7. PHAWARARANG, 1997





Climbing in Northeast Nepal


DURING SEPTEMBER 1998 Roger Mear and myself set out to climb the Tang Kongma and south rib of Drohmo. We arrived at the yak pasture of Lhonak (4800 m) on 19 September after a short two-day walk in from the helipad at Ghunsa. We were accompanied by yaks and porters, carrying 23 loads and our three old friends, Shera Zangbu, Nawang Kasang and Janak Tamang, to help out at base camp and up to the foot of our mountain. They had walked in from the road head at Basantapur.

On 22 September we scrambled up the grass and scree to Pt. 6019 (as indicated on the Swiss Janak Himal map) from where we had useful views of Tang Kongma (6215 m) west ridge and a possible way up the mountain. On 25 September, accompanied by Shera Zangbu and Nawang Kasang, we established 'Rock Camp' (5200), situated in a little grassy hollow below a 40 m vertical rock face that can be seen from half-way down the Lhonak — Pang Pema path. It is just left of the central glacier moraine on the south side of Drohmo. The day after, the four of us set off from Rock Camp at 6.00 am for the NE ridge of Tang Kongma, as that route would give us good views of Drohmo.

We traversed around the intervening spur to the glacier valley draining the east side of Tang Kongma. After some difficulties descending the steep and loose valley side we gained the boulder strewn valley floor. After half an hour's walk we put on crampons and ascended the east glacier of Tang Kongma. We roped up on meeting deep fresh snow where the glacier levelled out and zigzagged around crevasses to reach the base of the NE ridge at the col overlooking Broken Glacier to the north. The snow on the ridge was stable and we made good progress on two ropes. Roger and myself climbed up the crest of the ridge and our two Sherpa friends climbed up a subsidiary crest 100 m left. We came together after 3 hours at a 6 metre ice step where we took a belay. Roger lead up to belay on an ice stake which we left for the return. By 1.00 p.m. we joined Shera and Nawang on the rocky summit where they had already built three large cairns. There was no sign of any one else having been here, although we knew that the Swiss had made the first ascent via the NE ridge in 1949. We descended the same way facing out making good time to arrive back at Rock Camp 12 hours after setting off.

Rain and snow continuously fell from 27 September to 2 October but that gave us a well-needed rest and time to savour our first climb. We walked up to Rock Camp on 1 October taking in a diversion to Pang Pema to check out the progress of a British (Nottingham) Kangchenjunga expedition.

On 3 October, with the help of Shera and Nawang, we established ourselves at the head of the south glacier at a point below the steep snow slopes leading up to the south rib of Drohmo. The next day, with low cloud and snow flurries blowing around, Roger and I decided to fix our four ropes up the deep avalanche-prone snow to the base of the rib. I had been here 6 months before with Lindsay Griffin and Skip Novak : unfortunately all the various factors necessary for a good climb were not in place - fitness, experience and weather - so it did not happen, but now everything was right.

On 5 October we began our climb ascending the ropes and taking the last two with us for what we hoped would be a four day push to the top. As there were only two of us, the food, fuel, cooking gear, rock and ice climbing equipment and the MacIntyre bivouac tent weighed-in heavy and so did the commitment, - to this prominent and elegant feature of the mountain.

Roger scrambled up over loose mixed ground and disappeared over to the left of the ridge line. Two hours later all the rope was out. Muffled shouts indicated I should move up to his traverse line at which point we had an altercation. I had expected to more or less go directly up a line of weakness on the crest of the buttress and not crossing three steep ribs with soft snow gullies in between plunging down to the glacier, now a thousand feet below. Roger brought the ensuing long range debate neatly to a close by suggesting that we should perhaps give up the climb! With that I, shouldered my rucksack and set off to traverse the 60m of atrocious snow and to connect again with Roger. My beaming partner was well pleased with himself for having lead such a difficult pitch. He was also pleased, as was I, that the climb could now continue. We both really needed this one. Already I was finding the hard pitch had stretched my mind and body, dusting away the cobwebs that had accumulated - it having been sometime since I had climbed hard pitches in the Himalaya.

The next three pitches went more or less straight up over steep red and rough granite (V) and into snow gullies (1V). The last pitch of the day brought me to a ledge and snow cone suitable for digging out a tent platform (6207m). Roger came up in the gloom as the Everest Group 75 miles away was bathed in orange light.

That next frosty morning under a cloudless sky we set off up the buttress climbing more snowed up rock to a belay point from where we could traverse right for 80 metres and a belay on loose blocks. The sun was now shining in over Tent Peak right onto our route making the next two pitches of snow covered steep ice (IV) a worrying lead for Roger. Eventually I lead on angling up left back to the crest of the buttress, placing tape runners on flakes of granite poking up out of the snow and ice. We were now above the prominent rock bands that are an obvious feature of the lower third of our route.

Roger lead the next four pitches up the snow arete to the left of the great overhung bulge of ice we dubbed 'the cauliflower'. Sound belays were hard to find under all the monsoon snow. It usually entailed considerable digging to find rock or good ice. We had intended to sleep on the gentle slopes above 'the cauliflower' but after a 20 metre probe Roger returned as the sun sank down beyond Everest and as the full moon came up over Kangchenjunga, we settled into our tent for the night pitched inside an icy grotto.

Another bright and frosty morning helped us make good progress up the steep snow arete, up a vertical and difficult band of rock (V) and then by midday walking over the top of the 'cauliflower' to the base of the right hand of two summit snow and ice ribs. The sun was blasting down inducing lethargy so we put the tent up and took the early afternoon off work in favour of a brew and a snooze. Thus refreshed we fixed our two ropes up steep ice and rock steps before descending to our third bivouac.

On 8 October we left our tent and set off up the ropes with light sacks. It was such a relief to be so liberated from the burden and to make good time up the ropes now with the end of our route in sight. There is usually a sting in the tail and here it was mushy snow and more dubious belays. The last two pitches were unprotected apart from me sitting in huge bucket steps dug out of the arete. Even after digging down 2 m the ice axes just disappeared into the unconsolidated snow. The snow was particularly soft on the west side of our rib and for some reason, never as pleasant as the NE ridge of Tang Kongma. At 2.30 p.m. I joined Roger at the top of the south rib of Drohmo. We were now on the long summit ridge of the mountain where clouds had been gathering, blown up by strong southerly winds. To the north we caught glimpses of the rounded peaks below Jannak and the Tibetan plateau beyond. The chances of climbing Drohmo from the north looked bleak, if not impossible, as so much soft snow lay above overhung ice cliffs.

We climbed up and along the summit ridge to the west and called it a day at 3.00 p.m. on top of a corniced peak overhanging the north face. We registered 6855 m on the altimeter. According to the latest map of Nepal produced by the Finns last year, the highest summit of Drohmo is at least half a mile away and at 6881 m, 26 m higher than where we were. Although we could not see it through the cloud we must assume it to be a fact, as the latest calculations should be the most trustworthy. We were well satisfied with the 28 pitches we had climbed from the glacier up the south pillar of our mountain. We climbed down and abseiled back to our last bivouac and next day reached the glacier after a total of 25 abseils. Nawang and Shera came up next day to share our obvious delight and to help us remove our two fixed ropes and the glacier camp down to base camp.

Roger, fit and faster from two months guiding in the Alps, and more youthful than I, had led the majority of the route. To compensate I had carried a bit more and took on the chores of cooking; but still I wish now I had led my share of the climb, I also feel uneasy that we had fixed those first four pitches taking away a little of the commitment. These are just personal regrets that every climber must have when he does not lead when he could and fixes rope when his courage fails him. Still the overall impressions of being up there with Roger remain good ones.

It was not a big thing in itself to spend those four days checking out a way up the south rib of Drohmo, to put the rest of life to one side, to engage rock and ice and a lot of monsoon snow, carried along by that urge for clarity that comes from total (near) commitment to this simple self-imposed task taking every pitch as it came not knowing how, but finding a way and a sense of well-being after each difficulty was passed. So it had done the trick, lifted my spirits as it always does when on a new route with just one or two other good friends and where the outcome remains uncertain to the end.

Summary : Climbs in the northeast Nepal by a two member British team in 1998. Two peaks were climbed; Tang Kongma (6215 m) on 26 September and Drohmo (6855 m) on 8 October.

Panorama G



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LHOTSE AND EVEREST are situated at the end of the Khumbu valley; the two peaks are separated by the well known South Col, 8000 m. Routes to Lhotse and Everest are the same until about 7800 m, high up the west face of Lhotse.

Our small expedition established base camp at 5350 m and the next camp at 6500 m was our only high altitude camp. Situated in between both our camps were the famous Icefall and the Western Cwm.

We crossed the Icefall - that immense ice labyrinth - ten times, up and down, on a winding track between huge seracs. Alert at each step, listening carefully to the slightest noise, an eye fixed upon those overhanging ice towers. Indeed, one day a huge such tower came down only 10 m from our route: a narrow escape.

From our high altitude camp the west face of Lhotse rose 2000 m straight to the summit, mainly bare ice. We equipped ourselves with fixed ropes until the South Col. Climbing on bare ice requires additional effort and concentration.

A long, steep gully and a ridge gave access to the summit of Lhotse, 500 m above the South Col.


Our group arrived from Kathmandu in Lukla, by a small airplane. After five days of walking through the beautiful Khumbu valley, and blessed by bright weather, we established base camp at 5350 m on 19 April. Twelve yaks carried our loads until the camp.

After some quiet days in base camp, for acclimatisation we established our high altitude camp on 24 April, supplied with gas, food and climbing gear. Descent to base camp was on the same day.

On 29 April we were back in the high altitude camp. The next day we climbed the west face of Lhotse up to 7400 m. After a second night at 6500 m, in our high altitude camp, we returned to the base.

On 5th and 6th May we undertook our first attempt to reach the summit. But the heat during day-time was exhausting and we abandoned our attempt. After a few hours, rest in a Spanish tent at 7400 m we returned to base camp.

Everest base camp

In spring 1998 some 13 expeditions, totalling about 150 persons, were present in base camp. These commercial expeditions had the usual 'ammunition', with a lot of Sherpas and a lot of oxygen.

The Sherpas worked very hard, daily carrying heavy loads through the Icefall to establish well equipped camps at higher altitudes. They also played a major role in equipping the route through the Icefall with fixed ropes and ladders in order to facilitate the crossing of crevasses. Notwithstanding all that work and the availability of substantial financial means, the spring 1998 success rate on both summits was low. That might have been the result of the prevailing bad weather.

On an average, expeditions stayed two months in base camp. Our alpine-style expedition stayed only one month in base camp, where it was the last to arrive yet the first to reach the summit.

A full week of storm

Two Sherpas belonging to an American expedition stayed at 6500 m in their Camp 2, established next to our high altitude camp. On 10 May they informed base camp that the storm had destroyed all tents. Fortunately, the Sherpas themselves were unhurt.

We worried about the equipment kept in our high altitude camp. If such equipment was lost we would be left with just enough to equip only one climber.

Finally, on 12 May we could reach our high altitude camp and assess the material damage. Our tents were destroyed, but we managed to raise one shelter by using the remains of two tents. Luckily we were able to dig out most of our equipment. In order to protect our only tent against the wind we had to build a wall of big, solid blocks of snow.

The summit: 17 May, 11.30 a.m.

On 16 May Pierre-Alain Sierro, Christophe Berclaz and I left base camp at 5.30 a.m. Four hours later we reached our high altitude camp at 6500 m where we rested for eight hours, protecting our tent against the heat by putting our sleeping bags on top of it. Indeed, at the end of the Western Cwm the temperature during the day-time can rise far above 30 degrees centigrade.

Being three in one tent, our rest was certainly not optimum; to which situation our 'summit-excitement' also contributed. After having drunk as much liquid as possible and eaten a little we left our camp at 6.30 p.m. bound for adventure.

As Pierre-Alain was not feeling too well I advised him to stay in the tent. It was sad; two weeks ago he was in great shape, the first to reach 7400 m, happy to discover the fabulous surroundings of the Western Cwm. He tried; but soon had to abandon further progress. He reluctantly descended during the night to base camp groping his way through the Icefall, greatly disappointed.

Christophe climbed in a regular rhythm. But at about 7400 m his feet started getting numb; he struggled, tried for two hours to warm his feet, then continued to climb; but at 7700 m his feet started freezing again. He too had to abandon the attempt to reach Camp 3 of some other team, as soon as possible. In case of frost-bite time is of essence. By taking care, Christophe's feet were back to normal three days later.

The Basque climber Iniaki Ochoa attempted the summit of Lhotse the same day as our group. On 17 May, he and I were at about 8000 m at 4.00 a.m., having climbed all night, like robots, concentrating on our task, taking a little sip to drink and a small piece of chocolate from time to time.

At dawn we progressed through the 500 m high gully leading to the summit ridge. Iniaki did a great job finding the route. Then it was my turn to go ahead. The summit came nearer and nearer, and not much doubt was left about our success. But we moved very slowly.

All at once Iniaki shouted something to me, but I could not understand what he said. Total surprise: so near the summit and Iniaki abandoned the climb. The next day, far down, Iniaki gave me the explanation: he suddenly got nearly blind; but he did not want me to know what was going on for fear that I would stop, too. His descent was a courageous one. He could only vaguely distinguish the mountain, and he had frost-bitten feet; but he reached the safety of a camp after superhuman effort.

At 11.30 a.m. I reached the summit; motivation pushed me beyond my physical strength. I sat down for a little rest and . fell asleep. I woke up with a shock; realising that falling asleep at such altitude could be fatal.

Late afternoon I reached our high altitude camp. Man Am Rham climbed towards me and gave me a hot drink at the foot of the Lhotse face: a moment of intense happiness !

The next day we packed the tent and equipment and left for base camp. I climbed my seventh 8000 m peak from base camp, within the next 30 hours, which included the 9 hours of rest and the preparation in our camp at 6500 m.

Members : André George (leader), Pierre-Alain Sierro, and Christophe Berclaz.

Summary : Ascent of Lhotse (8511 m) by Swiss climber André Georges on 17 May 1998.



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Maj. M. N. R. PAWAR

TINGCHEN KHANG (6010 m) lies on the west side of the Prek Chu stream which in turn bubbles forth from the Onglathang glacier originating from the Gocha La pass in western Sikkim. To the uninitiated, the general appearance of the peak seems to be fairly inoffensive from the base camp at Thangsing. It gently rises along its west ridge, the steepness only increasing towards its summit. But this apparent benignancy is shattered the moment one starts climbing it. Nima Tashi, an experienced mountaineering instructor of the HMI and leader of an earlier failed attempt at the peak called it 'a formidable peak, a challenge even for the most experienced climber'. The most obvious west ridge route is thoroughly broken up by transverse chasms and huge boulders and is impassable. The northern side of the ridge is a sheer precipice followed by an extensive icefall with its attendant crevasses till the base of Pandim further north. The southwestern ridge likewise is unscaleable. Little is known of the eastern approaches which in any case, present great logistical difficulties. The south face of the northwestern ridge, though rocky and steep, is the only place where a route can be attempted. Even here, on attaining the top of the ridge line, one is faced at 5780 m with an awesome ice wall with hanging glaciers some 100 m high and almost a kilometre long guarding the summit. Once this major hurdle is overcome, the deceptive slope to the summit reveals itself to be highly broken up by immense crevasses. The summit itself is a cornice which has to be trod upon warily.

Thus, it is not surprising that in spite of its easy proximity and moderate height, the peak had remained unconquered despite several determined attempts having been made on it.


