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

A TRYST WITH PHABRANG, 1987

ANIL KUMAR

THE OBJECT OF OUR aspirations was Phabrang, a peak rising 6172 m (20,250 ft) from the Miyar valley in the Lahul district of Himachal Pradesh. We had planned to tackle the peak from its precipitous southern reaches. We left Bombay as an 8-member team. The journey to Delhi was pleasant, onwards, to Manali tiring and further on from Manali, over the Rohthang pass to Udaipur, torturous to put it mildly.

It was the 20 August when our small caravan started on the walk up the Miyar valley. The dusty debris-strewn road, rather than announcing the advance of development and progress, seemed to us a harbinger of ecological disaster. Crossing over to the left bank of the Miyar nala, the final approach to the village of Chimrat was a pleasant stroll through potato and rice fields. Karpat, the base village for Phabrang was just barely 2 hours away but our porters and horse-hands had insisted on Chimrat as one padav (a day's walk) and Karpat as the next. The next day's walk was at a leisurely pace and yet we reached Karpat in under 2 hours.

The path from Karpat continues further up the Miyar valley, but we had to turn right to proceed up the Karpat nala that flows down from the North Phabrang glacier. A short climb of half an hour and we pitched camp on a boulder strewn portion of the right bank of the nala. This was as far as the horses would go. So our leader went down to Karpat to muster more hands.

The next day saw a heartening sight of 15 porters coming up from Karpat. Our initial euphoria soon wore off as the climb up to base camp (4330 m) was a tough one with a height gain of 1070 m, which took us 5i hours. Phabrang towered above our camp stretching east to west. As we settled down we discussed the interesting ascent made by a British team in the form of an Alpine-style direttissima up the northeast face in an almost direct line with the summit.1 Incidentally the summit is the nearest to the east ridge of the mountain. The British then made a long traverse of the summit ridge to the west and descended the southwest face of the peak down to a col lying between the west ridge and an unnamed peak. A deceptive looking icefall swept down the col to the North Phabrang glacier. We planned to turn the British descent route into our ascent route. The British also had a second team that had done likewise. A ghostly white peak seen perched behind the col, and named Phabrang South would also receive our attention. The setting sun afforded a splendid view of Menthosa across the Miyar valley.

Photos 31 to 34
1. See H.J. Vol. 38 p. JL36-Ed.

Some of us spent 23 August setting up base camp and the rest made the first carry to CI. Numerous moraine slopes were traversed, and after a small climb over a crevasse-strewn glacier CI at 4630 m was established.

The next day a five member team occupied CI while the rest made a carry. Cloudy afternoons became a regular feature. We had just finished pitching our kitchen tent when a loud noise was heard and a kilometre long crevasse with a width of 2 inches opened up passing right below the tent. On the 27th when everyone moved from base camp to CI, the first team started their icefall duties of fixing ropes and moving up loads in tandem up the steeper pitches.

The entire afternoon was spent in the icefall and our ardour finally dampened when we came under some bad rock fall whilst tying off loads onto a ledge. One member was injured though not seriously, so, we returned to CI shaken yet happy about our progress.

For a period of 5 days with a rest day thrown in, work continued in the icefall, fixing ropes, pushing up loads, dodging falling rocks, with the ever present threat of bad weather. Rope was fixed on a very difficult and long pitch halfway up the icefall and it ended in a delicate traverse on a thin veneer of snow with hard ice underlying. An afterthought led to the changing of the route thereby avoiding the traverse and lessening the height of the pitch, consequentially easing the strain on the load ferrying. Everyone took turns at all jobs as the sun playing hide and seek made things extremely cold, A very determined recce gained the top of the icefall and a site for C2 at 5240 m which was on a huge snowfield directly below the huge he ad wall of the southwest face of the mountain.

On 3 September we paid our attention to Phabrang South and reached the summit of this gentle giant of c. 5580 m (c. 18,300 ft) at 13.00 hrs. We sat for a long time on the summit and gazed at a very different Phabrang, as seen, now from the south. The southwest face seemed very steep with long pitches of rock and ice just below the^summit ridge. Runnels of ice ran down the face bounded by rock formations. The weather held for the day and as we descended to C2 we could see two of our team bringing the remaining loads up the icefall. Preparations were made to send a team of six with food for three days to make an attempt up the southwest face.

The team started out on 4 September, to reach the summit ridge above the southwest face where C3 could be set up. Traversing below the headwall we squeezed past the bergschrund below the iace. Hurriedly we crossed a runnel of hard snow and ice knowing fully well that anything dislodged from the face shot down the runnel at a very high speed. Then followed a long haul upon loose and some firm rock. A dicey traverse on ice where a small rope length was fixed ended below a long, loose, and dangerous rock pitch where only one person could move at a time. It was very late in the afternoon when we surmounted this rocky formation and reached a convex ice-wall of rather large proportions, which separated us from the summit ridge.

