FIRST ASCENT OF NYEGI KANGSANG
COL. M. P. YADAV
THE EASTERN HIMALAYA are one of the most magnificent and beautiful portions of the Himalayan range. The rugged inhospitable terrain, thick forests, poor surface communication and the hard living conditions have rendered this area virtually inaccessible. Though this part of the Himalaya have been explored by explorers and mountaineers in the past, yet little is known of the area. Mysteries have yet to be unveiled and the climbing potential yet to be fully ascertained.
Nyegi Kangsang lies in the west Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. One of the major rivers of Arunachal, Kameng originates from the Nyegi Kangsang glacier. This is one of the highest unclimbed peaks in the world. Selecting a route to the mountain was a difficult task as there was no literature available on the mountain and its approaches. There had been no attempts on this peak before and the route to it was uncharted. Thus the aim of the expedition was to explore the unknown area, discover a route and scale the peak.
Myself and Brig. Khullar had to visit Arunachal Pradesh to gather information about the availability of porters, existence of roads and tracks, location of last village in the area, type and quantum of assistance which we could get from locals, civil, army and para military organisations in the area and actual climbing season etc. After deliberations and discussions with the Army and civil authorities, I selected a route through lower Subansiri district keeping Zero/Hapoli as the 'primary' roadhead and Koloriang in the Kurung valley as the secondary roadhead.
All preparations to launch the expedition were over by the first week of September, we reached Guwahati on the 14th. From here we travelled by bus to Ziro, the district town of lower Subansiri, where we were given a wet welcome by the rain gods. It did not seem that weather would improve for another few days.
We left Ziro for Koloriang by road which is more or less a fair weather road and vehicles upto two tonners can ply. The route between Koloriang and Sarli was covered by trekking 35 km along a slushy and slippery foot track. On a number of occasions, we encountered snakes. The snakes were green in colour with black spots on the whole body. On reaching Sarli, we learnt that the snakes were poisonous. We also came across the native tribals of the valley. The tribal men were skilled hunters and their women excellent weavers. They lived in wooden thatched houses. Modern civilisation had not yet reached them. They maintained their own culture. They worshipped Doni Palo i.e. Sun and Moon. Poor road communication and lack of infrastructure in the area have kept the people of the valley totally away from pollution. Nishings and Sulungs tribals dwell in the valley. Nishings still maintain their domination upon slave Sulung tribes.
Locals, including circle officer of Sarli came forward to help us in hiring porters. Some of the locals who had gone ahead of Milli for hunting provided us some valuable information which was handy in trail blazing ahead of Wazain. Initially many locals were keen to work as porters, but later only a few agreed to ferry the loads and that too upto Wazain. This was one of the biggest problems faced by the expedition. On 16 September, the ferry of loads started with fifteen porters of Uttarkashi, who had been despatched well in advance. Most of our loads reached Wazain by 23 September, Jagmohan and Pisa Taza had established themselves at Wazain by then. On 24 September, I along with the main party left Sarli for Milli, the last village in the valley. It was raining heavily and the entire valley was covered with low clouds. The sky was always overcast with dark and thick Nimbo Stratus clouds causing lot of precipitation. It was quite dark when we reached Milli. Looking for shelter, we found PWD Inspection bungalow, which was a bamboo hut with banana tree leaves serving as the roof. We stayed there and slept on machans made out of split bamboos. We spent a miserable night in the hut as the roof was inhabited by a number of leeches who made us their prey.
The next day we headed for Wate, which took eight hours, as we had to go over more than two dozen bamboo ladders which were not very strong. The ladders had not taken so much of traffic in the past, since the locals used them only while going for hunting i.e. while going or coming back from Bibi area. The cane bridge before Wate had broken down, while one of our porters was crossing over and was still unattended by the department. Thus we had to make a temporary log bridge to cross the fast flowing stream.
The track between Milli and Wate was slushy, slippery and through thick vegetation. Tiger leeches, snakes and dim-dim made our going tougher. The night was spent at Wate, in a shelter used by the local hunters. The constant rainfall soured the enthusiastic spirits of many and at that place, the members vowed never to come back into that inhospitable terrain again. On 26 September after trekking for four hours in bad weather, we reached Wazain. At Wazain, we faced a serious problem of porter desertion. They were scared of hostile weather. They were also afraid of going into the interiors of the jungles and requirement of sustenance for a longer period added to their fear. After some persuasion, some of them volunteered to accompany the expedition on the condition that they would be paid higher wages.
NYEGI KANGSANG (7050 M.) 1995
Trail blazing had to be done after Wazain as no route was available. The trail for the next camp was through thick, thorny jungles full of alpine bushes and trees of bamboo and rhododendrons trees. On 28 September, we reached Jogian and set up our camp on the Kowjare- Bibi ridge. Trek to Kowjare pass was three hours from the camp. We left tree line about 200 m below the pass. It was from here that we followed the Kowjare northwest ridge going towards 'Agye-Gika', 2 km ahead of 'Kao-Phube' we found a suitable place below the ridge for camping. The general area is known as 'Kasai'.
The next day Rattan Singh along with A. K. Singh, Milli Rai and Taw, supported by few porters moved ahead to find a route to base camp. The weather was very rough and the area remained foggy through out the day. Due to the fog. Rattan and A. K. found it difficult to do proper navigation. Co-relating the ground with map was a difficult task. A camp at Kanwar was established on 2 October. The advance party finally opened the route to base camp after negotiating five passes. Lakes located in the area were used as reference points to maintain proper direction towards the mountain. Subsequently, the advance base camp was also established (4430 m) in a bowl amidst heavy snowfall.
