Himalayan Journal vol.44
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.44

Publication year:
1988

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS OF THE HIMALAYA: THEN AND NOW
    (JACK GIBSON)
  3. MEMORIES
    (MAVIS HEATH)
  4. ZHANGZI - AUTUMN, 1987
    (JOSS LYNAM)
  5. BRITISH XIXABANGMA Expedition, 1987
    (LT COL M. W. H. DAY)
  6. MENLUNGTSE, 1987
    (CHRIS BONINGTON)
  7. KINGDOM OF THE THUNDER DRAGON
    (S. K. BERRY)
  8. RATHONG, 1987
    (MAJOR K. V. CHERIAN)
  9. PANDIM - DIARY OF A WAR-TIME ESCAPADE
    (LORD JOHN HUNT)
  10. MAKALU
    (GLENN PORZAK)
  11. CHO OYU, 1987
    (Dr MAURICIO A. PURTO)
  12. KUMAON SECRETS
    (GEOFF HORNBY)
  13. FIRST ASCENT OF CHIRBAS PARBAT, 1986
    (INDRANATH MUKHERJEE)
  14. KALANAG EAST FACE EXPEDITION, 1986
    (W. J. POWELL)
  15. CHURDHAR MORE OF THE LESSER
    (WILLIAM MCKAY AITKEN)
  16. A RETURN TO LINGTI, 1987
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  17. ASCENT OF KARCHA PARBAT, 1986
    (J. K. PAUL and S. N. DHAR)
  18. A TRYST WITH PHABRANG, 1987
    (ANIL KUMAR)
  19. BRITISH KISHTWAR EXPEDITION, 1986
    (BOB REID and EDWARD FARMER)
  20. CANADIAN KASHMIR HIMALAYAN
    (JOHN A. JACKSON)
  21. UNKNOWN SPITI: THE MIDDLE COUNTRY
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  22. PICNIC ON A GLACIER -A KARAKORAM JOURNEY
    (STEPHEN VENABLES)
  23. THE GOLDEN PILLAR
    (A. V. SAUNDERS)
  24. PROBLEMS OF ACCURACY IN REPORTING MOUNTAINEERING
    (ELIZABETH HAWLEY)
  25. HIMALAYA-OUR FRAGILE HERITAGE
    (N. D. JAYAL)
  26. THE CONTINUING STORY OF THE HIMALAYAN CLUB
    (M. H. CONTRACTOR)
  27. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  28. IN MEMORIAM
  29. BOOK REVIEWS
  30. CORRESPONDENCE
  31. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1987

ASCENT OF KARCHA PARBAT, 1986

J. K. PAUL and S. N. DHAR

I HAD A sleepless night. It was due to the tension thinking about the climbers who would make the attempt to climb the final 520 m bare rock face of Karcha Parbat. I had a talk with the summit party at 5.30 a.m. At that time they were almost ready for setting out from the C2 though they had passed a sleepless night too due to paucity of tent space. I saw them through my binoculars at 6.30 a.m. They were moving towards their goal.

H.A.P. Rudal Ram and myself spotted them near a vertical rock structure after some time. I thought that they should be reaching; the summit within an hour as they were advancing fast, but later I came to understand from Dhar on the walkie-talkie that it would take about 2 to 3 hours more to reach the top.

At 9.30 a.m. Rudal Ram left for C2 with some kerosene and foodstuff. I lost the summiters from my sight but found them again just near the summit and saw with excitement five members, one after another reaching the summit, at 10.50 a.m. They hoisted the flags. It was a great moment for me, but there was nobody to share my excitement. They stayed on the summit for about 40 minutes. Later, I saw them returning and talked to them on the walkie-talkie - they were all safe and would be reaching C2 soon.

The Diganta Club of Calcutta had chosen for its 14th expedition Karcha Parbat (6270 m - 20,570 ft). The peak was controversial for its location in the early 1950's. To resolve the controversy numerous surveys were made by eminent mountaineers like Holmes, Berill and Jt P, O". F. Lynam.1 Finally the point 20,570 ft was determined by an expedition under the leadership of J. G. G. Stephenson under the banner of Shelbourne Spiti-Kulu Expedition 1958, during which J. P. O. F. Lynam, prepared a map of the area. Furthermore an expedition team from Ireland scaled the peak 20,570 ft.2
I may quote a few lines from the report of the Irish-Himalayan Expedition to Kulu, 1977, which I think will clarify the geography of Peak 20,570 ft, 'It was decided to divide the expedition stores and make an excursion to the Karcha nala region with a view to attempting peak 20,570 ft. This peak is the highest point on a clearly defined ridge which runs from the Kunzum la first in an easterly direction and then southeast towards the Gyundi nala. In precise terms the peak is situated at Latt. 32°-20' and Long. 77°-43'. It is clearly marked on the map prepared by Lynam who as a member of Shelbourne Spiti-Kulu Expedition mapped the area in 1958. The Irisfi mountaineers Michael F. Curran (leader), K. John, F. John and the Indian guide Tarachand made the first ascent of Peak 20,570 ft which they named "Karcha Parbat,, keeping with the local nomenclature.'