By 25 April the entire team congregated at the roadhead Yuksum. It was a vastly different Yuksum than the sleepy hamlet that I had bid farewell to barely four years ago at the conclusion of my last expedition to Kokthang. Now a posh three star hotel had came up and the place was chock-a-block with tourists. At Yuksum preparations for managing the enormous amount of stores into Yak and porter loads was already well advanced under the able guidance of Sub Kishor Rajak, an old war-horse, who had cheerfully given up the chance to scale the peak in order to provide an impeccable logistical support to the expedition. He was backed up by the combined efforts of twelve support members and the climbing team itself.

Base Camp

Taking cognisance of the fact that our British team members may require an extra measure of acclimatisation, I sent them off to Dzongri (4020 m) and back on a day's excursion from Bakhim on the 30th. I, along with the rest of the team members, moved up straight to Thangsing (3900 m) in a six and a half hour trek. There, on a beautiful flat pasture by the side of the gurgling Prek Chu and under the gaze of our objective, Tingchen Khang, we set up our tents which were to be our home for the next two weeks. The route to Thangsing passed through rhododendron forests which displayed myriad colours and the ethereal beauty of the surroundings was further enhanced by the occasional sightings of Monal and Blood Pheasants and of Snow Cocks and Snow Partridges in the upper reaches.

On 1 May, I, along with Sherpa Ram Rai and the team members reconnoitered possible sites for Camp 1. The site at 4570 m, chosen by the earlier expedition after following a stream east, on a col abutting the west ridge, was found to be adequate this time too and we returned to base camp after dumping a few tents and rations. Load ferrying started in earnest from 2 May onwards with all the team members including myself and the British carrying heavy loads. This toughened us up further and acclimatised us properly to face the rigours ahead. Simultaneously, efforts at route opening beyond Camp 1 continued apace. Owing to the difficult terrain with steep rock faces guarding the ridge line at the top, progress was exasperatingly slow. The most obvious route along the ridge line itself was soon given up owing to its extremely broken nature. A brief helicopter reconnaissance carried out on 4 May confirmed the impossibility of this route Further, it brought to light the fact that there were gaping crevasses in the higher reaches of the peak where we were expecting smooth snowfields based on examination of earlier photographs taken from base camp.

Finally, the team occupied Camp 1 on 5 May to be greeted there by the happy news that selected members of my team including Ram Rai had finally pierced a way through the steep rock flank of the northwest ridge to a small snowfield on the ridge itself. Though surrounded by crevasses on all sides, it gave us sufficient space to set up a few tents. A major obstacle which had thwarted earlier expeditions had been overcome.

6 May saw the weather suddenly turn morose with heavy snowfall and I took the opportunity to call it a much needed rest day. However, Nima Tashi, who had come up a day earlier, decided to check the route which had been opened and which had proved to be his nemesis during his earlier expedition. It met with his expectations and he congratulated us on a job well done.

On the 7th I and all the climbers, went up to the site of Camp 2 at about 5490 m with heavy loads. The route took us some three hours of back breaking labour and jumaring. Some ropes were fixed anew and loose pitons were hammered in. At Camp 2, I came face to face with our biggest obstacle, the ice wall at 5790 m in the form of a glacier hanging at an impossible angle, firmly blocking the approaches to the summit. However, closer observation through the swirling mist revealed a chink in this seemingly unscaleable fortress. A path, with grit and determination, could possibly be snaked up the Pinnacle - a spur of rock on the ridge jutting out like a tiger claw, which had been dismissed as too dangerous.

The 8th saw us set up Camp 2 and I planned out the strategy for the final assault. I selected four climbers of each nationality and accordingly, Lnk Roshan Sundas, Rfn Pradeep Tamang, Rfn Rohit Gurung, Capt. Ian Craddock, SSgt Grant Seaton, Sgt Mark James, Sgt Danniel White, a two Sherpas Ram Rai and Sonam Lepcha and I moved into Camp 2. Capt. Nick Copcutt, one of the most enthusiastic and indefatigable of the British team, developed altitude sickness and had to remain at Camp 1.

On the 9th we set off on the route already chalked out in our minds the previous day and after some manoeuvring to dodge the several crevasses which we encountered immediately after Camp 2, we reached the base of the Pinnacle in approximately three hours. My earlier apprehension of a bergschrund blocking the path proved to be unfounded and now followed the task of fixing ropes on the sheer rock and ice face. The beautiful sunny weather of the morning gave way to a howling blizzard and snow and ice from the higher reaches started showering upon us constantly. After being strung up on a rope over a near vertical rock and ice face for some two hours, I gave orders to withdraw for the day. We had by no means overcome the Pinnacle yet and the feasibility of the route beyond also remained foggy. But thought we'd see about that on the morrow.

The Summit Assault

10 May again dawned bright and clear and watching the amphitheatre of mountains around us, I felt their stern eyes on us puny men. But they seemed to wish us well and we set off. This time there were eight of us four Indians, two British and two Sherpas. The vertical face of the Pinnacle was again besieged and it took us a good six hours to breach its defences. In the process, Sgt Danniel White suffered a fracture in the ball of his thumb when a piece of falling ice hit him but he bravely carried on. Further, apart from the unexpected expenditure of time, we suffered another hiccup when we came upon an impassable crevasse at the top of the Pinnacle where it joined the col leading to the summit. Nothing could be done but to retrace our steps and try another route to the right. Luckily, this time we broke clear and found the summit, which till now was mostly hidden from view, enticingly near. The route to the summit was now clear although it took us another three hours of some steep snow and ice climbing as well as the crevasse jumping. Now another problem presented itself. We had a limited number of snow stakes and anticipating this, I had called up from base camp some twenty wooden sections of branches to improvise as snow stakes for fixing ropes. Now, in the upper reaches of the peak, we ran out of even these makeshift stakes and as a last desperate measure, with the summit tantalisingly near and the weather rapidly turning ugly, I ordered our ice axes to be affixed on the snow. Six of them were thus used, the last one on the summit itself, where the vagaries of the mountain weather and movement permitting, it will be found by some future expedition. The summit, which was a cornice, was climbed at 1335 hrs and a great feeling of pride and happiness flooded us all at having been where no man had ever trod before. Yet, for me it was tinged with sadness too - yet another magnificent edifice of nature had fallen to Man's ambition and efforts.

Soon a raging blizzard engulfed us and visibility came down to almost zero. It was a difficult march back to Camp 2. Some men who had removed their snow goggles to see better in the murky light suffered snow blindness and had to be confined to darkness for days afterwards. Two men narrowly missed being hit by lightning - so narrowly that they had felt their skins tingle with electrical charge. Some others took wrong turns in trying to locate fixed lines buried in the snow. However, all of us reached Camp 2 safely by 1600 hrs.

The weather unfortunately stayed uniformly bad the next day and keeping in mind the interest of safety of the team, I called off the expedition. A lot of equipment beyond Camp 2 could not be retrieved and had to be abandoned on the mountain face. We returned to the roadhead Yuksum by 16 May 1998.

Summary : The first ascent of Tingchen Khang (6010 m) in Sikkim, by Indo-British Territorial Army team. Summit was reached on 10 May 1998.

Members : Maj. M. N. R. Pawar (leader), N/Sub Tilak Khati, Lnk Roshan Sundas, Rfn Nagendra Rai, Lnk Nirmal Rai, Rfn Pradeep Tamang, Rfn Raj Kumar Tamang, Rfn Rohit Gurung, Capt. Ian Craddock, Capt. Nick Copcutt, SSGT Grant Seaton, SGT Mathew Collins, SGT Danniel White and SGT Mark James.



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IN THE TEAM were: Reinier Zuidhoff (leader), Hans Van Der Meulen, Wilco Van Rooijen, Cas Van De Gevel, Thierry Schmitter (France), Marko Prezelj (Slovenia).

Our plan was to climb new route on the S face (Prezelj - Schmitter) and repeat one of the established routes on the S face. We wanted to act independently from the base camp. We reached Kathmandu on 29 March. Just before our arrival the weather was bad and the mountains were covered with lot of new snow. The road from Zangmu to Nyalam was blocked at several places due to avalanches.

On 8 April we reached Nyalam, starting point for three to four day trek to base camp for S face of Shisha Pangma. On 9 April we went ahead with local yakmen to check the conditions in the approach valley. After two hour's walk there was half to one metre snow on the trek. They found it impossible for the yaks to leave Nyalam. After asking for porters, the Chinese LO told us that we should pay 1000 juan insurance for each porter. That was not acceptable to us and they offered us the transportation to the north side of the mountain where normal route goes. With Thierry we decided to act as 'alpine' as possible. It was not accurate exchange for the S face because we had no information about the N side and we were first to reach the BC, on 16 April.

After fast acclimatisation on the east ridge from the glacier up to 6500 m, we decided to climb the first mountain on the west side of Shisha Pangma. On 20 April we came over the glacier under the E face of Porong Ri. We slept in the tent and left it in the morning of the 21st to climb the face. In six hours we climbed a route on the E face to the NE ridge, which we continued last 150 m to the E summit of Porong Ri. I reached the summit (7300 m) in very strong wind and Thierry turned back 50 m below the summit. We descended over NE ridge where we found some fixed ropes all the way to the tent and futher to BC the same day.

The 1000 m high route was icy in character with one short rock section. In the upper part was a lot of hard ice (not so steep - up to 60 degrees) covered with dry snow. We think that the difficulty of the route is around the Austrian route in Les Courtes.

After six days of rest in unstabile weather with strong winds, on 28 April we left BC for the next climb. This time we had little more ambitious plan: climb to the 7332 m high summit (without name) in the foreground of Shisha Pangma and continue up to the summit of Shisha Pangma. We started at six in the morning from BC and after 13 hours we put up tent at around 7000 m on the ridge. The whole day there were strong winds with snowdrifts. On the first part of the route there was one section with powder snow no steep rocks, the rest was not so difficult - mostly snow and ice with short mixed sections. But it was more difficult than we had expected because of powder snow on ice and rocks and constant wind.

On 29 April we continued the climb over N ridge to the summit (7332 m) which we reached in strong winds at two o'clock in the afternoon. We descended to the other side on the big plateau (7100 m) from where normal route to Shisha Pangma goes. We put up a tent and decided to take one day's rest to dry our clothes for fast ascent over normal route to Shisha Pangma the day after (the north face looked too icy with dry snow on it).

The rest day was really nice with almost no wind and clouds so we expected similar weather the next day. But the night was very windy and at six o'clock in the morning it began to snow heavily - we snow at 7100 m. That forced us down the normal route because we were afraid of too deep snow on normal route which we didn't know about. At the beginning it really looked like that there will be a plenty of snowfall in short time, but after two hours it stoped to snow and at 11 o'clock the sky was quite clear. By then we were already at Camp 1, so we continued to BC.

That was end of my activities on the mountains. After reaching BC I caught cold with high temperature. Medicines made me so weak that I had no energy and motivation for normal (ski) route attempt.

On 6 May Reinier and Hans reached central summit with one Spaniard and two South Tyroleans in perfect weather. The weather was quite bad most of the time during my stay in BC. We (Hans, Reinier and myself) left BC on 13 May. Wilco, Cas and Thierry stayed there for one more attempt on normal route. As I was informed by Thierry they all reached the summit and the weather was much better in the second part of May, and also most of the members from many other expeditions also reached the summit.

I think that we made good of our 'alpine' approach to the mountains around Shisha Pangma despite that fact that we didn't reach the summit of this 'siege mountain' in our first alpine push.

We were the only team to do something else than normal route from the crowd of more than 100 'climbers' in BC of Shisha Pangma this season. When we were talking with some 'conquerors' they were surprised that we had no strong wish for the summit itself Some of them even didn't know that there were some other mountains than Shisha Pangma around! For me this was a complete new experience and I think that normal route to Shisha Pangma is totally commercialised as you can even buy whole camps from the expeditions which are leaving base camp.

Summary : Ascents around Shisha Pangma by an European expedition in April-May 1998.



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THE ROOF OF OUR MESS TENT split during a huge thunderstorm on our first night out on the trail, luckily we were able to find a tailor to repair it in Dhoban. Our porters went on strike, demanding more money in Dhoban. We refused to pay more and had to hire more porters in Mitlung. In Kyap la our liaison officer had enough walking and elected to return to Kathmandu; we were not really sorry to see him go. In Ghunsa, all porters, except a few friends of our cook who travelled with us from Kathmandu, left and we were forced to spend a rest day in Ghunsa and hire local porters at double the low altitude rate. It was quite a relief to finally reach base camp !

The Climb

The team gradually made its way up the moutain, establishing fixed camps up to Camp 2, where we dug a snow cave, with temporary acclimatisation camps in between. Everyone chose their own pace for acclimatisation. Paul was unlucky enough to suffer pulmonary and cerebral oedema but was able to return to climb after recovering at lower altitude.

Once the Ice Building and Rock Band were fixed, Gary and Ginette made the first summit attempt in late April but were turned back by unstable snow just above the Rock Band. They made a temporary Camp 2 at 7100 m, but being unable to push on further they cached the tent, stove etc. at the top of the Rock Band before returning to base camp.

In early May Paul decided to go home early mainly because Kangchenjunga was more serious than he had anticipated. The remaining five climbed together on a second summit bid but were forced down at 7700 m by deep powder snow above the Rock Band. Temporary camps were pitched at 7400 m and 7600 m, the rate of ascent being so slow because of wading through thigh deep powder. At the top camp numerous slab avalanches hit the tents in the early hours of the morning, but after striking camp the team pressed on in the hope that snow conditions on the upper plateau would be better. We reached 7700 m with no improvement in snow conditions and elected to retreat, as it was unlikely that we would have enough energy to summit in those conditions. We returned to base camp for 5 day's rest.

On our final summit bid there was near disaster on returning from base camp to Camp 1 when we found that one of our tents was missing. After much searching we found it, still upright, down a crevasse about 400 m from camp. It appeared that it had been blown down the glacier by the wind blast created by a large avalanche in the Ice Building. The following night at Camp 2 there were numerous spindrift avalanches coming down the Rock Band and blocking the entrance to the cave. We had to get up and dig out three times in the night to avoid being snowed-in and suffocating. Above the Rock Band we made good progress pitching camps, alpine style at 7400 m and 7800 m as snow conditions were much improved after high winds had scoured the upper mountain.

On summit day we set off together between 4.30 and 5.00 a.m. Jonathan and Chris were in front, followed by Tim, with Gary and Ginette bringing up the rear. At 12.15 p.m. having reached a height of 8450 m Gary was exhausted and concerned that he would be unable to get down before nightfall if he continued. He turned around and Ginette continued on up meeting Jonathan just below the summit ridge; he had summitted at 12 noon. Chris and Tim reached the summit at 12.15 and 12.45 p.m. respectively and passed Ginette on the summit ridge. Ginette summitted alone at 2.20 p.m. Descent was exhausting but uneventful except that Ginette and Gary had to spend a night camped on the glacier only an hour from base camp when white-out conditions prevented them finding their way back ; at least it was only dahi bhaat for dinner !

There was just one other team on the north face of Kangchenjunga this season; a Japanese group of 10 climbers. Sadly two of their members died while descending from the summit and three suffered severe frostbite. We passed the bodies of the dead Japanese on the day we went for the summit, this was the first we knew of the tragedy as they were climbing a different route and we had no radio contact with their team.

Members : Gary Pfisterer, Ginette Harrison, Jonathan Pratt, Chris Shaw, Paul Malo and Tim Horvath.

Summary : An international expedition climbed Kangchenjunga via the north face on 18 May 1998.