The trek to the advance base camp was not an easy one, as we had to face many rigours of the mountains and also had to struggle in rough weather. Getting thoroughly drenched in the rain, loosing our way, then again finding the way out and spending nights out in the open without food, was a normal routine.
The next day under heavy snowfall, Rajiv and Lopsang climbed the pass to get out of the bowl and proceeded north to locate the Nyegi Kangsang ridge. Due to dense white out, they could not find the actual ridge and landed up at a point from where they realised that their next step was a sheer fall.
I was disheartened to learn that they could not discover a route to the mountain due to bad weather. Not loosing hope, I sent another party on 13 October, instructing them to go southwest after crossing over the pass. The team left at 0500 hrs and after two hours of strenuous climbing in snow they succeeded in getting to the pass from where they had a magnificent view of the Kameng valley. By 1000 hrs, they were on the lateral moraine of the glacier, which comes down from an unnamed peak (6224 m) on the NE ridge. They selected a suitable place to establish Camp 1 on the glacier and returned back to ABC.
On 14 October, in bad weather we left for Camp 1. By the time we reached the pass, the sky had cleared for a few minutes and we were lucky enough to have a good view of Nyegi Kangsang, Chomo and other peaks in the area. Having full view of the summit, we decided to tackle the mountain from the northeast. By 1300 hrs we were at Camp 1. The entire administrative echelon was stretched between Sarli and Camp 1, spanning almost 150 km. The porter position was not improving and the weather remained unchanged. Keeping the weather condition and load position in mind I had to take the painful decision of sending a small team of five members to attempt the peak. It would not have been possible to support the entire team with a handful of porters available at base camp.
Looking due south from the camp we could see the lush green Kameng valley. A peculiar phenomena of cloud building was noticed at this camp. The clouds would rise from the valley along the two sides of the Kameng valley, reach the northeast ridge and roll back to the valley. Overcast sky brought snowfall. It was also observed that strong winds crossed over the ridge from the north and suppressed the clouds in the Kameng valley, causing thick overcast and total white-out.
On 15 October, the first team comprising of Rattan Singh, Rajiv Shanna, Jagmohan Singh Nadre Sherpa and Lopsang set out to open the route to Camp 2. The team went over the 'Huba ridge' and descended into the Nyegi Kangsang glacier. Due to thick fog, the party could not locate the main ridge and hence had to establish a staging camp near the snout adjacent to a big glacial lake. On 16 October, they thus managed to establish Camp 2 at the bottom of a buttress in bad weather. Later it was discovered that the camp site was located in an avalanche-prone area. The camp was occupied on 17 October.
On 18 October, members fixed eight ropes, under heavy snowfall and poor visibility, to negotiate the buttress and reached the bottom of the icefall which came down from the col. Loose rocks over the buttress made the going difficult and dangerous. Also there was always a fear of an avalanche triggering off from the icefall. Weather had further deteriorated and camp-site being at a risky place, they moved down to the staging camp. Camp 2 was once again occupied the next day, as snowfall had thinned down.
On 20 October, in heavy snowfall six ropes were fixed in the icefall, while the support party ferried loads to Camp 2. On 21 October, the team fixed another five ropes to reach the col. As they gained height, they faced strong winds which made their going slow. The team had gone with the aim of establishing Camp 3 on the col, but due to strong winds they had to come back to the icefall and spend the night in a bivouac. The party moved ahead to establish Camp 3 on 22 October. By 1200 hrs they descended approximately 200 m on the glacier, rolling down from the col towards north and established Camp 3 (summit camp).
At 0300 hrs on 23 October, five members, roped, set out for the summit following the north spur which finally joins the northeast ridge. Initially the weather was very clear, but by 0730 hrs, howling winds started. It was a steep climb to the ridge. The team mustered courage and slowly inched their way up. By 0900 hrs, they were on the northeast ridge. Following the northeast ridge, they reached the summit of Nyegi Kangsang at 1115 hrs. It was the time for dual celebration. Firstly, because we had achieved our aim and secondly 23 October was Diwali day (Hindu new year). On the summit the national tricolour was planted and the summitters offered their prayers and also made some personal offerings. They spent fifteen minutes on the summit photographing and having a spectacular view of many other peaks below them. Bright sunshine in Tibet and clouded valleys in India surprised them. The view from the peak was unforgettable. They returned to the last camp by 1530 hrs.
Further attempts on the peak had to be abandoned due to further deterioration of the weather. By 30 October all camps were closed and we gathered at Sarli. By 12 November we were back in Delhi.
|13 September (Departure)
||Ziro/Hapoli (Arunachal Pradesh) Primary Road Head
(Starting point of trek)
||Advance base camp
||Climbed Nyegi Kangsang7050 m
Colonel M. P. Yadav, (leader). Squadron Leader A. K. Singh (deputy leader). Major V. S. Joslii (medical officer). Rattan Singh Chauhan, Rajiv Shanna, Ranveer Singh Negi, Lopsang, Nadre Sherpa, Jagmohan Singh Bhumi Dev Slianna and Milli Rai (from Arunanchal Pradesh).
First ascent of Nyegi Kangsang (7050 m) in Arunachal Pradesh. Peak was climbed on 23 October 1995.
Nyegi Kangsang, Arunachal Pradesh. Peak 6425 m and Chomo (6878 m) to its left. (Col. M. P. Yadav)
Summit ridge of Nyegi Kangsang. (Col.M.P. Yadav)
Looking northeast from the summit ridge of Nyegi Kangsang. Tibet on left and Kameng valley on right.