MANA NORTWEST EXPEDITION, 1992
WE HAD VISITED Amrit Ganga valley in 1988 and were fascinated by the grandeur of the various mighty peaks like Kamet, Abi Gamin and Mana, all seven thousanders. While studying the map, we realised that there was one more seven-thousander, Mana Northwest (7092 m). We made plans to attempt this peak during May-June 1992.
Mana Northwest (7092 m) lies on a ridge connecting Mana and Kamet. We approached it from Purvi Kamet glacier, which lies east of Kamet in the district of Chamoli in Uttar Pradesh.
Mana Northwest has no record of being attempted by any party, though adjoining peaks Kamet (7756 m), Abi Gamin (7355 m) and Mana (7272 m) have received many ascents from various directions. The notable attempt on Mana by a team from Bombay led by Prajapati Bodhane in 1985 and the successful climb of Mana by I.T.B.P. team led by Harbbajan Singh (from the east) were important for us as we had to share a part of their routes.
We left Bombay on 16 May, obtained inner-line permits in Joshimath and reached Malari, the roadhead by a local bus on 21 May.
We engaged five local porters and goats to carry our loads to the base camp near Vasudhara tal. Though we had packed our food in Bombay in small cotton bags suitable for goats to carry, a lot of readjustment of loads had to be done on the spot. The trek to the base camp from Malari commenced on 23 May. All of us reached the base camp (4795 m) on 27 May with night halts at Gamsali, Niti and Shepu Kharak. Three loads were left behind at Malari and hence we lost one day in fetching up these loads by sending down three porters from Gamsali. At Shepu Kharak, Ganesh ganga was crossed by all of us including goats over a wooden log placed across the river by P.W.D. workers, of course, with a charge of 'bridge toll tax'. We crossed Raikana nala above Nand Kharak over a snow-bridge without any difficulties. Vasudhara tal has been breached recently and Raikana nala* is uncrossable at this place making the old base camp site now unapproachable. For the last few years expeditions have been establishing their base camps at a new site on the west of Raikana nala, where we were also headed.
Prajapati Bodhane, the deputy leader, fell ill at the base camp and had to go down to Niti. Unfortunately, even after staying for three days at Niti, he could not recover and had to return to Bombay, leaving us depleted.
On Purvi Kamet glacier
Purvi Kamet glacier is a 19 km long tortuous glacier similar to the letter 'S' and hence heavily crevasse-ridden. It has a lateral moraine ridge along its left bank, which has been the obvious traditional route for all these years. However, due to the new position of our base camp we had to go along the right bank of the glacier initially, then cross it and join the old route near the position of C2. The new part of the route was quite easy when we went up as it was a gradually rising snow-plod. Later, while returning to the base camp it had become totally unfamiliar and difficult due to melting of snow and one had to jump from boulder to boulder most of the way.
Three camps were placed on this glacier at 5000 m, 5300 m and 5600 rn. The last camp was fully stocked and occupied by three remaining members of the group and two permanent porters on 15 June. Except for some help from one local porter initially, for a week we ferried all loads and established camps.
On the wall
The climbing commenced above the last camp. Initially the route went along a moraine ridge, overshot the bifurcation of the route leading to Kamet, crossed the heavily crevassed glacier to its right bank to reach the bottom of the wall leading to our objective, Mana Northwest (7092 m). A steep snow-slope led to a huge rocky outcrop. The route on the steeper topmost part of the outcrop was secured by fixing a 50 m rope. The Rock Camp (C4) was then placed on top of this rock at about 6200 m on 18 June.
In 1985 Bodhane's team had tried to force a route on the wall by going straight up from this camp. It was a much larger team than ours. They struggled hard for 10 days, fixing about 450 m of rope but were finally defeated by high speed cold winds and steepness of the wall. Considering the limited strength of our team we decided to look for an alternative route and carried out proper reconnaissance for two days. We opted for an another route on the wall, parallel to, but about 1 km west of Bodhane's line. This involved a rising traverse of about 1 km from the Rock Camp and then a climb straight up along a small ridge like formation on the wall through seracs on its top. The route was not very steep and was safe as falling debris would have fallen on both sides of the ridge. Beyond the seracs was the corniced, summit pyramid of Mana Northwest.
On 21 June, Suhas and Jagat Singh, H.A.P., launched the summit attempt directly from the Rock Camp. They climbed upto the seracs and slightly beyond them for about eight hours. However, they had to return from 6900 m as Suhas started feeling giddy due to dehydration, fatigue and lack of acclimatisation. On the same day Summit Camp (C5) (6450 m) was established and occupied by Arun and Anil. On 22 June both , of them started at 2 a.m. but could not make much progress due to intense cold and biting strong winds. At 4 a.m. they made a hasty retreat as Anil's toes started going numb. The next day they started from the Summit Camp at 6 a.m. The snow was in good condition due to the cold night and they climbed very quickly. However, at about 9 a.m. a snow storm started. They struggled for two more hours and reached about 6800 m, at which point they had to give up, as Arun was exhausted. In the late afternoon they withdrew to the Rock Camp.
On 25 June Arun, Suhas and Jagat Singh started from the Rock Camp at 7.30 a.m. to attempt an unnamed peak (6687 m) at the foot of Kamet on its south side. Arun was slow, lagged behind and returned to the Rock Camp. Suhas and Jagat Singh reached the bottom of the summit pyramid by 2 p.m. after crossing a snowfield beyond the rising traverse. They climbed up along the rocky portion of the pyramid over loose scree to reach the summit at 4 p.m. They raced down to the Rock Camp in two hours, happy and jubilant with the success. Though it was a consolation prize, it was the first ascent of a high peak made after a hard struggle during four weeks spent above the base camp by a small five-man team and elation of all the members was amply justified.
The Rock Camp was wound up on 26 June and the team quickly descended. All loads were withdrawn to the Base Camp by 30 June and the team reached Malari on 2 July and Bombay on 7 July.
On 23 June the team members were surprised at the Rock Camp by a visit of their so called mail runner, Jay Singh. He had collected one letter from Niti post office and travelled all the way alone and later with our porters to the Rock Camp (6200 m) to deliver it - unparalleled postal service.
An attempt on Mana Northwest (7092 m) by a small team from Bombay in June 1992.
Members: Arun Samant (leader), P. B. Bodhane (deputy leader), Anil Chavan, Suhas Kharde
Sponsored by: Holiday Hikers' Club, Bombay.