JOHN A. JACKSON
In the late 1930's my brother Ron bought a motor-bike and side car for £5. It was an old side-valve Ariel which never went very fast but slogged away all day without any trouble. We called it the 'Iron Lung' and indeed it was a lung, a transport to the fresh clean air of the moorlands and the hills. Ron quickly learned to drive and after a few sorties to Ilkley, Almacliffe and the Lake-District we planned to have two weeks in Scotland and the Isle of Skye.
Scotland is a big mountain country, bigger than people realise. It is possible to go through almost the whole gamut of mountaineering progressions and nowhere more so than on the Skye ridge. It was a good day when two of us roped together and practiced moving Alpine- style over Sgurr Alastair, onto the Thearlach Dubh, then traversed Sgurr Mhic Coinnich via Kings Chimneys and onto An Stac. As we ascended the Inaccessible Pinnacle the mist swept about us and sun shone weakly. Wind from the deep depths of Coruisk whipped between the rock teeth, making a sound like that of a swooping falcon, and then when the sunlight strengthened there appeared the 'Spectre of the Brocken'. My own shadow seemed huge within the circular rainbow — the Glory! White light from the sun had been split into the spectrum as it shone through the spherical droplets of mist and then projected onto the 'screen' of the cloud ahead. Such a moment is never to be forgotten and on this occasion reminded me of a day that my brother Ron and I climbed Illiminate B on Dow Crag in Cumberland. Finishing that climb we saw our first ever 'Brocken' and for a moment I knew great fear of my own giant shadow. Nearing the top of the Inaccessible Pinnacle the mist thinned out the sunlight was strong enough to disperse the clouds and when it cleared the next group of peaks was revealed to us. The barren looking ridge, fractured and shattered by fierce freeze-thaw action over a million years or more is surprisingly dry. But it is worth seeking out the hidden springs where there will be another welcome display of colour as some high growing acetic-alpine plant stretches its leaves and petals to capture the life-giving rays of the sun.
The just a position of mountains and the sea is one of the splendorous of the Hebrides and of the Scottish Western seaboard. Once whilst camping with my wife, Eileon, and our two sons at Achiltibui on the shores of Loch Broom, I revisited the mountaineer and explorer Dr. Tom Longstaff. There have been very few people to who led travelled, explored and climbed as such as he did in different parts of the world. Together, with a few dreams of Glenlivet for lubricant, and maps to stimulate the memory we discussed countries and mountains far afield. Before dark I asked, 'Why did you retire to this spot?' He took me to the window. There I looked out across the loch to the Summer Isles, then beyond to the rugged mountainous coastline stretching south and west as far as the serrated peaks of the Cuillins of Skye. An evening sun set the sea on fire and the toothed gabbro ridge showed up clearly against golden clouds. 'I have travelled far and wide', he said, 'Climbed in most mountain areas of the world, but this is the finest panorama of the mountains and the sea I have ever seen. This is where I want to end my days'.
Summary: Recalling events, from rich experiences of the author.
Photo 52, Frontispiece
We ran into him on the bank of Satopanth tal - a small triangular shaped glacial lake deep in the Himalaya, an ancient and sacred lake impeccably described in the Skanda Puran as a triangular lake that was said to be guarded by none other than the holy Trinity (Bramha, Vishnu and Mahesh), stands at the foot of Chaukhamba peak. 25 km from Badrinath, Satopanth, literally meaning 'the way to the truth', is difficult to reach. Its inaccessibility protects it from the casual foray of the uninitiated. High ridges and treacherous glaciers surround the lake leaving only one route of access that too over razor-sharp ridges and perilous glaciers. On the way, every time we had a fall or faced a landslide and there is no escape from those; we would want to run back to the safety of the Badrinath valley — amidst familiar sights and sounds. But after traversing some distance, when ultimately we comprehended the danger; there was simply no point in turning back. To do so, we had had to cross that killing field again.
Naturally, at such a godforsaken place, in the middle of nowhere, miles away from the nearest habitation and in the lap of breathtaking beauty, legend and harsh reality, we least expected to meet any soul and definitely not a half-naked ascetic.
We had no plan to trek to Satopanth lake. We came to Badrinath without any plan. But the Himalaya has an uncanny knack of forcing its will on gullibles like us. When we were thinking of taking up the relatively easy and well-known route to the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund, Himalaya silently forced itself on us and we met Darshananandaji. He is the in-charge of the Balananda ashram of Badrinath — a sort of hotel in the guise of a dharamshala where one mellow afternoon, sipping hot tea, we were debating the merits and demerits of the commercialisation of religion and the profusion of Dosa and Chana Batora shops in Badrinath; when Darshananandaji gave us a long searching look and suggested that we visit Satopanth tal.
But where the hell is it, was our first reaction. The name was not totally unknown. I have read a brief description of it in a book of Umaprasad Mukhopadyay - ages ago. But except that we had no other information on the route. We also had no provisions, no tent and no guide to lead us. At least a map, provision and tent are the essentials for such a journey to a little known place. But Darshananandaji encouraged us. He even arranged a guide and he procured provisions- food stuff, kerosene, stoves etc. We needed a tent to spend two nights on the route. But Mohan - our guide - assured us that there were enough caves on the route, which could be our night shelter and we could always share those with the wild animals that roamed the mountains. Who knows, we may even share one with the illusive snow leopard! Thus assured, we were off with butterflies in our stomach.
We were trudging along the right bank of river Alaknanda towards Lakshmiban when we were stopped by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
We were firmly told, we need permission to visit Satopanth tal. But sadhus and the locals are allowed to go without permits And Darshananandaji had assured us that we need no permission. But ITBPS would have none of it. Their logic is simple; we are neither sadhu nor locals; so we need permission. Lot of haggling and dropping of names convinced them that we were no spies and not a threat to the security and the sovereignty of the country and they let us pass. But I had to deposit my government identity card as security. Well, low paid certainly, but government jobs sometimes have their own advantage!
But the ITBP had done a great diservice to us. They misled us in believing that the easier route to Satopanth goes through the left bank of Alaknanda not the right bank. Mohan was reluctant to take the unknown left bank route. But how we can ignore the experience of ITBP! Their sage (!) advice prevailed and soon we found ourselves lost amidst an ocean of boulders and fiercely flowing rivulets.
After walking continuously for ten hours on loose moraines and boulders we could not find any night-shelter and evening was fast approaching. Where were those caves that were supposed to litter the route! Bivouacking at such a height in near zero temperature was not my idea of fun. Desperately looking in all directions we could locate an overhang some way up. Erecting loose rock walls and mending the gaping holes with a plastic sheet, we could make a two side open cave with space for two people and we were four. But body warmth keeps one warm - they say! So in we went to spend a very cold night cushioned in our sleeping bags.
It was still dark when I woke up around five next morning. I had slept soundly for nine hours. Even dog-tired souls just cannot sleep more than nine hours. As I looked with some trepidation towards the trail we have to traverse, the first sun ray touched the snow crested peak of Balakun and the peak erupted into a blaze. Stunned, I devoured the sight — a prodigious fire on a snow peak. All of yesterdays' hardship and hassle have turned into a beautiful gift.
Next day we trudged on Bhagirathi kharak. The trek was somewhat boring; clambering up the loose moraine, going two steps forward and sliding one step down, a few water falls and snow peaks giving company—it is labourious and eventless except a few land slides and rock falls that barely missed us. But by that time such happenings were 'all in a days work'!
Trekking for another ten hours at a stretch, taking very short breaks in between; as is was dangerous to stop for long amidst land slides and rock falls, we reached Chakratirtha - a beautiful saucer shaped green valley and crawled into the only cave of the valley. The cave, bereft of wild animals, was warm as its opening was not in the path of the blowing cold wind. After yesterday's chilling night, it turned out to be a cozy and warm bedroom.
The legend has it that Vishnu while meditating kept his famous Sudarshan Chakra on this valley and the weight of the Chakra gave this valley its saucer shape. Lakshmiban has its own legend. It is said that Lakshmi — the consort of Vishnu and goddess of wealth - meditated in this beautiful valley - so the names.
Sometimes I feel the whole of Himalaya is not made of stone and ice but of legend and hearsay.
Next morning saw us plodding on the Satopanth bamak. We were close to our destination but totally exhausted. Our stove refused to light up and we were surviving only on dry food. We were dreaming of one full meal of dal-rice. The rice and flour we brought from Badrinath could not be cooked. There was no wood as alternative fuel and the shrubs that dot the path simply would not generate enough fire for cooking at such an altitude.
But all distress has a silver lining; it ends. And soon we were at the foot of the last ridge, separating us from the lake. Mohan with a relieved smile informed us, behind that ridge lay our destination - Satopanth tal. As we dragged our half-dead bodies over that last ridge and descended on the bank of the lake, a half-naked ascetic came out of a nearby small concrete hut with a reassuring welcome smile. He was holding two steaming cups (actually two coconut shells) of scented tea. He must have seen us coming down the ridge and rightly guessed, we badly need some hot beverage.
The first thing that struck me about him was his ordinariness. He is of average height; average built — with a very common face and common complexion - a completely common demeanour. Apart from the unkempt long beard and moustache, there is nothing extra-ordinary about him. But instinctively I felt, there was more to that deceptive appearance, as if he is deliberately trying to keep an ordinary profile. Looking closely I realised; I am looking at the most extraordinary pair of eyes that I had ever seen. It is not the eyes itself but the gaze that is coming out of those eyes; full of compassion. It caressed me gently and some thing ruptured inside me; I felt like crying.
Though the temperature is near the freezing point, he is wearing a small dhoti that only fell to his knees. His torso is exposed to the elements and the skin is burnt deep brown. Through his long beard and moustache his white teeth flashes every time he smiles and he smiles a lot. His small and lithe body looks exceptionally fit.
I had so many questions waiting to burst out; I was momentarily lost for words. Seeing my amazement, which must have been dangling like a red flag, he gesticulated to let me know that he would not speak. He has taken a vow of silence. That must be the proverbial last straw on the camel's back. Seeing me crest fallen, he gave me that dazzling smile again and signaled me to rest for a while. Yes, we badly needed some rest.
As we took possession of the two nearby caves - the big one for our guide and porter and the small one as our kitchen - though we have nothing to cook, he went into his small concrete hermitage to cook our lunch. Somehow without uttering a word, he had guessed that we need some solid food. Silently, he had taken the control by accepting us as his guest. He indicated that we could stay in his one roomed ashram.
Soon he served us piping hot dal-rice and that was one of the best meals that I had in a long time. But where from he gets his ration? The question haunted me for the rest of the day. It is so frustrating when one has so many questions and no answers forthcoming.
On reaching the lake, the first thing that hit me squarely was the strange ethereal ambience around the lake. It had such a soothing effect. I do not know why! Probably, because it was an achievement of hard labour. We had to admit; our suicidal effort was amply rewarded. The emerald green triangular lake mirrors the snow crested Chaukhamba peak. The image forms and breaks repeatedly by the cold gentle breeze.
As I feasted on the spellbinding scenery, I became aware, for the first time, of the complete lack of sound around the lake. It's eerie. Excepting the occasional sound of avalanches that were coming down the Chaukhamba peak, the silence was all encompassing. The sound of the occasional avalanches - alike the sound of a thunder, only accentuates this all-embracing silence. As if every living being around here were mortally afraid of sound lest that might disturb the holy Trinity who were said to be in perpetual meditation sitting on the vertices of the triangular lake Our silent ascetic complemented this silence. I could only recall a Tao saying:
The day passed into starry night and the night into a glorious dawn. It was time to depart from this world of grandeur and legend. As we clambered up the ridge, my silent ascetic stood on the bank of the lake biding us farewell. On reaching the top of the ridge, I turned back to have a last look. I, probably, would not be coming again. Seeing me turn back, he waived. I felt his gaze on me — full of compassion and tolerance, silently caressing me like the soft touch of a mother.
We know nothing about him. Mortals like us are not comfortable with unanswered queries and unexplained phenomena. There are so many unanswered questions— thousands of it that are never going to be answered, smothered by the omnipotent silence. Perhaps he was right to take the vow of silence. That was the right place for taking such a vow.
They say, Brahmma, Vishnu and Maheshwar meditate on the bank of Satopanth lake. We have not seen any. On second thought; perhaps we have seen one.
Summary: A visit to Satopanth tal near Badrinath
A Discovery Report
COL AJIT DUTT
I was leading an NIM expedition to the unclimbed Mukut Parvat (East). Our team put 9 summiteers atop this peak on July 1999. We trekked from Badrinath to Mana village and then to Ghastoli, 18 km away from Mana. Ghastoli is the last ITBP outpost before the Chinese border across Mana pass. Our expedition went east of this pass and west of Kamet and Abi Gamin in the Eastern Garhwal Himalaya.
It was another day's trek to BC and after that we pitched four camps to reach the summit. After a successful expedition, I left winding up logistics to the deputy leader and began my other exploration, that of discovering, where the stream descending from close to Mana pass, becomes a river known as the Saraswati.
This river has many references in mythology and is said to exist before the Mahabharata period. For 2000 years, between 6000 and 4000 B.C., Saraswati flowed as a great river. The Rig Veda refers to Saraswati as one of the Sapta Sindhu (seven rivers). This was one of the two rivers that flowed from the mountains to the sea. Climatic changes and geotectonic movements since have led to shifting or disappearing of many rivers.
Mythology suggests that the river beyond Badrinath flowed through Bhavanipur and Balchapur in the Himalayan foothills and turned southwest through the plains of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and met the sea at the Rann of Kutch. In fact, Satluj, Drishadwati and old Yamuna were tributaries to this great river in its long journey. Some historians suggest that the river Ghaggar in Haryana also flowed into the Saraswati. Thus the upper catchment of Saraswati was the Ghaggar and the lower down it became the Hakra (Rajasthan). Due to tectonic movement, the Satluj and Yamuna changed course and started flowing independently in different directions. Waters of these rivers drained from melting glaciers and this in turn was the basic source of water for Saraswati. Their separation from Saraswati and silt deposits in the channel of the river became the cause of the gradual drying up of the river while it flowed through the warm plains. Besides, desertification of Gujarat and Rajasthan had already begun and the limited water left in Saraswati after the separation of Satluj and Yamuna was no match for the heat process that had set in due to desertification. The quantum of water was not enough to carry the channel of this great river from the Himalaya up to the Rann of Kutch. Slowly the river began to disappear in the deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat and was finally lost in the plains.
