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

SIA KANGRI, 1986

MAJOR K. V. CHERIAN

Indo-American Expedition
SIA KANGRI, 7422 m (24,580 ft), the Rose Mountain in Ladakhi, is situated on the northernmost tip of India. To reach it one has to cross the 72 km long Siachen glacier starting from its snout, the origin of Nubra river. This beautiful snow-clad mountain had been attracting mountaineers since 1911-12, but the first climb was in 1934 by an International expedition.1 Due to the long approach, difficult terrain and hostile weather conditions not many Indians except two Army expeditions had attempted this peak, earlier to our joint venture with the American alpinists.2
The team comprised of 7 Americans with Leo Lebon. a widely travelled alpinist, as the deputy leader of the expedition along with 7 Indians and I as the overall leader of the team,

We left Delhi by air to Leh, and crossed Khardung la, the highest motorable pass, driving in light vehicles through the Nubra valley for two days and reached our base camp on the snout of the Siachen glacier. En route we camped for the night at a village called Sumur in the valley. The sight of the Nubra valley with its greenery, small streams and beautiful wild roses blooming all around was spectacular.

We left base camp after two days of acclimatization and started climbing on to the glacier and reached our Camp 3 after covering approximately about 32 km, at the height of 4800 m (15,840 ft) in three days. Till this place the move was fairly easy as we kept to the hard ice-blocks and rocks, some time crossing glacial streams and wide crevasses. The weather remained cloudy and chilly, which is best liked by seasoned climbers during the approach to the mountain.

Soon we were on our cross-country skis moving slowly towards our Camp 5, the advance base camp at the height of 5800 m (19,000 ft). For the next two days each of us loaded 20 to 22 kg in our sacks and also pulled a sledge of 250 kg shared between two (like a rickshaw-puller in the Calcutta streets) because we could manage only 30 porters carrying 20 kg each up to Camp 5.

Photos 15 to 19
  1. See H.J. Vol. VII, p. 142.
  2. The peak has been climbed/attempted several times from the Baltoro glacier. See H.J. 42, p. 148.-Ed
Our team of 15 men carried about 2J tons of luggage on the mountain. We pitched our camp at the junction of Siachen and Sia glaciers on 16 June. Most of the climbers were tired by the six days' climb but none was affected by the altitude. We decided to tackle the mountain by two approaches.

Leo would lead an attempt from the northeast and I would make an attempt from the southwest. We both would have to probably establish 3 to 4 camps more from our present location of Camp 5 (advance base camp).

As we were discussing the liner details for the move, Micky noticed some changes in the weather and said, 'Hey the weather ain't going to he good for the next few days'.

Micky was light. The snowing started at night around ten and we had to keep getting up to pat the snow deposit from the top of our tents. In the morning the weather was more furious with heavy snow and high wind. The bad weather continued for the next two days and we were stuck in our camp, totally tent-bound.

There was improvement on the third day morning and I was certain in my mind that the weather would hold for the next five to six days. There was hardly any time to establish four more camps and climb the summit of a twenty-four thousander. Anyhow I decided to push as much as possible. We left the camp at around ten in two different groups towards our respective routes.

Climbing from here was on higher gradient slopes so we carried our skis on our back along with the loads. My team which was attempting the southwest route set up Camp 6 at the junction of Sia la and Conway Saddle. After pushing for another three days, we established our Camp 7 on the Conway Saddle. Knowing the weather conditions, I did not want to spend any time in this camp, but my team was scattered from Camp 5 to 7. In the night I asked all my team members to reach my highest camp. I planned to push my route through the first icefall next morning.

On the other side, Leo's team was being very badly battered by the weather. Even though Leo's party had put up their second camp at Indira Col, they were forced to withdraw. It was continuously snowing with high winds. The move "became very difficult due to the fresh snow covering the crevasses and making them into hidden traps. In a single day they came across two accidents that could have cost the lives of Paljor and Mark, who walked into these crevasses, but were pulled out safely by their teammates. Leo was quite shattered when I spoke to him, so I agreed for his withdrawal to Camp 5 and asked him to support me in my attempt.8
3. The real reason for not pushing to otherwise an easy summit (expressed unofficially) by the American members was not because of the problems related to

Next day I started working on the icefall on the southwest of Sia Kangri along with Angchuk and Safi. By then the support party, all fresh, arrived and I was poised for occupying my Camp 8, the last camp before the summit. In the morning my party left Sharma to fetch up the loads through the opened route to the camping site. As we reached the camping place as planned, we found that the gradient was more and the route needed fixing of ropes. This is just before the ridge starts rising to the saddle that leads to the summit top. We fixed this face and hardly reached the camp site when the weather started deteriorating. I was worried about Sharma who was still negotiating the first ice-fall along with others fetching up the loads. Within half an hour of our setting up the tent the wind started with ferocity accompanied by heavy snow. Myself, Angchuk and Safi were safe but had to hold on to our tents to prevent it from flying off. The weather kept going from bad to worse. It was around 2.00 p.m. when Sharma and others came up all drenched, shivering and speachless. We gave them hot drinks and changed their gloves and socks. After an hour's rest I was forced to send back Sharma's party to Camp 7, as the height of our camp was around 22,000 ft and their staying back cramped up in one single tent in wet clothes would have resulted in a severe loss of body temperatures. I did not realise at that time that my party and I were staying back to take more beating from the weather which continued in its fury for the next 36 hours,

It started clearing up on the 26th night and I asked my support group to occupy my present camp, planning for an assault as soon as possible. On the 28th, after fixing about 803 ft of the slope, Angchuk, Safi and I stood on the summit of Sia Kangri at a height of 24,580 ft at 12 noon raising the Indian Tricolour and the American flag. The next day Sharma, Amar, Paljor and Desraj reached the summit around 11.00 a.m.

We had success but some worries were to follov. Safi was frostbitten on both hands (all ten fingers), Sharma on his right toe and Desraj on both his toes. The evacuation of these casualties posed a problem, but the camaraderie amongst mountaineers and an exquisite display of courage by the team saw all these three brought down to Camp 5 using various improvised methocte of carrying, and flown out from there by helicopters.

mountaineering or the weather, but because they experienced artillery shelling from both sides. That they were not hit is a tribute to the gunners of both sides, but the .chances of triggering avalanches made further efforts quite unprofitable.-Ed

Thank God, we did not lose anybody on this challenging mountain. We skied back retrieving most of the stores to our base camp and got back to Delhi.

It took us 35 days to climb Sia Kangri, the northernmost peak in the Indian territory. The Americans became the first Westerners to cross the Siachen glacier in full and reach Indira Col and Turkistan la in the last few years.

Saichen glacier from Sia Kangri. Peaks on horizon : Rimo, Mamostang Kangri and Saser grou (I to R). 	  (K. V. Cherian)

Saichen glacier from Sia Kangri. Peaks on horizon : Rimo, Mamostang Kangri and Saser grou (I to R). (K. V. Cherian)



Sia Kangri seen from Sia la.

Sia Kangri seen from Sia la.



Gasherbrum group on way to Sia Kangri

Gasherbrum group on way to Sia Kangri



View from Sia Kangri. (1 to r): Depak, Sherpi Kangri (background), Ghent and 'Silver Throne', Sia la in foreground. 	 (K. V. Cherian)

View from Sia Kangri. (1 to r): Depak, Sherpi Kangri (background), Ghent and 'Silver Throne', Sia la in foreground. (K. V. Cherian)



Baltoro glacier and peaks of West Karakoram from Sia Kangri.

Baltoro glacier and peaks of West Karakoram from Sia Kangri.