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THREE MEMBERS left Kathmandu with one cook, one kitchen boy, two local kitchen boys, a liaison officer and 22 local porters in buses on 25 August. We went west towards the Terai heights and arrived at Surket on 26 August. On 27th, we went from Surket to Dailekh, a large town, where many people came and went, and streets were clean. Past Dailekh, we went into the quiet mountains. The route bifurcates from Nagma. One branch goes towards the Tila river and the other towards the Sinja khola. We took the latter. In this beautiful valley, houses have Tibetan style flat roofs, which revealed that the Hindu culture blended into the Tibetan. At the Sinja khola, the trekking routes between Jumla and the Rara river meet. We went over the Ghurchi pass (3488 m) and arrived at Gumgari on 5 September. From Gumgari, we descended along the Mugu Karnali river. Going over the Surkot pass (2480 m), we crossed the Humla Karnali river. We went over the steep Metha pass (3345 m), and on the 9th we started to follow the Humla Karnali river again.

We arrived at Simikot on the 10th.

On the 12th, ascending along the Humla Karnali river to Chungsa, we went to Khawa Lungba. Having passed Chala, the last village, we entered the Kairang khola. We established BC on the moraine at the of the North Saipal glacier (4200 m) the 14th.

The Mountain

We climbed along the right side of the North Saipal glacier on 17 September. On the way, we went into the central moraine of the glacier, and then set up C1 (A.B.C.) (5800 m). The Saipal North face is a wall like a folding screen with northeast and west ridges. Both ridges fall down to a col and into an icefall, and then continue to go towards the North Saipal glacier. On the 20th, we attempted to climb the left side of an icefall band running from the col situated below the west ridge and Firnkoph (6736 m), but changed our mind at about 5000 m, because of possibilities of avalanches and stonefall.

Saipal GL

Saipal GL

On the 28th, we went by the other route, towards the northeast ridge. Going through the icefall band, we reached a widespread plateau. To climb to the terminus of the northeast ridge, we went to the band again. The spur running from the ridge was very steep, thus we felt it might be difficult to climb it using our 8 mm fixed ropes. Moreover, this route was very long and we had only one tent with us. Therefore, we gave up that idea.

On the 29th, we started to climb the icefall band running from the col of the west ridge and Firnkoph. But this time, we climbed to the right of it. We managed to pass through the band. We stayed at C1. On the 4th, we climbed the icefall band again and went to a plateau above it. We established C2 (summit camp) on the col.

At 3 a.m. on the 5th, we started of for the summit. There was a strong wind from southwest. All three of us members, were climbing the west ridge, which was a steep ice wall, using ropes continuously. On the way, this ridge changed and became wide and gentle as far as the foot of the summit. We discussed how we ought to approach it's foot. We attempted to climb a rock band towards the summit, but were stuck at the end of the band, because both the southwest and west sides of it were sheer precipice. Because the wind was strong and it had taken us a long time, we had to return to C2. On the way one of us had a problem with vision, but all of us reached safely.

On the 6th, we took rest at C2. On the 7th, two of us started to climb at 3 a.m. The wind was strong. We could keep to the previous route and therefore climbed more rapidly. We had some difficulty at the point where we had returned but managed to find the route which continued to a knife-ridge running towards the summit. At 12.19 a.m. we reached the summit. On the summit, we enjoyed a splendid view of the mountains in western Nepal and Tibet, including remarkable Naimonani (7728 m). At 6 p.m. we reached C2.


On 10 October, we started from B.C. towards Simikot with five local porters. On the 12th, we arrived at Simikot. On the 13th and 14th, we flew to Nepalgunj by plane and on 15 th arrived at Kathmandu by bus.

Members : Nozawai Ayumi (leader), Iwazaki Hiroshi, and Furuya Tomoyuki.

Summary : An ascent of Saipal (7031 m) in west Nepal by a three member Japanese team on 7 October 1998.



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THE EXPEDITION consisted of seven Japanese members, two climbing-guides, two-kitchen staff and one helper. From the very beginning, our expedition was plagued by heavy rain day after day. The chances of our success were dependent upon the vagaries of the monsoon.

After a detour via Manali we arrived in Thangi (2766 m) on 31 August. Lambar, which was only 3 hours away from Thangi, became our camping ground on 2 September. The donkeys made trips twice back and forth on the same day. Two days after leaving Thangi we reached Shurtingting (3450 m), the wide open area where two streams meet, Tirung gad from Charang and another from Lalanti Dogri. A narrow path led to a small valley on our right, and thence to Charang.

Lalanti Dogri was up this valley. For donkeys' sake, our base camp was established at Zoni Dogri (4070 m). O. Miura and T. Tominaga found a stream near the side of Lalanti Dogri. However, even from its narrowest point, we could not have crossed it. We examined every possibility in detail, then re-scheduled the following day's manoeuvres from the base camp.

5 September

Two parties left for route finding : one along the ridge above our BC while another traced the small path to Lalanti Dogri. T. Tominaga, Y. Miyasaka and Nanak C. Soni sought a way to Camp 1 soon after dawn. It was perhaps the same route that the ITBP took in 1977. After receiving reports from the two parties, we chalked out a provisional route to Camp 1. The right bank of the small stream seemed the only way to Camp 1, with a detour up the middle shoulder-ridge between Lalanti Dogri and Zoni Dogri. We crossed a narrow gorge, and reached the stream where we could set up Camp 1 (4750 m). We had a look at the stream below us. It appeared to lead to a wide glacier moraine (5000 m-5400 m) which could provide us with a safe site (to be Camp 2 later).

7 September

O. Miura and Pasang Bodh stayed at Camp 1 which was established by the them. All day there was a light drizzle. T. Imai (leader) was forced to stay at BC because of a backache. The pain did not subside until the end of our expedition.

9 September

After many days a bright sky. Our working party intended to set up Camp 2 (5750 m) (to be Camp 3 later) on the col of the east ridge from Phawararang. The way to the peak now became very difficult. A massive, dominating wall faced the glacier moraine, which had to be tackled in order to get to the summit of Phawararang.

O. Miura and Pasang Bodh found weak points in the wall that led to the upper part of the ridge and to the ridge leading to the summit. The party finally reached a camp-site on the col after leaving lengths of fixed rope behind and then quickly surveyed the ground and returned to Camp 1. The other members ferried loads to a deposit point (5350 m) in the glacier moraine. The oldest member, M. Matsushima (63) also helped out.

11 September

After a day of rest we started on a nice and sunny day. O. Miura, T. Tominaga and Pasang Bodh formed the working team. The route to Camp 2 (to be 3 later) was roughly decided the previous day. The way between the moraine and the col was more dangerous than we expected. It was covered with innumerable loose rocks with sharp edges. This made us reconsider setting up Camp 2 before lifting the heavy stuff up on to the col. So what we did was to build Camp 2 on the glacier moraine (5350 m) and on the col we set up Camp 3 with only a small tent. The working team stayed that night at Camp 2 ready to attempt the peak on the following day.

12 September

Next stage began after the Camp 3. The working team reached the col early in the morning and then stopped on the way to a junction point (6000 m). On the moraine the walkie-talkie opened up a conversation between them and the working team on the junction peak. 'We are short of fixed ropes, pick up some from Camp 1, OK ? ', said O. Miura in a shallow voice. He was breathing heavily.

Camp 1: K. Oniki and Y. Miyasaka with small loads on their backs continued climbing by fixed rope to the col for acclimatisation. Taking maximum care through the dangerous route to Camp 3, the party reached the col almost at the same time as the working team returned to the tent. 'We made it', O. Miura said excitedly. He had been on the summit of Phawarang (6349 m) at 1530 hrs, with Pasang Bodh. It was unbelievable that we'd had success so soon ! The next summit team of three stayed at Camp 3 that night.

13 September

For a second attempt, M. Matsushima, K. Oniki, Y. Miyasaka and Nanak C. Soni left the moraine (Camp 2) at 6.30 in the morning. The sky was clear, a gentle breeze played around and the fair weather was likely to sustain itself all day long. On the col the two parties met and O. Miura decided to climb down as the first reporter of our success to the base camp. Shortly after O. Miura left for BC, the team of M. Matsushima, K. Oniki, Y. Miyasaka and Nanak C. Soni set out for another success supported by T. Tominaga. The route to the junction peak was covered by unsound rocks with sharp edges. Slowly they traced the snow-covered ridge that run towards the summit. By using crampons, they inched upwards. The snow ridge narrowed and the party finally took last few steps on the summit rock and achieved the second success at 1.50 p.m. The peak itself was a small rock only two or three square metres wide. About a hundred metres away from our peak there was another peak which looked almost the same height. The peaks were separated by a steep and deep gap in between them. After an hour's stay on the summit, the party carefully climbed down taking off the fixed ropes and pitons as they descended. Camp 3 was cleared and the site cleaned. All equipment was lowered to Camp 2 that day. ITBP'S small flag was found near the rock on the peak which meant our success had followed theirs.

Summary: Ascent of Phawrarang (6349 m) in the Tirung valley, Kinnaur by a Japanese expedition. The summit was reached on 12 and 13 September 1997.



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A hidden white peak in brown rocky mountains in the Rupshu


SINCE 1995, first ascents of several peaks in the Rupshu, Ladakh have been made. The highest peak of this area, Lungsar Kangri (6666 m) was climbed in the summer of 1995 by an Indian team led by Harish Kapadia1. It also climbed Lapgo (6405 m) (first ascent) and Chamser Khangri (6622 m) (second ascent). In the same year, the Ashikaga Institute of Technology Alpine Club of Japan climbed an unnamed peak which was located west of Tso Moriri and named it Sara Shuwa (6238 m)2,3. I was the leader of the party. Unnamed peak (c.6000 m) west of Tso Moriri Lake was climbed by a Swiss team (Guy Ducrey)4.

In 1996, Chhamer Kangri was climbed by three Indian parties : One from West Bengal (Ms.Purnina Sarein), Bengal Climbing Club (Ranatosh Majundar) and I.P.C.L, Baroda (R. Z. Rana)5. A team from Baroda climbed Lungser Kangri (second ascent). The unnamed peak (c. 6279 m) which is located about 1 km north of Sara Shuwa was climbed (first ascent) by an Austrian party (Gertrude R. Olmuller)6.

In 1997, Chalung (Kula) (6546 m) (first ascent) was climbed by the Japanese Alpine Club-Tokai Branch, led by Tsuneo Suzuki7 and Pologongka (6632 m) (first ascent) was made by a British team (M. J. Ratty)8. They tried to climb Chakula (6529 m) which is located north of Mahe bridge Check Post but did not reach the summit. The Italians (Arturo Bergamaschi) made the second ascent of Sara Shuwa by a route different from the Japanese one9.

On 12 August 1998, the Yamagata University Kobold Alpine Club of Japan (Eiji Kamei) climbed Mentok I (6340 m) located southwest of Tso Moriri. These mountains were explored by an Indian party in 1984 and 1993. They climbed Mentok II (6172 m) (first ascent). Their excellent articles in the Himalayan Journal10,11,12 paved the way for other climbers to follow.

South East Ladakh Rupshu

South East Ladakh Rupshu

In 1987, the unnamed peak (6428 m) far southeast of Tso Moriri and near Chumar was climbed by Indian Tibet Border Police party (P. K. Dhasmana)13.

Even though several parties climbed in the Rupshu as described above there are still many virgin peaks there. Based upon the reports of the climbing and surveying done by these parties more geographical information was collected and my sketch map revised.

Our Chukyo Alpine Club (CAC) was founded about 60 years ago in Nagoya in the central Japan. For one of the memorial events of its 60th anniversary celebrations, an Indian Himalayan mountaineering expedition was organised by its veteran climbers including founders of the CAC. Motto of the CAC is 'Exploring the unknown as pioneers. So the CAC decided to climb a virgin peak in the Rupshu. Besides, the area is such that even the aged members can easily reach till base camp, driving vehicles upto the foot of the peaks.

Reconnaissance of Pologongka Pass (4940 m) area was carried out in the end of December 1997 and a climbing route found. As the result of survey, the CAC decided to climb Thugje from its south side. However, the party could not see the highest point of Thugje. Thugje is certainly a hidden peak in the Rupshu. In the summer of 1998, the CAC party made the first ascent of Thugje (6148 m) on 14 and 15 August. Thugje is located northwest of Tso Moriri. The party comprised 11 Japanese climbing members whose average age was 58 years. The base camp (4600 m) was established on 8 August 1998 on the right bank of a small stream, Pologongka Phu, about 5 km west of Pologongka Pass. All luggage and food was transported by vehicles up to the base camp from New Delhi via Leh, Upshi, Chumathang, Mahe and Sumdo with the support of a travel agent.

Reconnaissance of the route to Camp 1 (5400 m) was carried out via the southern slope of the main ridge and Camp 1 was established at 5400 m. Camp 1 was on a moraine on the main ridge and there was a small stream nearby. From the base camp to Camp 1 took about four hours without luggage. All luggage and food were ferried up by some members, 2 high altitude supporters, 2 ponies and 2 local porters.

From Camp 1, the climbing route to the main ridge was taken via a huge 40-60 degree rock slope. On the final part of the route to the main ridge, an approx 100 m long rope was fixed on the snow slope. From the end of the fixed rope to the summit of Thugje the climbing route was of a snow and rock ridge. Fortunately, the summit ridge was not so steep nor so long.

On 14 August, at 11:45 a.m., 6 Japanese, Akira Ito (58) (climbing leader), Masayuki Muto (57) (deputy leader), Katsumi Hishidda (60), Tsutomu Nomura (62), Norio Hamada (23) and Masato Oki(63) (leader), and 3 Indians, liaison officer Sorab Gandhi (45), climbing guide Arun Roy Chowdhury (29) and high altitude supporters, Lakhpa Sangey and Passang Tenzing reached the summit from Camp 1.

On 15th August, 4 Japanese, Genichi Ozaki (63), Soji Harada (66), Susumu Takeda (60) and Norio Hamada (second time), A. R. Chowdhury (second time) and 2 high altitude supporters climbed Thugje from Camp 1 by the same route. Akira Kajita (64) (general leader) and Haruo Tsuchiya (61) did not reach the summit due to illness.

On 18th August, all luggage was carried down from Camp 1 to the base camp. That morning some members reached a col (c.5800 m) on an unnamed peak (c.6000 m) on the east ridge of Thugje for a photography session.

During the 18 days of climbing, 10 other members enjoyed trekking around Leh, Tso Moriri (4300 m) and base camp.

Summary: Japanese Southeast Ladakh Expedition, 1998. The first ascent of Thugje (6148 m). The peak was climbed on 14 and 15 August 1998.

Period : From 26 July 1998 to 29 August 1998

Sponsored by : The Chukyo Alpine Club, Nagoya, Japan


  1. Kapadia Harish : Nangpas are Flying Changpas are Smiling, Climbing and Trekking in the Southeast Ladakh, H.J. Vol. 52, pp. 81-91, 1996
  2. Oki Masato : Sara Shuwa, H.J. Vol. 52, pp. 259-260, 1996
  3. Oki Masato: Sara Shuwa, Indian Mountaineer, No. 32, pp. 117-118, 1997
  4. Ducrey Guy : An Unnamed 5000 m Peak in Ladakh, Indian Mountaineer, No. 32, pp. 119-120, 1996
  5. Himalayan Club Newsletter, No. 50, p. 58, 1997
  6. Gertrude R.Olmuller:Himalayan Club Newsletter, p. 60, 1997
  7. Tsuneo Suzuki : The First Aseny of Kula, H.J. Vol. 54, pp. 233-237, 1998
  8. Michael John Ratty: Roadside Rupsh, H.J. Vol. 54, pp. 86-91, 1998
  9. Himalayan Club Newsletter, p. 51, p. 14, 1998
  10. Sabharwal Alka : Living in Rupshu, An Anthropological Sojourn, H.J. Vol. 52, pp. 82-101, 1996
  11. Romesh Bhattacharjee : In Remote Southeast Ladakh, H.J. Vol. 41, pp. 82-89, 1983-84
  12. Romesh Bhattacharjee : Back to Rupshu, H.J. Vol. 50, pp. 125-143, 1994
  13. P. K. Dhasmana : H.J. Vol. 45, p. 147, 1987-88.