Another school of thought proclaims that before Mahabharata, the river originated from the Jaunder (Har ki Doon) glacier in West Garhwal. Yamuna, originating from the Bandarpunch glacier near Yamunotri integrated with Saraswati near Khalsi or Ambadi. During the Mahabharata war, so much blood was shed that the mighty Saraswati turned red. This angered the Goddess Saraswati and she changed the river from Saraswati (wisdom) to Tamas (anger). The river Saraswati was thus lost and the same river is now the Tons (from Tamas) river.
Yet another myth goes thus. In the Rig Veda, the Saraswati is described as a mighty river. Hymns described the river as Ambitame (best of mothers), Naditame (best of rivers) and Devitame (best of Goddesses). Prayagraj, the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers is the king of all pilgrimages. This confluence is located near the present day Allahabad. It is said that after disappearing or drying up, the river emerged at Prayag in a sacred well. This well is said to release water to meet Ganga and Yamuna at Triveni (confluence of three rivers) of Prayagraj. This is the belief of thousands of pilgrims visiting Prayag every year.
Seeing so many conflicting reports and records made me curious enough to look into these myths and try to find the truth that lay between them.
There is a mountain lake near Mana pass at 4000 m know as Deotal. The present source of the Saraswati is the overflowing water of this lake. There are several small tributaries that emerge from this lake and meet the Saraswati. It becomes a flowing river while passing through Ghastoli. Another nala, Arwa nala, on the Gangotri - Badrinath trekking route, which flows out of Arwa tal, meets the Saraswati at Ghastoli. Beyond Ghastoli the river looks full and mighty, flowing rapidly downward, for 14 km. Beyond Ghastoli, near Mana village, the river descends sharply. It then flows southwards to meet river Alaknanda, between Mana and Badrinath, at 3000 m. Here again myth has an explanation. It is said that when the river falls into the deep gorges, it actually disappears into patal (underground) and appears again at Prayag.
It is curious to find that the present course of the 27 km long Saraswati flowing from Mana pass to Mana village and disappearing into the Alaknanda, was once described as a mighty river that flowed from the Himalaya to the foothills and 1400 km to meet the Arabian Sea. The confluence at Triveni Sangam (meeting of three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and... ?) has baffled geologists for years as no third river exists! The river Saraswati is both, a myth as well as a reality.
Summary: A study on the course of the Saraswati river of Garhwal.
Travels in the Frontier Districts, Northeast India
Two Japanese couples, Masato and Michiko Oki, and Hideho and Toshiko Masuda made an adventurous journey to Dibang valley district of Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast part of India, for 13 days from 23 December 2002 to 4 January 2003. Earlier we had travelled to Kameng district in western part in January, 1998 and to Subansiri and Siang district, the central part in January, 1999.
We started from Guwahati in Assam in two cars with guides on 23 December and went to Itanagar which is the capital of Arunachal Pradesh. We proceeded north to Pasighat of East Siang district, and Roing of Dibang valley district from there. We travelled 138 km from Roing to Hunli and 90 km from Hunli (1150 m) to Anini (1690 m) crossing the Mayadoya pass (2655 m) by cars. We went down to the Dibang river which is visible far at the bottom and progressed after having crossed a bridge and reaching north along the Dri river which is the upstream of Dibang river and arrived at Anini on the evening of 28 December. This village was 568 km from Itanagar. From Anini, snowy peaks were visible. We stayed here for three days and visited surrounding villages.
We went to a small village of Angu near the Indo-China border from Anini on 29 December, using a road under construction on the right bank of the Dri river. About 5 km ahead we reached the roadhead. We walked along the river for about 3 km from there. The snow-covered mountains were visible on the right. They are the mountains beyond the Indo-China border. When we walked along a large valley for about 40 minutes, we crossed a bamboo suspension bridge. Many villagers had gathered along the footpath approaching a village. It is the small village of Angu in which Mishumis tribe live. Almost all members of the village had helped to construct a new house of bamboo. After inspecting the house and interacting with the villagers, we returned to Anini. Some villagers told us that it would take three days from Anini to a small village of Bruniya and from there we could reach the Jarun pass on the Indo-China border towards the right bank of the upper part of Dori river in further three days.
We went to Mipi or Mipidon village along the upper part of Mathun river upstream on 30 December. When British explorers F. M. Bailey and T. H. Morshead explored the Zangbo (Dibang or Siang) river in 1913, it was the route to Tibet across the border. There is almost no record of foreigners visiting this area after that. We rode in jeeps along the left bank of the Mathun river toward north from Anini. We visited a private house in the village of Malonali and passed through another small village Emuli. The road under construction is extremely bad and therefore progress was slow. The cars were not able to go further on this road so we stopped about 30 km from Anini. It had taken about 6 hours. Although it was also dangerous to walk from there, we walked in sand dust. We walked down steep slopes reaching a valley. On crossing a bamboo suspension bridge in the valley, and crossing back again ahead, we reached a small village of Brango. There is a small village of Mipi in about 3 km from Brango and another small village, Ebali north of Mipi.
Since it was twilight, we returned from this side of the bamboo suspension bridge. It is northeast from Mipi, which is about 50 km from the border. There are two routes in the upper part of Mipi, along one you can reach Andra pass (c. 4000 m) in the south and another, Yonggyap pass (4220 m) in the north. These passes are located on the border.
We returned driving 223 km from Anini to Roing on the New Year's Eve, and from Roing to Sadiya, crossing the Brahmaputra river by a ferry boat and drove back to Guwahati after visiting Shillong.
Summary: A journey to Arunachal Pradesh and northeast India.
Scientific Expedition to the Source of Yalung-Tsangpo River, 2002
TOYOJI WADA AND ATSUSHI SENDA
Five years after the dispatch of a reconnaissance team in 1997, Doshisha University Alpine Club (DAC) succeeded in making the first ascent of Kaqur Kangri (6859 m), the highest peak of Ronglai Kangri range, located on the border of source area of the Yalung- Tsangpo river, about 330 km from Kathmandu, 800 km from Lhasa, where foreign climbers rarely visit.
So many untrodden peaks of 6000 m rise along the border of the area. The features of the range are that, on Nepal side, mountains rise sharply on the border with deep valleys, steep rock wall, Himalayan creases and short glaciers while on Tibet side, completely different from Nepal side, there spreads out a great wet land of the source of Yalung-Tsangpo river with gentle hills rising beyond it. Behind them, lies Ronglai Kangri range. Glaciers develop very well, forming a long relaxed configuration of ground. The great wet land of the Yalung- Tsangpo river, causes an approach to the range to be quite tough.
Following are the reports on the first ascent after five years of enchantment to this untrodden area and on the challenge to conserve nature while climbing.
Ronglai Kangri Range
A group of mountains with the main peak situated in the center at lat. 29°46" N. and long. 82°45"E., extending about 40 km from east to west is called Ronglai Kangri range. To the east, it is connected to Pakyunghangmu range and is further linked to the northern side of Dhaulagiri range with the altitude being slightly lower. To the west, it is extended to connect with Gorakh Himal and Changla Himal. Names of mountain ranges and mountains are naturally different between Nepal and Tibet. We confirmed that, for instance, a main peak of Ronglai Kangri range has four different names. The name historically well known is Kanti Himal. This name is used in Nepal.
A formal name in China is Ronglai Kangri meanwhile most popular name among local people in Tibet is Kaqur Kangri but some inhabitants call it Zazi Kangri. A lama explained the name 'Kaqur' originates from the Kaqur school which is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and whose founder was Milarepa.
We confirmed the existence of a mountain called Rongla Kangri (6799 m), 12 km north-north-west of Kaqur Kangri, which is different from the main peak. The map on scale of 1 : 200,000, edited by the former USSR shows the summit located in Tibet at a short distance from the border. In Tibetan, 'ron' represents inhabitants living in a low land, and means Nepali while 'la' is a pass and 'kangri' means a snow mountain, thus, 'Rongla Kangri' means a snow mountain on a pass where Nepalese travel up and down.
We decided to call the mountain area as Ronglai Kangri and the main peak as Kaqur Kangri. On the map edited by Geographic Science Research Institute of China National Geographic Bureau and Chinese Mountaineering Association, Ronglai Kangri (6859 m) is shown as the main peak. Almost all of them are virgin peaks and the altitudes indicated are taken from the map of the former USSR except those of Kaqur Kangri and Kubi Dongdong. On this map, the altitudes are, in many cases, shown about 100 m higher than maps edited by Nepal.
Ronglai Kangri might have come from a Chinese character when the word 'Rongla Kangri' was first translated into Chinese language. It is called Kanti Himal in Nepal.
The foreigner who first entered this area was a Japanese named Rev. Ekai Kawaguchi (1866-1945) who passed through the area when he entered Tibet as an aspirant for truth, earnestly seeking for the origin of Buddhism. He left Marpha along the Kali-gandaki river in Nepal in 1900, passed on the northern side of Dhaulagiri and entered into Tsarka, then advanced to north, and wandered around the mountain area until he found a way to the Cang-chu river so as to reach Narue. The next foreigner who came in the area was Sven Hedin, the great Swedish explorer. He was the first person who went up the Cang-chu river in 1907 and sketched Kaqur Kangri. Meanwhile, pursuant to the first ascent of Api in 1960, DAC made the first ascent of Saipal in 1963, they witnessed the range from the summit of Saipal. Then, when Katsuichi Fukuda and Tashiro Matsumura made a survey trip crossing Nepal from west to east, they went up the Langun river from Mugu village and on the way to Bhijor village, they confirmed for the first time from Nepal side the range running along the border ridge. In 1997, Sadao Yoshinaga and others from Osaka Alpine Club went up Mugu- khora and climbed a vanguard peak of Rongla Kangri and made a reconnaissance of Kaqur Kangri.
Reconnaisance and the first challenge 1997-98
Two members of DAC, namely, Takashi Sano and Katsumi Nishida, who were fascinated by the pictures of the area taken by the China- Japan Joint Friendship Expedition Team to Mt. Naimona'nyi which was organized for the first time by Doushisa University, Kyoto University and Chinese Mountaineering Association in 1985, entered the area in September 1997 to make a reconnaissance. Ninety years had elapsed since Sven Hedin made a survey of the area from a far distance, when he sought for the source of the Yalung Tsangpo river. They started a march from Laru, which is located at the upstream of Paryang and is about three hours distance by car. It is the most upstream of the river called Yalung Tsangpo and down there, rivers are called by names of tributaries such as Cang Chu river (Rongla Tsangpo), Kubi Tsangpo river, Chema Yundung Chu river. If we go up the Cang Chu river, we will reach Namujala pass which leads us to Nepal.
Two members of DAC's reconnaissance team went on horseback from Laru, moving up along the Cang chu river to arrive at Narue where the Rev. Ekai Kawaguchi passed through in 1900. 'Cang-chu' means a river where Cang (wild horses) live. There are many Cang in this area. They left Cang Chu river around here and crossed hills branching off from Ronglai Kangri range toward south. Two days after the start of an approach, they opened a base camp at the tip of glacier tongue of Kaqur glacier and conducted reconnaissance activity. They surveyed up to 5605 m of Kaqur glacier and tried in vain to find a climbing route from western ridge of Kaqur Kangri but, to their regret, were unable to find it either from western or northern face and yet, they retained a chance of finding out a possible climbing route from east face or south-eastern side.
From August to September 1998, five members of DAC, namely Yoshiharu Suita, Team Leader, Junichi Noda, Kouji Tanabe, Ryou Suemori and Katsumi Nishida, took a route on east ridge from the East Kaur glacier and challenged Kaqur Kangri. The team moved by car as far as Nakchu village, east of Ronglai Kangri range from New Zhongba on the Yalung Tsangpo river, crossing a bridge over it. It took ten hours from New Zhongba to Nakchu village by car. From Nakchu village, they started an approach on horse-back. After a journey of two days, they found a base camp on 18 August at a point of 5460 m along the East Kaqur glacier.
They went up on the side moraine on left bank of East Kaqur glacier, passed through serac zone and made an advance base camp at a point below the lowest col of eastern ridge after having traversed the glacier. Then, they further advanced on the snowfield, climbed up the snow wall, reached a point below a col on the ridge of the border and made it camp 1. They further worked on the snow wall of east ridge with a slope angle of about 50 degrees to fix ropes. On 3 September, when they reached an altitude of 6350 m, an avalanche took place and two of them were carried away and fell in a crevasse. Fortunately, some fixed ropes were effective enough to prevent them being carried away any further. If had could moved up another 50 m, they would have reached a would-be camp 2 site, however, since two were badly injured, they had to withdraw.
Approach : 2002
In 2002, five members of DAC, namely Toyoji Wada, Team leader, Katsumi Nishida, Climbing Team Leader, Yusuke Ueda, Atsushi Senda and Hyousuke Tsuboi and three Sherpas with Nga Dorje again challenged Kaqur Kangri. The plan was deferred by about one month to avoid avalanche and enable them to make an ascent of the summit from late September to early October. They arrived at New Zhongba on 31 August to cross the Yalung Tsangpo river but owing to an unusually high rise of a tributary of the Yalung Tsangpo river, it was impossible to traverse it by four-wheel drive vehicle. A ferry service at Saga was also suspended due to a high rise of the river, thus, they were unable to come closer to Ronglai Kangri range. Comparison of water volume of the Yalung Tsangpo river at three post-monsoons, i.e.,the time of a reconnaissance in 1997, in 1998 and this time tells us very well that the water volume is very changeable each year. As there was no other choice at that time, the Team went up to the neighborhood of Kubi Tsangpo river and decided to start an approach from Laru. Loads were carried by yaks while the members and Sherpas used horses.
