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

FIRST ASCENT OF TIRSULI WEST

MAJOR KULWANT SINGH DHAMI, SM

TIRSULI WEST STANDING at an altitude of 7035 m was one of the highest unclimbed peaks of the Indian Himalaya (until 16 July 2001), a seven thousander at that! The mountain had been attempted by no less than 15 expeditions, mainly foreign, yet the mountain was standing with its head high. It was therefore but natural, that the mountain became the objective of the refresher training for the intrepid instructional staff of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarkashi in June-July 2001.

Tirsuli Main (7074 m) was climbed first by Narbada Mallick, Saruyal Chakarvarty along with Tashi and Dorjee in 1966. Tirsuli East (6701 m) was also reportedly climbed. However, Tirsuli West (7035 m), somehow remained elusive and a constant challenge for mountaineers. This remote mountain is located in the inaccessible ridges of steep gradients approx. 45 kms from Jumma (last roadhead) on the Joshimath-Malari route. The first attempt on the peak was made in 1939 by a Polish team. Four climbers have lost their lives in an attempt to reach to the summit of this peak. The attempts proved highly technical and most challenging. Tirsuli West is also known as Tirsuli II. Similarly, Tirsuli main is also known as Tirsuli I and Tirsuli East, as Tirsuli III.

On 25 June after puja, we left the beautiful sylvan surroundings of NIM and reached Joshimath the same night. On 26 June, last minute purchases were carried out in Joshimath. After an early lunch, the team started from Joshimath for the roadhead Jumma. It is small village with the people of mixed culture. Our advance party, which had already left on 23 June, welcomed us. Next day we started for our intermediate camp at Dunagiri. From Jumma, the Dunagiri valley is reached after crossing the bridge over Dhauli ganga. A 14 km trek from roadhead to Dunagiri village, led us from 9000 ft to 12,700 ft (4000 m). The whole trek is along the Dunagiri gad. We crossed the village Rauling, which is about 4 km from road head. The villagers of Rauling and Dunagiri have a mixed culture of Buddhism and Hinduism. We reached Dunagiri at around 1300 hrs. Next day on 28 June around 0600 hrs, we all gathered for prayers at the famous 'Parvat Devta'. After breakfast we started for our base camp, which was to be at Bagini Khadak (4451 m). The route was along Dunagiri gad after crossing a small bridge over it. Approximately 2 km from Dunagiri is the confluence of Dunagiri and Bagini gad. Dunagiri gad drains from Dunagiri glacier and Bagini gad is from Bagini glacier. After the junction the route is along Bagini gad. Further, 3 km from the junction, we hit the lateral moraine of the glacier. Bagini Kharak is 13 km from Dunagiri village. It is a widely spread bugyal with lot of green grass and flowers of different varieties. In the evening the Rattan Singh and I went for a recce to the height of 4840 m, from where we could get a clear view of the other side of Bagini glacier and route to Camp 1. On 29 June, 6 members with Rattan Singh went for a recce of Camp 1. Rest of us went up to a height of 4840 m for acclimatisation and returned back to the base camp. On 30 June, the team started for Camp I. The route was all along the lateral moraine of the Bagini glacier and it is approximately 7 km from base camp.

Photos 1 to 6

See sketch map in Note 7

C3 on Tirsuli West above upper Bagini glacier.(Maj. K. S. Dhami)

C3 on Tirsuli West above upper Bagini glacier.(Maj. K. S. Dhami)



C4 on SW ridge of Tirsuli West above Bagini glacier. (Maj. K. S. Dhami)

C4 on SW ridge of Tirsuli West above Bagini glacier. (Maj. K. S. Dhami)



Tirsuli West route of ascent (Maj. K. S. Dhami)

Tirsuli West route of ascent (Maj. K. S. Dhami)



Route to C4 on the west ridge of Tirsuli West. (Maj. K. S. Dhami)

Route to C4 on the west ridge of Tirsuli West. (Maj. K. S. Dhami)



On SW ridge of on Tirsuli West. (Maj. K. S. Dhami)

On SW ridge of on Tirsuli West. (Maj. K. S. Dhami)



C4 to summit of Tirsuli West, the first Rock Band. (Maj. K. S. Dhami)

C4 to summit of Tirsuli West, the first Rock Band. (Maj. K. S. Dhami)



On the way we came across a beautiful tarn. Camp 1 was established at 5000 m. From here we could get a beautiful view of Hardeol, Kalanka, Changabang and Purvi Dunagiri. On 1 July, the team opened the route and carried out a load ferry for Camp 2. 2 kms a head of Camp 1, we entered the glacier and climbed steeply to reach the icefall. Route finding though the icefall was a tedious affair. It took us 3 to 4 hrs, to find route to cross the icefall of just 400 m. As soon as we crossed the icefall we found a level glacier, full of scree. This was to be Camp 2. The height of Camp 2 was 5518 m. Further recce was carried out till the base of the mountain, which was a plain snowfield. We started moving down after arranging the campsite at 1230 hrs. On 2 July we reached Camp 2 at 1000 hrs. Camp was established and occupied and soon the clouds started appearing. The weather now started showing its colours. The same evening we prepared ourselves to open route for the next camp. Ropes were cut to size and technical equipment segregated for the next day's climb. Next morning Laxman led , followed by Rattan. By 1200 hrs it started snowing. The route was opened up to the ridge by 1400 hrs. The gradient was around 60° with lots of loose rocks. It was very difficult to fix rope on these rocks, as they were weathered and loose. The whole route up to the Camp 3 was full of boulders and rock faces with steep climbs. At some places the gradient went up to 80 to 90°. After opening the route up to the main ridge the team returned to Camp 2. Next morning was also not a pleasant one, as it snowed the whole night. We therefore rested on 4 June and recouped our strength.