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THIS IDEA WAS BORN during the New Year's party in the High Tatras, when I was drinking a noggins of rum with Vladimir. We started to think about a downhill race somewhere in the Himalaya. We thought that the best would be some mountain seven thousand metres high. First we wanted to choose the Karakoram in Pakistan, but then Jiri Novak (chairman of the Czech Mountaineering Federation) recommended to us Glacier Dome in the region of Annapurna, Nepal. We are very grateful for everything that Jiri has done for us during the preparation of this expedition.

After 18 months of hectic preparations, this expedition was almost cancelled, first owing to financial problems and then due to personal ones. Finally there were four of us left - V. Smrz, V. Prielozny, J. Peterek and me. Because I was the leader of this expedition, I travelled to Kathmandu with Jiri one week earlier than the rest. Jiri was a leader of another expedition - Annapurna IV.

The others came on 17 September. Then we finally moved to the mountains. We travelled by bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, where we had to meet with our liaison officer. Two days later we flew by a chartered flight to Jomsom. Here the liaison officer announced that he was not continuing with us.

On 21 September we started for base camp with our cook Dili and Sirdar Niru. We had also eight porters and eight mules. After three days we moved across the saddle Messokanto (5400 m) to the base camp (5000 m), which was set up on 23 September, close to a lake, with Tilicho lake nearby. Here we acclimatised because we had to carry down the stuff, which the mules had left 300 m above our camp. It made us do 4 km there and back with a load of 40 kg each per trip. Great job. It was also snowing on those days. Four days later everything was ready and we started to build up supplies to take to our mountain, which was 8 km away from the base camp.

On a foothill on its north side we set up Camp 1 (5600 m).

On 1 October we set up a second camp at 6300 m. The camp stood on a slope of 45°. Because the weather was getting worse in the afternoon and there were small avalanches we had to fasten our camp with ropes and hooks. Then we returned to the first camp. Josef was already waiting there. That night was misty and I went down in diffused light to the base camp. I reached there after eight hours. Two days later, the weather changed for the better. The higher camp didn't transmit much news to us. We got to know that the second camp was smashed by an avalanche and that climbers had kept going up. In the meantime Vladimir and I were preparing ourselves for the downhill race on the northeast side. On 5 October we packed up everything. The weather was perfect and our Nepali friends wished us good luck.

It was very hot on the glacier during the day. But there was nothing we could do about it. In the evening we cooked in the first camp. After a chilly night we went on skis across the glacier under a little saddle. Here began the northeast face. On the way we saw our friends going down to the first camp by the north side. Yesterday we could not understand their transmitting because of the condition of the battery, but now we saw that they were alive. That was the most important thing. Under the saddle we took off our skis and put them on our backpacks. With these backpacks, which now weighed over 20 kg, we started to climb up. The surface was icy. In the evening we pitched a tent. The altitude was 6200 m. In the morning the weather was beautiful. We climbed icy slopes, and went around ice towers to 6700 m. Here was our last bivouac. I didn't sleep that night. It was freezing and the wind was blowing and the canvas was flapping hard. The next morning we started for the summit. We took only our skis and the most essential stuff. Fifteen steps and then a break. On the way we were looking for a good surface for the downhill race. The summit was getting closer. Around noon we reached there. The weather was perfect; we congratulated each other, took pictures and one hour later we started downhill race. There was perhaps all kinds of snow. And the depth under us! On the way down we stopped on the last bivouac, packed up everything and then continued to the first camp. We didn't enjoy skiing as much as we wanted to, because our legs hurt a lot. We reached the first camp around 3 p.m. Here Lada was waiting for us. He made us some soup. It was 8 October and we were happy and gratified.

Lada spoke of their attempt on the summit. They had overcome a major part of the face but had not been successful. Josef was not feeling well and that's why he was relaxing in the base camp. Lada was getting ready for another attempt, which had to be done that night. He started at 5 a.m. and contacted us every two hours. The radio was an imaginary rope between him and us. We set our alarm-clock and went to sleep. Lada was doing well and at about 8 a.m. he reached the summit. He came down the way we had come. Five hours later he was back. He was tired but OK. After dinner he went to sleep. In the morning we packed up the first camp, and moved to an inter-camp. Then we went to the base camp. On the way we met Josef, who wanted to climb up alone. Lada didn't agree to that but I did. Thanks to this decision I later felt like an idiot.

At the base camp we met our Nepali friends. We celebrated our success with Balantines whisky. Over the mext two days we were very nervous. We were trying to keep track of Josef's attempt on the summit. He didn't contact us until the third day. It was 6 a.m. He had not been successful. The same day we met him in the intercamp. We didn't welcome him too cheerfully, but the main thing was, he was alive. Then we cleared up the inter-camp.

It was time to leave. I went with Sirdar to Manang to sell some left over food. We also left our first-aid box as a present to the local ambulance. On the way back we arranged some female porters, because the men were celebrating the feast of brothers and sisters. On 16 October we packed up the base camp. Through Manang, Pisang and Chame we went down to Basishare. It was a very nice track. Nature was so beautiful here. My knees, blisters and back hurt. From Basishar we took a bus to Kathmandu.

What else is there to say? I'm very surprised that everything happened the way we wanted it to. Even the money wasn't any problem after all.

Members : Robin Baum (leader), Vladimir Smrz, Lada Prielozny, Josef Peterek

Summary : Three Members of Czech team reached the summit of Glacier Dome (7202 m) on 8 October 1998. Two members descended the peak on skis (2200 m of height difference).

Photo 28



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Lt. Gen. (Retd.) R. V. KULKARNI1

THE HIMALAYA (admired for different reasons) have attracted people from every walk of life, for centuries gone by depending on the perceptions and interests.

For environmentalists and nature lovers, the Himalaya are nature's creation of awe inspiring beauty and grandeur. Each season reveals different panoramas, beyond the scope of imagination. The environmentalists look at every tresspass in the region, whether by adventure seekers or mountaineers, as an intrusion in the sublime environment. Garbage left behind by humans is obviously a matter of concern, causing slow decay and degeneration. Freebooters, soldiers and the like are indeed looked at with disdain, as destroyers of nature.

The Karakorams with the biggest cluster of first magnitude peaks and most heavily glaciated terrain outside the polar region are much more tempting, since they are inaccessible and forbidden in parts. Those fortunate who have explored and undertaken expeditions in this region would like to recount every day spent there, every peak and height climbed, every glacier traversed, every crevasse crossed, with feelings of agony and ectasy.


  1. Author commanded troops on the Siachcn glacier in 1986-88.


The Indian Army stands committed to active operations of high intensity in the most heavily glaciated terrain of the Siachen glacier and the Saltoro range which are the centre of focus in the Eastern Karakorams since 1984.

The Siachen war started on 13 April 1984 and four days later, the first Indian soldier died on the glacier. Today after almost 15 years it has been a very long cruel and expensive war. To date around 600 soldiers have died and at least 10,000 soldiers have either been wounded or have suffered environmental injuries, particularly due to high altitude. These figures are only of the Indian side.

Soldiers are posted in 108 posts located on heights from 4570 m to 6750 m. They occupy all the posts above 6000 m throughout the winter when temperatures drop below 40°C and blizzards rage over 100 km per hour. It takes upto 20 days of high altitude trekking amongst crevasses and ice walls to reach farthest posts. The highest post, Bana Post stands at 6750 m. To reach some of the posts soldiers have to jumar up ropes for almost 600 m, pass through ice tunnels and climb with crampons. Many times the posts are supplied in the middle of the night. Many mountaineers may not even dream of doing this. The Siachen war has changed many accepted norms for high altitude stay and climbing.

The soldiers deployed on the Siachen on a six month 'routine posting' are ordinary mortals, not trained mountaineers in the normal sense. They go through an intensive three week training in ice craft before their induction on the glacier. This is their only introduction to the craft of mountaineering, something which the best climbers take a lifetime to achieve. No battalion returns without casualties and those who return alive are medically believed to have lost a 5 year life expectancy due to a continuous stay at such altitudes. The effects of high altitude climbing on mountaineers are well studied. The same effects here are enlarged by the prolonged tenure.

The daily costs of maintaining troops on the glacier is a staggering Rs. 4.8 crore (at present rates US $ 1.14 million per day). The bulk of the cost goes into air dropping by aircralt and helicopters, rations, equipment (best available mountaineering gear in the world), gttns and other materials as well as evacuating casualties. If the dream of peace on the Siachen is realised, the saving in cost, both human and material can do wonders to the economics of India and Pakistan. As far the glacier is concerned, one of the finest wilderness in the world would be saved.

The Siachen war remams an unsung saga of the bravery of the Indian soldier, unparalleled in high altitude achievements.2

But how does the soldier feel about the Himalaya? With the sole mission of guarding India's Northern Borders, he trudges to scale great heights, reaches the crests and the passes thereon, loaded with his personal belongings, weapons, ammunition and other war stores. Reaching those heights is a challenge by itself. Preve ting ingress by the enemy implies staying put there, on those heights, come sunm1er, winter, sunshine or blizzard. The soldier makes the glacial areas his home base, dwelling in improvised shelters, snow piled up for protection from bullets and shrapnels, with only the ambient oxygen to sustain his heart and lungs; a primitive primus stove and keep him warm, and cook his food and melt snow for drinking water — whilst keeping vigil round the clock.


  1. From 'Valient Soldiers in Siachen Snows' by Dinesh Kumar. Times of India. 31 August, 1998.


Every soldier, a simple village lad hailing from some comer of the country gets 3 to 4 weeks to acquire the skills of a mountaineer. After which, heavily clad and geared, he commences his journey on foot, crossing the snout of the glacier, hailing Glacier Mata ki Jai3. Thereafter, life isn't what it should be. Logic docs not always prevail, norms might be exceptions and audacity and deviations, the rule. Sitting on top, vulnerable to enemy machine guns and shells, he has to ensure that he is not outwitted and outmanoeuvred.

The infrequent helicopter visits are possible only during fair weather conditions. During certain slimes of the year, not more than 12-13 days in a month are clear for flying. The rest have white-out spells, for three to four days at a stretch. It is during such times that the soldier realises the stark limitations of science and technology. He learns to live with the ferocity of nature, treating it with respect rather than combating it with contempt. What gives him strength and support are faith, a strong conviction and motivation. Enumerating these factors is easy but very difficult to build and sustain, year after year.


  1. 'Hail Goddess of glacier'.


Encounters on the glaciers and the ridge lines are betwen small teams. They may appear as acts of desperation, but that is how it is most of the time at super high altitudes. Large scale battles are rare. Success or failure is a gamble. So far the Indian soldier has not foiled. But it is hoped that this will not be taken for granted. Herc grit, detem1ination, courage human endurance, the ability to attempt the impossible, almost every faculty is tested beyond known limits, to wins the day. Small, individual setbacks and failures can imply disasters.

The gravity and severity of such of tenures lasting up to six months at a stretch and the physiological and psychological impact on a soldier are difficult to put into words. When challenges are beyond human capabilities and endurance, comparisons and co-relations are difficult. In fact, one wonders, what prevents the soldier from faltering and failure? Why does he defy logic and not crack up? No answers.

In such a setting, the soldier may have little inclination to appreciate the grandeur and beauty of the Himalayan peaks, either from the base or from the top whilst flying in a helicopter.

Questions often asked are, should a large body of soldiers be staying in that glacial belt all the while, creating one of the world's worst environmental disasters? Should national honour be preserved by paying the price of human life, misery and money? Common sense does not appear to be an issue during the endless talks and negotiations between India and Pakistan. May be the stOI}' of the Tawiz given by the Mullah for the destruction of the glacier, and his prediction of another stom1 to complete that destruction is being witnessed by our generation. All appear to be striving hard to make the myth a reality.4

The Himalaya have a revered place in our culture and mythology, as sentinels of India's Northern Borders. How ironic, that contemporary man has chosen to violently disrupt this tranquillity by staking claims on .territories beyond known natural frontiers. As if the mighty Himalaya do not exist. One wonders, if mankind has the right to shed blood over a piece of barren land, covered eternally by snow - blood that would remain frozen and preserved for centuries to come. Only with the movement of the glaciers - a few centimetres every year - will it ultimately melt and might with the waters of the Nubra, Shyok and Indus rivers, into the Arabian Sea.


  1. See article 'Saga of Siachen', by Harish Kapadia in this volume.


The butterflies once spotted on the Bilafond have not been seen for a very long time. The wild roses of the Nubra valley are wilting and on the verge of extinction. But we must not give up hope.

Power of the Dream

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics had adopted the theme, 'Power of the Dream'. Let us share the dream about which Aamir Ali had written.

What is ineffably sad is that the Siachen glacier should be the stage for a stand-off between the armies of India and Pakistan. Soldiers face each other, both sides have artillery, even though the rarefied atmosphere makes nonsense of ballistic data Millions of rupees are spent daily to maintain these forces where casualties due to the altitude and cold are nine times higher than those due to combat. ('Elements torture man and machine in battle for glacier', by Christopher Thomas, The Times, 13 February 1993). When we complain about the garbage dumps at mountaineering expedition base camps, can we imagine what the dumps must be like in these high altitude army camps ?

To the layman, all this seems like utmost folly - but then, when did warfare not seem like folly?

Men must harbour dreams sometimes, even foolish foolish dreams. 'I have a dream,' said Martin Luther King in the greatest of his speeches 30 years ago. So let us also dream that the mountaineers of the world will persuade India and Pakistan to withdraw their armies and to establish an 'International Park of the Rose' (Sia). This can placed under the guardianship of the United Nations and the International Union of Alpine Associations. The ibex and roses can be reintroduced so they will flourish.

Transnational parks or 'Transboundary Protected Areas,' to use the language of the specialists, are not just an airy fairy dream. The first was probably the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park established by the US and Canada in 1932. In the same year, Czechoslovakia - which now has a third of its frontier covered by protected areas - established a nature reserve on the Dunajec river lo match the Polish one on the other side. Indonesia and Malaysia have transboundary reserves in Kalimantan; there is an international area for peace along the San Juan river between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; a peace park on both sides of the Evros river boundary between Greece and Turkey.

Recently the Belovezhskaya in Belarus was added to the Bialowieza in Poland, to form an extensive World Heritage Site. The demilitarised zone between North and South Korea has become a wildlife refuge; a park adjoining Pakistan and China has been under consideration. Efforts have been underway for some years by France, Italy and Switzerland to establish an International Mont Blanc Park. All in all, there are some 70 border parks in 65 countries; some of them have served as 'peace parks' and have decreased political tensions and national con11icts. (Report of the IVth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, 1992. IUCN has offices in New Delhi and Rawalpindi also.5


  1. See Himalayan Journal, Volume 50 (1993)


Yes, we have a dream. We wish to see the tranquillity of the Saichcn glacier restored. We wish to see those butterflies and roses preserved for eternity. Hope destiny and fate do not shatter this dream !

Summary : Views on the army presence on the Siachen glacier.



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AJRAMBHA (6537 m) draws its name from the most beautiful Apsara1 of Lord Indra's darbar. The famous story heard around the Pancha Chuli hills goes thus : Lord Indra had deputed his Apsaras to be with the Pandavas when they cooked their last meal at Panch Chuli. Rajrambha along with Menaka and others were located at different mountains. The peak where Rajrambha had danced through the Pandavas' last meal was named after her. It is located 6 km NW of the Panch Chuli group of peaks.

