Himalayan Journal vol.58
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.58

Publication year:
2002

Editor:
Harish Kapadia
Index
  1. TWO POEMS
    (REV. ROY GREENWOOD)
  2. HIMALAYA: MYTHICAL SHANGRI LA TO GLOBALISING COCKPIT1
    (A. D. MODDIE)
  3. QUEST FOR SOURCE OF THE MEKONG RIVER
    (TAMOTSU NAKAMURA)
  4. FIRST ASCENT OF TIRSULI WEST
    (MAJOR KULWANT SINGH DHAMI, SM)
  5. NANDA GHUNTI FROM BOTH SIDES
    (MARTIN MORAN)
  6. MERU PEAK: THE GATE TO THE SKY
    (VALERI BABANOV)
  7. A CLIMB IN THE CLOUDS
    (ARNAB BANERJEE)
  8. PERMIT ME, SANCTUARY
    (STEVEN BERRY)
  9. NANDA DEVI JUGGERNAUT
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  10. THE TRIDENT OF SHIVA
    (COLIN KNOWLES)
  11. LAST MINUTE JOURNEY
    (ANTONELLA CICOGNA and MARIO MANICA)
  12. A DATE WITH THE TIMELESS MOUNTAINS
    (Lt. Col. A. ABBEY)
  13. IN THE LAND OF ARGANS
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  14. BARBAROSSA
    (MARK RICHEY)
  15. BRITISH SOLU EXPEDITION 2000
    (DAVE WILKINSON)
  16. TRAVELS WITH DONKEYS IN THE KUN LUN
    (COLONEL HENRY DAY)
  17. TO THE ALPS OF TIBET
    (TAMOTSU NAKAMURA)
  18. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  19. BOOK REVIEWS
  20. IN MEMORIAM
  21. CORRESPONDENCE
  22. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 2001
  23. CLUB PROCEEDINGS

LAST MINUTE JOURNEY

ANTONELLA CICOGNA and MARIO MANICA

FROM NOW ON NO MORE last-minute journeys. We've got to organise our trips in proper time". I probably decided this the year I met Mario, my husband. This sentence has become part of our family history. Like the 'famous last words', our trips have in fact become more and more of the 'last-minute kind', for a lack of time, for the merciless and relentless ticking of our biological clocks and works...

In our last-minute escapes, we cannot count on either many days off or on great financial means. We were therefore looking for an area with easy access, a short approach, still isolated from the rest of the world, and not expensive. Miyar nala, in the Indian Himalaya was the one we chose. Nestled in the heart of the mountains, Miyar valley was a few days away from the touristy Manali, from where most expeditions to Spiti, Lahaul, Zanskar and Ladakh take off.

Accounts usually start with nostalgic memories of unexplored areas, where no humans except the narrator(s) have ever trod. We cannot say we were the first in this valley, of course. Still, its beauty was so marvellous, taking our breath away, like a dream. In wild surroundings, a great part of its mountains were, and still are, really untouched.

I find myself in a cubby-hole, at the second floor of a hut of mud and eucalyptus wood. A bucket is at my feet and a thin curtain separates me from the rest of the space. 15 pairs of colourful woollen socks hang from a line drawn across the room. The room itself lies in shade, bare, its floor is of dried mud too.

When I close my eyes and go back to that journey this is the image I get of myself taking a shower in that tiny little corner, with a little hot water in the bucket. Everything is so essential, still so full.

Photos 25-26-27

One of the families of Changut village is giving us hospitality after one month spent on their mountains. The water is so hot that I have to mix it with the icy water taken from the Miyar river. One guy rushes into the room unaware of my presence. I scream him off. He runs away, freaked out and confused, not expecting a girl up there. From downstairs I can hear the women of the family messing with a smoking stove in the middle of the dining room. Colourful veils cover their long shiny dark hair. The scent in the air is of dal and boiled potatoes. The men of the family are sitting apart, all together. They talk and smoke, and never take their eyes off the women. Their skin is of the same colour as their land. Their dusty clothes too. Dark brown.

We are offered hospitality and food; tasty potatoes and spicy dal. Shi-Chi Angmo takes me by my arm. Her hands are so warm, her spirit so tangible. She wants medicines and to know all about our world and us. Her family is the richest in Miyar nala, she, the most audacious of the girls to the group. Breaking the tradition she is sitting with us sharing her food with us. A ragged poster of the latest elected politician hangs lazily on the wall, blowing at every gust of wind.

