ACROSS DHUMDHAR KANDI PASS
SANJIB KUMAR MITRA
DHUMDHAR KANDI PASS, is famous for its tricky location, and unstable weather condition. James Baillie Frazer first came to learn about the existence of the pass in the year 1815. He collected information that since ancient times local villagers and traders and even the invaders used this difficult pass as a short cut to cross over Bhagirathi valley to 'Rawaeen' valley (the upper parts of the Tons valley) and vice-versa. From his account we came to know that the river Sian gad, which flows southeast to meet the Bhagirathi ganga below Jhala village, 'rises in Dhumdhar...... a very lofty and wild range to the north of Bandarpunchh and along which there is a very alarming road leading to "the remote parts of Rawaeen'.
A recent attempt to locate' the pass was in 1972 by a team from Calcutta under the leadership of Amulya Sen, followed by another group led by Sudhan Bose in 1973. The first attempt was foiled due to inclement weather but the second claimed success though there were doubts in some quarters. In 1984 S. S. Mukherjee and G. Santra also from West Bengal tried to cross the pass from Sian valley. They crossed over the dividing ridge but not exactly through the pass. While the search for exact location of the pass continued, it was revealed subsequently that the pass was marked erroneously In old survey map sheets. The first successful attempt was recorded by a three member team from Calcutta led by Prabhat K. Ganguli In 1987 who could locate and climb the pass correctly.
Our journey to the Tons valley started on 25 August 1990 from Calcutta and we reached Mori on 28 August.
On 30 August morning, we recruited three porters through the Porters' Association and trekked to Taluka (1981 m), 13 km away. We had to cross Tons a number of times after Taluka, as the track was occasionally blocked by tree trunks uprooted during the recent monsoon. So it took us> 5V2 hours to reach the Osla forest rest house at Seema (2560 m).
On 1 September, six of us - Rupayan Chatterjee, Tapas Mukherjee and myself along with three porters from Osla - Nikram Singh, Sundar Singh and Surya started from Seema forest bungalow. Rising steeply along with the left bank of Tons, we reached the wide and picturesque meadow of Debsu after two hours. Then we descended to Ruinsara gad. It comes down from the east and joins with Har-Ki-Doon nala, a short distance away. Thereafter it is known as the Tons river.
We crossed the log bridge over Ruinsara at 10 a.m. and trekked along its right bank, and reached Ruinsara lake (3400 m) at 5 p.m. and pitched our tents from the other bank. We left at 9 a.m. on 2 September, negotiated a steep gulley and traversed through the steep slopes of the south face of Swargarohini to Kiyarkoti (3780 m) at 2 p.m. The next day, an overcast sky delayed our start till 10.15 a.m. Continuing steeply over the southern slopes for an hour, we reached a zone of boulders brought down by landslides. We reached Deobasa camping ground at 11.45 a.m. and rested here for half an hour. We could now see almost the entire sweep of the mountain ranges of this region.
Dhumdhar Kandi pass (5608 m) was some where between Barasukha and Yellow Tooth. The Ruinsara gad, the main source of the Tons river originates from Bandarpunch glacier below this range where the horrifying Kalanag icefall joins it at Dharao Udari (4420 rn). The Bandarpunch glaicer then flows below the conical snow peak of Ruinsara (5487 m). It continues northwest through a narrow valley separating the two principal ranges of Swargarohini on the north and Bandarpunch on the south.
We resumed our march and passed through a gully on the left. Gaining height steadily along the Bandarpunch glacier over landslide zones and boulders, we reached Dharao Udari (4420 m) at 2.10 p.m. It started raining almost immediately. We quickly erected our tents very close to the wall on the high lateral moraine of the Bandarpuch glacier.
On 7 September, we started at 8.15 a.m. We were going up along our left and we could see the massive icefall of Kalanag with open crevasses, on our right. In IV2 hours we reached the top of the slope - a vast, open valley. We decided to avoid Arjun Jhari and go up the ridge on our left directly. Negotiating some buttresses and boulder zones we reached an icefield. This was followed by a number of other icefields and a ridge. Alter crossing a thin stream on our left, the entire Tons-Bhagirathi watershed opened up to view. Kalanag was under the thick monsoon clouds while the Yellow Tooth was peeping through. Dhumdhar Kandi pass was lying hidden between the second rock spire and an umbrella shaped rock to the north of Yellow Tooth. Beyond another icefield, we climbed up the ridge, while snowfall commenced. We went over a slippery zone of loose slates covered by fresh snows.
Now we were on the top of the ridge. We drifted more to our left and climbed over an arc like route. Within a short period we were under the umbrella shaped rock. Between the gate formed by the two rock towers, the concealed Dhumdhar Kandi pass was seen. A long stone pillar marked the spot. We later found out that it is hidden similarly on the other side also. The porters immediately rushed to the pass amidst snowfall though we were moving at our own pace over loose slate stones. After some time we found ourselves atop Dhumdhar Kandi pass. It was then 45 minutes past one.
The concave shaped pass was covered with 6 inches of snow. Snowfall continued and nothing around us was visible. There were few stone pillars planted as cairns. Our porters came here for the first time and we all were very happy to reach our target. We painted 'Rocks & Treks', our club's name, on a small stone and lay it there as evidence.1 We spent 30 memorable minutes on top before beginning to descend from the other side.
The slope was steep. So we moved to the extreme left of the pass. It was also full of loose slate stones covered by fresh snow. After 45 minutes we were on a small escarpment. There was a massive glacier on our far left. The ridge on the right went down sharply and we continued over the top of the ridge. We descended over the escarpments of several ridges. The valley was closed on all other sides except NNE.
We went over the lateral moraine and crossed a number of dry beds of streams. Since the beginning of our downward trek, it had been raining and when we were fully drenched at 5.30 p.m. we decided to call it a day.
8 September. There was snow everywhere, as far as eyes could see. After drying our tents and clothes and having a heavy breakfast, we resumed our march over the lateral moraine at 9.30 a.m. We moved towards NNE and a number of unknown snow peaks of the Lamkhaga range were in front. At 11.30 a.m. we reached an excellent camping ground - a small grassy land surrounded by stones, - it was the Ranla or Rathia camping ground. The valley gradually widened and Sian gad looked like a bright tape in the distance. At 12.15 p.m'. We reached an overhang, a cave for six. Further ahead, the Dhumdhar nala turned southeast to join with Sian gad, coming from NNE. We reached the banks of Sian gad at 01.15 p.m. As the river was not fordable at that time, we pitched our 5th camp here, after rearranging the boulders, at a place just above the river bed.
1. Surely, a cairn would be more eco-friendly. Such paintings are an eye-sore. - Ed.
We moved out at 7 a.m. on 9 September and crossed the Sian gad a few yards upstream. Here the river flowed in three streams. We waded through and anchored the rope to ferry the loads. The river flowed southeast and we could see the Sian gorge and the tree line far below. We reached Kiarkoti at 11 a.m. A stream flowed from the right to join with Sian gad on the other bank. Descending through the valley, we pitched our 6th and final camp on uneven grounds, beyond another stream, we later found out that the excellent camping grounds of Tangua were only ten minutes away, on higher ground. Next day, we reached Jhala for a bus to Uttarkashi.
Summary: A crossing of the infrequently visited Dhumdhar Kandi pass from the Tons to the Bhagirathi valley by a team from Rocks and Treks, Calcutta, in September, 1990. The team was led by S.K. Mitra.