THE AIM OF the 4Spiti Adventure, 1994' was to climb in the Losar valley in Spiti. There are about fourteen peaks around the watershed of Suvita nala with heights above 5900 m. The highest peak among them is Karcha Parbat (6271 m), which has not been attempted from this side. In 1958 Joss Lynam had entered the Losar valley and climbed Fluted Peak (6139 m) at its head, crossed over the Losar pass to Gyundi valley and then into Bara Shigri glacier. Though Fluted Peak had recorded a few more ascents, the remaining unnamed peaks awaited attempts.

Our team left Bombay on 31 July and reached roadhead Losar on 4 August via Manali and Kunzum la. Losar is at 4070 m and we spent three nights here for proper acclimatisation. On 7 August accompanied by 18 local porters we climbed up along the right bank of Suvita nala to base camp (c. 4500 m) on a small grassy meadow, the route having descended on the snow-filled floor of the nala a little before the final climb to base camp.

Small glaciers in the Losar valley are like a clove shaped leaf, all of them draining into Suvita nala. The climbing group assisted by porters explored some of them and established higher camps. They divided themselves into two teams and climbed independently. In all, seven peaks including Fluted Peak were climbed, six of them being first ascents. On 8 August Pasang, Sunil and I started from BC with a few loads, descended on to the frozen nala, climbed out of it after one kilometre and traversed along its right bank upto the snout of the glacier in Alh hour. We prepared tent platforms at our proposed site of ABC and returned to base camp in 2V2 hours finding a high level traverse avoiding a descent to the frozen nala. The next day a few loads were ferried to ABC. On 10 August it rained heavily. It was one of the two days during the entire expedition which was lost due to bad weather.

Photos 22-23-24 Fold-out 2

Glacier II

The climbing team and the support team occupied ABC (c. 4950 m) on the 15th. Loads were carried up into the basin of Glacier II, southeast of ABC, the next day. On the 18th all of us shifted from ABC to Cl (c. 5400m) below the col on the eastern rim of the valley, in 3V2 hours. We decided to make two teams and attempt two peaks, one on the north and another on the south of the col, separately, on alternate days.

Dongrimo (6060 m) (Sunil Chavan narrates)

Arun and I made an 6 a.m. start to climb this dome-shaped peak. Lower down from the valley floor we had observed its northwest snow face which offered a reasonably safe passage to the summit ridge, the true summit being hidden behind the dome. However, from Camp 1 a gully leading to the snow face was quite a distance and we decided to attempt its southwest rocky flank. The south ridge of the peak dipped to the col above our camp towards the east and then rose to the summit of 'Loushar' peak. The traverse of six hours turned out to be quie straightforward though tiring over loose scree slopes and across a few hard snow patches to a depression on the ridge 200 m) below the summit. The true rocky summit was reached at 2.00 p.m., two hours from the depression. Dongrimo (6060 m) was quite high compared to other peaks on the ridge, the sky was cloudless, and it offered excellent views.

Loushar (6040 m) (Anil Chavan narrates)

The ridge from the col above Camp 1 rose to the summit of this peak. It was the most easterly peak of the Losar valley and hence used to acquire a spectacular golden hue with the sunrise every morning, hence the name — 'Loushar', 'eastern light'.

On the 19th, Pasang. Dhananjay, Prakash and I recceed it upto the col and beyond it. Just above the col a gendarme had to be negotiated by traversing partly on its east face. The snow ridge beyond was corniced and sharp. We left some climbing gear, snow boots and crampons at the highest point and quickly ran down to Camp 1 on the scree slope.

The next day, four of us left Cl at 6.30 a.m., reached the col at 8.30 a.m., and roped in two pairs above the gendarme. The snow ridge rose gently in the beginning but became steeper higher up. Fortunately, the crevasse could be crossed over a snow-bridge. On reaching the top of the dome we discovered a small rocky pinnacle which we climbed carefully as the rock was rotten. The rocky summit was reached at 12.30 p.m. The clouds were gathering around the summit and it was no place to linger around. We safely climbed down to Cl in three hours.

Glacier III (Arun Samant continues)

On 21st August the team leisurely wound up Camp 1 on Glacier II and descended towards ABC, but bypassed it by going down directly on to the right bank of Glacier EL We crossed the glacier and slowly climbed up to the predetermined new camp site of ABC (c. 5200 m) on the central moraine ridge in 3 hours.