Photos 28-29-30
  1. H.J. Vol. XXI, p. 97.
  2. H.J. Vol. XXXV, p. 298.
We reached Chandigarh in the early morning of 5 August and arrived in Kulu the same day. We were divided into two groups, the main party consisting of 8 members left Kulu for the bus journey to Batal and two members remained in Manali for arrangement of porters.

The main party's bus journey was horrible, they just managed to get footholds inside the overcrowded bus, for local people were rushing to Kaja to join in a festival. Their journey began at 4.30 a.m. from Kulu. They reached Batal totally exhausted, because of the discomfort on the bus and because the road along the side of river Chandra was in very bad shape; they had to get down at several places and push the bus. The journey though distressful had its attractions too. A folk dance troupe entertained them throughout the journey with different songs. Dhar and myself were able to collect 9 L.A.Ps and 3 H.A.Ps and were able to join the main party the next day in Batal much more comfortably than they had.

Dhar and J went for a recce to select our route particularly upto the point of crossing the nala. We crossed the well-built bridge over Chandra and turned right and followed the left bank of the Chandra river. A 20 minute walk took us to the confluence of Karcha nala and the Chandra river. Again we turned left towards the east and followed the right bank of the Karcha nala. We proceeded for an hour and surveyed the route. We came back to Batal to our temporary shelter in the tea shop. Batal is a wide, barren and windy place. A chorten along the road, a small P.W.D.. rest house, two tea shops and the bridge over the Chandra river constitutes the entire village. The tea shops cater to the truck drivers and bus passengers.

On 9 August we moved towards the south about 500 m upstream from the confluence of Karcha nala and Chandra. We chose this route only to avoid the crossings of Karcha nala's torrential flow in the late mornings. We started ascending steep scree slopes on the right bank of the nala, in view of crossing it further upstream over an ice-bridge. The scree slope was horrible and we had to be a bit cautious. In fact this portion of the route was an extension of the northwest ridge of Karcha Parbat curving towards the south. We continued for 2 ½ hours and then came down to the river bed to cross the ice-bridge. After a ten minute walk from the icebridge, we, for the first time saw Karcha Parbat, a gorgeous rock structure standing high in the east.

We proceeded towards the northeast along the left bank of Karcha nala and decided to establish a transit camp before the base camp. It was learnt from the H.A.P.S that a shepherd's hut could be located at Grelu Thaj (local name) which could be an hour's march and on the way. 5 members occupied the transit camp and ferried loads. We returned to Batal at 4.30 p.m.

Next day we were all at Grelu Thaj established on the left bank of the nala at 4270 m and the site was situated almost 150 m above the river bed.

Next day we hurried on with 5 members, 9 porters and a Nepali shepherd recruited at Grelu and started for the base camp. We got down to the bed of the nala and crossed the stream, then took the left slope of nala for half a kilometre upstream from where it curves towards southeast. We proceeded for an hour along the same slope following an easterly direction and traversed it upto the turning point of the slope towards south where the nala branches into two. The south branch known as the main Karcha nala follows a north-south direction whilst the other branch follows an easterly route. We crossed the main stream of Karcha nala over an ice-bridge and took the right bank and traversed towards the other branch through heaps of moraine and loose boulders. We reached a piece of flat land overlooking the southwest face of Karcha Parbat. It was our base camp site. It was a happy reunion on 12 August when the other members joined us here. We paid off the porters and asked them to return on the 25th for the return journey. The BC was situated 90 m above the river bed and at about 4440 m. It was a small clearing dotted with a few alpine flowers amidst small patches of grass. The west ridge starts just from this place. The eastern panorama is dominated by Karcha Parbat amidst an ocean of bare scree and its northwest ridge constitutes the northern curtain. Towards the south we could see the top of a few of the minor peaks of the Karcha nala

basin and in the southwest an ice encrusted peak of around 6000 m was observed. A small stream nearby emerging from beneath the scree slope chute served as our water source.