The Kumaon and Naga Regiments of the Indian Am1y undertook a mountaineering expedition through the Rajrambha glacier to Rajrambha peak during September-October 1998.

Rajrambha 6537 m, is situated in the Kumaon Himalaya, and it not visible easily. Even the local villagers and bakarwals do not have a very clear idea of its location. In fact, one old porter, who had worked for some earlier groups attempting Rajrambha, tried to point it out to us and indicated a peak commonly mistaken as Rajrambha. It is about 800 m before the actual Rajrambha.2

We approached the peak from the western side, climbing along the nightmarish Rajrambha glacier. The earlier attempts had completely avoided this glacier and had taken the Shivu glacier, further north of the Rajrambha glacier. The difficulties posed were many.
The distance and terrain involved from the roadhead posed problems. Darkot, a village 7 km beyond Munsiary was the roadhead.


  1. Fairy.
  2. For details of previous climbs, see note at the end. - Ed.


The next halt, Paton, was 8 km away but involved crossing the Gori Ganga down in the valley. This meant losing height to the riverbank and climbing again to about 1890 m to Paton. The next halt, where we set up our base camp, was an uninhabited place called Lengunani. Lengunani at 2290 m involved crossing three major ridges. In a distance of less than 8 km, one had to climb and lose height over these ridges. After this entire exercise we only managed to reach the height of Munsyari which was left behind even before the roadhead camp. Effectively there was no height gained despite three days of trekking.

Another two days and about 8 kms ahead we reached the Rajrambha Kharak, where we chose to set up the advanced base camp. The height attained till this point was only slightly above 3660 m. The, icefall from where the actual climb began was another 3 km away. Setting up another camp was necessary The route is such that the use of ponies 1s not feasible and the entire load had to be brought by porters.

The rain bothered us, but we managed to move to the foot of the icefall to set up Camp 1 (4270 111), on 25 September. The actual climb commenced from here. On 26th September. Sub Dan Singh, Sub R. S. Deo, L/Nk Dhan Singh and I stepped on the glacier to begin the long awaited climb.

On the 27th and 28th we worked on the route, and returned to Camp I. We moved in such rotation that in these 3 days every member of the climbing party had one day of rest. Except me. I was 011 the ice 011 all the three days.

On the 29th I stayed back at Camp 1 whilst the others moved up. By now we had fixed ropes up to what seemed to be the top of the icefoll. There was to be no respite. In barely 3 km the glacier was climbing up from less than 4270 m to the peak. We had planned on going as for as was feasible and then setting up Camp 2. I was to join the others on 30th September at Camp 2. Sitting in Camp 1, I was talking to those already climbing, on the radio set. The place we had expected to set up Camp 2 on, according to the map, was non existent on ground! It was late and they could not find a suitable spot to pitch two small tents. Of the nine members on the glacier that day, four were to return to Camp 1 after pitching the tents and five were to stay on. We were fortunate. Camp 2 was established at 5 I 80 m just in time, and four climbers returned.

On 1 October, seven of us letl for Camp 2, two to return and five to add on to the five already staying there. Two from the earlier party came down half way from Camp 2 to take the load from the two who had to return. By evening we were ten climbers in Camp 2. This location was definitely the best the glacier had to oiler; though the ice structures all around were not a very comforting sight.

On the morning of 2 October six of us started and after difficulties managed to move a little ahead. We were making painfully slow progress but nevertheless we were moving on. Before noon we realised that after this kind of effort we could not afford to lose more time and energy; no one knew what was ahead. Moreover we could not push our luck too far where the weather was concerned.

We decided not to return to Camp 2 but to go on. We were all very tired and knew that if the next day we again had to cover the same stretch we might not go very far beyond. It was better to get up fresher in the morning and continue from the same point. Three of us, fixing the route, went on as far as we could before looking for a place where one tent could be pitched safely. The only place we found was on a slope. We still chose it. Having some doubt, Sub Dan Singh went slightly down along the other side of the slope to check up on an alternative. We were nearly on top of what seemed to be developing into a crevasse. We were a good 3 m above the initial crack and it didn't appear to be in any huny to widen. Our weight and warmth were not likely to accelerate it. It was, of course, uncertain, but then so were many other things. We prepared that spot for pitching tents by beating the soft snow, scraping here and collecting there, and started waiting for the rest of the climbers.

The plan for 3 October was to forget about fixing rope and making a route; just rope up and move on. Neither were there enough ropes, pitons and carabiners, nor enough time. We were still away from the summit, almost 2 km in distance and 300 m in altitude. It was a bit too ambitious but we had to risk it. As we progressed we found the route relatively easier, but the soft snow accumulated on top of the ice made the progress tiring and slow. When we reached the foot of the peak, we realised that it ,, as not over yet. The sides were very steep, with naked, hard blue ice visible mostly with some areas of soft snow, a lot of crevasses and a neatly lined cornices all along the ridge line, right upto the summit.

L/Nk Bhuwan Singh had a slight pain in his chest. He stopped and told us. Negligence in this regard could mean risking a lifo. Hav Harish Chandra volunteered to go down with him. They would go all the way down to Camp 2 and if Bhuwan was not better, then to the advanced base camp or even lower.

Approaching Changabang (left).

Note 13 (From Austrian expedition 1938)
33. Chandra Parvat (6728 m). Background sununit of Indradhanush Parvat

Gepang Goh, Lahaul.

Note 15 (Ian Ford)
34. Gepang Goh, Lahaul.

Climbing SW ridge of Chandra Parvat from Suralaya glacier.

Note 13 (Karl Pallasmann)
35. Climbing SW ridge of Chandra Parvat from Suralaya glacier. East face of Satopanth behind.

KR 5, from Junction Peak, Lahaul.

Note 16
36. KR 5, from Junction Peak, Lahaul.

At a certain point we decided to fix ropes on a part of the slope. After a tiring and difficult climb, we were near the cornice. The summit was still a long traverse away with about 250 m still to be gained. Not only was it a very difficult traverse, hut also extremely dangerous. The weather at this point suddenly deteriorated, along with a strong wind and visibility down to about 10 m. It was impossible to go on. We wouldn't even know where to go. So we came down the rope to a point where we could at least stand and discuss. We were quite amazed to see sunshine on the adjoining ridge. The spot we had climbed down to also had good visibility and normanl winds. The weather, which had taken us unawares, was bad only on the summit and higher slopes of Rajrambha. Other peaks and ridges were bright and sunny. It was getting late and the night would catch up very fast once the sun went over the horizon. It was clear that we could not go to the summit now. But if we had to summit at all then we could not go back also. The best option was to go down about 300 m, find a suitable place and pitch a tent for the night.

Dejection was evident on everyone's face. It was already the second day since we had not eaten anything more than a couple of chocolates. Water was also a scarce commodity since every drop meant using more of the already short supply of kerosene oil to melt ice and snow. Between these two days, we hadn't had a proper night's sleep.

We pitched our 4-man tent once again; the eight of us crawled in, had another chocolate, and settled down. We lit the stove and while the kettle melted the ice, in the warmth underneath tried to dry our socks and gloves.

Then came 4 October. We set out from this location, which was at about 5975 m with our minds very clear that it was now or never. Another night had passed in succession where none of us had any real sleep. We were tired. Very tired. And we were hungry. We were thirsty. We were cold. We were determined.

We went up all the way as on the previous day. Not willing to take any more chances with time, we unfixed the rope we had put the day before, again roped up and thereafter it was 'Bash on Regardless'. All went well. Nk Lal Singh was climbing ahead and I was behind him. Spotting a crossable gap in the cornice, we decided to make a vertical bee-line for it and cross the ridge, about 30 m below the sununit. And that was it! With that we climbed up. Cautioning Lal Singh to watch out and stop well before the summit cornice, I carefully followed his tracks. He stopped finally, at 11.45 a.m. and turned around. What I saw on his face I ca1mot put down on paper. We shook hands and I turned around. Dhan Singh joined us. Then the next rope - Surinder came followed by Diwan Singh and Uchhap Singh, then the final rope of Sub Rajinder Singh and Sub Dan Singh. Mine were not the only moist pair of eyes on Rajrambha Peak that morning. We had done it and at that moment nothing else mattered.

The day was getting along. Nu one could say how the cornice would behave as the temperature rose. And we had to get back to Camp 2. fate was testing us more than we anticipated. I had by now developed a mild fever. This worsened matters for my tired and hungry body and slowed our return. It was dark by the time we got back to Camp 2. On the radio set we had been infom1ed that Bhuwan and Harish had returned to the adnmccd base camp. We didn't know why. We found out as soon as we reached Camp 2. There was no Camp 2 ! Instead there was a huge mess of massiYe structures of ice. Camp 2 was buried. There was nothing there. Just ice. Our visions of hot food, water and a good night's sleep crash landed!

It was too late to go to Camp 1. It had to be one more night like the previous two. This was the third Jay when we had neither eaten nor drunk anything. We got down to digging in the debris, hoping to recover a few things. But most of the things were gone. We cleared enough space for our lent and again in went the eight of us. We melted ice and everyone drank water.

Next morning we went down to Camp 1, carrying all that could be salvaged. Then the Camp 2 episode was narrated to us. On the 4th morning at about 0430 hrs Barish got up to pee. Outside he heard a sound that reminded him of the sounds we had heard often on the glacier, when ice was about to break away and foll. feeling uncomfortable he woke Bhuwan nnd the two decided to go down. Before they could get their basic gear together, their worst fears came true. That they arc still with us today is the best that can be said of the whole affair.

Had we sununitted on 3 October, all ten or us would have been sleeping penccfully in Camp 2 on the 4th morning. Ten sleeping people getting up and trying to nm from two tiny tents, would have been a different story altogether. Sub Rajinder Singh remembered my words that God does everything for our good. It is easy for me to understnnd now why the people of the hills are so God fearing and superstitious. They live much closer to nnlure than the rest of us.

Summary: Third ascent of Rajrambha (6437 m) on 4 October 1998 by a team from the Indian Army.

PANORAMA J. Peaks around Dokriani Bamak, Garhwal.

Note 12 (Maj. A. Abbey)
PANORAMA J. Peaks around Dokriani Bamak, Garhwal.

PANORAMA K. Peaks around Dokriani Bamak, Garhwal.

Note 12
PANORAMA K. Peaks around Dokriani Bamak, Garhwal.

Note: History of attempt/ascents of Rajrarnbha (6437 m)

1972 Attempt by a team from Bombay (M. M. Moghe) from the Shivu glacier. They reached 6000 m.
1972 1st ascent hy an Indo-Tibet Border Police team (J. C. Ojha) on 1 June. They followed the Shivu glacier.
1992 2nd ascent by the Inda-British team (Sir Chris Bonington Harish Kapadia) on 5 June. A four member sunu11it team approached the peak from the Uttari Balati glacier in the west. They traversed over Menaka (6000 m) to climb Rajrambha and descended to southwest, thus traversing Rajrambha.
1998 3rd ascent by an Indian army team (Maj. Neeraj Munshi) on 4 October. They approached from the Rajrambha glacier in the southeast.



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IN THE UPPER REGIONS of Uttarkashi district of the Garhwal Himalaya, lies the imposing Jaonli massif. To its west lying in deep slumber, is a small Yalley of breathtaking beauty. The valley although similar to numerous other valleys of this gilled region is yet different from others. Drained by the icy, pristine waters of the Din gad, the valley nestles in this sacred land like a jewel in a crown.

The Din gad valley, which is truly a nature's delight is located approx. 25 km southwest of Gangotri glacier. At the head of Din gad valley lies the Dokriani Barnak, which is a small valley glacier in the Ganga basin. The melt, water of this glacier gives birth to the Din gad, which joins the Bhagirathi river between Gangnani and Bhukki village on the Gangotri trail. The glacier has length of 5 km and its width ranges between 100 to 1500 m. It has a catchment area of 9.58 sq. km out of which 5.76 sq. km is glacial ice cover. The accumulation area of the glacier is 3.86 sq. km and ablation area is l.9 sq. km.

The valley was known to the outside world in 1980, when Colonel Balwanl Sandhu then Principal, Nehru Institute or Mountaineering (NIM) Uttarkashi, viewed it from top of an unnamed peak on the Meccha dhar (Meccha dhar separates the Din gad and the Lod gad valleys). The valley seemed ideal for training mountaineering courses. Subsequently, a detailed foot recconnaissance of the area confirmed the excellent training potential of the area. It is today the main training area of the Institute, primarily because of its relatively easy access and the excellent training and climbing vistas that the valley has to offer.

35 km north of Uttarkashi, on the road to Gangotri lies the sleepy hamlet of Bhukki. One of the oldest villages of the region, the village at 1920 m lies on the east bank of the Bhagirathi. As one crosses the suspension bridge, the mesmerising, awesome gorge cut out by the mighty river comes into full view. The village of Bhukki as it stands today is the new site of the village. Over the years it has moved further down and west, due to a series of earthquakes which rocked the region in the 70s and the 80s. This primarily agrarian village, is the last permanent human dwelling on the Din gad trail.

The route from Bhukki onwards is a journey through the never ageing time space wrap of the Himalaya. Meandering through the dense mixed forest of Pinus wallichina and Neolitsia pallans the natural camping site of Tel, at 2160 m is reached. Here for the first time one can see the serenading profile of the Din gad valley unfolding itself ahead. Tel has a dense forest around it and is endowed with a rich variety of Fraximus micrantha, Carpinus viminia, Taxus baccata, Cupressus torulosa, Salix alba and Coryhus collurna.

From Tel, the trail moves along the south bank of Din gad, through dense forest and fascinating country side etched out in repeated glaciation in the Pleistocene period (1.64 million to 10,000 years age) and finally ascends to Gujjar hut. At 3400 m, it is so named because of the presence of two prominent Gujjar huts. It is a vast expanse of an alp, interspersed with numerous streams and dense forests. The tra ii from Bhukki in all probabilities was pioneered centuries ago by none other than the Van Gujjars, a north Indian nomadic tribe which till date frequents the valley as part of their annual migration. The area is rich with Quercus semecarpifolia, Quercus florihunda and Betula alnoides. From here striking views of Meccha dhar and Draupadi ka Danda massif form the horizon. The area in June-July unfolds like a carpet of flowers, and is another Valley of Flowers. Flowers such Anemones, Polygomums, Buttercups, Primula marigold adorn the valley floor.

From the Gujjar hut as we move further up the vnlley towards the Dokriani Bnmak, the valley opens up to reveal its hidden treasures. Rhododendron campanulatum, Rhododendron anthopogen, Rhododendron arborium, Abies spectablis and Juneperus communis abound the area with the tree line finishing at nearly 3600 m. En route to the base camp is Khera tal, a lake at 3700 m. The lake was once the abode of a revered 'Nag devta' who inhabited the lake for hundreds of years, before finally mming down into the Bhagirathi valley. Till date the Nag devta is worshipped by the locals. It is hard to believe that the sparkling waters of this lake were once considered to be highly poisonous.

The base camp of NIM at 3700 m is situated in a beautiful, open alpine meadow, cut out by the melt waters of two glacial streams. The advance base camp is in the upper Dokriani valley, located at almost 4200 m. Sited at the base of Meccha dhar in the folds of the north lateral moraine of the glacier, it has a commanding view of the Dokriani icefoll which is also the only axis. of access into the upper Dokriani Bamak.