A march for an approach started on 4 September and reached Kaqur Tsangpo taking the same route as the time of reconnaissance in 1997. They took another day to cross a branch of the ridge of Kaqur Kangri, and established a base camp on 8 September after a journey of five days. The site was on the left bank of a glacier tongue of the South Kaur glacier with an altitude of about 5100 m.
The monsoon did not completely end yet over there. The lowest temperature at a base camp was between - 6°C and + 2°C with little snowfall every day but the snow did not stay at an altitude of less than 5000 m. Mountains on the border ridges were, most of the time, hidden by heavy clouds. When the monsoon season was over beyond 14 September, fine weather continued and the mountains on the border could be seen clearly. On and after 6 October when the climbing was completed, the number of snowy days increased, and it was observed the snow started to lie out melting. By the middle of September, yaks and sheep put out to pasture during summer returned to villages at the foot of mountains and they completely disappeared from the mountains.
After making a reconnaissance of the route, an advance base camp was constructed at 5800 m on the lowest col of east ridge from the South Kaqur glacier and moved on the great snowfield of the East Kaqur glacier which has many hidden crevasses so as to tackle again with the wall of east ridge. Since there was a danger of avalanche and a risk of crevasses from there, we had to use fix ropes in succession. Monsoon was over on 14 September and preparation of the route started on a full scale. Members of the team prepared the route from advance base camp to camp 1, then, from camp 1 to upper part of camp 2, Sherpas did. Since wind blew very strong on the col of the border ridge, a tent site of the camp 1 (6100 m) was established on a snow flat created, taking advantage of differences in crevasses, on the leeward and the east side of the border ridge. On 20 September, set up camp 2 (6400 m) on a huge ice-shelf which was almost stripping off the ridge. It was about 50 m above the point where they encountered avalanche in 1998.
Turning on the headlight under a strong wind, the attempt started at 7.40 a.m., Beijing standard time on 24 September. The route was almost along the ridge on the border. A slope with an angle of 45 to 60 degrees, mixed with hard snow surface and crevasses, continued. Crampon pleasantly caught snow very effectively. Fix ropes were extended for 1700 m from lower part of C1 on the previous day, thus, the route to east peak had been secured. From there, climbed over a small cornice and went up on the ridge to the summit where the wind blew much stronger. It was climbing, viewing Kanjiroba-Himal on left side far away in Nepal. Unfortunately, Api and Saipal could not be confirmed due to the sea of cloud. A flat route on the ridge was anticipated but, in actual, it continued as a steep ridge. Fix ropes were further extended another 200 m but could not reach the main peak yet. So, using two main ropes additionally, they could arrive at the snowfield leading to the main peak. The final upward approach to the main peak was on a snowy gentle slope. Paying careful attention to cornice, they proceeded to the highest point, thus, all the five members of the team and 3 Sherpas stood on the summit at 11.40 a.m.
Survey of the mountain area and the source of Yalung Tsangpo river
After the ascent of Kaqur Kangri, the team first made a survey of the circumference of Ronglai Kangri range. The names of mountains surrounding the area are called differently according to the region people live in and it is difficult to denominate them.
In this mountain range, besides such beautiful mountains with typical Himalayan creases as Kaqur Kangri, the main peak in center, Langlung Kangri, Surlung Kangri and Pakyung-Hangmu (according to a local legend, a wife of Kaqur Kangri) on the east side, virgin peaks of 6000 m to about 6500 m, including a rocky peak of Galzon-Gencok which is quite strange and unique among mountains of western Tibet, all are situated on the border ridge leading to Kaqur Kangri. Most of those mountains running in north-west direction are still left untrodden. Since the curve of ridge is so complicated, it is difficult to define the border. Different from Nepal side, glaciers develop comparatively well, and each glacier can be used as a climbing route. If the timing of ascent is appropriately selected, the approach will be comparatively easier.
The team also confirmed names of mountains extending from the deepest source of Yalung Tsangpo river, which is branched off to Kubi- Tsangpo and Chema-Yundung Chu, further west of Ronglai Kangri range. In this work, a detailed sketch by Sven Hedin was very helpful. This range is called Gorakh Himal, Changla Himal in Nepal. Of the information as much as we can grasp, the climbing records in this range were Changla Himal by the Northwest Nepal Women Expedition and climbing team of Japan in 1983 and Changla southwest by Osaka Alpine Club in 1998. Therefore, we wish to explain briefly about each mountain mass.
Among mountains in this mass, Mukchung-Jungu, Absi, Ngomo- Dingding are outstanding. They are all untrodden. 'Ngomo-Dingding' originally came from the name of a pass in the east, which means a flat and blue place, and it is now used as a name of the mountain. In Nepal, this pass is called Kang la. To make an approach to these mountains, you may go up the Kubi Tsangpo river. So far as we understand the main peak on the border is called Absi Gyablung (behind Absi) while the vanguard peak is called Absi, so, it is generally accepted that the mountain on the border is Absi. According to Hedin, the name of main peak of the mass is Mukchung-Jungu which is connected to Mukchung- Tseung in west. Mountains called Asajyatuppa and Gorakh-Himal in Nepal are equivalent to Muchung-Jungu and Mukchung-Tseung respectively.
The border line from Gorakh Himal sharply bends 90 degrees at Langta Chen and extends to north and south. The mountain mass that extends along the border is Changla Himal. Its main peak of 6721 m and Chema Yundung-Kangri in the east of Changla are showing off their existence. Chema-Yundung Kangri has a set of twin peaks, one is on the border and another is located slightly inside Tibet. In Nepal, the peak on the border is accepted as Changla Himal (6563 m).
The name of the main peak of 6721 m has not been established yet, and according to Mr. Ohnishi's report, it is called Changla highest. The climbing team of 1983 challenged this mountain. The main peak is called Kubi-Dongdong or Dondong in Tibet. As much as we could observe, the summit area was a pinnacle with no snow attached.
Source of the Yalung Tsangpo river
As to a question of the source of a big river, the Yalung Tsangpo, we asked the local inhabitants, then, some said that Kubi Tsangpo could be the source of the river, while other insisted that it should be Chema-Yundung Chu, thus, no definite reply was obtained. We confimed the point where the two rivers actually joined together. Since volume of water and speed of water flow of Kubi Tsangpo looked apparently bigger and faster, it seemed to be the main stream, which was exactly as Sven Hedin had observed. On the other hand, the map indicates that Chema-Yundung Chu river is apparently longer and because of it, it looks to be the main stream. So, we reached a conclusion that both are the source of the river.
As a part of sustainable study and survey of development of mountain areas, our climbing team carried out a study of zero-emission in the development of mountain area throughout the climbing and exploration activities as well as climbing activity. We set it as our goal that we would leave nothing behind us, which may arise from climbing activity, such as climbing gears, rubbish, excrement etc. We made a survey of what are the problems to practice zero-emission activity, taking our own climbing activity as a working model. Consequently, we could descend the mountain without leaving any artificial waste or excrement (except urine) behind us in the area of Kaqur Kangri, except those fix ropes near the summit, recovery of which usually involves great danger. As a matter worthy of special attention, we used portable toilets, 'sanita-clean' during the action and in the summit camp, and excrements were placed into a plastic bag and when descending, it was hung from a rucksack. As a result, the circumference of a tent became clean and enabled us to make water easily even during a snowstorm and to spend a comfortable life in the tent. Waste recollected were 80 kg of excrements, 69 kg of kitchen refuse, 16 kg of papers, 13 kg of plastic waste, 12 kg of glass bottles and metal, 3 kg of ashes and 31 pieces of portable toilets.
Wastes brought down were separated at base camp. Kitchen refuse and excrement were accelerated to compost by fermentation accelerating agent and were buried in the grass field. Combustible stuff and portable toilets were burned down, then, ashes and incombustible were taken back to Lhasa. Sherpas were also very cooperative since they were faced with environmental issues in Nepal.
At Nakchushang where we dropped in on the way back, since rubbish and waste were left alone without being disposed of, we taught the way of disposing rubbish and, together with students and village people, separated rubbish and buried them in the ground and burnt the combustible waste, then, took incombustible back to Lhasa.
Thus, we could prove by ourselves that it is possible to achieve 'clean' climbing without destructing the environment, although some exceptions must be accepted.
Summary: A Japanese Scientific expedition to Kanti Himal in 2002.
Visit to Mustang Himal, again in summer 2002
A little more than a hundred years ago, Sharmana Ekai Kawaguchi, the first foreigner who had entered into Tibet through Nepal in 1900, stayed in Mustang to carry out his adventurous journey to Lhasa. He stayed at Chharang for around ten months and eventually decided to take an unusual route to Tibet through Dolpo, crossing over the western mountain ranges of Mustang. In the summer of 2001, I explored the mountain range just west of Lo Manthang and Chharang to begin work on topographical research in this area and stood on the top of an unnamed peak of 6270 m (GPS^FN29 08 41 E83 46 56). From here I expected to easily view Arniko Chuli, 13 km ahead toward the WNW. However, to my regret, it proved fruitless as the peak seemed to be among the complicated border ranges or it was not as visible as I had previously anticipated. Later, I found on the new topographical map of Nepal (1/50000, 2002. No.2983-15, Araniko Chuli), that the height of the peak had been revised to 6034 m.
This mysterious peak is situated at the northernmost point of the range between Lo and Dolpo and on the international border between Nepal and Tibet (China). It had attracted me for a long time not only because of its considerable height, 6599 m (21,650 ft), shown on the Indian 1inch to 1mile map (1963, 62/O/12), but also its strange example of the nomenclature in such an uninhabited highland. My interest was further stimulated by the fact that no foreign travelers had ever seen this peak, nor photographed it, and that the name Arniko Chuli is obviously not a local Tibetan name. I wondered why the Indian surveyors had given the peak such a strange Nepalese name. I knew that Arniko (or Araniko) is the name of a famous artist or architect born in Nepal who lived in later half of the thirteenth century and went to Tibet with other 80 Nepalese artists to design, make statues and to decorate a large number of Buddhist gompas in Tibet and China.
My short research trip of this time planned to approach the peak of Arniko Chuli, from the Dolpo side and find it on the border. Two Nepalese friends, Ang Purba and his wife Pasang Diki (Thame), joined me with their own aspirations. We have been closely linked for the past 20 years with mutual trust developed over many past expeditions.
In the early afternoon of 3 July our small expedition, consisting of only three members, a kitchen-boy and a donkey driver with 5 animals, left Jomsom at Kali Gandaki. We advanced to Sangda village along the same historical route that Ekai Kawaguchi had taken 102 years ago. After going across Geba la (GPS 4920 m, N28 54 904 E83 36 269), we took an alternate route toward the north along Lhanhimar khola which leads to a northern nameless pass (GPS 5607 m, N28 58 200 E83 25 585). Three years ago, in the same month of July we had a bitter experience suffering greatly from an unusually heavy snowfall at Tuje la on this route.
From this nameless pass, we descended along the northwestern stream (Sano Kiraphuk khola). The main river where we arrived at last is shown as Chharka Tursi khola and the upper stream of this same river is named Nakhkhem khola on the new Nepalese map. We proceeded along the broad river bed in the U-shaped valley and arrived at our BC (GPS 5562 m, N28 08 453 E83 39 526), very near Chanagor Bhanjyang (5665 m) on the northern border. We reached there on 8 July, the 6th day after we had left Jomsom. The next morning, we climbed up the pass on the border, and enjoyed a full view of the Tibetan side toward the north. To the west and northwest, there are four other passes in northeastern Dolpo, namely, from east to west, Daknak Bhanjyang (Sena la 5465 m), Jyanche Bhanjyang (5534 m), Kang Kung Bhanjyang (5564 m), and Pindu Bhanjyang (5600 m). The routes to Tibet from Dolpo through these five passes, all join together at Raka nadi (river). One of the branches of the Tsampo basin now extended northward in front of us, the high land with gentle slopes scarcely undulating.
In at least the eastern two passes, there was no recent trace of local traffic or even cattle grazing. Blue poppies and other alpine plants were amazingly abundant all over the valley. The recent progress of Chinese motor road construction on the south side of the Tsampo river, has speeded the decline of these passes. Old temporary market places in Tibet beyond the Himalaya mountains which connected with these eastern passes of Dolpo, have been expelled and moved to more and more western places along the motor road, which connects with western passes like Marim Bhanjyang, Yanang Bhanjyang, Mengla Bhanjyang, Khum Bhanjyang, etc. The western passes are closer than the eastern ones to the motor road.
On 10 July, we left BC in fine weather. From a small pokari (pond) just below the pass, we walked up to the east and northeast along the border ridge. After only 55 minutes climb on a gentle rock and snow ridge, we arrived at the summit of Arniko Chuli (6034 m, N29 10 35 E83 39 25) at 10.30 a.m. We were among numerous peaks a little over 6000 m. From the highest point of the peak, a vast ice field extended eastward. I stayed there about 3 hours, doing my routine work such as making sketches and taking photographs. As a special project at this time, I confirmed various bearing values and the height of nearby peaks on the Nepalese New Topographical Map (1/50,000) using survey instruments. The peaks of the Man Shail group to the northeast were not visible in the veil of the summer clouds. We returned to BC taking another route, straight down the scree slope of the south face of the peak. Unlike the Tibetan side (north), the south face was completely free from snow.
We finished our research and climbed around Arniko Chuli for 3 days, following the old direct route to Mustang from Chharka, via Ghami Bhanjyang (5740 m) to Ghami. For two days from the highest pass to Ghami, we suffered from heavy showers of hail and rain and had to endure a bitterly cold and miserable night in a wild high place. We were all exhausted when we arrived at the warm and familiar lodge at Ghami.