It takes three days of trekking to get to our mountains, located at the foot of the long Miyar glacier. The trek is a slow parting from existing colours and views, to new colours and views. It is a sudden and painless trade of sounds and horizons with new aromas and lines, until you get to the BC, located in a beautiful green area where the river starts its descent nourished by perpetual snows. The first two days are a wonderful journey amidst villages. Menthosa is the highest peak of that area, 6444 m high. In the three days of trekking the elevation gained is gradual and it is ideal for a good acclimatization. Where our tents put down roots, like mushrooms, at 4000 m, we cannot see the wall of our dreams. But as soon as we ascend the moraine above our base camp our vision cannot resist the tempting beauty of the compact rock lines of those incredible big walls. Their granite is golden like desert sand.

"You will be fascinated; you'll find unbelievable walls'' Massimo Marcheggiani was right. It was he who gave us information about this area months before. He was the first to climb on those mountains. Massimo and his mates had opened the first three routes on that group of towers. 'Horn Please', on the Neverseen Tower, is definitely the most famous one: almost 1000m long, running on fantastic granite.

Diego Stefani had also confirmed the great potentiality of this area. We met him by chance. He was coming out of Miyar, the same days that we were getting in. He had just opened the fourth route of the group after venturing for the first time into a new area of these towers, probably part of the Abbott Range. In the rain and first snow of late August, Diego told us of a huge unclimbed wall next to Thunder peak, the peak that he and Gianluca Bellin had just climbed in first ascent of more than 20 pitches. He and Gianluca would have stayed longer to climb it, had the weather not turned bad and the vacation run out.

This is the one. That wall will be our goal, we thought during the trek to BC. Now, in front of these walls, we really get what Diego and Massimo were talking about. After a 'first' exploration of the walls we start taking all the climbing gear to the advanced camp. It is already mid September and we have not reckoned with one more mate: the monsoon. Afflicted by our western pace, it has also rushed in before time, making its appearance twenty days in advance. From then on the bad weather will be roped with us abandoning us only one day, when we ascend a 5400 m peak right in front of the walls we intend to climb. The weather is so ironically clear that day, that we have an incredible view on the whole Miyar glacier and on the hundreds of unclimbed peaks encircling the glacier. That sight could have been a dream.

At the end of September, after never ending days waiting for the rain to stop, after never ending card games, two birthdays (my husband's and mine) one wedding anniversary (Mario's and mine), cakes, chocolates, broken dreams and some kilos gained in the desperate wait, our last-minute journey has come to an end too. Our tents are literally soaked. We get to the advanced camp to retrieve our stuff after a long day in the snow up to the knees. Time has run out. We find our bags under one metre of snow. The challenge is still open though. The big wall is still there. Who knows... at the very last minute we might decide to come back again.

Miyar Valley - Himachal Pradesh

Miyar valley is located in northern India, in the region of Himachal Pradesh. Also called the land of perpetual snows, this region is one of the most diverse territories in India from a morphological point of view: stretching out from Indian plains to Himalayan mountains. Lush forests, snow covered peaks, impetuous rivers, tiny villages of shepherds and farmers characterize its landscape. Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Different people of different religions, cultures, dialects and customs, inhabit the region. Each of these groups has maintained its traditions and cultural values. Mongolians inhabit the whole area of Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur, at the border with Ladakh and Tibet, and the people are Buddhists. Miyar valley is located in the Lahaul area at the borders with Zanskar and Ladakh.

From Delhi to Manali (Kullu Valley - Himachal Pradesh)

From Delhi, the bus is the only way to get to Manali - daily departures (early hours of the morning and evening hours) from Kashmir Gate Station. The trip is 16-20 hrs long. In the first part, it crosses the fertile plains of Haryana then it enters Himachal Pradesh, passes through Kullu valley, along the Beas river, and ends in Manali, late evening.

Manali - Udaipur - Karpat

Outside Manali the road ascends steeply to Rohtang pass, 3980 m, covering over 2000 m of elevation in a few hours. From Rohtang pass the roads descends rapidly to the valley of Chandra river. Before Keylong, the road turns off along Chandra river. Passed the village of Tandi, it gets to Udaipur, where Urgus river (descending from Miyar valley) and Chandra river which is now called Chandrabhaga meet. From Udaipur the roads proceeds to Karpat.

Considering all the climbing gear, food, stoves, camping equipment, it is advisable to rent a private jeep from Manali to Karpat. (6-10 hrs according to road condition or rock slides).

Miyar Valley

Miyar valley is a lateral valley of Chenab (Chandrabhaga) valley. Its lower part, right above Udaipur, is very narrow and run by Urgus river. In some parts the valley hollows its way out of the rock, forming real canyons.

Approaching Chamrat village, the valley becomes wider and potatoes and barley fields sway in sleepy villages. The road ends at Karpat village, at about 3000 m. From there, trekking starts. The first day of trekking passes through many villages, the last of which is Khanjar. In two more days, encountering herds of dzos (a crossbreeding between yak and bovine), you get to the beginning of Miyar glacier, whose terminal part is at 4000 m. From here there is also the possibility to trek to Padum, in Zanskar. It takes 3 more days to traverse the glacier up to Kang la, 5350 m and Tawa glacier.

