Capt. S. P. MALIK
MANA IS LOCATED 36 km north of the Badrinath shrine, beyond Joshimath in Garhwal Himalaya which is a serene and impressive mountain range. Mana itself marks the eastern extremity of the Zanskar range and lies between the high Niti and Mana passes, two of the best known, most trodden and traditional land routes between India and Tibet. Rising enticingly into the sky to a height of 7274 m, the mountain stands like an eternal sentinel, ever watchful, on the Indo-Tibet border and is a standing challenge to intrepid explorers and climbers.1
There are two known approaches to Mana peak; one is the eastern approach through East Kamet glacier and the other is the southern approach through Nagthuni and Banke Kund glacier. The first person to fall under its spell was Frank Smythe in 1937 who was privileged to be the first to stand on the peak of Mana via the southern approach. In 1988 the east face was climbed by the ITBP (Harbhajan Singh) and the south face by a joint Indo-US Army Expedition team (Maj H.S. Chauhan). Again in 1991, an expedition team under Col K Parbhat Singh scaled the peak via the southern approach.
On 15 May 1992, our entire team with complete stores left for roadhead, Mana village, which is 3 km ahead of Badrinath on state highway No 45. The 47 km journey by vehicle took about 3V2 hrs through the mountainous terrain. The site was selected near ITBP location and all rations, stores and equipments were neatly stacked to facilitate their onward despatch manually to Musapani east (Intermediate Base Camp). The height of the road head was 3110 m. On 16 May 92, the team had a hot bath in Tapt Kund and paid a visit to the holy shrine of Badrinath to invoke the blessings of Lord Vishnu and in a brief ceremony prayed for the success of the expedition. Then the team assisted by the porters ferried loads to Intermediate Base Camp (IBC). After establishing IBC and acclimatising properly, the team, moved to occupy IBC on 22 May 92.
I. See sketch map in Note 11. - Ed.
Intermediate Base Camp
Intermediate base camp was located at Musapani east and was occupied on 22 May. The camp was located on the eastern bank of the Saraswati river (3780 m). There is a fair weather mule track, during the post monsoon period only when snow melts away, between the roadhead and BC 7.5 km away and it takes 3 hours one way.
The base camp was established at the base of scree of Nagthuni gad. There is a disused track passing over terraced mountainous terrain with big boulders and ice on the way. The total distance is 7 to 8 kms and it takes 4 hours one way. On 28 May a route opening party of three members was sent to open route to a Cl and select campsite.
Cl (5426 m) was occupied on 2 June. This was an icy ledge which formed the base of the three rocky bumps adjoining the large snowfield having innumerable crevasses en route. The route passed over terminal moraine all along Nagthuni gad. The famous Gupt khal (secret pass) was visible from this camp but the pass was hidden till one reached this camp location.
C2 (6035 m) established. It was located on a ledge at the bottom of a rock with steep icefalls on the southern and eastern side. The route passed over a number of open and hidden crevasses. This area is fully glaciated. The team fixed five ropes to negotiate the crevassed patches to reach C2.
C3 (6706 m) was located in the snowfield ahead of a snow clad dome shaped feature which conspicuously stands out in contrast to the razor sharp longitudinal Mana ridge in colour as well as in shape. The route to this camp passed over avalanche-prone, steep, glaciated, slopes which were corniced and crevassed. This involved technical rock climbing in the first phase where six ropes were fixed. The rest of the route is glaciated and covered with lm of fresh snow passing over a ridge line with cornices. The movements on this ridge were undertaken with extreme care due to the blizzards and dangerous crevasses and cornices. Six more ropes were fixed in this region and going was extremely slow and technically difficult. It took 572 hrs to reach C3 covering a distance of approximately 6 km. Three tents were pitched on beaten snow which was powdery fresh and approximately 1 m deep. The mq^t conspicuous characteristic of this camp was the strong easterly blizzard which blew unrelentingly throughout the night. Luckily mornings remained encouragingly bright and clear. But it invariably snowed heavily in the afternoons and continued unabated almost throughout the night.