From Ghami, we started the second stage of activity in Damodar Himal. Our detached party of two was ahead of us, and set up the base camp at the northern foot of Saribung (Selibung or Soribung) (6327 m). We followed the route via Chharang, Dhi, Yara and Nakkali Damodar Kund, a sacred place for Hindus. When we arrived at the BC (N28 56 50 E84 12 22), they had already pitched a high camp at 5720 m (N28 55 05 E84 10 35), on the northwest glacier of Kumlung North Peak (6378 m). In the central part of this vast glacier, there are the two highest peaks of Damodar Himal which dominate the surroundings. They are Khumjungar Himal (6759 m) and Chhiv Himal (6591 m), both of which had been climbed by a HAJ (Himalayan Association of Japan) expedition in the spring of 1983. Saribung is a neat and lovely snow peak among this group. The advance party had started to the summit of Saribung from the high camp. Shortly after starting, the sky became more and more threatening and when they reached the north col of the peak, they were enveloped by dense fog and soon fell into the whiteout trap. They completely lost visibility and after waiting for several hours decided to retreat.
Meanwhile, we continued the topographical research in this area, the east glaciers of Bhrikuti Sail (6361 m) and north of a nameless eastern high peak (6899 m). After that, we joined the Saribung climbers and started the return journey to Jomsom. Enveloped by the thick monsoon cloud, we hurried down along the Kali Gandaki river and returned to Pokhara.
Reference: The Himalayan Journal, Volume 58, 2002 and Supplementary papers to Japanese Alpine News Vol. 2, 2002.
Summary: An expedition to Arniko Chuli in the Mustang Himal in 2002.
LT. COL. S.C. SHARMA
Annapurna 1 was the first ever 8000 m peak to be climbed. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal achieved this feat on 3 June 1950. It is the tenth highest peak in the world, standing at 8091 m or 26,545 ft. It is located in Nepal, on the eastern fringes of the Mristi khola originating from the sickle glacier, which joins Kali Gandaki river. By virtue of its location, high-speed winds lash the north face all the time. The slope of the complete north face of Annapurna I is at a very steep angle so avalanches keep triggering down the slopes at regular intervals.
In the aftermath of the spectacular success of the Indian army Everest expedition in 2001, it was decided to launch another expedition to an 8000er. This mountain was chosen for its virtue of being a technically difficult and challenging mountain. In the last 52 years, about 125 climbers have stood on its summit while Everest has generously hosted over 1200 summiteers.
As soon as the Everest team returned, eight months were spent in preparing for this expedition. Short listing of team members (65 members were chosen out of 180 volunteers), arranging for funds and equipment and a reconnaissance of the mountain took up a large part of these planning months. In fact the recce was of great importance as, with such a huge team, 12,000 kgs of stores would have to be transported to BC. The recce gave a complete picture of the approach march to BC, establishment of intermediate camps fixing ropes, laying log bridges across the Mishti khola and requirement of porters.
The team underwent intensive three week training in Siachen glacier in the intense cold of early January. As part of this effort, a new route between C3 and Forward logistic base (in the Siachen) was also opened.
Finally D- day arrived. The Chief of army Staff, Gen. Padmanabhan flagged of the expedition on 15 March at New Delhi. Reaching Pokhara, Nepal, the advance and main parties took a few days to organize themselves for the 11 day walk to base camp.
Beni to Lete
The first phase of this walk-in involved a five-day walk up the gentle slopes of the Kali Gandaki river up to Lete. They went through Tatopani and Ghasa, staying in trekkers' lodges owned by Thakkalis, known for their hospitality and business acumen.
At Lete the team acclimatised over a two-day halt.
Lete to Base Camp
From here, the team turned north, leaving the Kali Gandaki behind. Beyond Choya Deurali that is the last village en route to Annapurna I, the team followed the route pioneered by Maurice Herzog in 1950. After a three-hour walk, and a descent of about 300 m, the team gained 1200 m through a dense forest along a slippery mud trail to reach the first intermediate camp, christened the jungle camp. This strenuous walk of steep ascents and descents continued over the next three days, ending with the ultimate test of stress on human knees when the team descended 1200 m to Mristi khola. In addition to this, the slopes from jungle camp to Mristi khola were covered with soft snow, making it difficult and dangerous to walk with a full load. After building a log bridge to cross the khola, the team crossed a moraine to reach base camp at 4420 m.
Annapurna I north face base camp is a flat expanse of grassy land of the size of three football fields at 4420 m. It is located at the base of the horseshoe shaped ranges of Annapurna and Nilgiri mountains. Narrow funnels and high mountain ranges cause winds of high velocity to lash the camp constantly. Here we performed a puja to appease the Gods before embarking on our climb, as per local traditions and rituals.
After crossing a stream at the northeast end of base camp, there was a climb of about 200 m where there was a tableland that became a vantage point as the route to the top could be observed. From here, moving through a glacier, covered with moraine and crevasses, the team opened a route up a rockface and negotiated a soft snow covered traverse to reach advance base camp at 5300 m. They established this camp on 15 April 2002.
The walk from ABC to C1 took about five hours but as the area was prone to avalanches, this camp would be used only for dumping ration and equipment and for stay in an emergency.
The route to Camp 2 began moderately across a glacial field until the base of the Northern Buttress and Dutch Rib. This area is most avalanche prone and it is here that most climbers have lost their lives while on this mountain. Not surprisingly, the area is known as 'Death Zone'. Some of our stores were dumped here but got buried under a major avalanche on the 19th night. Some members fortunately escaped the disaster by a few hours. Thereafter, the route is very steep with patches of hard ice of about 70 degrees gradient. About 1600 m of rope was used to open this route, which proved to be the most technically difficult stretch of this expedition. It took nine hours of arduous climbing on fixed ropes to reach Camp 2, which was a narrow platform with four small tents.
During our efforts to establish Camp 3, the weather deteriorated and the whole team descended to base camp, losing seven precious days as a result.
Finally, when there was a break in the weather, the team began to open the route to C3, which was also the summit camp. Through overhangs, deep crests and lateral craters, it took about 1300 m of rope to open the route from C2 to C3, which was at 7470 m.
First Summit Attempt
The first summit team consisted of nine members. They established summit camp on 2 May. The second team followed timing themselves with a plan to occupy C3 as the first team descended to C2 after reaching the summit. However, high winds and fixing ropes on exposed slopes considerably reduced the speed of the first summit team. When the second team was just below summit camp, the leader of the first team informed them that the summit was about two hours away. It was noon so when this team descended, they would not be able to reach beyond the summit camp that day. The second team therefore decided to come down to ABC as there was no space for both teams at C3. As it happened, at about 2.30 p.m. the second team leader received a message that the summit team had abandoned the summit attempt due to extremely bad weather. They were just about 100 m below the summit when high-speed winds began to blow, creating a total white out. They had even negotiated the snow gully on the rock face just below the summit but had to turn back. It had been a long day, of 16 hours for team I and of 12 hours for team 2. They reached their respective camps but two Sherpas and one team member suffered frostbite.
At ABC, the situation was reviewed on 4 May. The weather window would be available only until 6 May according to the forecast. Members were getting increasingly exhausted. Besides, increasing temperatures were opening crevasses and increasing the dangers of avalanches and shooting stones. There was no way that the team could be on this mountain for long. They decided that the second attempt would be made by a smaller team of four members, immediately due to availability of the weather window.
Sub. Lalit Kumar Negi, Hav. C.N. Bodh, Hav. Rajender Singh and Rfn. Jagat Singh reached C3 at 4.00 p.m. on 5 May, climbing for 15 hrs from C1. They started for the summit the same night at 11.00 p.m. as it was a clear and windless night. Members and Sherpas, who were monitoring their progress, saw them moving towards the summit at first light on 6 May. The progress was rapid and smooth thanks to the efforts of team I who had opened the route and fixed ropes almost all the way up. At 7.20 a.m. on 6 May, arrived the moment that the team was waiting for. This team created history, as they became the first Indians to stand on the summit of Annapurna I. Everyone was emotionally overcome at ABC and BC, sharing the joyous and proud moment in history that they had all been part of.
It was a perfect summit day. Spending enough time to take good photographs, the team began their descent at 8.00 a.m. and reached C3 at 2.00 p.m. Completely exhausted, they slept and reached base camp on 7 May.
After packing and closing all camps, the team and stores were transported to Pokhara by helicopter and General Padmanabhan felicitated the triumphant team on 16 May, 2002 in Kathmandu. The team not only reached the summit of this great mountain but also pioneered a route, which will henceforth be known as the Indian Route to the top of Annapurna I.
Summary: The Indian army climbed Annapurna I in Nepal, during March to May 2002. The peak at 8091 m is the tenth highest peak in the world. 65 members of the Indian Army participated and four members reached the summit on 6 May 2002.
To climb to the summit of Nemjung had been the ambition of the members of Den Den Kyushu Alpine Club for 40 years.
Den Den Kyushu Alpine Club consists of Nippon Telegraph & Telephone company. They had sent the first expedition to Himlung Himal (7126 m) in pre-monsoon season, 1963. Nemjung was called Himlung himal at that time. This was the 4th time that we were organising an expedition to this mountain.
Himlung Himal had never been climbed by anyone until 1963, therefore the data which we could get were only several photographs from Larkya la and the map by Survey of India. After we set up base camp on the side moraine of the left glacier at 4000 m, we began to climb to the summit of Himlung Himal from, the west side of the central rock ridge (south ridge). We went over the upper snow field, and reached 6800 m via the north face of the main peak. The next year (1964), a Dutch party had to evacuate at 5350 m.
Note 9 (Martin Moran)
48. Peaks and walls on the south rim of Satling glacier, peak Brahmasar on right.
Note 9 (Martin Moran)
49. Abseiling on west ridge of Brahmasar.
Note 9 (Martin Moran)
50. Brahmasar seen from peak Cathedral.
Note 9 (Tom Prentice)
51. Brahmasar on the Khatling glacier.
Note 1 (J. A. Jackson)
52. The Brocken Spectre.
Note 9 (Martin Moran)
53. South face of Thalay Sagar seen from Satling glacier.
Since then, it had been prohibited to climb this mountain until 1981. As soon as the ban was lifted in 1982, some parties attempted to ascend the Himlung Himal, and Japanese expedition (Hirosaki University Alpine Club and Nepal joint team) was successful in the first ascent in post monsoon in 1983. They climbed the couloir in the central ridge from the right glacier and reached the summit of Himlung Himal via the east ridge.
In 1991, I got the map of Annapurna Conservation Area at a bookstore in Kathmandu. (scale 1/125,000) And I found Nemjung, which I'd never heard of before, on the place where Himlung Himal had been found before. According to the map, Nemjung is 7140 m and Himlung Himal was moved 4 km north.
Himlung Himal Peak Carnvan Route
Himlung Himal Peak Climbing Route
The peak of Nomjung in winter season, 2001
And this 'Other Himlung Himal (7126 m)' was ascended by Hokkaido University Alpine Club for the first time in 1992.
Since the peak of Nemjung had been climbed, 15 parties attempted to ascend this peak from various routes. But no party had been successful reaching the summit until now.
Our party was composed of 3 members, 4 Sherpas and 4 others. The average age of our party was 63 years old. We chose the same route as the route taken by Hirosaki University party, because we aimed to successfully get to the summit by all means.
Our caravan left in order to set up base camp of Nemjung on 14 November 2001. The caravan went along the Marsyangdi river, and turned to Dudh khola at Thonje via Bimtang and set up base camp at about 4300 m level at the end of the side moraine in the right glacier's left bank on 20 November.
We started making a route on the right glacier on 23 November, for acclimatization and scouting.
BC : C1
This time conditions were more difficult than last time in winter to cross from base camp to the entrance of the lower couloir (4700 m). We had a lot of trouble with many avalanches, crevasses, debris from the big ice fall of the right glacier and the slope of Panbabari Himal, so we had to change our route from day to day.
In spite of no snow in the lower couloir, there were frequently falling rocks from both sides of the cliff which collapsed heavily, so we couldn't go through the bottom of the gorge on the same route as we did last time. Therefore, we continued to climb the left cliff directly. Then we managed to find a narrow rocky terrace with few weeds for a tent site. So we made Camp 1 by piling up some stone (4950 m).
After climbing up the left cliff of the couloir, we went down to the bottom of couloir once. Last time C1 had been set on the terrace 30 m higher than there. But that place was an unsuitable point for a tent site, because there was no defense from falling rocks.
The lower couloir bends to the upper right like a dogleg from this point. When we went up to the Col through scree slope, the next large couloir appeared in front of us. Though there was no snow in the couloir, there was a steep and nasty gorge of mud. Besides, large and small rocks fell frequently there.
We advanced to traverse the cliff on the large couloir, and we reached the Central rock ridge. It was about 100 m lower from the expected point of C2 (5700 m).
However, that was the highest point for us on this expedition, regrettably.
On the way from C1 to C2 in the large couloir, one of the Sherpas the was hit hard by falling rocks, and fell down some 25m. Fortunately, he was only slightly injured and was saved by the fixed rope.
After 2 days, we found the fixed ropes had been cut by falling rocks in the couloir. Also seeing the snow bar to be gone in front our eyes, which we had driven into the upper rocks. We resolved to terminate the climb to the summit to avoid accidents.
Although this expedition finished with unfulfilled goals, we did our best. The dream to ascend the summit of Nemjung will be handed over to younger comrades, and old climbers will walk with them in spirit.
Masato Chuma (66) (leader), Tsuguteru Hashimoto (64), and Osamu Hirata (60).
Himlung Himal (Nemjung) History of climbing
|Japan (Den Den Kyushu AC)
|Dutch & Austria
|Japan (Hirosaki Univ AC) & Nepal
|Japan (Sendai) & Nepal
|The same as above
|Japan (Hirosaki) & Nepal
|Japan (Den Den Kyushu)
|Japan (Den Den Kyushu)
|Japan (this time)
Summary: A winter attempt on Nemjung (7140 m) by a Japanese team in 200l.