Rope in excess of 120 m was fixed and each climber clipped on and jumared up. On the summit ridge it took a great effort to hack out two platforms in the hard ice for our tents. The ridge here was so narrow and corniced over the north face that just a couple of steps away from our tents we could punch a hole through the cornice with an ice axe and get a bird's-eye view of Karpat village far away below. Late in the evening we settled down in our tents with mugs of mushroom soup and some dry rations. The occupants of one tent spent an uncomfortable night what with one corner of their tent jutting out over a void high above the face.

5 September dawned bright and clear. A gas cartridge malfunction coupled with a tiny burner delayed our breakfast and so prevented an early start. It was quite windy and we had to perform the acrobatics of fixing crampons. Splitting into threesomes, it was only by 9.00 a,m. that we were on our way. The initial climb was through a small pitch of rock and then up a steep ridge of very hard snow. The summit was nowhere in sight and the ridge was extremely long. A series of rock formations strategically placed on the ridge offered the lead climbers an opportunity to place protection and belay the others.

The ridge was heavily corniced on the north and precipitous slopes on the south necessitated some traverses quite fraught with danger. A never ending series of ups and downs and by noon we had an inkling of the weather packing up. It was past 13.00 hrs and before us lay a steeply rising ridge. Thinking it to be the summit our flagging energies were recharged. But no, it wasn't as easy as that. As the first climber reached the top of the ridge, he noticed that it fell away again and rose once more to a rocky gendarme. Beyond that, the ridge rose steeply again to what was the actual summit. A juice and rations break was taken on the false summit to the accompaniment of a light fall of snow. Then slowly but surely the first team moved up to the tiny gendarme, placed a piton, and, as the second team clipped onto the rope, a member of the lead team was already reaching the summit. It was at 1700 hrs that all of us stood on the summit. Customary handshakes, flags, and photos. No panoramic views due to white out conditions. Only a part of the glacier descending towards the Thirot nala was seen. The wind started up with renewed vigour as we started the descent of the ridge. Euphoria was non-existent as each one realised that the utmost concentration would be needed to descend this undulating ridge that rose and fell coupled with tremendous exposure. We had to keep moving to keep the circulation going. The last member was back at C3 by 2330 hrs.

The next day after breakfast we started the descent to C2 very much aware of the rockfall and the cannon ball runnel. It was slow and laborious going. Finally at noon as we stood above the berg-schrund at the base of the climb and waved to C2, we sighted two parallel rows of marker flags stretching out in our direction. So, they had rolled out the red carpet for us, and how right they were! Hot curry and rice greeted our return. Down the icefall the next day, except for a minor mishap of a rucksac dropped in a crevasse (eventually retrieved by a wet and miserable member) we reached base camp, clearing CI site on the way.

So ended a short and sweet sojourn in the Lahul valley. As we sat at our friend Devi Singh's house at Chimrat on 8 September singing a Lahuli folk song, Phabrang was already becoming a distant memory.

Members: Sanjay Borole (leader), Ramakant Mahadik, Anil Kumar, Charuhas Joshi, Uday Kolwankar, Sunil Deodhar, Ramani, Minesh Dave, Gopal Singh, Devi Singh, Koyelu Ram, Dorji.

History of Ascents on Phabrang
1972 1974 1975 1980 1984 1987
1972 Japanese

(S. Ibayashi)
1st Ascent

25 September
HCNL29,p. 17.
1974 British

(J. Allen)
2nd Ascent

20 August
HCNL 30, p. 25.

HJ Vol. 33, p. 149.
1975 Indian

(K. Mukerjee)
3rd'Ascent

19 July
HCNL 32, p. 4.
1980 British

(D. V. Nicholls)
4th Ascent

28 September
HCNL 35, p. 3.

HJ Vol. 38, p. 106.
1984 Indian

(Y. K. Furi)
5th Ascent HCNL 38, p. 15.

HJ Vol. 41, p. 186.
1987 Indian

(S. Borole)
6th Ascent

5 September
HCNL 41,

HJ Vol.44.
West face of Phabrang from BC. 		(R. Mahadik)

West face of Phabrang from BC. (R. Mahadik)



SW face of Phabrang.		(R.  Manhadik)

SW face of Phabrang. (R. Manhadik)



Summit pyramid of Phabrang.  				(R. Mahadik)

Summit pyramid of Phabrang. (R. Mahadik)



Summit of Phabrang from S ridge. 									 (R. Mahadik)

Summit of Phabrang from S ridge. (R. Mahadik)