5 July dawned to an absolutely clear sky. We all set out for Camp 3 at 0700 hrs. We reached the base of the mountain, which was 1.5 km away, by 0750 hrs. While Rattan, Laxman, Jagmohan and Soni went ahead, rest of us started moving up with loads. The aim was to open the route and find a suitable place to establish Camp 3. We reached our intended Camp 3 location at 1730 hrs, after a grueling ascent of 10% hours. Here we were only able to find a place where we could spend the night in a sitting position. After dumping our loads, we descended to Camp 2 reaching there at 1900 hours. Later in the evening, we discussed our plan of establishing and occupying Camp 3 the next day.

On 6 July at 0730 hrs, we started from Camp 2. It took us a gruelling 7 hrs to reach Camp 3 site. As there was no place where tents could be pitched, platforms were cut for two tents and open ledges were used where we made precarious bivouacs. The height of Camp 3 was 6341 m, with a sheer drop of 500 m on three sides. Behind Camp 3 was a towering rock pillar, which had to be negotiated after which the final climb of the southwest ridge began. Route to summit from the rock pillar, was connected with an arete. From Camp 3, our route entailed an ascent of 10 m after which we descended for 30 m. 8 members spent the night at Camp 3. Though the morning had been clear, by 1730 hrs, the weather packed up and it started snowing heavily.

On 7 July, six members started for the summit. Weather was not good and at 1230 hrs it started snowing heavily. Despite the bad weather, 11 ropes were fixed beyond Camp 3, after which we descended back to the camp. On 8 July, weather was still overcast but we planned to further push the route towards the summit. Rattan, Laxman, Jagmohan and Soni, fixed another 8 ropes that day. However it started snowing at 1130 hrs. Nevertheless despite the inclement weather, we pushed the route till 1430 hrs and finally called it a day by 1700 hrs. Next day was planned to be summit day. On 9 July, we woke up to find weather at its worst. It had snowed all night and it continued in the morning. There was thus no chance of climbing. We remained in the tents whole day and prayed to the weather gods as best we could. Next day, inclement weather continued unabated. The team moved up to the high point of the previous day and returned totally wet and cold. I decided to move down to Camp 2, if the weather did not improve. By 11 July we had recorded 6 inches of snowfall. We decided to move down to Camp 2. By 1100 hrs we were sipping hot coffee there. We had no option but to wait and watch the weather. 12 July, weather showed chances of improvement. By evening the skies had cleared. 13 July was a clear day and the team started ascending towards Camp 3 and reached the site at 1230 hrs.

We arranged camp and sorted equipment. On 14 July again signs of bad weather reappeared. We now decided to establish another camp as this precarious face had to be fully negotiated. The summit was still for away. From Camp 3, we moved up steeply on the main southwest ridge. At the end of the rock spine, we traversed directly under the dangerously huge seracs of the hanging glacier, which mercifully held on. We negotiated this face as quickly as possible observing it very carefully. Our route from under seracs of the hanging glacier traversed further and made a direct line to the rock band on our right. Camp 4 was finally established and occupied at the height of 6630 m on 15 June. It started snowing by afternoon. 16 July was also bad weather and white-out conditions prevailed. Despite this 400 m, rope was fixed towards summit. The night of 16 July was probably the worst night for team members. The summit was so near yet so far. The events of the previous day were constantly playing in our minds. Weather had been unrelenting for quite some time.

Patience was waning. 17 July 2001 was a foggy morning. We waited for a while but the weather did not show any sign of improvement. A decision had to be taken and after much deliberation we decided to make a final attempt on that day itself. All seven of us left Camp 4 at 0700 hrs. From Camp 4 our route crossed the first rock band after which we negotiated the steep rock face, which was 75 m to 100 m high with a gradient ranging from 75° to almost 90° at places. The complete face was weathered with loose stones whizzing past. One of the stones narrowly missed Rattan Singh. The rock face at this altitude took us nearly 2 hrs to negotiate, which was in spite of the fact that the route was opened up to the high point on 16 July. Ahead of the rock face the gradient again changed. It was now on a mixed slope of soft snow and rock, with a gradient of approximately 40°. We could now see the west ridge of the Tirsuli massif coming and joining the summit ridge of Tirsuli West. Our relative height as compared to Hardeol also kept increasing. Finally the slope eased and at 1120, hrs the first member stood on the elusive summit.

The summit of Tirsuli West, which was an anti-climax, is fully corniced. It is approximately 25 m to 30 m broad and almost flattish with a gradient of 15° to 20° and running from west to east. Interestingly no rock was visible. We all could stands at peace and together for a change. We also dug in an engraved snow stake. Hopefully a portion of it would always be visible, with about 100 m of rope, which was also been left behind for posterity. Despite the flat light conditions, we could get fleeting glimpses of Tirsuli Main, Tirsuli East and Hardeol. After spending 40 minutes on the summit in obscure weather hoping for it to get clear up we commenced our descent.

After winding up Camp 4 the same day, we reached Camp 3 at 1700 hrs. As per NIM traditions, which the institute endeavours to inculcate in all its trainees, all bio-non-degradable and garbage left by previous expeditions was carted down. We made every effort to leave the mountain cleaner than the way we found it. After winding up, the team congregated at roadhead by 22 July to a rousing welcome given by the hardy, happy locals of Jumma. Another epic climb had been added to the history of Indian Mountaineering.

SUMMARY

First ascent of Tirsuli West (7035 m) as refresher training for the instructional staff of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, on 16 July 2001.