'Rock as good as Chamonix granite, virgin granite walls up to 600 metres high, ice couloirs and dozens of aiguilles' these were the pleasures awaiting the first climbers to penetrate the Satling glacier. A British team led by Martin Moran spent three weeks in May 2002 exploring this exciting new range of granite peaks at the head of the Bhilangna valley in the Garhwal Himalaya. The cluster of rock spires between 5200 and 5850 m in altitude is known locally as the 'Sat- ling' or 'Seven Phalluses' and was first spotted by the British team which climbed Thalay Sagar's south face in 1992. Remarkably, no climbing expedition had been up the valley in the intervening 10 years, even though the much-climbed peaks of Shivling and Kedar Dome are only 16 km distant over the Gangotri watershed.
We made the bus journey from Delhi to the roadhead at Ghuttu in a single day, leaving the city at 2 a.m. A delightful and totally peaceful four day trek from Ghuttu up the Bhilangna valley brought us to base camp which was sited at 3720 m in a broad lateral moraine valley on the east side of the Khatling glacier directly opposite Khatling Cave. At the beginning of May, base camp was covered by a metre of snow, but over the next fortnight this melted to reveal a beautiful lake. Over the following days a route was made up the left (N) side of the icefall which bars entry to the side valley of the Satling glacier. The thick snow cover facilitated progress, especially when frozen early in the morning. Later in the year this line would be rocky and loose with some stonefall danger.
Our advance camp was established at 4980 m on the gentle snows of the upper Satling glacier. All around were mouth-watering objectives for one-day routes. Mark Davidson, John Venier and myself climbed two rock peaks, named The Rabbit's Ear (5530 m) (D- with one pitch of V) and The Cathedral (5360 m) (D with pitches to V+). Meanwhile Keith Milne and Gordon Scott who were in the 1992 British team climbed the North Couloir of The Fortress (5541 m) in a 10 hour ascent which featured three pitches of Scottish IV and V (TD-). They descended by a combination of down climbing and abseiling.
The main objective in the range is the triple-headed peak of 5850 m altitude which we tentatively named Brahmasar (Brahma's Head). The north face of this peak is very challenging with a magnificent smooth 700 metre north ridge with a fierce ice couloir to its left. Mark, John and I decided to attempt the west ridge which looked to offer more open rock climbing, but was complicated by the need to traverse the north summit (BIII) in order to gain the highest Central Top. We chose to climb in lightweight Alpine-style, carrying bivouac sacks and a stove but no sleeping bags.
Leaving at 2 a.m. on 11 May we climbed steep snow slopes and ice runnels to gain the west col at c.5500 m. Delightful grade IV and V granite climbing led to a good terrace. With 8 hours of daylight and less than 200 vertical metres to the summit we left our bivouac kit here, confident of returning before nightfall. This proved to be a mistake. The ridge steepened and the climbing weaved from one side to the other until a fierce pitch of grade VI free climbing gained a shoulder 15 m below BIII. A long traverse was commenced to try to outflank BIII, augmenting the potential problems of retreat. With just two hours of daylight remaining the decision was made to withdraw. After 15 pitches of TD climbing including several of grade V and one of VI we were just 60 metres under the summit and 150 metres away horizontally. We made several awkward abseils down the arete to the bivouac site and the retreat was safely completed with six further abseils and 200m climbing down the approach snowfields the next morning.
Meanwhile Gordon and Keith decided to circumnavigate Brahmasar to gain an easier approach from the Dudhganga glacier on its SE side. From the Satling glacier they crossed the watershed at Pt 5709 and made a camp underneath the south east face. From here they climbed a long slanting gully to the gap between the south summit (Brahmasar II) and the highest central summit (BI). Finding the final 100 metres of the highest top to be impregnable without a full set of equipment for hard free and aid climbing they turned to the South Top and ascended this at D-standard with two pitches of IV.
Viewed from every angle, the final 100 metres of the main Central Peak will give difficult climbing. The most likely line is to climb a shorter snow gully from the SE side to the col to the right of the Central Peak. A steep and slabby ridge then rises to the final 50 metre obelisk of the summit.
Weather conditions in early May were excellent and a good cover of winter snow simplified the approaches. Technical difficulties on the granite faces look to be of a high order, whilst ice couloirs and ridge traverses abound. Much remains to be done, including of course the breaching of those final 50 metres of the elusive Brahmasar. The glaciers and snow peaks of the area also have considerable scope for ski-touring at this time of year. In short we discovered another veritable paradise, tucked out of sight yet as accessible as anywhere in the Indian Himalaya.
Summary: Climbs in the Satling glacier, Garhwal, by a British team in May 2002.
Photos 48 to 51, 53, 54, Fold-outs 3-4
2002 is the year of the mountains. Also, a little over half a century ago, (1951) the first Indian expedition to Trishul was organized. This epoch making ascent, apart from being the first major Indian Himalayan expedition, marked the beginning of mountaineering as a sport in India. To celebrate these two memorable events, 'Summiters' organized an expedition to Trishul II (6720 m), the first ever-Indian attempt on this peak. No Indian team had ever penetrated the Koel Ganga valley, situated in the eastern Garhwal of Uttaranchal state with a summit dream.
Trishul II is situated (79°46' 28" E/ 30°18' 28"N) on the dividing wall of the Nanda Devi inner and outer sanctuary. A Yugoslavian team first climbed the mountain on Yugoslavia's first Himalayan expedition, in June 1960.
The team consisted of 11 members viz. Amitava Roy (leader), Rabin Banerjee, Ranatosh Majumder, Susanta Basek, Aloke Kumar Das, Achintya Mukerji, Goutam Ghosh, Anupam Das, Kajal Das Gupta, Sugatya Bhowmik and Animesh Ghosh. Three Sherpas from Darjeeling viz. Shange, Ngatashi and Thandu joined the team.
Reaching New Delhi on 18 April, 2002, we proceeded to Rishikesh. Some of us left for NIM to procure equipment. The rest of the team proceeded to Deval to arrange for mules and porters. All arrangements completed we began our approach to the peak on 20th from Kunar, the roadhead. On the first day, keeping to the right of the Koel river, we ascended gradually through chir forests, reaching Kulangiri, a small village at 1810 m.
Over the next three days we walked through beautiful trail in bright, sunny weather. On the 25th, we were to reach BC, was dull and cloudy. We walked in bad weather, with snowfall and high winds. It was a tiring walk and in poor visibility, we saw the snout of Koel Ganga.
We reached BC (4400 m) during late afternoon. It was a medial moraine. To the west was Point 5938 m from which a ridge continued to the east and dropped down to right of Bidalgwar glacier. As our camp was just below the ridge we could not see Trishul III, which was to the north of Pt. 5938 m. Sila Samudra glacier was flowing on the other side of the ridge. To the north of Bidalgwar glacier we could see unnamed peaks 6440 m and 6315 m. From the latter, a ridge continued east to meet Mrigthuni. We discussed a possible maiden route to Sundardhunga valley by negotiating Mrigthuni glacier. To the east we could see Tharkot (6102 m). We packed equipment to ferry loads to C1 to which we would proceed the next day.
Note 9 (Martin Moran)
54. Peak 5541 m, from Satling glacier. North couloir was climbed by the obvious gully line seen
Note 11 (Bruno Hasler)
55. Stephan in the couloir of 'Fior di vite'. The couloir is dividing east and central pillar
Note 11 (Bruno Hasler)
56. Alwa Spires, 6193 m. East (left) central and west summit from north
Note 11 (Bruno Hasler)
57. Advance base camp with Arwa Spires central and west pillars (right).
Note 11 (Stephan Harvey)
58. Arwa Tower from the summit of Arwa Spire in evening light.
Note 11 (Bruno Hasler)
59. Arwa Spires, (6193 m). East (left) central and west summit from north. Chaukhamba I in background.
Route followed in TRISUL-II EXPEDITION 2002
27th dawned a better morning. We proceeded northwards, though ankle deep snow. At about 11.00 a.m., we found a flat portion at the beginning of the perpetual ice area on the glacier and decided that this was a good spot for C1. The attraction was the views of Trishul II and III. Returning to BC, we packed loads for ferrying the next morning.
Over the next two days our team established C1 and began to recce the route to C2, moving northwards along the true right of Bidalgwar glacier. They had to negotiate a few crevasses and then reached the left of the glacier, which descended from the col. After some rest, they chose the glacier route and began climbing. However a sudden blizzard forced them to abandon their climb. Dumping loads under a rock projection they hurried back to C1. Load ferrying from BC to C1 continued.
30th dawned clear. The team, carrying equipment moved towards setting up C2. We also picked up the cache left the previous day under a rock. In a couple of hours we reached a vast field, on the south of which the rocky wall of the east ridge of Trishul III stood directly up. To the west were a small icefall and an ice wall continuing to the col. We left our equipment, deciding that the Sherpas would negotiate the icefall and fix ropes on the ice wall. Other members would find a suitable campsite and make place to dump loads. The icefall was negotiated and two ropes were fixed. We dug the ice to store our load, which contained all the equipment we had. The weather turned bad and after covering our cache the Sherpas returned to C1.
There was a snowstorm the next day. We lost another vital day. Hoping for the best, we packed food, fuel and tents for use in the upper camps.
2 May was a fine day. After a week we saw blue skies. Part of the team began to move towards establishing C2. It was decided that after setting up camp, they would begin opening the route to the col. Others, who had come up to C1 from BC, suddenly saw that their colleagues were returning from C2. They came with the bad news that a huge avalanche had buried all the equipment that had been dumped at the C2 site. All efforts to recover it had been in vain.
There was no way we could attempt this peak after the disaster. We had not a single piton or snow stake with us. We decided instead to recce the south ridge of Trishul III. Sherpas began the recce the next morning with their personal climbing gear. They reached the neve field but returned to C1 soon after, claiming that it was not possible to move on the ridge without fixed rope. Without pitons to fix ropes, there was no option left to us but to abandon the expedition altogether.
Summary: An attempt on Trisul II (6720 m) by a team from 'Summiters', West Bengal.
The first ascent of the 6193 m high granite summits of Arwa Spires had been done in the year 2000. Two Englishmen, Andy and Pete Benson, climbed the east summit via the east ridge. All three attempts to ascend the north face of Arwa Spire failed. In Spring 2002, three Swiss mountain guides Bruno Hasler, Stephan Harvey and Roger Schali climbed the north face of Arwa Spire to the central and west summits the first time. For these two first ascents, the three climbers were nominated for the 'Piolet d'Or 2002'.
A difficult beginning
After a long bumpy bus ride, waiting for the porters, a porter strike and hiking through masses of snow, the three of us, Stephan Harvey, Roger Schali and Bruno Hasler finally reach the base camp at 4660 m. Soon after, Roger suffers a severe pulmonary oedema that forces him and Stephan to go down to Joshimath (1800 m). I am left waiting a never ending week in our BC for my friends. In order to pass time, I climb Arwa peak (5873 m) in a solo ascent and establish the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 5400 m. Finally, after seven days of loneliness, I am very happy to see Stephan and Roger showing up healthy and sane.
Fior di Vite
Suraj, our cook, Roger, Stephan and myself have to carry more than 200 kg of equipment and supplies up to our ABC. This is hard work in such high altitudes altitudes! We have to fix ropes, since it is not possible to do an Alpine ascent with the heavy big wall equipment. After having fixed the ropes in the ice gully, it starts to snow for several days and we are forced to go back to the BC. The BC is very beautifully situated in the Arwa valley with magnificent views at Arwa Tower 6352 m and Mana 7272 m. After two days and a lot of snow, the weather clears up and we head back to the ABC. The first day, we climb an aid pitch at the end of the gully which leads us up to the last big snow field. One of us is setting up our bivouac, while the others are climbing the next two pitches on difficult mixed ground.
The second day, we climb on mostly rocky faces covered with the fresh snow from the last days. Most of the time it is too difficult for free climbing and we have to aid. At 6 p.m. we climb one by one the rocky summit needle which has only space for one climber. We are the first climbers ever to reach the central summit of Arwa Spire. The summit rewards us with a magnificent view over a large part of the Garhwal Himalaya. Rappelling down is a fast task and we get to our bivy at 8.30 p.m., Stephan sleeps in a snow cave, Roger and myself on the porter ledge. The third day, we move all our gear down and celebrate our success with a delicious summit cake and with the Italian grappa 'Fior di Vite'.
After a three days break due to instable weather, we climb up to our fantastic ABC which is situated on a rocky region right in front of the Arwa Spires. Just behind us is the 6352 m high Arwa Tower. This time we choose another tactic to climb: two of us are climbing while the third climber is taking a break. We fix ropes and sleep every day in our nice and comfortable ABC. Even though this tactic turns out to be very efficient, the daily snow fall is slowing progress down. Every morning the same game with snow fall - shall we get up or sleep in? Under these circumstances, motivation is the key to success. The steep north face is playing with us: the lower part is unexpectedly difficult, while the upper part allows us to progress faster than we anticipated. After seven hard days finally we made it: the first ascent of Arwa Spire West Summit. The feeling is as spicy as 'Capsico', the Indian equivalent to Tabasco.
The Garhwal Himalaya are situated in the north of India, in the new state of Uttaranchal close to the Tibetan boarder. Many famous peaks are towering in this area, e.g. Nanda Devi 7816 m (the highest peak, due to environmental reasons it can no longer be climbed), Kamet 7756 m, Changabang 6864 m, Arwa Tower 6352 m and Shivling 6543 m. Some areas are so called 'restricted'and need a special permit and high summit fees for ascent. The starting points for treks and climbs in the Garhwal Himalaya can be reached within a three day bus ride from Delhi.