At the head of Dokriani Bamak is the tow ring, impressive unclimbed west and southwest face of Jaonli (6632 m). The southwest ridge of Jaonli splits into two ridges. From this height one ridge splits south towards Bhetiara Ka Danda at 5990 m and continues further south. The ridge line makes a near perfect cwm, encompassing the Dokriani Barnak from the south, northeast and northwest. The northwest ridge of Jaonli initially drops down for almost two kilometres. It then rises to Pt. 5675 m. The ridge moves for a kilometre in a southwest direction and then finally moves northwest. This is the Meceha Dhar. Meccha dhar thus is the great divide between Jaonli and Dokriani 13amak and engulfs the Dokriani Barnak from the notih and the northwest.

From the NIM base camp the attention is invariably drawn to the twin sunm1its of Draupadi ka Danda, which lie in the southwest of the Jaonli massif The twin peaks of Draupadi Ka Danda comprise two peaks; Draupadi Ka Danda I (5716 m) and Draupadi Ka Danda II (5670 m). Legend has it that Draupadi, the famous Queen of the Pandarns, breathed her last and gave up her human fonn at this place. For the simple hill folk this is sacred land. Both the peaks arc small but technically difficult with an array of formidable objective hazards. From the base camp, Drnupadi Ka Danda II is visible while peak I remains hidden.

Draupadi Ka Danda II was first attempted by the Advance Course in April-May 1982 (G.S. Bhangu). After establishing ABC, Camp 1 was established in the upper Dokriani Barnak at 5200 m. En route to Camp 1 one has to pass under the ominous, overwhelming shadows of a huge spectacular icefall emanating from the Jaonli massif. A huge bergschrund, at the base of the head-wall has to be negotiated to gain the snowfield. Thereafter a near 150 m of the final face has to be negotiated before the corniced summuit is reached. Depending upon the period of attempt, Drnupadi Ka Danda can prove to be both elusive and tricky. The mountain was first climbed in May 1983 (G.S. Bhangu) from the north face, which has now become the traditional route. The first ascent of the east face was made by trainees of the IMF Camp in June 1995 (Capt. V. S. Joshi). In 1993 two instmctors, Ranveer Singh and D. B. Pun skiied down the northeast face, thereby recording the first ski descent of the mountain. The mountain was climbed by two Japanese teams in 1992 and 1997.

Dokriani Bamak Din Gad Valley

Dokriani Bamak Din Gad Valley

Draupadi Ka Danda I received its first ascent from the northeast ridge by a Japanese Workers Alpine Federation High Altitude Mountaineering School Expedition, (Kazuyashi Kondo) in August 1998. In 1988 a Bulgarian team had also reportedly ventured into the upper Dokriani Bamak to climb the mountain. Climbing details are not known. In 1998 and 1997 the advance course (Major A. Abbey) attempted to scale both the peaks simultaneously from Choro ki Dhar, which is the west ridge of Draupadi Ka Danda. A high point of 5312 m and 5125 m was reached, in both the attempts respectively.

At the head of Dokriani Barnak on the southwest ridge of Jaonli lies another imposing Unnamed peak 5610 m. A technical peak with an impressive face, a bergschrund has to be negotiated to gain the west face. The face itself is nearly 350 m, high upto the col between Pt. 5610 and the Unnamed peak which is to its north. Pt. 5610 recorded its first ascent in November 1992 (Major M. P. Yadav).

On the Meccha dhar itself there are numerous heights with varying difficulties. Pt. 5125 was first climbed in June 1981 (Major Prem Chand). The ascent was repeated in 1997 (Major A. Abbey). Pt. 5312, a ridge height was climbed in 1996 from the northwest ridge (Major A Abbey).

The Din gad valley is extremely rich in Himalayan fauna, which is god gifted to this land. The valley has in its hallowed confines the Himalayan Yellow Throated Marten (Martes flavigula), the Himalayan Marmot (Marmot candata), Bharal (Pseudois nayaur), Goral (Nemorhaedus), Wild Boar (Sus scroja), Musk Deer (Moschus moschiferus), Barking Deer (Munticacus mumtjak), Common Langur (Presbytis entellus), the Himalayan Black Bear (Selenarctos thibetanus), and the biggest of them all the Brown Bear (Ursus aretos). Numerous sightings of the Brown Bear have been reported beyond Bhukki and upto the advance base camp. In one of the incidents, two bear cubs rolled down in an avalanche above the base camp. An anxious mother made numerous rounds of the camp, before the staff returned her cubs. In another interesting incident a prowling Brown Bear was located just short of Tel camp.

The base camp and the adjoining area is also a mini store-house of minerals. Some of the minerals found in the vicinity of the camp are Beryl, Quartz, Muscovite, Milky quartz, Tourmoline, Biotite, Mica and Chalcopyrite.

In 1992, an expedition was organised by Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Government of India (Dr. J. T. Gergan) under aegis of Department qt' Science and Technology, as part of the Himalayan Glaciology Research Programme. In 1994, a special course was run for the scientists participating in the multi disciplinary expedition. A semi permanent Glaciological Research Station was set up at 3760 m adjacent to the base camp. To monitor the climate of the glacier, an Automatic Weather Station' at 4400 m, overlooking the advance base camp, was established on the north lateral moraine of the glacier. One of the most important achievements of this expedition was estimation of glacier thickness by 'Ground Penetrating Radar' which was carried out for the first time in the country.

Some important facts about the Dokriani Barnak in particular and the Himalayan glaciers in general in the region have come to light. Mass balance studies of Dokriani Bamak from 1992 to 1995 indicate the mass balance as negative. Moreover it is estimated that with the mean air temperature of the earth rising at a rate 0.3° C per decade, it is likely to have a pronounced effect of the glaciers. Dokriani Barnak has receeded at an average rate of 17.48 m/yr from 1991-1995. This rate of recession is rather high as also is the case of other Himalayan glaciers. The age of the snout ice of the glacier has been estimated to be 310 years old, with an average flow rate of ice to be 18 m/per year.

It is interesting to note that trees in the Din gad valley and around the Dokriani Barnak are dated between 1722 AD and 1995, excepting two, which give a 14th century age. One tree, nearly 700 m down stream from the present day snout of the Dokriani glacier, is dated between 1889 AD and 1995. Studies are presently in progress to reconstruct climatic fluctuations for the past four to five hundred years for this part of the Himalaya.

The forest wealth of the area has been left untouched by the Institute, which became the first in the country to fully resort to cooking on LPG for all its courses of instructions. However, even today the rich forest of the Din gad valley are fast dwindling. Some serious thinking needs to be done for the Van Gujjars, who annually migrate to this area and use the forest for practically all their needs. The ever growing size of their families and increasing livestock has increased the pressure on the forests. If unchecked, in the long run this could environmentally be catastrophic for the region. A viable cooking and heating alternative for their need thus requires to be worked out in a realistic manner.

The Din gad valley despite being frequented all the year round, remains as serene and enchanting as ever. Despite the hectic climbing and training activity this picturesque valley has retained its natural grandeur. As the valley enters the age of the next millennium, as mountain and nature lovers we hope that this valley forever remains entangled in the ageless time wrap of the Himalaya.

Nomenclature in the Din Gad Valley

Jaonla - Twins
Gad - Stream
Dok - Flat/Stepped land
Bamak - Glacier
Dhar - Ridge
Charkau - Place of lightening
Danda - Height/Place of height
Draupadi Ka Danda - Height named after Draupadi
Khera - Snake
Khera Tal - Lake where a snake resides
Choro - A mountain herb
Choro Ki Dhar - Ridge where Choro, is found
Rakahau - Bear
Rakahau Top - Bear top where bears are often seen
Bugyal - An Alp or a high pasture land.


Summary : A brief survey of the Dokriani Barnak and activities undertaken there.

Panoramas G-H



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IN 1938 THE FIRST AUSTRIAN HIMALAYA EXPEDITION made many ascents in the western Garhwal Himalaya. Among these first climbed peaks Chandra Parvat (6728 m) was ascended along the west ridge by Leo Spannraft and Dr. W. Frauenberger.

Leo Spannraft was one of the famous Austrian alpine pioneers and for decades a member of the Mountain Rescue Association and the Alpenverein. He died 90-years old whilst o a ski-tour.

In 1998, on the 60th anniversary of this first Austrian expedition, 9 of us, all alpinists from Villach, sekcted the Chandra Parvat for a jubilee expedition in memory of Leo Spannrall.

Unlike the earlier team, we chose another approach to Chandra Parvat. We started from Chhitkul (3450 m) in one of India's most beautiful valleys, the Baspa valley. Due to the proximity of the Chinese border the east of Chhitkul is a restricted area and needs special permits.

We had to pass two outposts of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police where we had a very friendly reception with hot tea. Several times we had to cross the ice-cold Baspa river and in 3 &frac; days we reached the 5282 m high Lampkhaga pass. It was bright and sunny there. Although we ascended very slowly, one of our mountaineers got high altitude sickness and needed treatment. The same problem troubled one of our porters who could get over the pass with the help of his friends, who had to carry him. After crossing the pass I had to treat him. Harsil was one of the villages which the Austrians Peter Aufschnaiter, Heinrich Harrer and Hans Kopp passed on their way to Tibet in 1944. We took the bus to Gangotri from there we reached, in two days, in perfect sunshine, the garden of the goddess Nanda, Nandanban (4400 m). The beauty of this place explained why Leo Spannrall and his crew had their base camp here for almost 7 weeks. We carried and established our aclvanced base canm at 5100 m, where the Suralaya and Chaturangi 13amak meet. Originally we wanted to climb the west ridge direct like sparmrage had done but in 60 years the profile of the mountain, the glacier and the snow cover had changed and it was impossible to take the same route. So we chose for our ascent the southwest ridge like the Indians on earlier expedition.

On 9 September the first team with Walter Lackner, Dr. Karl Pallasmann, Armin Rauter and Franz Wohlfahrt with the Indian climber Keendar Singh and our liaison officer Ganga Singh went to Camp 1 and on the same day we reconnoitred the route to Camp 2 (5800 m)
111 fog and snow.

On 10 September this crew set Camp 2 (6000 m) and passed further on along the southwest ridge. In 6 hours they reached 6600 m where the west ridge and the southwest ridges meet. This quick ascent took place in increasingly bad weather with fog and snow and when we reached the west summit ridge we could not even sec the beginning of the traverse to the main peak which was only 20 m away. We celebrated with our Indian friends this small victory and decided to descend as quickly as possible in that worsening white-out.

On the same day we returned to ABC. While we descended along the ridge the next summit team. Mangal Singh, DI Joachim Gfreiner, Dr. Herbert Ortner, Peter Perwein and Alois Stnckler reached Camp 1 and prepared themselves for the summit attempt.

On 11 September they climbed to Camp 2, spent a very cold night there and started very early on 12 September to use the snow and fog free hours of the morning for the ascent. In spite of the early start the fog and the snowfall were heavy and like us they could see only the main peak for a few seconds at a time. They reached the meeting point on the ridge (6600 m) in very poor visibility. They then descended to Camp 2 and help of our Indian high altitude supporters. On 13 September the snowfall started during the night. We all left the ABC in continuous snow.

Leo Spannraft in 1938 had tried to climb the 7138 m high Chaukamba from the Alaknanda valley. He was one of the first Europeans to cross Kalindi khal. We wanted to follow his footsteps and had the pem1ission from the Indian government. But the Indian Tibetan Border Police closed the Badrinath region so we had to tum towards Nandanban. This time it was a place with rain and no sublime sights. In heayy rain we had to pass the 'rock fall alley' along the Gangotri glacier where several times, rocks of size of a child's head just missed some of our porters. Much bigger 'rock' fell otf my heart when we all reached Gangotri wet but healthy. Due to the changes in our program of not crossing the Kalindi khal - we had three days left which we spent in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. We left the sub-continent full of incredible impressions.

Summary : Ascent of Chandra Parvat (6728 m) in tl e Gangotri glacier region by an Austrian team on 10 September 1998.

Photos 33 and 35



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THE FINEST MOUNTAIN scenery in Kashmir is to be found in the area of the Kolohai: The upper and of the valley with it birch and juniper-clad slopes with their flowery meadows and fragrant air, the stretch of a glacier and above all the snowy peaks and soaring pinnacles.

Kolohai (5425 m) is locally named Gwasha Bror (the Goddess of Light) is one of the best known peaks of Kashmir. Viewed from the southwest its northern peak appears almost in the shape of a sugar loaf. Seen from the east or west, the shape is that of a pyrnmid, two of the three sides of which are seen clearly from the north. From some points of view its resemblance to Matterhorn is very marked.

There was a diversion from actual plan to Chittapani in district Doda, as it was a disturbed area at the time, on 23 August 1998. The 7-member expedition of the Kashmir Mountaineering Team, Srinagar, set to out attempt the challenging pyramid of Kolohai.

The harvest was in full bloom and peasants were seen working in fields. At Avantipora the ruins of temples built by Avantivarman (855-883 AD.) were worth seeing. One is dedicated to Shiva and the other to Vishnu. Past Avantipora the road runs amidst yellowish rice fields. We rejoined at the sight of the milky water of the river Lidder.

On 24 August we arranged for ponies up to Athanaran-the home of porters. They were out at work, so we excused their late arrival. It also gave us a chance to stay at Habib Lane's hut. Athanaran is a hamlet midway between Pahalgham and Thanin, up in a ravine amidst cone-bearing trees. As you travel up to river you sec side valleys openmg into the main valley from all directions. Rushing snow-fed rivers make their way down to the main stream Lidder.

25th August:After being allotted loads, the high altitude porters Bashir Alm1ed Rather (Head porter), Ali Mohd. Wagay and Gh. Mohiud Din Sheikh, all from Laripora, started off at 9 a.m. for Brarimarg. A steep ascent started from the very beginning. We came to the scanty birch trees once we had gained some height. Continuous ascent made the condition of the loaded porters miserable. Finally we reached the top of Brarimarg (3560 m). The fuel was bhoj patra (Betula utills), Dadelion and Geranium which grew amongst the stones, and Corydalis folconeri that grew by the side. Eupherbia and Iris covered the higher slopes: Oxalis digyne, yellow and pink Corydalis saxifrage and uncommon Yum (Poisonous plant were found near the top). By dusk the weather turned bad. A mild drizzle hastened us to pitch tents at K.huda Pathri. As the night fell, fierce winds blew.

It rained all night. The rain would not allow us to move until 11:45 a.m. It was gradual ascent up to Yemen. The top afforded a widespread panorama of huge glacial scenery and a host of the rock.)' peaks of Kolohai to the west. In a vast open meadow, devoid of any trees we came across Pamba Hak (Rumex webbianum) somewhere along the way. The place is locally known Honabaacha as the legend goes that once Moses had turned devil dogs into stones here. We set up camp here.

27th:Descending the Yemen ridge, the occasional shriek of a mannot was welcome, as it indicated some sign of life. The continuous steep ascent on gravel, sand and scree slope of Harghati (3880 m) plus a sudden downpour followed by a hail-storm made our condition pitiable. Drenched to skin we sheltered under a rock till rain stopped. From the top one sees a huge green lake lying amidst the snow-capped tops. As one comes closer, one sees chunks of bergs floating on its waters. The whole spectacle looks like a green mosaic with white marbles in it. On the side of the lake there is a lush green patch where we camped.

28th:Next morning after breakfast we moved again. Our route was through Harnag meadow — the valley is one of the prettiest and yet one of the least frequented valleys of Kashmir. At the extreme west end of the valley we had another steep ascent. Here few dokas (huts) of Yascen I3akcrwal are located. Aller a short but steep stretch, we stayed above a gorge from where the glaciers of the Kolohai Peak came down to the valley. They were strewn with sharp edged rocks, shale and scree. Tariq, MLtshtaq and I did a rcconniassance along the morame of the glacier to the find an ideal spot for BC. Finally at 4400 m, west of the lateral moraine of the glacier, we set up our BC.