The next day Prakash and I climbed on to a basin west of ABC, towards a col between two unnamed peaks for a recce, whereas Pasang, Dhananjay and Sunil went up an eastern branch of Glacier HI to select a summit camp site for Fluted peak. In four hours both the teams returned to ABC having spotted safe routes up these peaks.

Lagbhor-che (5980 m) and Tarimo (5900 m)

Prakash and I started at 5.30 a.m. from ABC and reached the earlier day's high point in 2V2 hours. We climbed on hard snow to the col between two unnamed peaks at 9.00 a.m. The peak on the southeast called 'Lagbhor-che' — 'elephant head', whereas the one on the north was sharp rocky peak looking like a 'horse head', which we named 'Tarimo'. The summit rocks were reached at 10.00 a.m. via the southeast ridge. The north face of Karcha Parbat looked very steep, broken and like a difficult proposition from here. We descended to the col as clouds started rising from the floor of the valley, and traversed the sharp ridge on tight belays to the base of the rocky pyramid of Tarimo at noon. The route on the rocky northeast ridge, which looked formidable, ended by zigzagging around gendarmes. We roped up 150 m below the summit. The rising traverse could be well-protected with conveniently placed chokes. We took turns to sit on the narrow rocky summit at 1.30 p.m. The clouds started enveloping us and it started snowing by the time we descended to the col. After a short rejuvenating tea break we quickly reached the comforts of ABC at 4.00 p.m.

Fluted Peak (6139 m)

After Lynam's team, which entered the valley in 1958 and made the first ascent of Fluted peak, quite a few parties had come into the valley but had not looked seriously beyond the peak. We decided to climb Fluted Peak which was at the head of the valley,, and have a good look into the Gyundi valley.

On the 23rd Anil, Pasang, Sunil, Dhananjay and Tashi went up and occupied Camp 1 below the Losar pass. After a day of bad weather, on the 25th the team waited for two hours for the weather to clear and left at 7.00 a.m. The route started from the Losar pass on a gradual snow slope. They took 2V2 hours to reach a prominent shoulder on the ridge and the last person walked up to the summit at 10.00 a.m., the two crevasses on the way being filled up posed no difficulties. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy when they were on the top and they could not see much of the Gyundi valley. However, they clearly observed an easier route up the south face of Karcha Parbat.

Glacier I

A store of five days' food was available with the remaining team. We decided to have a look at two peaks rising from the Glacier I, which was closest to BC, its approach route having been observed earlier. At the head of this glacier was the Gyundi pass, which two gaddis had crossed earlier to enter the Gyundi valley and reach its exit point, Hal, in three days from BC. It was decided to christen the peak north of the pass as 'Larimo', the 'peak near the la' and the other, south of the pass as 'Num Themga', a 'ladder to heaven'.

Larimo (5995 m) and Num Themga (6024 m)

On 28 August, we packed light loads, followed our old tracks upto the nala descending from the snout of the glacier and climbed up on its right bank over loose scree slopes. Beyond the snout the glacier flattened and we selected a spot on the flat scree-covered ground at the right edge of the glacier about 250 m below Gyundi pass for Camp 1. The route to the pass on consolidated snow looked quite straightforward. Larimo could be approached from the Gyundi pass easily, over rising scree ridge but the continuation of the ridge to Num Themga was heavily corniced and broken. Its north face too was broken with seracs, crevasses and icefields. We ruled out the ridge route and opted to rub our noses on the north face hoping to find a safe route.

The next day we started together at 6.30 a.m. and climbed up to the base of the snow-slope leading to the pass in one hour. There we split into two teams. Dhananjay and Pasang quickly climbed to the pass at 8.30 a.m. and ascended the easy scree ridge at leisure to reach the rocky summit of Larimo at 10.30 a.m. They stayed at the summit for two hours watching Prakash and me threading our way around seracs and climbing ice walls of Num Themga until we reached the beginning of a comparatively easier traverse on a slope knee-deep with snow. They then descended to Cl in two hours to await our return.

We climbed a gradual snow ramp to the top of a huge serac in the right hand corner of the face. We roped up, put on crampons and with a few steps towards the left came to the bottom of the headwall. Prakash led off the first pitch directly upwards below a small overhanging serac and traversed for two more pitches. Two easier pitches followed which wound up between two seracs. The sixth one was steeper and crossed by two narrow crevasses and required firm belaying.

