An exploratory visit to Gorichen and Nyegyi Kangsang's Portals BIMAL CHANDRA GOSWAMI

THE PEAK GORICHEN (6488 m)1 is one of the rarely seen peaks in the Panchakshiri range of the eastern Himalayan range in the NE of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Nyegyi Kangsang (7047 m) is the highest peak of the Panchakshiri range, and Kangto (7090 m), which towers nearby, is the highest peak of the Kangto range. On the 22 October 1992 five members from Assam Mountaineering Association left Guwahati for Tawang to get the inner line permits to go to Gorichen's base camp. The deputy commissioner was very helpful and not only did he give us our permits but sent wireless messages to Assam Rifles posts, gave us a jeep to take us back to Jang, and also sent an assistant to help us get porters, known as LCs (load carriers) here. We reached Jang on the 28th, but inspite of the Gaon Bura (village headman) trying to help us we could not get porters till the 30th. According to local practice LCs can take parties only till the next village, from where another lot of porters have to be hired. Their rates were Rs. 25 per day. The people of Tawang district are Monpas - a tribe of Buddhists, whose dress and life style is very Tibetan. Many of them inhabit the northeastern part of Bhutan contiguous with Arunachal. The airport and rail head closest to Tawang is 460 km away in Tezpur, Assam. The inner line starts from Balukpong about 50 km away. The river Tawang chu which starts from Gorichen and its neighbours enters Bhutan near Zumla, and later enters Assam as the Manas.

1. See H,J. Vol. 47 p. 156. - Ed.

Four of our LCs were women, and they were tough and fast. We left Jano at 9 a.m. for Rhobasti, a distance of 10 km, and reached it at about 12.30 p.m. after crossing the river Mang chu. There we were welcomed by Mukha (mask) dancers. Dancing and drinking continued for a long time and the Gaon Bura kept assuring us that LCs will be provided for us the next day. The next day he did not even recognise us! On 1 November we got five, 3 men and 2 women. The next day's march is a long and hard slog of about 28 km to Thingbu (3350 m). It is a quaint, attractive and sparsely populated village of just 20 persons. Radishes and cabbages are in abundance here, and we procured some. We could not get any porters from here, but on 3 November we hired two horses, and were accompanied by the Gaon Bura till half the distance to Mago. The route to Mago is risky with steep gorges and diff-hanging narrow tracks. Mago is 18 km away, and is at 3380 m. From Mago a route goes directly north to Lungar near the Indo-Tibet border, which is just a 4-5 hours' march away. That night we stayed at an Assam Rifles camp. The Gaon Bura arranged for two horses and a young LC called Dorji, who had gone upto Cl with the successful Assam Rifles' expedition. (Incidentally, according to him and others only two expeditions to Gorichen have been successful, Assam Rifles and Assam Regiment), We reached our next camp at Jithang 11 km away, and at 4020 m.

Next day we started trekking to Merethang by covering a distance of 11 km to an altitude of 4270 m. It was the first foggy, windswept day of the trek, and so we had to cook in a rock house meant for a yak keeper. Here there are no sheep, only yaks. From here Merethang is a four day difficult trek to Munna near Dirang between Bomdi la and Se la.

Next day was once again spotlessly dear, and we started at crack of dawn to reach the Gorichen base camp at Chekrasom (5030 m). Nearby is the confluence of two rivers. One comes from the northeast from what appears to be the Takpa Shiri peaks picking up water enroute from the Kangto and Nyegyi Kangsang glaciers. The other one comes from the northwest draining the big glacier on the flanks of Gorichen I and II. We could make out a thin track along the true left bank of the river coming from the Takpa Shiri peaks. That track petered out after a while. There are rumours that every three years some Tibetans circuit Nyegyi Kangsang from the north. May be these tracks have something to do with that. We dimbed another 300 m towards the ABC site to get a better look at Gorichen II, which we intend to get up, on%a trip later this year. We spent about two hours there in a sharp freezing wind, and then rushed down to the base camp. By several forced marches we reached Jang on the 10th, and on 12 November 1992 we were back in Guwahati, having at last found out what wa could not learn from any army account of Gorichen; that this is not a difficult dimb, and has a comparatively easy approach.

The best season to attempt these peaks will be from the third week of October. Between ABC and Cl climbers will have to carry water with them, as it is not available at all till beyond Cl.

This trip also helped us realise that in the northeast we have so many fantastic untapped climbing and exploratory opportunities that we can spend our life time here without ever thinking of visiting the crowded mountains of Garhwal, Kumaon and Himachal.

Members : Bimal Chandra Goswami (leader), Kishore Kumar Baruan, Nilu Talukdar, Madhuja Mahanta and Kami Cherin, a Sherpa from Darjeeling.

Summary: An exploratory trek to the base of Gorichen (6488 m) in Arunachal Pradesh, in October-November 1992.