29th :The dawn was hright. We sorted our equipment and set off We turned to the left of the moraine where a track along the ridge went onto a snowfield. The ascent over the sharp razor-edged rocky ridges was tough. We were on pins and needles throughout the climb. The cutting of steps on hard snow made the climbing very very slow. At 3 p.m. we reached the top of the last ridge. From there we sent two of our most experienced members to survey the route to the main Kolohai Peak. They could not find a possible approach to the main peak (5425 m) as the whole area was full of wide open crevasse, overhung by scrapped cliffs. Walking up about 2 hrs. from Camp 1 through a crevassed valley, we reached the top of the hump. Both sides of the ridge had vertical drops. As we approached the next high hump, the gradient became steep, from 60 to 65 degrees. We tried our best to attempt the main peak but could not do so due to the crevasses and for want of sufficient technical equipment, especially a crevasi-e-crossing ladder. We instead attempted Buttress Peak (5125 m) by its northwest face. Mushtaq, Tariq and I reached the sununit. The "iew Crom the top was enchanting. We had before our eyes the whole panorama of Nun Kun and Kohinoor ranges to the east. They possessed both beauty and mystery and are therefore a climber's dream and delight. We returned to BC in torch-light. The porters and one member in whose custody we had left the BC rejoiced at seeing us sale and sound.

30th:We packed the tents and the luggage and kept our rucksacks ready for onward ascent. From the Take there was a climb of almost 1500 m. The slope had gravel, sand and scree mixed with mud. On the way we observed several species of wild tlowers like Geranium, Dandelion, Edelweiss and Corydalis falconcri. At 5 p.m. we reached the calm, secluded meadow of Rabimarg (4687 m) which lies in the inner Himalayan range where winds saturated with moisture do not penetrate. Here the scenery becomes more and more rugged and stark. We camped near Dudh Nag lake situated at the foot of Rajdain Peak.

31st:We moved from Rabimarg at 11 a.m. The descent from the pass was through a chimney. On the slopes we found an abundance of wild vegetables like, Pamba Hak (Rumex wcbbianum), Dhopa (Morina longifolia), Wan wanggun, Wan pran (Allium), Liliccae, sochal Malva neglecta (biennial shrub) Tsuntur, Palak-Spinacia bleracea, (chenopodiacede) Kahzaban (Macritimia bentham), the poisonous herb Marneel and many other species. At 5 p.m. we walked into the vast meadow of Astanmarg. We spent the night at Muhamud Chopan's doka.

The valley of Astanmarg was very picturesque and secluded; its area was not more than one and a half km in any direction. It is separated from the plains of Kashmir by a wooded ridge of hills and the craggy peak and precipices of Rajdain. Several families of shepherds and chopans all from Budar Salarkular live here in the summer. Fuel has to be brought from below. Scattered bhoj trees are seen on some heights.

Thanking a Chopan family for the assistance offered to our party, we moved towards next stage. The path gradually descended from there. The trail passed along the right bank of the river. Vegetation could be seen from Harwat. Leaving Batanegund soon after, we passed through the cools shade of a thick forest of lir and we reached Chandanwari.

2 September:Thanin, generally called Chandanwari (2800 111), lies at the junction of two streams. During the 'pilgrimage days', this place used to remain in rush. It is here that two streams flowing from Astanmarg join the swift stream with its silvery spray rushing in haste from Shcshnag. Midway comes a small village, Fraslun, set up in a ravine amidst cone-bearing tress. We reached Pahalgam and ended our trip.

Route followed :

Stage Height
1. Srinagar to Pahalgam (by bus)
2. Pahalgam to Athanaran
3. Athanaran to Brarimarg crossing Brarimarg pass 3560 m
4. Brarimarg to Yemen 4000 m
5. Yemen to Harbhagwan lake crossing Har Ghati pass 3880 m
6. Harbhagwan valley to BC 3760 m
7. BC to Buttress Peak of Kolohai and vice versa 5125 m
8. BC to Rabimarg crossing Rabimarg pass 4687 m
9. Rambimarg to Astanmarg
10. Astanmarg to Chandanwari 2800 m
11. Chandanwari to Pahalgam
12. Pahalgam to Srinagar (by bus)


Summary : Ascent of Kolohai Buttress peak (5125 m) by two members from Kashmir Mountaineering Team: M. Amin and Showkat Hussain, on 29 August 1998.



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Attempt on Gephan Goh (5870 m), Lahaul


DISCOVERY OF THE EXCELLENT, Exploring the Hidden Himalaya, gave the necessary inspiration and impetus to change 'a vague desire to climb' into real plans. Armed with several maps and the expectation of decent weather I made a reconnaissance trip to the Spiti valley in 1997.

Starting from Shimla, still suffering heavily from the monsoon, I made my way up the Satluj river to Rekong Peo. This was also suffering from occasional showers and the expected views of Kinner Kailash did not materialise. I made a quick trip up the Baspa valley but decided that the weather was not good enough there either.

Continuing the circuit, my next stop was Kaja. Much drier but still subject to storms. I experienced an amazing one of these on a half day recce of Chau Chau Kang Nilda (CCKN) a useful looking 'reserve' objective. It had been climbed many times before though.

My main aim was to trek up ilie Ratang and Gyundi nalas. The first attempt was stopped by some excitable guards - just before I reached the road up to the Hydro-electric plant; that despite a pre-dawn start. I had a little more success in the Gyundi nala but eventually lost faith in the map. and withdrew before committing myself too much.

A chance meeting on the long, dusty road back to Kaja gave us a usefol contact for the expedition itself. I stopped by one of the rare patches of shade to find it already occupied by two pony men. One of these, Lobzang, was the owner of the ponies and spoke excellent English. We discussed the merits of a direct arrangement (without an agency taking its cut) and exchanged addresses.

East Kulti glacier from Peak 17,291 (5270 m).

Note 18 (Geotf Cohen)
37. East Kulti glacier from Peak 17,291 (5270 m). 1: Col leading over to Kukti in east. 2: Pyramidal peak. 3: East Kulti peak, highest point. 4: Subsidiary top from which ridge runs to Sara Pahar. 5: Rock.)' Teeth. 6: 'Snow-Pimple peak'.

Peaks of East Kulti glacier from Jori (June 1955).

Note 18 (D. T. Bennet)
38. Peaks of East Kulti glacier from Jori (June 1955). 1: 'Gendarme Peak'. 2: Col. 3: Pryamidal Peak. 4: East Kulti Peak, heighest point. 5: Snow-pimple peak' 6: Peak 17, 291 ft (5270 m).

Further around again I visited the Losar nala. This looked to have much better access and I could sec some interesting peaks. Unfortunately a small ravine put paid to the easy access, though I believe a path could be made by those with time.
Somewhat frustrated I headed off for Manali. Another, bigger, headache awaited. An 140 km section of the road was closed by landslides. Not wanting the several days back to Shimla by bus I set off walking. A wise choice given that early on the second day I was offered a lift by a passing jeep.

If that wasn't enough good fortune, one of the passengers was also a climber. He told me much about the CB range and was also able to identify one peak I liked in particular — just north of the Rohtang Pass. Not being completely happy with any peak so fur I decided to cancel R & R and make a hurried reconnaissance of the nala to the north of this peak.

Once back in Blighty I rang around those friends who had 'expressed an interest' and set up a weekend meet. I was able to convince the others that this last peak was the one. Easy access, an interesting route and stunning weather. Who was to argue!

Four of us committed ourselves at that stage. We shared out the responsibilities according to interest and facilities available for (ab)use. We agreed upon the name 'Sissu Nala '98 Expedition' though I was disappointed. My research to date had shown there to be considerable confusion over the names of the peaks and I much preferred the more lively title of the 'Gephang Goh mystery tour'. The prospect of grant applications being rejected out-of-hand decided the matter.

Wilrik and I were to form an advanced party; I was concerned that so much could go wrong and that our three weeks could not cope with any delays. We were very fortunate, then, to find that our Liason Officer (LO), Nizamuddin, was equally keen to escape Delhi and get into the mountains. With cargo cleared through customs we set off for Manali to find that Lobzang had things there pretty much under control. Food was bought without too much grief and we were able to leave earlier than planned, reaching Sissu on 26 July.

We did not actually stay there because Lobzang convinced me that the next ,illage had a far better rest house. It also had the temple dedicated to Gephan and more importantly his sister's house. This was not to be just a social call though. A big party was planned for that night and we were invited.

An excellent time was had by all though we did duck out rather early. The arak tasted far too good to be conducive to an early start the next day, and there was the small, but worrying, matter of a bathtub full of chang (still untouched) resting in the middle of the floor. Not surprisingly, we did not get our early start and even then there were very few villagers about.

The main reason for the delay was our attendance at a puja to pacify the god of our intended sununit. That proved to be very rewarding. I may not be religious myself but I could see that it meant much to our base camp staff.

The first trip up took two camps, though the days were short and our progress was limited more by the altitude being gained than the distance involved. We set up base camp on 30 July knowing now that we could get on with the climbing as soon as the others arrived.

I went down to meet them in Manali. This took only 8 hours from BC and cost Rs. 48 for the bus. No great hardship. They managed to reach BC on the second day from Sissu but suffered a little more from the effects. They also brought some unwanted showers with them. These were front markers of the exceptional monsoon to come, but more of that later.

We all took some gear up to a comenient dumping ground before the first glacier as part of an acclimatisation and familiarisation walk. At the top of this glacier we needed to cross an ugly looking bergschrund. This caused a fair bit of debate since not everyone felt comfortable with the proposed tactic of soloing up the slopes above. This we felt to be necessary as there was ample evidence of rockfall.

Having slept on the matter we gathered again for a heavy discussion. The original plan of everybody up together looked to be foiling apart. Something had to be done. Either we forgot the new route or forgot the 'togetherness'. I was not happy with either. The matter was only reconciled by the fact that Wilrik, Trevor and Mark were keen to climb under their own steam and not be hauled up; an admirable sentiment. They decided to try and repeat the 1954 expedition route leaving Andy and I to continue as planned. Since both groups felt they would be pushing their own limits neither could take Nizammudin along. Despite previous successful ascents as a member of other expeditions, he was not familiar with our planned style of ascent and time did not permit the necessary re-training.

The weather continued to deteriorate, with one day totally cooped up inside because of rain. Despite this we (Andy and I) decided that a tent would be too heavy and probably of limited use. We therefore set off on 11 August with a bivvy bag and a survival bag for shelter.

Progress up to the bergschrund was good. We had planned to dig a snow hole there anyway but now found the heavy rain made it a necessity. A very miserable night was spent in wet clothes and one lesson learnt for the future. Never cook with smelly cheese on the first night.

Next morning we changed our plans to climb the ice-wall on the far side. Rain during the night had loosened the rocks above, prematurely, and we didn't fancy being out amongst them. We climbed up to the rocks on the right but found these to be anything but solid. The occasional peg gave us the necessary security and we gained the couloir above the bergschrund after a couple of hours. We soloed up to the col, wanting to spend as little time in the firing line as possible. The col was nearly 300 m above and even at a race this took over an hour.

Once on the col we found much needed running water and soon had a brew on. We found the remnants of an old camp site just above but decided that without a tent this would be too exposed for us. There was a good view of the ridge ahead of us.

Two big towers dominated the first, rock")' section but we reckoned on avoiding these to the right. Beyond this an ice-slope led up to the snows above. The left edge of these we knew to be corniced, but to the right we could now see a severe looking icefall. This was not expected and was obviously going to make this section a little harder than plaimed. The sunm1it itself stood proud of the snow-slopes, mounted on top of a rocky bastion. Our plan had always been to climb this by a ridge line on the North and this now looked to be quite simple.

We searched for a suitable shelter given that the clouds were gathering again. There was nothing suitable but we levelled off a site and bedded down. The rain came agam soon after and made for the second miserable night.

The weather was a little clearer the next morning and we set off along the tock ridge, aiming to camp again at the far end just before the ice slope. A repeat of the previous night's experience, was made a little more bearable by having the time to fill our stomachs and by a fluke of radio conmrnnication. Somehow we managed to speak to the other three somewhere further up the nala and behind the north ridge despite previous attempts being very dependent upon line-of-sight.

With great hopes we set alarms for 04:30 the next morning. Getting up at that time was no problem and the skies were clear. After a substantial breakfast of oat/raisin custard though, my stomach decided not to play ball. We eventually got started well after first light, by then more like 06:30.

We had expected only one pitch of fairly easy ice before reaching the snow slopes above and had therefore only brought two ice screws from the col. We now regretted the decision as we needed to climb five pitches before the angle relented, crossing small crevasses along the way. Each belay consisted of a single screw and well placed axes. We thought better of testing their effectiveness!

The snow slopes above were also crevassed and, though bridged, we lacked confidence in the poor quality snow following the rains. The clouds had returned as well which made it more diflicult to choose a good line. Ever conscious of the corniced left edge we probably erred too far to the right and suffered worse crevasses accordingly, but better that than dropping off completely.

We had expected to reach some rocks at the base of the last section of ridge by 11:00 and reckoned that unless we did, we wouldn't make the summit and return that day: quite critical given that sleeping on the rock ridge had been cold enough. By 11:45 we had not reached those rocks. Andy took two falls in quick succession and a clearing in the clouds made it quite obvious that we were not clear of danger yet. Though we appeared to be no more than 300 m from the easier ridge line above we agreed to return whilst we still could.

The descent was not much easier. A snow storm swept through and for sections we could not follow our trail. Just to make matters worse, I twisted an ankle jumping off a snow bridge when I felt it lurch. We reached the col by 17:00 but decided against any further progress that day. Andy may have been feeling good but I certainly was not.

It was an intensely cold night though thankfully a dry one. We did not have any running water and since fetching snow was such a chore we only made drinks for supper and breakfast.

The first section down from the col was very steep and loose so we set up anchors to prevent any silly accidents. After that the fear of rockfall in the lower section made speed the priority and we soloed down to the bergschrund. Andy was much faster and was well on his way to setting up a lowering off point. by the time I got there.

The crossing was unnerving but accomplished safely. That being the last real obstacle we stopped for a brew though we could see the others at the end of the glacier by now, coming up to assist with the return to BC. Those last few hundred metres down seemed to last for ever though the sight of our friends scampering for safety as a large part of the north face collapsed did lighten the sombre mood. Run rabbit, run !

Exhausted and dehydrated we were immensely grateful that they had come up this far. I was particularly grateful for the proffered water bottles, especially as there was a hint of lemon. We all had much to say and talked solidly back to BC.

As a first expedition this was certainly al) eventful one. I won't judge it purely in terms of our failure to reach the summit. We each learned much about the processes involved and, if anything, I am now even more keen to go again. Just don't tell the bank manager!

Summary : An attempt on Gepang Goh (5870 m), Lahaul, in August 1998, by a British team.

Members: Trevor Milton, Andy Parkinson, Wilrik Sinia, Mark Smith and Ian Ford (leader) and Sgt. Nizamuddin (LO).

Photo 34



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IN 1990 AND 1994, TORYO ALPINE CLUB organised expeditions to KR7. At that time I saw KR5 in between Baralacha la and base camp. It was a beautiful snowy peak, so I decided to climb KR5 and started planning this expedition.

Expedition outline for KR5

28 July : Leave Delhi
1 August : Leave Manali
2-3 August : Acclimatisation (3800 m - 4600 m) Patseo
5 August : Base camp (BC) was set µp at 4820 m on the right of the Chandra river.
7 August : C1 was set up at 5050 m
10 August : C2 was set up at 5470 m
15 August : A party consisting of : Minoru Yanagi and Alamchand Thakur, reached the summit at 10.10 a.m. (started from C2 at 3.15 a.m.) back to C2 at 2.30 p.m. and C1 at 5.30 p.m.