By now it was 10.30 a.m. and we were on the top of a serac. The route was blocked by a steep ice wall. These few pitches were the crux of the whole route. It was clear that even if we were able to force our way through this barrier it would be suicidal to return by the same route in the late afternoon, when the route would be a potential death trap with the sun blazing in the cloudless sky. We had spotted a possible safe descent route on the south face of this peak while climbing Dongrimo.

The snow-bridge in front of us was our only hope of crossing the deep crevasse extending in both directions. After two false attempts by Prakash, I tried a slightly different angle and succeeded. I continued climbing up the ice wall to the bottom of the serac and belayed Prakash up. Two exposed traverses followed. Prakash led two pitches and on the second he had to negotiate an ice-bulge, which caused us some anxious moments. The twelth pitch, which was a left hand traverse, landed us in a snowfield. The snow was mushy and knee deep, and we waded through it to reach the base of the summit pyramid at 1.00 p.m.

After resting for half an hour we quickly ascended to the summit of Num Themga at 2.30 p.m., initially over a steep hard snow slope and later over a rocky summit ridge. We were rewarded with clear but distant views of peaks of the CB group, eastern Spiti, part of the Gyundi valley and, of course, most of the peaks of the Losar valley.

We looked for alternative routes of descent. The descent on the south face was possible over some steep scree slopes. But that way we would have reached the floor of another glacier and would have been forced to go further down to follow Suvita nala to our tents at BC totally bypassing the present summit camp. We looked over the eastern face of the peak and were delighed to see a steep but not too difficult route initially over small rocks and later over scree slopes. This route would have landed us on a snow-plateau in the Gyundi basin. We would have to find a passage to climb up to the Gyundi pass between Larimo and Num Themga from the east. Across it and then descend to the summit camp most probably in darkness. We opted for the second alternative. We took three hours to reach the snow-plateau going down over rocky patches. We were lucky to find a narrow passage, which led us to the bottom of Gyundi pass, about 200 m below it. However, soon we were overtaken by total darkness as our batteries slowly faded away. We stumbled up the pass like two blind men at 9.00 p.m. Shouting and whistling produced no response from the direction of the camp. The camp was about one kilometre away and behind a small scree ridge. We slowly descended the snow-slope on the west face of the pass and walked into the summit camp at 10.30 p.m. after a 16-hour struggle. Others were anxious and had been searching for us. We had a happy reunion. We wound up the camp, were down to BC in 3V2 hours, and ran down to Losar in 2 hours.

Tashi, our host at Losar, invited us to dinner at his place with a distinguished lama from the Tabo monastery. We gathered around his warm hearth in the late evening. The dinner began with the service of traditional salty butter tea in Tibetan decorative bowls and was followed with endless rounds of varieties of tea, followed by courses of simple but tasty food. Success stories were exchanged and celebrations continued late into night with moods lightened by free flowing, effervescent spirits from Tashi's cellar.


Peaks Climbed Date of ascent (1994) Summitters
1. Dongrimo (6160 m) (Sickle mountain) 1st ascent via west face 19 August Arun Samant
Sunil Chavan
2. Loushar (6040m) (Eastern light) 1st ascent via northeast ridge 20 August Pasang Bodh
Dhananjay Ingalkar
Prakash Chand
Anil Chavan
3. Lagbhor-che (5980 m) (Elephant head) 1st ascent via northeast ridge 23 August Arun Samant
Prakash Chand
4. Tarimo (5900m). (Horse head) 1st ascent via southwest ridge 23 August Arun Samant
Prakash Chand
5. Fluted Peak (6139 m) via northeast ridge 25 August Pasang Bodh
Dhananjay Ingalkar
Sunil Chavan
Anil Chavan
Tashi Chhopal
6. Larimo (5995 m) (Mountain near pass) 1st ascent via southwest ridge 29 August Dhananjay Ingalkar
Pasang Bodh
7. Num Themga (6024 m) (Stairway to heaven) 1st ascent via north face, descent via east face 29 August Prakash Chand
Arun Samant


Period: 31 July to 8 September 1994.

Sponsored by: Holiday Hikers' Club, Bombay.

Members: Arun Samant (leader), Anil Chavan (deputy leader), Dhananjay Ingalkar and Sunil Chavan.

Supported by: Pasand Bodh, Prakash Chand and Tashi Chhopal.

Climbs in the Losar valley (Suvita nala) in northwestern Spiti.


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