Note 11 (Stephan Harvey)
60. Routes on Arwa Spire.
Note 11 (Bruno Hasler)
61. Arwa Tower, (6352 m) southwest face from advance base camp.
Note 11 (Bruno Hasler)
62. Stephan and Roger rappelling down Arwa Spire.
Summary: In Spring 2002, three Swiss mountain guides Bruno Hasler, Stephan Harvey and Roger Schali climbed the north face of Arwa Spire to the central and west summits the first time. For these two first ascents, the three climbers were nominated for the 'Piolet d'Or 2002'.
Date and place: 3 April to 15 June 2002.
Arwa Spire 6193 m, Arwa Valley, West Garhwal Himalaya, India.
Team: Bruno Hasler, Stephan Harvey, and Roger Schali
Photos 55 to 62
ROMESH D. BHATTACHARJI
In the middle of January, 2003 I was at Tso Moriri (4572 m) just to see it frozen. I sent some of the pictures I had shot to Harish Kapadia. He wanted a short note on it pronto like, but he being a finicky sort asked me if I had any vertical shots. I said no. He hummed and he pestered. He wanted only vertical shots. So in mid February I was back again.1
159 km away from Leh on a tarred road is the Mahe bridge over the now frozen Indus. Another 52 km beyond on an unpaved road along the frozen Kullung chu and then the dry river bed of the Zobashi phu is Peldo on the NW end of Tso Moriri. In 1984 when I was first at Tso Moriri coming back this way was unthinkable because of large stretches of sand. In 1993 when I was next there I returned in a truck down this way and it was torturous. On 9 February 2003 I took the early morning flight from Delhi to Leh and was at Tso Moriri in the afternoon.
It is that easy to get to Tso Moriri. Nevertheless the thrill of being in this sterile but colourful land has not diminished at all. It is still an awesome experience. And there's always something new to notice. Like the obvious volcanic formations between Polagonka la-Puga on the Kulung chu river and Chumathang on the Indus. Both these places have geysers and hot springs. Some of the mountain sides have a heady mix of differing colours plastered like frozen lava on them. Then there are herds of Ibex (Ovis Ammon). I have been to Ladakh more than a dozen times and had not seen one of them till this year. Winter is the easiest time to see them. The gorges of the Kulung chu shelter many pashmina shepherd's camps (ribos) in winter. These people makes holes in the frozen streams to collect water. And to these spots, especially those behind tama bushes, predictably come the Ibex early morning and late in the evening.
From Puga-Sumdoh, and past another Sumdoh (meaning a place surrounded by mountains) the rough road along the dry bed of the Zubashi phu climbs, sometimes gently and often sharply, till Nakpogoding la (5300 m) and then descends gradually over a widening light brown desert on the southern side of which nestles the frozen 3 km long, 1 km wide and about 18 km deep Tso Kiagr girdles to its south by dark snow topped gneiss hill sides. The heights above its east and west banks are full of sand but a gravel road has made locomotion effortless.
Note 12 (Bruno Hasler)
63. Tso Morori lake and its frozen waves.
Note 12 (R. Bhattacharji)
64. Frozen Pangong Tso from Phobrang.
Note 12 (R. Bhattacharji)
65. Frozen Indus at Mahe bridge.
Note 12 (R. Bhattacharji)
66. Tso Morori lake with mirrored surface.
Note 12 (R. Bhattacharji)
67. Frozen Tso Morori lake with peak Gya in background.
Up a snow clad sand spur and then down hill to the summer camping ground of Tsakchang, which is by Gyang chu, the longest (about 50 km) effluent of the Tso Moriri, the first glimpse of the white surface of the icy Tso Moriri is had. The Gyang chu like all other Ladakh's rivers and streams in winter overflow their banks because of expansion caused by freezing and large and long stretches are all wavy white. That is why a part of the road to Tso Moriri is also over such ice patches. The people here cut this ice and carry it home to melt it into water.
The first view of the Tso Moriri is a big surprise. A 2 metre high fence seems to encircle the whole lake. There is also an ugly board proclaiming that all this is being done to preserve the black ringed ducks, which are obviously literate for after a kilometre the fence disappears, and presumably they don't go beyond that fenced area.
The Tso Moriri is frozen thoroughly and completely. It is a deep brackish lake and the freezing process takes longer here than in other lakes like the Pangong Tso and the adjacent Tso Kiagr. It froze on the 1 January, 2003. According to the century old accounts of Cunningham, Drew, and Strachey this lake used to have an iced surface by November. In mid January when I first saw Tso Moriri its ice had a uniform blueish-green hue. Near the banks the surface had cracks but when walked on it, it creaked and groaned. In February this surface was pock marked with pockets of white. These were formed with wind driven snow that had collected thus. The roughly 150 sq. kms. surface of this lake had been intersected in several places with a metre or so high ridge indicating the lines where different rates of freezing waters met pushing up these ridges. There was an another remarkable formation on the south and northwestern shores of the lake. Flat serrated blocks of ice were gracefully swooping to about 2 metres above that part of the lake's shore, which was about 3 metres from a raised embankment. This feature did not occur on the flat portions of the shore.
What was surprising was that in identical environment these formations were missing from Tso Kiagr and Pangong Tso. This obviously requires some research. The temperature on both occasions was —15 degrees C in the day. The air being dry such low temperatures are not uncomfortable during the day.
Upto about 200 m from the shore the lake was criss-crossed with frozen cracks that had by mid February firmly bonded. Yet, when I walked on them loud groaning sounds ensued, and as this lake has a shoulder of only 3-4 m before the bed suddenly dips down to a depth of more than 30 m I retreated hastily. The Drokpas who stay here start crossing this lake to the eastern shore by early February, but this year I did not see any one attempting this rashness. Standing by the shore these sounds kept coming as if waves underground were applying pressure from below.
The Pangong Tso and Tso Kiagr had a deeper whitish blue surface. Gone are the days when these lakes used to be frozen to a depth of 2 m or more. I tried to gingerly drive a Gypsy (light Indian vehicle) at a point on the Pangong Tso where the completely frozen Merak stream flowed into the lake. After keeping the front wheels on the surface for about 10 minutes I felt the wheels sink in a bit and withdrew. Two days later between Nyoma and Nidder, a doctor was returning by a short cut over the frozen Indus that would have saved her 24 kms of a round about drive when the ice suddenly broke and her Gypsy sank in and the ice cut the glass and also her face. A decade or so ago on this very stretch truck and jeep races used to be organized.
I have, I fear, depicted a very unromantic image of Ladakh, but despite every village being electrified, shepherds using motorcycles to round up their herds, and nearly every yurt on the Changthang having solar panels, the topography of Ladakh is so immense that these do not even appear as disconcerting dots on its magnificent horizon. Communication has made Ladakh more accessible and the brazen adventurer can still spend weeks without meeting a single human.
Summary: A winter visit to Tso Moriri and other lakes in Ladakh.
Photos: 63 to 67, Back cover
The Ascent from the Southwest Ridge
Two expedition teams of Tokai section of the Japanese Alpine Club reached the top of Gangstang in Indian Himalaya from the south and north at the same time on 5 August 2001.
We decided to organise an expedition to the Himalaya to commemorate the 40th anniversary of founding of Tokai section of JAC. We planned that two teams would meet on the top at the same time from separate routes and Gangstang was the mountain chosen for this event.
The Tokai section of JAC had dispatched six expeditions to Indian Himalaya since 1988 and succeeded to reach nine summits. Three of them were first ascents. I participated in all expeditions to Indian Himalaya by Tokai section of JAC and served five times as a leader.
I had reached the top of Gangstang from the southwest ridge with six members in 1990. The southwest ridge was an easy climbing route composed of the snow and ice. Therefore, the south face party consisted of eight elderly beginners. Because north face of Gangstang was an unknown area for us, I went scouting to the glacier at the height of 5200 m on the north side in June 2000. I could collect useful information in advance. I judged that climbing of the north face would be rather difficult, so the north face party consisted of six experienced members.
On 25 July, two parties left Jispa by jeeps. The south face party returned to Keylong and the caravan march started for base camp site by ponies along river Billing. On 27 July we set up BC on the dry ground at the snout of Gangstang at 4650 m. We aimed for the route we climbed in 1990. However, we could not go that way owing to many crevasses. So we decided to change the route to the icefall and went up the glacier. However, there also were a lot of crevasses on the central part of the glacier, and we often lost our way. We reached right under the huge icefall soon and traversed to the left. Then we could enter into the gully as planned. After climbing gully where a lot of rocks were rolling, we arrived at an icefield at 5200 m one hour later.
On 1 August Camp 1 was established on the icefield. It had been covered with deep snow at that time in 1990 but now it had changed into an icefield. (The snowfield where Summit Camp (SC) was established in 1990 ice had changed into a icefield too). There were a lot of dangerous crevasses here, and we could not find an appropriate place to set up the tent. We decided to avoid the dangerous icefield, and made a route on the left snow ridge. We climbed up avoiding hidden crevasses, and went up the ridge till a smooth snowfield at 5600 m.
On 3 August SC was set up on this smooth snowfield. The weather was not so good until SC was set up. On 4 August the members and the high altitude porters stayed all day at SC because of bad weather. On 5 August the first team (M. Tanaka, Tanabe and Ms. Nakata) with liaison officer and three HAPs went up and crossed a large crevasse carefully in the upper part of SC, and climbed toward the col of the southwest ridge. The ridge composed of snow and ice continuing from the col to the summit. It was not steep but hard ice, exposed in some places. They fixed ropes in those danger places and kept climbing to the summit. They fixed three ropes further on a steep ice wall right under the summit and finally got to the summit.
At the summit, the north face party was already waiting for them. They had a moving reunion on the top of Gangstang. Only a few were able to sit on the summit as it was very narrow. Also they did not get a good view owing to the fog.
On 7 August the second team (Tsuji, Ms. Ueda and Suzuki) with four HAPs left SC. At that time, light snow was falling. They kept climbing and reached the top finally. They also were not able to see the scenery because of the fog. The weather improved gradually on the way back to SC. We could see the summit clearly from SC in the evening. The southwest ridge is as easy route but it was difficult compared with 11 years ago because of the increase in ice.
Members of southwest ridge team
Tsuneo Suzuki (66) (leader), Keiichi Kikuchi (53), Moriyuki Tanaka (72), Tamon Tanaka (68), Ms. Sekiko Nakata (65), Akiyuki Tsuji (64), Ms. Kyoko Ueda (61), Motoyoshi Tanabe (51), and Dr. Hisamitsu Ono (70)
On 25 July we left Jispa by jeeps, and arrived in Chikka along the Baral river. The caravan of ponies started from here heading for base camp site via Janskar Sumudo. On 26 July, BC was established on the meadow at the confluence point of two rivers from the glacier of the north face. The altitude here was 4050 m.
We went up a rough route on the left side of the river up to the snout of the glacier till 4400 m. Advanced Base Camp for the relay of luggage was constructed at the height of 4200 m. We were able to use ponies up to this place. It was easy to climb the glacier because it was smooth. C1 was established on the moraine on the right side of the glacier at the height of 4900 m on 29 July.
The right side of the glacier became a crevasse zone from about 5200 m. We went up the glacier avoiding big and small crevasses, and climbed toward a col on the east ridge. We fixed ropes for three pitches on this dangerous crevasse zone. The north wall of 800 m in height was composed of snow and ice, and it overpowered us when looking up from the crevassed zone. Because the wall in the front was very steep, we could not find a route on it. We decided to climb northeast or east route toward the col on the east ridge according to the recce report made by T. Suzuki last year.
On 3 August, we leveled snow and established Summit Camp (SC) right under the col on the east ridge at the height of 5400 m. We decided to climb the east ridge because we thought there was some fear of avalanche on the northeast ridge. The east ridge was very steep. The high altitude porters contributed a lot towards establishing SC. On this day, we were able to communicate with the south face party. They had already constructed SC in the vicinity of the southwest ridge. On 4 August, Dr. Ikeda and Iida fixed ropes for 500 m on the route composed of snow and ice with the high altitude porters. Then, all six members gathered at SC for preparation for the summit scheduled to start the following day.
On 5 August, Mizuno, Yanagihara, Dr. Ikeda, Iida, and high altitude porters of the first team started to climb toward the mountaintop. Additional 300 m ropes were fixed. The inclination became gentle and we finally reached the top at 11:20. After a while, we met the second team of the south face party from southwest ridge. It was moving reunion and we were in tears.
D. Kirti, who was the agent and base camp manager of the north face party went down the southwest ridge, and succeeded eventually to traverse from north to south of Gangstang.
The first team went down to BC leaving fixed ropes for the second team of Shiga brothers who were to climb the summit on the following day. However, they gave up climbing because of bad physical condition. It was very regrettable that we could not collect fixed ropes.
On 11 August, we met the south face party again at Jispa and shared our joy with them.
Dr. Ikeda constructed a special room with the normal pressure and low oxygen in his house, and stayed there for several days before leaving Japan. And he reached the top of Gangstang only 13 days after leaving Japan. I think this special room is worth studying as a method of height adaptation training at sea level.
Members of the east ridge team
Tatsumi Nizuno (50) (leader), Tokutaro Yanagihara (54), Tsutomu Shiga (67), Tsutae Shiga (64), Naoto Iida (31) and Dr. Yoshio Ikeda (49).
Summary: Ascents of Gangstang by two routes by the Japanese mountaineers in 2001.
Photos 68, Panorama E
The year was 1995 and the month July. A few budding mountaineers were waiting eagerly for their friend, philosopher & guide to return from an expedition. The young mountaineers of Jadavpur University were preparing for a post-monsoon expedition to the Chandra Bhaga range in Himachal and Ajitda would have been their technical guide in that. Their wait ended rather abruptly. Ajit Naskar remained in Deo Tibba, only his body returned to Kolkata. We were shattered in a way. The person who had sowed the seeds of love for mountains in hundreds of young boys & girls was no longer with us.