Trekking to BC

The trek to base camp is an easy three-day hike along the Miyar valley. Total elevation gained in the 3 days is very gradual and ideal for acclimatisation. The trek can be done also in 2 days. BC can be put just before the front of the Miyar glacier on a flat area at 4000 m, and a few metres away from the river. The BC area is marked by the presence of a stone-hut for grazing animals. It is the last stone-hut of the entire area.

Approach to the climbing walls

Up to now there are two known climbing areas : the Tawa glacier (where Neverseen Tower is located) and Spaghetti glacier. The glacier

apparently had no name; Diego Stefani and Gianluca Bellin, probably the first climbers to get there, dubbed it Spaghetti glacier, dominated by Veneto Peak and Thunder Peak. Both glaciers and climbing walls cannot be seen from base camp, but the approach is very easy to guess. For Tawa glacier the approach is directly from base camp. The trail ascents steeply for 500-600 m and proceeds gradually up to the beginning of the glacier, from where the walls are visible (4-5 hours). From here it takes a little more than an hour to get to Neverseen Tower. The approach to Spaghetti glacier, and therefore to Thunder Peak and to the huge unclimbed wall, takes longer (7-8 hours).

From base camp the trail ascends crossways passing the valley that leads to Tawa glacier. Once passed the valley, the trail proceeds ascending steep slopes that lead to the moraine of Spaghetti glacier. From here, to reach the glacier, ascend the rock slabs (III-IV).

Climbing in Miyar Valley

There is not much information on the ascents in the Miyar valley, because very few expeditions climbed in this area. The highest peak is Menthosa (6443 m) and it dominates Urgus village; its classic route presents some rock climbing parts. Most peaks are unclimbed, especially those in the upper part of the valley and those above Miyar glacier, The climbing area (Abbott Range) located just before the beginning of Miyar glacier, was topographically surveyed in 1978 by the British expedition; King's School Ely Himalayan Expedition. It was only in the early '90's that the Italian expedition led by Paolo Vitali climbed on these beautiful granite towers. This area offers huge possibilities for climbers and new explorations, especially new routes on unclimbed peaks and walls.

Until now these are the ascents accomplished on the walls that face Tawa glacier:

- Neverseen Tower c 6000 m., route 'Horn Please', 900 m, difficulty VII, 22-24 Sept. 1992. Massimo Marcheggiani, Leone Di Vincenzo, Alberto Miele (Italy).

- Peak 5750 m difficulty V+, 17 Sept. 1992. Massimo Marcheggiani, Leone Di Vincenzo, Alberto Miele (Italy).

- Peak 5700 m. difficulty 70° and VI, 22 Sept. 1996. Massimo Marcheggiani, Ubaldo Danni (Italy).

- Cima Citta di Frascati 5920 m, 900 m, difficulty VI+, 25-26 Sept. 1996. Massimo Marcheggiani, Ubaldo Danni, Francesco Camillucci (Italy).

A smaller peak located at the end of Tawa glacier, 'Paola's Peak' 5400 m, was ascended in 1999 by an Italian expedition from Bolzano led by Ermanno Filippi.

In 1998 the Italians Diego Stefani and Gianluca Bellin accomplished ascents in the unclimbed area of Spaghetti valley.

- Thunder Peak 5990 m, difficulty VII+ 85°, 900 m, 18 pitches. 8 Sept. 1998. Diego Stefani, Gianluca Bellin.

- Veneto Peak 5850 m, difficulty 6b+/85°, 850m, 15 August 1999. Diego Stefani, Gianluca Bellin.

In 1998, during acclimatisation and in the only good day of weather we ascended a very easy and unclimbed peak, Lorena Peak 5400 m. (Fabrizio Defrancesco, Mario Manica, Antonella Cicogna), located in front of Tawa glacier.

(*All the heights of the peaks are not official.)

Climbing targets

Most granite towers in the area, on the right hand of the base camp, have never been photographed and present huge climbing possibilities. The rock is just marvellous and very climbable. According to the openers (and what we saw) the quality of the rock is one of the best you can climb. The walls are of big wall style but until now all the ascents have been accomplished in alpine style.

The wall facing Spaghetti glacier, which we photographed while ascending Lorena peak is certainly one of the most spectacular and most compact unclimbed granite wall in the world. It is a 800 m wall and the peak is around 6000 m.

Other beautiful climbs are the right and left ridges of Neverseen Tower. Also the glacier (with no name) located behind the climbed face of Neverseen Tower is still unexplored and offers great climbing options. For easier peaks of equal beauty, the possibilities are vast. In short there are hundreds of unclimbed mountains and possibilities facing the long Miyar glacier.

SUMMARY

Explorations in the Miyar valley, Himachal Pradesh.