The next two to three days were spent in establishing and occupying advance base camp. The route from the BC to ABC site was first through the southern scree slope of the west ridge of Karcha Parbat. Then the route turns towards the north. From that point the west ridge emerging from the main mountain axis starts curving slowly towards the north which finally became the southwest ridge of Karcha Parbat. The site was free from all danger and a small stream over the moraine solved the problem of our water supply.

We were now advancing towards CI and we divided ourselves into two groups to choose a feasible site.

On 17th the load was dumped at CI. This site was at 5330 xn on the crest of the west ridge where it takes a curve to meet the main axis to become the southwest ridge of the mountain. In the afternoon an untimely snowfall enveloped the whole area with fresh snow.

On 18th we woke up to find a clear morning. It was decided to occupy CI that very day. Dhar, Sankar, Rabin, Chayan and 3 H.A.P.s prepared to start for CI which they reached at about 1.30 p.m. in rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.

The next two days' work was suspended due to inclement weather and heavy snowfall, and remained unaltered till 9.30 a.m. on the 20th. Even then Mridul and myself set off from ABC at 10.25 a.m. The weather was not so good - clouds swirled in thickly and as we moved through the wet scree with patches of snow both of us were quite fatigued by the time we got to CI. It was a perfect location for a camp site except for the meagre source of water.

The following two days dawned favourably. Dhar, Rabin, Chayan and the two HsA.P.s Yograj and Alamchand managed to occupy C2. They followed the route through the west ridge which curves towards the north to create the southwest ridge of Karcha Parbat. The C2 site was on a shelf.

The weather was fine, I was able to see the activities and the members' movement at C2 through my binoculars. It was pleasant when we could talk to each other through the walkie-talkie. They were cheerful and had a strong determination to attempt the summit the next day (23 August).

S. N. Dhar writes:
The uncomfortable night (23 August 1986) ended at 5.00 a.m. and we prepared some tea and snacks and got ourselves ready for the final stage. We set out for the summit at 5.45 a.m. Actually our idea was to traverse the west face diagonally to reach the summit. Accordingly five of us divided in two ropes. The first one was led by H.A.P. Yograj with two of the members Rabin and Chayan at the rear and the second one led by myself with H.A.P. Alamchand at the rear.

The route led through loose rocks, not too dangerous because of the moderate gradient and in 50 minutes we reached the side of the chute having gained around 120 m. We had to fix rope there just after crossing the ice-chute (hardly 1 m wide) and climbed 3 pitches on a 70° rocky rib using one rope length of fixed rope. The slope eased out and another 50 m of climbing was made on an Ťasy ground. The next two pitches were quite difficult. The easy Angled pitch composed of decayed rock flakes having a spongy texture and after crossing it we reached below a rock cliff having a small chimney in its lower part. We took some rest and communicated with the leader, who was observing us from CI. A climb of 150 m led us to the foot of the chimney and after climbing the chimney, which had ample good holds, we climbed another two pitches on a rock cliff almost of 70° gradient and another length of fixed rope was consumed. The gradient after the cliff was easy and we had to traverse towards the northwest and then we gained about 30 m to reach a horizontal ice-rib. From that point we could see the ice-couloir below the summit which appeared to be very near. 60 m of hand rail was placed over the ice-rib because it was razor sharp and composed of hard ice. We traversed the rib and another 1£ pitch of secured climbing led us to a point from where we saw the top of the ice-couloir. We could now sense that we were near the summit and with great enthusiasm we covered another mixed pitch of ice and rock. Another 15 m to go. The first few steps we kicked in hard crust snow and then through knee deep snow for the last metres.

Now we reached a point just 1 m below the summit. Here on the rock we found a piton with a sling left by the Irish expedition of 1977. We took it out as a memento and replaced it by another piton.

The summit was hardly 3 m long and 1 m wide. It was an exceptionally bright day with no sign of cloud except in the far horizon The view was so magnificent that we stood speechless for several minutes. It was 10.50 a.m. This was the first Indian ascent of Karcha Parbat.

Members: J. K. Paul (leader), S. N. Dhar, Sankar Makhal, Mridul Bose, Ranotosh Mazumdar, Debabrata Roy Chowdhury, Rabin Paul, Chayan Qhakraborty, Sanjib Paul and Dr A Dam.

The southwest face of Karcha Parbat. Route of ascent.									( Mridul Bose)

The southwest face of Karcha Parbat. Route of ascent. ( Mridul Bose)



 29.  View from summit of Karcha Parbat. Fluted Peak on left. 									(S. N. Dhar)

29. View from summit of Karcha Parbat. Fluted Peak on left. (S. N. Dhar)



 View from summit of Karcha Parbat. 										(S.N. Dhar)

View from summit of Karcha Parbat. (S.N. Dhar)