle, at most 20° in places.

The old Survey of India map that we had shows Manirang peak on the SW side of the pass. Hence a camp was made in a rocky niche on this side, about 75 m above the pass. We assumed that Manirang (6593 m) would be beyond the snowy fore-summit rising prominently to the SW. The porters returned to Rankali and we settled down to endless brewing till it was time to sleep. At 4.15 a.m. on the 12th, we followed the rocky, broken ridge which led to the upper convex slopes of the fore-summit. After four pitches on 55° to 60° snow on crunchy ice discretion prevailed and we decided to attempt by another route. Accordingly, the camp was moved to a flat bowl approximately 100 m below the saddle of the pass. That evening, clouds filled the sky and it remained overcast throughout the night, ruling out any hopes of any attempt on the pesk. The following afternoon the weather improved and on the 14th, in good moonlight, we set off at 2.15 a.m. We climbed the 40° face from the SW and reached the corniced summit ridge by 4.30 a.m. We followed the ridge in the direction of the pass, skirting several rock gendarmes on the west side of the ridge. Arun led up one narrow, horribly loose rock gully and we were past the last gendarme. The summit itself was a rocky point, approached from the east side of the ridge by a final slope of 40° of loose urstable snow. We were belayed throughout, even on the summit itself, which was reached at 8.45 a.m.

To our cismay, we found that the rocky point on the NE of the pass was at least 500 m higher. This as we came to know later, is a point on the ridge of Manirang which leads to the pass and stands at £bout c. 6200 m. Manirang peak itself is NE of the pass, and its summit is a good 2 km away.

From our summit, 'Manirang South', (5888 m - 19,318 ft) we took the customary photographs and started downward at 9.15 a.m. We returned only a quarter of the way along the ridge of ascent and then :ollowed the steeper ridge down to the pass which had been sbanioned previously. In just over 3 hours we reached our camp and Rankali in another four. Melting had greatly increased in the pas; week and Rankali was almost devoid of snow.

Looking back from Ghati, (Baspa valley). Kimilay pass and kari i Doon peaks in background. (J.Nanavati).)

Looking back from Ghati, (Baspa valley). Kimilay pass and kari i Doon peaks in background. (J.Nanavati).)



' Manirang South' 5888 m, Ropa valley.  (M.H. Contractor

' Manirang South' 5888 m, Ropa valley. (M.H. Contractor



Foresummit of Manirang Peak from south

Foresummit of Manirang Peak from south



On the 15th, we joined our porters at the camp below Pamachen. There was a lot more greenery now and the first flowers had made a tentative appearance. Spirits all around were high, and Arun was forever on the point of bursting into song. The porters beat him to it at our camp fire at Sumdo Thach that night. We reached Ropa and Kalpa the next day. Our small adventure in Kinnaur had been quite satisfying and had opened our eyes to the enormous climbing potential of this charming area.

Note: This was the second ascent of VManirang South' (5888 m). The names written a hove are as per the local pronunciation. On the map they arc mentioned as under (in brackets).

Sunnam (Sangnam); Manessar (Maneshwar); Rangbor Thachang (Rakholbang Thach); Panktil (Pangthel); Susing Thath (Shushin Thach).

Members: Harish Kapadia (leader), Arun Samant, M. H. Contractor, J. C. Nanavati, Dr V. N. Desai, Ms. Parul Sheth, Dr Rodhan Shroff, Dr (Mrs) Rekha Shroff and 6 children.

Period: From 4 May to 28 June 1986.

Sponsored by: The Mountaineers, Bombay.