3 October saw the 3 of us, Tapas, Gambhi & myself sitting in front of the Beas. The weather was fine in Manali with clear sky and a chill wind blowing. Deo Tibba had been the unanimous choice and though the original team was of 8 members, ultimately only the three of us could actually make it. We started our trek from Jagatsukh (3 km from Manali) on the 5th morning. We arranged for 3 horses, which would carry our load till base camp at Chhota Chandra tal. The first day's trek to Chikka was definitely one of the best treks of my life. The route is through alpine meadows & deodar / pine forests with the Duhangan nala running beside all the time. When we reached Chikka, we were greeted with rain and hailstorm. There we met a Japanese team, who were coming down after a successful climb of Deo Tibba.
Next day dawned clear but halfway between Chikka and Sheri, snowfall started and we had to halt for about an hour. There is a huge grassy meadow at Sheri ending with a massive rock wall with a couple of waterfalls just below Tainta. On the right hand side another route leads to Manala pass. We spent the night in a cave just at the beginning of the meadow. On 7th, we reached Tainta and found an Air Force team with some instructors of WHMI, Manali. They had been there for more than a month and were undergoing a practice cum selection process for an Everest expedition. We moved on to Chhota Chandra tal, our BC.
Next day, we went towards the Duhangan col. On our left was the west face of Deo Tibba, to our right was peak Norbu and straight ahead was the route to Duhangan col. After reaching nearly half-way up the gully, we came back for the day. In the base camp we distributed the load for ferrying. We started a little late next day for load ferry to C1 and reached the top of Duhangan col at about 2 p.m. amidst heavy snowfall. After dumping the contents of our sacks, when we came back to the warmth of the BC, it was already evening. On 10th we, reached the top of Duhangan col before noon. There we pitched our tents below the ridgeline. In front of us, there was a huge icefield with a lot of open crevasses in them. We could see Ali Ratni Tibba near the right horizon. To our left, the summit of Deo Tibba and the peak Indrasan was hidden from our view at this point.
The following day again we packed our tents and left for C2, which we would set up after traversing the icefield till we reached the gully. The route was littered with crevasses but luckily most of them were not very big. Again snowfall had started and when we reached the campsite, all of us were quite wet and the camping site was also full of snow.
Next day, 12 October was the summit attempt. We got up at 5 a.m. but due to very dark conditions and the thought of the numerous crevasses strewn all across our route till the gully, we started just after 6 a.m. We reached the gully within an hour and started climbing the gully. The slope was around 70° with hard ice on the surface. Our progress was pretty good and by 10 a.m. we were on the top of the gully. Beyond that was a dome with one side exposed to Chandra tal. On reaching the top of the dome, I was greeted with the wonderful view of Indrasan and continuing up the left ridge, the summit of Deo Tibba. I waited for Tapas while Gambhi went forward with Tikkam, a HAP. By the time Tapas joined me, they were just below the summit massif. At 10.30 a.m. the weather closed in and visibility was reduced to only a few feet. We waited for the visibility to improve at least slightly. At about noon the white-out cleared slightly, but it had started to snow. We sat there and deliberated for a while and then decided to come back on the next day as we thought that if we are late then descending through the gully in the snowfall and adverse weather conditions could prove to be too costly. The descent was pretty exciting with powder avalanches continuously streaming down through us coupled with the continuous snowfall. We reached C2 completely exhausted and tired and went to sleep early as we planned to go for the summit attempt on the next morning. Next day it snowed for the entire day and to top it all, our fuel stock was completely exhausted. We had food but could not cook and we had all the snow in front of us but 'not a drop to drink'! Therefore the expedition was called of.
Summary: A three-member team from 'Junipers' (Arka Ghosh, RK Gambhisana and Tapas Pal) went to Deo Tibba in October 2002. They had to turn back from 180 m below the summit due to bad weather.
Dave had been to the Solu glacier the previous year (British Solu Expedition, 2000).
He could not fail to notice a strikingly beautiful and challenging peak at the head of the glacier, unnamed on the Jersy Wala map, but marked as 5901 m. A photo taken the previous year was shown to the others, they agreed that it was a worthy objective, it was provisionally named 'Solu Peak', and the expedition was planned to climb it.
Dave and Stew flew out two days earlier than the other, to buy supplies in 'Pindi, then met the others at the airport with a minibus which took us to Skardu. The journey to BC posed no problems whatever, being identical to that of the previous year's trip.
A five hour jeep ride took us from Skardu to Bisil, where wire pulley contraption was used to cross the Basha river to the village. Bisil is a pleasant village with hot springs and fine walnut trees, moreover we had made friends with a number of the local men who had acted as porters the previous year, so hiring this year's team was a simple matter.
The first day of the walk-in led via a good but narrow path traversing steep slopes above the west bank of the Berelter river, to Dabadas, a herdsmen's summer village. Doctor Bill spent an extra night here, tending the injury of a local youth who had quite seriously injured his foot with a careless blow of a wood axe. Bill did a double stage the following day and rejoined the party at base camp. The Bisilers were rightly impressed with his devotions.
The second day of the walk-in was mainly on lateral moraines and ablation valleys, to a smaller herdsmen's encampment at Pakora. We camped a short distance past this place. The final day followed the rubble-strewn Solu glacier, passing the final herdsmen's settlement at Sugulu, to our base camp in a small ablation valley with abundant flowers, rhubarb patches and a little glacier-dammed lake, as used the previous year. We even had the use of the previous year's tent platforms.
Reconnaissance and Change of Plan
On such trips, the first day or two at BC is usually occupied with various settling-in chores. This year we had no tent platforms to dig, and we had to do without the usual home-brewed beer, as the person responsible had omitted to bring the kit! This gave us a more relaxed couple of days. One fine day followed by two days of steady rain caused us no concerns of an over-fast acclimatisation. The following morning seemed a little clearer, so we set off in light early morning drizzle, for a lightweight reconnaissance and walked for four or five hours up the Solu glacier to the foot of the big icefall. We hoped to find a way through this to the foot of our mountain. We thought we spotted a weakness towards the icefall's right side, so we returned to base. The weather had now cleared up totally, and gave what turned out to be the best and longest spell of the trip, but sadly, we were unable to take full advantage. Next day, we returned fully loaded, and camped at the foot of the icefall.
We set off at 2 a.m. the following morning, full of hope and optimism. Past experience of similar icefalls has shown that with sufficient perseverance, a route is usually possible. But this one was different. A few hundred feet were gained, crossing various minor obstacles with short difficulties (up to Scottish winter grade III - mostly soloed). Then the way was blocked by an enormous hollow, which seemed to be guarded all round with overhanging ice cliffs. We retraced our steps and tried again to one side, but with similar results. This procedure was repeated several more times, but every way was barred. We then returned to our camp, getting back as day dawned.
An easier way may have existed to the right of where we had been trying, with a series of snowy shelves, apparently separated by crevasses, but perhaps linkable. However, the entry to the first of these shelves looked quite hard and objectively dangerous. In fact the whole of this line, which was at the glacier's very edge, was exposed to falling stones and ice from the mountain walls above. A closer inspection confirmed that the entry would not be easy. Another inspection of the icefall further left than we had tried confirmed our impressions that this was even more broken and convoluted. After some discussion, we agreed that, even if a route could be found, it would be too difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming to be practical as an approach to our peak, which would require us to go up and down several times. So, having travelled half way round the world to climb this mountain, we reluctantly gave up before even reaching its foot. Perhaps the icefall might be easier in a snowier year.
We returned to base camp later the same morning, and spent the afternoon and evening discussing alternative plans. We decided to look at the snowy peak on the Solu/Hispar divide marked on the Jersy Wala map as 6102 m, and its subsidiary peaks. This area was close to, but a little west of, the area explored in 2000. The hill above Sugulu gave a feasible approach which avoided the very broken glaciers on either side. Above this, complex glaciers seemed to give a choice of possible approaches to the main peak and others to its east and west.
The local herdsmen had the previous year told of a visiting party of unknown nationality about six years previously. They had camped at 'Hora Brangsa', a small pasture just west of Sugulu, and had supposedly climbed 'three peaks'. However, no details were known, and past experience has shown that the locals, while very accurate about parties' movements in the valleys, are much less reliable when it comes to actual climbing. The Alpine Club's excellent Himalayan Index had no record of any ascent or attempt on peak 6102, so if it had been climbed, the ascent had not been well publicised.
Other peaks around the Solu glacier all appeared unattractive, with objective dangers, technical difficulties, or problematical approaches, often all three. So we decided to try peak 6102 m, which we christened 'Sugulu peak' after the cow pasture below it. This name also seemed to appeal to the locals.
The day after our rebuffal from Solu Peak, we retraced the previous year's 'hidden valley' approach to C1. Next day, we took a left-trending line which led up very steep slopes of grass and flowers, to a col on the ridge. The scrambly ridge then led to the top of the hill above Sugulu at about 4500 m, just below the snow line. Here we established our C2 by building comfortable tent platforms on the shaly ground. A number of previously built cairns were found hereabouts. Subsequent conversations with the Sugulu herdsmen revealed that their bolder fellows sometimes come up here for Ibex hunting. If a previous climbing party had been here, they left no signs: there was not a trace of litter, and no remnants of old tent platforms which do usually survive in such places. Perhaps they had a snowier year and camped on snow. After four active days, we left tents, stoves and some other items at C2, and returned to base camp in worsening weather for a well-earned rest.
We had plenty of time to rest, as the weather was bad for a whole week we had plenty of food and drink (non-alcoholic!), and several visits from the men and boys of Sugulu. They keep a few sheep and goats, but mainly cows. The style of cooking in this part of the world puts a high value on food fried in ghee (clarified butter), which is their idea of healthy eating! This results in butter commanding a high market price, so there is good incentive to keep dairy cattle. The Valley landscape in the Karakoram is not unlike neighbouring Afghanistan: mostly desert. So these summer pastures with their higher altitude and greater rainfall give much lusher grazing. The life of a herdsman must be a strange one, with an early morning milking, and another in the evening, but a big gap for most of the day with little to do - except visit us. Their visits were sociable ones and they always got a brew of tea and a snack from us. They were also keen to scrounge any used food tins and other containers we could spare, for storing their own supplies at Sugulu. In return, we had a change of company, and also some free deliveries of fresh yogurt and cottage cheese - a welcome change in our diet.
Climbing and Attempts
After a week of waiting, the weather finally cleared up, so we also went up, this time fully loaded, and all the way to our C2 in a day. The approach to C 2 via the previous year's C1 followed the Solu glacier down towards Sugulu, but left it for a steep narrow valley of grass and flowers which was hidden from base camp, then a small but steep glacier snout had to be climbed on the way to C1. This snout was rather dangerous to climb due to stone fall, and required helmets, and axes and crampons, which then had to be ferried up to the upper camp, and subsequently backwards and forwards however many times. So we decided to change our approach and go via Sugulu. This required a longer walk down the main glacier, but avoided the unpleasant snout. We decided that we would not need helmets higher up, so we dumped them on the col where we joined the ridge leading to C2. This place was, of course, dubbed 'helmet col'.
On subsequent descents from C2, we dropped in for a brew with the Sugulu folks. During the day, between morning and evening milkings, they passed the time with sundry domestic chores, plus the vital task of making the butter. This was done by separating the cream, which was then churned in a rustic sort of wooden container with paddles operated by treadles driving a leather belt. Over an hour of hard pedalling was needed to produce a few kg of butter. This was an idyllic existence for those who could stand the hardship and lack of sanitation. We thoroughly enjoyed our brew stops, but wondered whether it was worth risking a dose of the runs.
C2 was situated on shaley rocks immediately below the snow line. This was ideal for an advanced base. From C2, we set off fully loaded at 3.30 a.m. The way followed quite complex glacier terrain, but easy apart from one rope's length of hard ice at up to 50 degrees. The snow which fell during the recent bad weather had not fully consolidated, with much tedious breakable crust. We reached our C3 at 7.30 a.m., but felt like we'd had a full day's work. C3 was situated on a snowy bowl at c. 5200 m. The site was the best available, but surrounded by snow slopes with a few serac walls - not totally safe. After some discussion, we chose next morning to take a line trending up and right, leading towards a larger snow bowl below Sugulu peak. We set off with light packs at half past midnight, and climbed out of our bowl, with short pitches (Scottish grade 2), but more breakable crust. We arrived in the upper bowl after an exhausting ascent, but still well before dawn. A steep snow/ice slope would then have led to the col between Sugulu peak and its eastern subsidiary, a top which was very prominent from base camp, the summit appearing as a distinctive snowy cornice of gigantic size. The ridge from the col to Sugulu peak was now well lit by the moon. Traversing it would clearly be time-consuming, with big cornices hanging out on the far side over the Hispar glacier. These would necessitate much traversing below the crest on ice or crusty snow. The ridge faced east, and would catch the early sun, so the descent might cause problems. We decided to return to Sugulu peak later, when we were better acclimatized and the snow better consolidated. Instead, we turned right, Bill led us over an impressive bergschrund, and we climbed the south ridge of the monster cornice peak, subsequently named 'ice-cream peak' for its obvious resemblance. We reached the cornice's top still in darkness. We now discovered that we were not at the top of this mountain. There were three slightly higher points on the ridge beyond the top of the ice-cream cornice. These appeared to be about the same height. We visited the first two of these.
But none of these points were very far above the col, so our ice¬cream peak was a less distinctive one than appeared from base camp. However, the location on the divide overlooking the Hispar glacier gave wonderful views. A bright light was visible to the east: the camp of a trekking party on the Hispar la. The cold wind chilled us to the bone, so every stitch of spare clothing was donned as we waited for the dawn. The sun finally burst out over a scene of heart-rending beauty. Distant views included the Ogre and K2, along with all the nearer glaciers, and peaks beyond counting. Shortly after the dawn, we scurried back to C3 before the snow went even worse. The next day, we took all our gear and spare supplies down to C2, and leaving everything there, descended to Sugulu for a brew, then back to BC as the weather broke.