First Attempt on the Peak
The morning of 11 June was bright and clear. Two ropes left at 0500 hrs. It took six hours to fix five ropes in that chilly morning to cross the base of Mana ridge line where the toughest part of the climb had commenced. It involved traversing through soft knee-deep snow which consumed time as well as energy. When the team was climbing the ridge line of Mana from its base it came under an avalanche at 1430 hrs due to movement of snow. NK Balwant Singh and Ex Hav D Lama who were in the lead were swept down by the avalanche and they were fortunately left suspended on the ropes which were removed by the avalanche. They sustained head, leg and rib injuries due to their being hit against boulders and the hard ice. Some other members also sustained minor injuries and bruises. Most of the much-needed equipment was swept away in the avalanche and some of the items were buried under it. NK Balwant Singh and D Lama were rescued.
Both casualties were evacuated to the base camp on 12 June. The entire team was reorganised on new ropes and two ropes were earmarked for another unnamed peak and one rope for Mana as most of the essential equipment had been lost. Hence, it was found possible to send only one rope to Mana.
On 14 June, two ropes left for Cl of Mana. They were occupied on the same day.
Simultaneously, a route opening party was sent to Cl of an unnamed peak under Capt B. P. Singh. Both the groups i.e. of Mana and of the unnamed virgin peak were in communication with each other. Progress was made on both fronts simultaneously. The weather remained inclement beyond.
Both the ropes occupied C2 on 15 June as route had already been opened and ropes fixed. On 16 June weather, became very bad and movement of the team was restricted. On 17 June, these two ropes occupied C3. On 18 June, it snowed throughout the day and the team could not move ahead. The weather cleared up at 2200 hrs on 18 June. Early in the morning on 19 June, both the ropes left at 0430 hrs leaving Govind Singh (HA Porter) and L/NK D. Limboo behind. The second rope under Capt S.P. Malik, Leader, was positioned ahead of the assault camp near the site of the ice fall where the accident took place on 11 June. It was well prepared and all set to rush for rescue should the occasion arise. The main' roge continued to move ahead.
The last 500 m of the climb along the ridge line to the peak was on hard ice which necessitated expert ice-craft on the sharp edge. Though the move on the slippery hard ice was extremely laborious and slow yet the summiters were encouraged by the tell-tale marks of the previous expeditions which served as the route markers. The summiters traversed the last 50 m which happened to be the top of the long razor sharp Mana ridge rising westwards. First summitter Sep NS Rawal reached the lofty peak at 1130 hrs followed by Sep Surbeer Chand, Capt M. C. Jayakrishnan, L/NK S. K. Rao, Rajinder Singh and Kundan Singh. Ultimately on 19 June at 1130 hrs the main rope successfully scaled peak Mana despite the inclement weather. After staying for 25 minutes on peak, at 1155 hrs the summiters commenced their return journey.
The following members on the main rope were the climbers of Mana peak. Capt M. C. Jayakrishnan, (dy leader), L/Nk S. K. Rao, Sep Surbeer Chand, Sep M. S. Rawal, Rajinder Singh, and Kundan Singh.
Assault on 'Shakti Parbat'
As soon as the main rope crossed the site where the accident took place on 11 June, the second rope was withdrawn and moved towards the unnamed virgin peak at 0800 hrs. This auspicious news inspired the other members of the team to forge ahead towards 'Shakti Parbat'. This second rope also scaled the unnamed virgin peak at 1345 hrs and christened it 'Shakti Parbat'. The weather had already packed up with accumulation of dense fog. After staying at 'Shakti Parbat' for 30 minutes the ropes started their return journey to Cl. Summitters of both ropes joined at Cl and moved onto the BC. The following members who were divided on two ropes scaled 'Shakti Parbat'.
Capt S. P. Malik, (leader), Capt B. P. Singh, N/Sub S. K. Dogra, Hav ACK Singha, Hav D. Deb, Nk N. S. Tamang, L/Nk D. Limboo, and Sep N. S. Negi.
Summary: The ascent of Mana (7272 m) by the Indian army Ordnance Corps, team on 19 June 1992. An unnamed Peak 5730 m east of their BC was also climbed. They named it 'Shakti Parbat'.