KR5 6258

KR5 6258


  1. The first ascent of KR5 was made by Tokyo Nogyo University (Japan) in September-October 1983.
  2. From BC to C1 we climbed on the left side of moraine of the KR5 glacier, and crossed it. After that we pitched a tent on the moraine (C1).
  3. From C1 to C2, we climbed on the glacier and passed through an icefall which was 100 m high. We couldn't climb the icefall directly because of many crevasses, so we made an alternative route on the left of the rock face and fixed ropes of 60 m for 2 pitches.
  4. From C2 to the summit, we fixed a rope for 2 pitches on a 45 degree ice-face. Next, we reached a Plateau (5700 m). After that, we climbed on the northeast ridge to the junction peak. Finally, we climbed a snowy ice-face, 3 pitches from a col and reached the summit. We were lucky with the weather, it was fine. Much snow started to fall after 2 p.m.

Summary : An ascent of .KR5 in Lahaul. Summit was reached on 15 August 1998. Party was from Toryo Alpine Club, Japan.

Members : Minoru Yanagi (leader), Yukio Takano and Yoshito Otsuka.

Photo 36



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Maj. P. P. DAVIS

THE CORPS. OF AIR DEFENCE ARTILLERY OF ARMY organised an expedition to climb Leo Pargial I, peak in Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh in Aug-Sep. 1998.

The team was led by Major Davis P. P. and comprised mostly novices on their first expedition.

The Leo Pargial massif consists of group of two peaks. The Northern Peaks are marked near each other. To their south stands Reo Purgial (6816 m) the highest peak in the Hinwchal Pradesh.

The summit of Leo Pargial I is a level ridge nearly 500 m long running west to east as seen from the air from the nortlnvest direction. The western edge of the summit is snow covered. The eastern half of the summit in covered by rocky outcrops.

The team moved to Nako village 3660 m located 40 km away from Puh on 19 August 1998 and carried out reconnaissance of a suitable route up the mountain. The peak can be approached either by following the Natar Lungpa to the snout of the glacier and thence along the glacier or by a more direct approach over the scree slopes above Nako to hit the glacier at approximately 5370 m. The latter option is shorter and more practicable and was the one adopted.

The base camp was established at 4790 m. An intermediate staging camp was established close to Kark, en route to base camp which was wound up subsequently. The climb to base camp from Nako involved a distance of approx 5 km and a gain in height of approx 1130 m which could be covered in about 4 to 5 hours by an acclimatised climber.

The Climb

Climb to Camp 1. The climb beyond BC commenced on 24 August. Camp I was established at 5425 m next to the glacier which emanates from the basin between Leo Pargial and Reo Purgyil. The climb to Camp 1 was over barren slopes strewn with scree and boulders. Leo Pargial was visible only from Camp 1 and beyond on this route.

Climb to Camp 2. Beyond Camp 1 the route descended 60 m to hit the glacier. The glacier presented a bizarre picture with its highly undulating and contorted moraine which hid deep crevasses and glacier pools. The glacier was crossed at a point directly below Camp I, where it was about 300 m wide. The route then followed the lateral moraine on the far bank. The left fork of the glacier Jed to a col due northwest of the peak. Camp 2 was established on a rock-y ledge above the glacier at 5950 m. The col was about 40 minutes climb from the Camp 2 site. Leo Pargial towered over Camp 2, which was occupied on 30 August 98 in preparation for summit bids.

On hindsight it seems that Camp 2 could have been established on the Northwest col, which would have saved considerable time and effort during the final summit attempt.

First Summit Attempt

The first summit attempt was launched on 30 August. The team consisted of four climbers led by Maj Surendra Kumar, SM, expedition deputy leader. The climb to the col at 6100 m was gradual and easy. Views to the north unfolded from the col. Chango glacier descended smoothly into Spiti. The north facing slopes of Leo Pargial which were loaded with snow emptied into this glacier. It appeared that the col could be reached along the Chango glacier commencing at the Chango village, though the route would be considerably longer. 1

Leo Pargial (left) and Reo Purgyil, Chango glacier area

Note 17
39. Leo Pargial (left) and Reo Purgyil, Chango glacier area

North face of Reo Purgyil (6816 m)

Note 17
40. North face of Reo Purgyil (6816 m)

Ariel view of summit slopes of Leo Pargial, West colon left

Note 17
41. Ariel view of summit slopes of Leo Pargial, West colon left

Close up of north face of Reo Purgyil.

Note 17
42. Close up of north face of Reo Purgyil.

Ariel view of Leo Pargial (left) and Reo Purgyil.

Note 17
43. Ariel view of Leo Pargial (left) and Reo Purgyil.

Final slopes to the twin sunmlitts of Leo Pargial

Note 17
44. Final slopes to the twin sunmlitts of Leo Pargial

Beyond the col the climb was hindered by numerous crevasses which crisscrossed the slopes. The climbing conditions on this peak in August-September differ vastly from the conditions that prevail during May-June. The snow cover which extends down to the base camp melts away by August, and crevasses open up on the summit slopes.


  1. See article 'Chango, 1998', in this volu1IIe for the approach and ascent from the Chango glacier. — Ed.


The first summit team opened a route till approximately 6460 m and retreated as weather deteriorated in the afternoon.

Second Summit Attempt

The second summit attempt was launched on I September. The summit team left Camp 2 at. 0600 hrs and the previous day's high point was reached by around 10 a.m. Scouting for crossing points on the crevasses took up valuable time and progress was slow. Highe up crevasses ceased and the team negotiated wind swept slopes with hard crusty snow, reaching the shoulder to the west of the peak by midday. From here a well defined snow ridge, approximately 400 m long, led to the summit. The ridge was corniced to the south. Closer to the summit the ridge became more steep.

At around 1600 hrs the weather deteriorated rapidly and clouds blotted out all view. Gusty and chilly winds accompanied by wind driven snow lashed at the climbers. Although they were well past the predetermined tum-around time the climbers decided to press on to the summit which revealed itself intermittently tlrrough the clouds and appeared deceptively close. Finally the ridge levelled off abruptly signalling that the summit had been reached.

The summit was attained at around 5.30 p.m. The visibility improved a little to reveal the rock.--y out crops on the eastern half of the summit. The summitters were Maj. Davis P. P. (leader), Lt. V. Ravi, L/Nk (OFC) H. L. Srinivasa, Gm. (ADA) Daleep Kumar and Gnr (ADA) Prakash Chand. All except the leader were on their first expedition.

The team spent approximately 15 minutes on the sunm1it before commencing a hasty descent under poor visibility and in the face of approaching darkness. Foot prints on the snow slopes below the shoulder had been obliterated by drifting snow and there was a danger of climbers straying away from the route on the crevasse prone slopes. The team assessed the line of descent correctly and managed to reach the fixed rope before it was totally dark, returning to the safety of Camp 2 by around 8.30 p.m.

Summary : Ascent of Leo Pargial (6791 m) on I September 1998 by a team from the Indian army.

Photos 39 to 44

Editor's Note on Heights and Names of the Leo Pargial Group :

The nomenclature of Leo Pargial group of peaks has been a matter of discussion since 1933 when Marco Pallis climbed it. Marco Pallis gave the name 'Leo Pargial', after the village Leo. It is recorded that Gerard Brothers, Deputy Commissioner of Kinnaur and travellers called it 'Reo Purgyil' (H.J. Vol. VI, p. 106, Vol. XXVI, p. 182, 184) which seems to be a well-accented name to the locals in the Kinnaur. It meets the description ('demon') and sounds correct phonetically.

It was finally accepted that the north group be called 'Leo Pargial I (6791 m) and II (6770 m)' as marked on the maps (1967). The southern peak was called 'Reo Purgyil (68 I6 m)' and as the highest peak in Himachal Pradesh. (H.J. Vol. 38, p. 102 and Vol. 48, p. 91- Editor's Notes). The above heights were accepted for long time.

The present Indian army team has referred a recent Survey of India map of 1977. According to this map the following position is mentioned for name and heights of the above group.

Leo Pargial I (6773 m - instead of 6791 m). Leo Partial II (6759 m - instead of 6770 m).

Unnamed Peak (6759 m - instead of 6816 m) - this is the southern peak, Reo Purgyil.

As this map is also about two-decades old we are trying to ascertain the heights on a more recent map, if possible, before changing the accepted heights.



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The Tempo La


THE TEMPO la is an easy pass between Khoksar, at the northern foot of the Rohtang pass, and Darcha in Lahaul. Hamish Irvine and I chose to do this trek from north to south as the first part of a brief climbing holiday in July 1997. A few miles from Darcha we met a local man who assured us that the trip could be done in a day. This is possibly true for an unladen, acclimatiseq person with local knowledge, but there was no evidence that the pass is actually used (no cairns at all except for a small on one the col), and for the average trekker three days would be a more sensible estimate. Following the Milang nala from Darcha, a wire bridge leads over the river and the path climbs up to the last village, Yotse. Here, suffering the effects of a rapid journey from Britain, and unaccustomed to altitude and heat, we would gladly have availed ourselves of some portering assistance, but almost the entire village had descended to Jispa, to pay respects to the eminent Losar Rimpoche visiting from Spiti. Beyond Yotse the route climbs and contours around rightwards to enter a long valley running southeast. We had excellent views of the Koa Rong peaks behind us to the north; however once above the pastures there are long and tedious moraines for many miles. The pass itself is very obvious - the only easy looking snow col. To its right (west) are some steep rock-y faces, while on its left a series of undistinguished rock-y buttresses rise above the long eastern arm of the glacier. The trekking map of Himachal Pradesh published by the Government of India (sheet 2; scale l:250,000) portrays quite accurately the glacier's sharp bend to the east below the Tempo la. However the l :200,000 trekking map with 'ridges', published by Leomann, shows a purely fictional ridge dividing the Tempo la from the eastern extension of the glacier. In fact this eastern extension provides a long but easy access into the heart of the central Lahaul mountains: we could see several icefalls at its head, and a large snowy peak, probably M7.

The north side of the pass was very straightforward, first on scree and then down an easy snowbowl. Below this there is a junction with a larger glacier flowing down from the northeast. This latter had a hideous-looking icefall above the junction, which appeared very difficult to bypass. Below the junction there was another icefall which would be quite easy in ascent, but gave us a little difficulty in descent as the way was not easy to find and we were minimally equipped for light trekking. The Khoksar nala then descends delightfully through a narrow, valley with large cliffs on the west side and a good path on the east side. Framed in the opening of the nala we could see the busy traffic on the Rohtang road, which we reached comfortably on the third day after our departure from Darcha.

The Kulti nala

After a quick recuperation in Manali we returned over the Rohtang to explore the Kulti nala, the next nala to the east of the K.hoksar nala. This has been well described by previous expeditions (HJ 19 p. 147, HJ 43 p. 139, HJ 44 p. 197). By a coincidence after we had begun our researches we discovered that one of the members of the British Royal Air Force Mountaineering Association (RAFMA) 1955 expedition to this area was Donald Bennet, a good colleague of ours from the Scottish Mountaineering Club, and an excellent photographer. On our return he kindly lent us some photos which showed a marked reduction in the glacier snout over the last 40 years.

We reached the Sara flats in a short day from the roadhead and the next day bypassed the glacier snout by rocks on the left and proceeded up the moraines to camp within striking distance of the several icefalls descending into the Kulti basin. Most of these looked dangerous and unattractive - the safest access to the glacier below Jori being via a rocky ridge on the right which runs down from CB45 (the next peak to the right of Akela Kila). The same ridge also gives access to the next glacier to the right, in the bowl between CB45 and Ashagiri, from where a very fine climb up the left (northeast?) ridge of Ashagiri appeared possible. On the other side of the basin access to Sri Lata and Tila-ka-Lahr would have involved a long trudge up scree and moraines to reach the snow. A wet day put us off any of these options and we chose instead to climb a small rocky peak marked as P. 17,291 ft on the RAFMA map. The righthand (northwest?) ridge of this peak, as seen from the Kulti basin, was easily reached in about two hours from our camp and provided a very pleasant scramble, with no necessity for ropes, axes or crampons. From the ridge we had excellent views into the glacier basin lo the south, which we propose to call the East Kulti glacier.

This is in fact the glacier whose steep icefall snout blocks the end of the Sara flats, while the larger glacier of the main Kulti basin seems to peter out in moraines above that icefall. Above its snout the East Kulti glacier bends around southeast and finally south. The glacier is bordered on its northeast and east side by a series of lowish rocky peaks, first P. 5270 m, then a higher peak (about 5500 m) with a distinctive gendarme. Beyond this the bounding ridge bends around and drops to a col which may lead over into the Kukti valley (the next nala east of the Kulti), or possibly leads to a glacier draining into a valley further east. West of the col a sharp ridge rises steadily to a pyramidal peak (5500 m) from which a ridge runs down into the Kukti basin. Below the pyramidal peak the East Kulti glacier rises and bends around southwards. The boundary ridge also takes a tum at the pyramidal peak, and after a drop climbs to !ts highest point, here called East Kulti peak (5945 m). A very little way beyond this, at a subsidiary top, a long ridge runs down (separating the Kukti and Kulti nalas) and eventually rises to a much lower peak, which we identified as Sara Pahar - illustrated in photo 65 in HJ vol 44. A problem with this identification was that the height of 5622 m given in HJ 44 for this peak seemed a considerable overestimate. Another problem is that this peak is not in the position indicated for Sara Pahar on the map in HJ Vol 43, p. 140. That sketch map shows Sara Pahar as one of the peaks on the ridge bordering the west side of the East Kulti glacier. These peaks could indeed have an altitude of about 5622 m.

Continuing along the boundary ridge of the East Kulti glacier from East Kulti peak two prominent rocky teeth are visible, and beyond this there is a summit slightly lower than East Kulti peak which appears easily accessible from the East Kulti glacier by a snowy ridge culminating in a rocky pimple. Beyond this the ridge continues over another slightly lower peak and then drops, at first gradually and then more steeply, in a series of serrated rocky points. The base of the ridge is about 610 m above and Sara flats, a little way south of the barrier icefall which marks the end of the flats.

After descending from the Kulti basin we climbed up on the west side of the valley above the Sara flats to try and identify the topography of Sara Pahar and the East Kulti peaks. Subsequently, by climbing up on the east side, just a little south of the barrier icefall, and then following a line diagonally leftwards, we were able to bypass all difficulties and gain the easy snowy basin of the East Kulti glacier. From here the glacier rises gently and without difficulty to a small face of about 240 m below the summit of East Kulti peak. In good conditions the snow flutings could be climbed directly, alternatively the shattered rocky face to the right can be climbed to gain the summit ridge just left of the prominent rocky teeth. We had wonderful views of Mulkila and a multitude of the CB peaks to the northeast, while further east there were sharp rocky peaks above the Chhatru nala, and the prominent peak of the east side of the Kukti nala (photo 66 in HJ 44). We were able to see that, as with the Kulti basin and East Kulti glacier, the Kukti too takes a sharp bend to the east, so that rather than being at the 'head' of the Kukti the peak in photo 66 of HJ 44 would be better described as 'above the bend' in the Kukti glacier.

After a couple of days of fine weather which had allowed us some enjoyable exploration we descended to a day of torrential rain (Lahaul in July is not always dry!!), and then back to the fleshpots of Manali.

Summary : Visits to Tempo la and Kulti valley, Lahaul, H.P., in July 1997, by a British team.

Photos 37-38


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