After two rest days, we returned to C2 ready for another go at Sugulu peak. But the weather had turned wet & mild in the night, so we sat tight. Then followed three days and nights of a very annoying weather pattern which is quite common in these parts: Clear weather in the afternoon followed by a starry start to the night, then clouding over later in the night with milder conditions and rain or snow showers. This is a sort of opposite of the common 'Alpine pattern' of clear mornings and showers or storms in the afternoon or evening. The alpine pattern allows climbing to be done early in the day, but on the lower peaks of the Karakoram, the 'reverse pattern' really prevents any action at all on snow / ice ascents. Apart from poor visibility, the mild temperatures give poor snow conditions, and if it clears in the afternoon, the sun causes equally poor conditions. After three days of this, Dave and Stew returned to base camp, followed a day later by Bill and Steve.
The latter pair had now run out of time, so they returned home to jobs and families. The other two had another week, so as Bill and Steve left in the inevitable perfect weather, Stew and Dave went up to C2 again for a final attempt. But the dreaded "reverse weather" pattern took hold again, and we were stuck in C2 for another four mild nights. Finally, our time was also up, so we returned to BC, and so homeward.
(1) Solu Col. We have not heard of any party crossing this col. It would involve succeeding on the icefall which caused our failure in reaching Solu peak. Perhaps this is why the col has not been crossed.
(2) Solu Peak. 2001 had been a very dry year, so the crevasses were worse than usual. Although we failed to approach the peak from the Solu glacier, this might be possible earlier in the year and / or in a snowier year. Same comments apply to this side of the Solu col. Alternatively, the mountain could be approached from the Sokha or Biafo glaciers.
(3) Sugulu peak and its subsidiaries. As noted elsewhere in this report, the local men told us that an unspecified party climbed '3 peaks' in this vicinity in the mid 1990s. But such reports are often unreliable, and we cannot find any record elsewhere of such ascents. We have now climbed two small peaks in this vicinity (Ice cream peak in 2001, and Dragonfly peak in 2000), But that still leaves the main Sugulu peak and several others nearby. Sugulu peak itself seems easiest by our approach, followed by its E. ridge or S.E. face. These have the disadvantage of early morning sun. From our C2, an alternative route going further west looked harder and more exposed to serac and stone-fall, but would give access to the mountain's S.W. ridge, which would get the sun later in the day.
Venue: Solu glacier, west/central Karakoram, Pakistan.
Approached via Skardu, Shigar, Tissar, Doko, Bisil.
Attempt on 'Solu Peak', (5901 m.), apparently unclimbed, at head of
Solu glacier, across Solu col from Solu Tower, (5979 m.).
This attempt failed due to impassable icefall in upper Solu glacier.
Subsequent attempt on 'Sugulu Peak', (6102 m.), possibly / probably unclimbed, on Solu/Hispar divide.
This attempt failed due to poor weather & snow conditions.
Ascent (probable first ascent) of one small peak, a subsidiary of Sugulu peak.
Our name for this: 'Ice Cream Peak', (c. 5800 m.)
Members: Dave Wilkinson, Stew Muir, Bill Church and Steve Kennedy.
We left Japan on 28 June 2002 and spent that night in Islamabad, Pakistan. Next day we drove to Subax (3700 m) which is an original point of the caravan to the BC of Mustag Ata, close to the border of China at Khunjurab-pass through the Karakorum-high way. We stayed at Subax to rest and acclimatize the height of 4000 m for four nights. With 10 camels we had a caravan to the BC-site on 9 July and extended our camp at the foot of Mustag Ata at 4300 m.
We adopted a typical polar method system to assault the summit. This summer the weather in the area was very bad. Nearly every day, there was it had rain, snow, hail, extreme wind and lightning. During such bad weather, we made our best efforts to acclimatize and establish C1 (5300 m), C2 (6000 m) and C3 (6700 m).
After taking 3 days rest at the BC, we started for the summit on 23 July and spent nights at C1, C2 and C3 respectively. On the 26th at 6.15 a.m. we left C3 and walked only on the snow slope surface with crampons and reached the summit (6546 m) at 14.30 p.m. with two Pakistani high altitude porters who came with us from Pakistan as our expedition members. Unfortunately just before arriving at the summit, there was a thin cloud cover so we could not enjoy any scenery from the summit. We did not use any oxygen at all through the climb.
After taking photos and food, about 30 minutes later we left for C3. We reached C3 at 19.30 p.m. It took more than 13 hours. It was a fairly long day for seniors. As both of us had gotten frostbites which were not so serious, we skipped stay at C2 and C1, and walked down directly to the BC next day. Taking 2 days rest at the BC, on 30 July we returned from BC to Subax with 5 camels.
Nowadays commercial mountaineering expeditions have become very popular in the mountain world. But this is a completely hand-made and an old style expedition organized and operated by seniors. The day when we climbed the summit of Mustag Ata, Hidehiro Minamii was 66 years and 10 months, and Ken Ikeya was 64 years and 9 months.
We came to know, surprisingly, the following:
There is 'a senior summitters list over 7000 m peaks' at page 4-5 of monthly magazine Himalaya dated July 2002, published by the Himalayan Association of Japan. If I revise the list by updating information, we will be ranked at the fourth and the sixth. The first is Ms. Toshiko Uchida 71 years (Cho-Oyu, October 2002), Yuichiro Miura 69 years (Cho-Oyu, May 2002), Yukihiko Kato 69 years (Cho Oyu, May 2000) and our member K. Ikeya 64 years at 6th.
5th July, Arrived at Subax (3700 m)
9th Established BC (4300 m)
13th Established C 1 (5300 m)
17th Established C 2 (6000 m)
25th Established C 3 (6700 m)
26th Climbed Mustag Ata (7546 m)
30th Withdrew from BC to Subax
Members: Hidehiro Minamii (leader), (Japanese Alpine Club), Ken Ikeya (Japanese Alpine Club), Ali Musa (Pakistan Alpine Club), Akaram Ali Shah (Shimshal, Pakistan)
Historic Discovery and Climb for Peace
CAPT. NITIN SHRESHTHA AND ROGER PAYNE
Discovery of the Balti village and camp of Dainelli
(Capt. Nitin Shreshtha)
Siachen glacier, the second longest glacier outside the polar regions has not only attracted the attention of Indian and Pakistani armies towards it but has aroused curiosity among many explorers since time immemorial. These explorers have braved tough terrain and harsh weather conditions to reach this glacier. Many have perished in their exploration. Siachen and its adjoining areas stand witness to such quests.
As per folklore, at the junction of Teram Shehr glacier and Siachen glacier, was a small Yarkandi village which traded with Baltis. Once, the Yarkandis abducted a Balti woman. To seek revenge the Baltis consulted a Mullah, who gave them a tawiz (amulet) and told them to place it at Bilafond la and return by another route, but unfortunately the Baltis returned via the same route. A terrible storm blew, which destroyed everything at the glacier, even the small Yarkandi village. Thus the glacier got its name as Teram Shehr (destroyed city). Because the Baltis had not followed the instructions to the full, the storm could not destroy the roses on the glacier and hence the main glacier received its name as Siachen (Sia- rose, chen — place of). The Bullock-Workman expedition that visited the glacier in 1912 found remains of the village.1
In 2002 our 7th battalion of the 11th Gorkha Rifles was posted on the glacier and they camped for few months at the junction of the Siachen and Teram Shehr glaciers. During their stay they endeavoured to search the location of this settlement. The whole area was explored and finally on 28 November 2002, I not only stumbled on the remains of the settlement but also found a human skeleton, which was found buried under a huge boulder and covered with a stonewall. Although the remains were not intact, it could easily be identified as human as parts of skull and jaw bone were intact. The exact age of the bones can only be ascertained by carbon dating.
On the same day around two kilometres from this old Yarkandi settlement, a huge stone was discovered with the following inscription:
After checking the history of Siachen glacier, it was ascertained that this was the camp of the Italian Professor Giotto Dainelli who had stayed for two months on the glacier in 1930 and had carried out various geological surveys. He had reached here with seventy porters and six and a half tonnes of luggage. Due to the flooding of the Nubra river at lower reaches, he could not return by the same route and hence crossed a 5900 metre-pass to the Rimo glacier and named the pass as 'Col Italia'.
Note 13 (T. Suzuki)
68. Gangstang north wall. East ridge (left) and north ridge on right.
Note 17 (Roger Payne)
69. Appeal for Peace in mountains: Indian and Pakistani flags on the summit of Monch peak, the Swiss Alps.
Note 17 (Capt. N. Shrestha)
70. Recently discovered stone of 1930 G. Dainelli expedition on the Siachen glacier.
71. Dr Herbert Richter with his wife.
Nature has gifted Siachen glacier and the Eastern Karakoram ranges with lofty mountains. This region has a rich history of exploration, visits, and numerous legends related to it. Each peak has a name and each name has a meaning. Each of the peaks, valleys and glaciers has a history and it should be our endeavour to know and preserve this rich historical legacy. This finding is but a small step towards this direction.
Climb for Peace by Indian and Pakistani Mountaineers
A group of four mountaineers from India and Pakistan climbed peaks in Switzerland in response to a joint initiative of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) for a 'real' summit in the Jungfrau - Aletsch - Bietschhorn region, which has recently been designated as the first UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in the Alps. Their aim was to promote mountain protection, cooperation and peace during the UN's 'International Year of the Mountains'. The flags of India and Pakistan, were hoisted together on three Swiss summits - anywhere perhaps after a long time! It was the special aim of the climbers to give a call for the creation of a 'Siachen Peace Park' to bring about peace on this long war-torn glacier. Armies of India and Pakistan have been fighting a high altitude war on the Siachen since 1984. This war has brought about major destruction of the environment, caused many deaths and injuries and has trapped some of the most beautiful mountain areas in a conflict zone.
The group consisted of Harish Kapadia and Mandip Singh Soin from India and Nazir Sabir and Col Sher Khan from Pakistan to help promote protected status for important mountain ranges and the concept of 'peace zones' to help resolve conflicts in mountain areas while promoting cooperation. They were joined by quadruple amputee Jamie Andrew from Scotland (who lost both hands and both feet to severe frostbite in an accident in the Alps three winters ago). The IUCN - UIAA Summit Team was co-coordinated in Switzerland by Georgina Peard, IUCN World Heritage Assistant and Roger Payne, UIAA Sports and Development Director. Roger and his wife Julie-Ann Clyma are both very experienced climbers and mountain guides.
IUCN and UIAA wanted to recognise the success of the Swiss Government in achieving World Heritage recognition for the Jungfrau- Aletsch-Bietschhorn region; and the mountaineers from India and Pakistan wanted to use this opportunity to highlight the need to protect the Karakoram mountains, which have been affected in some areas by armed conflict.
The climbers spent the first 2 days of their trip climbing around Leysin. Local people were very impressed that quadruple amputee Jamie Andrew was able to tackle some of the long rock climbs in the area including the Miroir d'Argentine. To start both the acclimatisation and discussions about protection for the environment and promoting peace and cooperation the UIAA President Ian McNaught-Davis joined the summit team for an ascent of the Tour d'Ai by the Via Ferrata.
Jamie Andrew was climbing a Via Ferrata for the first time as were the rest of the team from India and Pakistan. As far as anyone knew this climb was the first ever joint Indo-Pakistan mountaineering ascent and therefore marked an historic start to the team's deliberations. The team also included Georgina Peard from IUCN, local host Julie-Ann Clyma and Loreto McNaught-Davis.
The IUCN-UIAA (Indo-Pak) Summit Team clearly lives up to the standards of the Olympic Charter, established by Pierre de Coubertin, which set out the goal of the Olympic Movement as being to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. Hence they were invited to visit the Olympic museum.
After the visit to the Olympic museum the team travelled to Grindelwald where they were welcomed by Grindelwald Tourism and the Jungfraubhan and took the amazing train journey through the Eiger to Jungfraujoch (3454 m) which is the highest and most spectacular railway station in the World.
From Jungfraujoch, the team made the short journey by foot to the Monchjoch Hut (3650 m). This high mountain hut is owned by the Society of Grindelwald Mountain Guides and is one of many such huts in the Swiss Alps providing accommodation for mountaineers.
At 10 a.m. on 28 August 2002, the team of Indo-Pak climbers with others reached its goal on the summit of the Monch in the recently designated Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn natural World Heritage Site. Flags of India and Pakistan were hoisted together as a gesture of goodwill and friendship between mountaineers of both the countries.
As climbers stated, 'Today on the entire climb our minds remained occupied with thinking of how often the people of India and Pakistan had been kept away from so much happening between them. It is such a tragedy that this commonly enjoyed sport is not allowed between our two countries. Yet thankfully through this link, there is hope for bringing our two nations closer.
Even the staunch enemies in the era of the Cold War, which divided the World, have overcome old barriers and come closer together. The Berlin Wall was dismantled, so let us hope the psychological wall that exists between our people can also be dismantled and we can live like natural neighbours and friends.'
As a finale the team met Adolf Ogi, the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace, in presence of UIAA President Ian McNaught-Davis.
Ogi heard a first hand account from Harish Kapadia on the situation at the Siachen glacier. The other members of the summit team also related to him how mountain tourism in the Himalaya and Karakoram has been devastated by the affect of the tragic events of 9/11 in America and the tensions between India and Pakistan. Ogi stressed how valuable sport is to building a better world and hoped that other sporting links between India and Pakistan would soon be resumed. He also stressed the importance of protecting the environment for future generations to enjoy.
'As mountaineers you have shown the way that I hope others will follow to promote peace through sport'. The final call was to for promoting 'peace zones' as a means to overcome border disputes, protect mountain regions and the freedom to enjoy the mountains, particularly a peace zone for the Siachen glacier.
Summary: Discovery of the Balti village and camp of G. Dainelli expedition (1930) on the Siachen glacier, Karakoram and climb in the Alps by the Indian and Pakistani mountaineers for appealing for peace on the Siachen glacier.