Miyar Nala, 2004

Climbs and Explorations in Lahaul

Jim Lowther

Surprisingly, the first recorded climbing in the Miyar nala area was in 1992 by an Italian team. The Italians paid other visits during the 1990's and then the Slovenians became active in 2002. The Alpine Journal and a number of climbing magazines recently publicised the state of play and whetted our appetite for this area. It obviously had a wealth of unclimbed rock. An Indian friend, Commander Satyabrata Dam, who had been trekking right up the Miyar glacier to the Kangla Jot (a high pass at the head of the Miyar glacier that gives access into Zanskar), confirmed the attractiveness of the area and recommended May as the month with the best weather. Although he was right about the weather, we soon discovered that there is (normally) too much snow about in May to allow rock climbing on the higher peaks. However, this expedition was the first one to penetrate, explore and climb in the Jangpar glacier area to the east of the Miyar glacier.


The journey from Delhi to the roadhead in the Miyar nala is often a straightforward affair. However, pre-monsoon snowfall can block the Rohtang la and rainfall during the monsoon and post-monsoon can cause road-blocking mud and rock slides anywhere between Tandi, Udaipur and the roadhead. [The true roadhead (more like a rough trackhead!) is a short distance from Patam on the north side of the Miyar nala. However, as the best path up the valley is on the southeast side it is normal to quit vehicles opposite Chaling and to cross the river via the excellent footbridge at this point.]

The walk from Chaling to base camp at Dali Got was an easy two and a half days (two would have been enough) with a height gain of only 700 m (c. 3200 m to 3900 m) and many good campsites en route. We camped at Khanjar, the last habitation on the east side of the valley (the best site is well above the village), and by the shallow lake at Gumba Got. We were spoiled for choice at Dali Got where flat ground and fresh water abounds. The site selected was next to the first and lowest of the deep pools that are a feature of the Miyar glacier's terminal moraine. All the expedition's equipment was carried up to base camp by our six Kumauni porters (we'd only requested three but six met us at Manali!) and two horses hired at Chaling. This was completed in a series of ferries with all the gear arriving at base camp by 12 May.

Exploration and Climbing Activity

Other than a trip to the junction of the Miyar and Jangpar glaciers together on 11 May, GL/JL and BD/KK operated as two separate teams for all the time out from base Camp.

Graham and Jim's mountain experience (written by Graham Little):

13 May

After a good breakfast with fresh coffee, we head up the north side of the Miyar glacier by a vague path above and sometimes on the lateral moraine. We cross side valleys choked with snow, which is easy going before the sun gets up (following our tracks of two days ago). Four porters carry our climbing gear and food. I'm ahead of the rest of the team keeping my eyes open for wildlife. I spot a marmot and a pair of Himalayan Snowcock. We regroup at the edge of the Jangpar glacier and Jim breaks trail, under a hot sun, to Jangpar Got on the other side of the glacier. The porters unload and head back to BC.

14 May

We breakfast to birdsong and amazingly get going at 0615 up the snow-slopes immediately behind camp. We move (too) quickly taking a line over rocks to the left of the obvious straight gully. Soon we need to don crampons as the ground gets steeper. Jim climbs a rather tenuous little rock step and on we go up steeper snow. We reach the summit, via a delightful little snow arete, at 1000. The sky is cloudless and windless. A flight of doves passes below us. We spend nearly an hour on top of Christina Peak, surveying the magnificent mountain panorama. The bulk of Menthosa, 6443 m, dominates the view to the southwest, Shiva, 6142 m, and other peaks to the west, whilst the peaks of Kishtwar serrate the horizon to the northwest (I convince myself that I can see Rohini Shikhar, a peak that I climbed in 1989). However, our real interest lies to the east in the complex of unexplored peaks including the daunting Triple Towers. A fast descent of the west face sees us back in camp for 1230.

Jim silhouetted on way up Lammergeier Spire.

26. Jim silhouetted on way up Lammergeier Spire.

'Orange Tower'

27. 'Orange Tower' (Jim Lowther)

Unclimbed peak in the Miyar nala.

28. Unclimbed peak in the Miyar nala. (Jim Lowther)

15 May

This is a great mountain day although we do no climbing! Taking all that we can carry, we move up the glacier and pitch the Gemini just below the junction of the Jangpar East and West glaciers. Travelling light, we head up the Jangpar West between vast flanking cliffs (the entrance being immediately dubbed the 'Gates of Mordor'). Massive buttresses foot the east flank rising to merge into the vast headwall of two distinctive horn-like peaks. 'The Devil's Horns' is the obvious name for these peaks and it therefore follows that the great 1300 m high flanking wall should be named 'The Devil's Wall'. Although not as high, the west flank is the real jewel of the Jangpar, an awesome 800 m high 'blank' wall dropping from the southeast flank of central peak of the 'Triple Towers'. Hanging seracs define its left side and a wild overhanging edge its right. It is scribbled with mineral veins and so we name it the 'Marbled Wall' - a mega objective for a very strong big wall team! We push on up to an altitude of 4950 m by some blue pools below the icefall and then call it a day.

17 May

From a camp directly below 'The Orange Tower', we climb the tower's superstructure (250 m to V. Diff.), establish a bivi site and then try several lines near the edge of the upper tower (170 m to 4c) in cloudy conditions with frequent snow flurries. The weather improves and we have a good bivi.

18 May

We try another line to the left of yesterday's attempt (to 5a) but back off due to the obviously much more difficult rock ahead and a lack of confidence that we can get up the upper tower without using a lot of aid. We are happy to leave it to the choughs and wall creepers who are clearly more at home in this vertical world than we are. On our return to base camp, we are privileged to see six bharal (blue sheep) high on the crags above the Miyar glacier.

21 May

Assisted by Dan Singh, we carry our kit up towards the Lammergeyer Spire. As no easy access to the base is available, we establish a bivi just below the east side of a rock ridge that is roughly in the same alignment as the spire above. A late afternoon recce confirms that the ascent of a tricky, pinnacled rock ridge will be required to give access to the broad snow spur footing the spire. As we return, a lammergeyer glides majestically past. A long and very cold bivi is enjoyed!

22 May

We get moving by 0700 and climb the ridge, with pitches up to Severe, and on up the hard snow slopes above to the foot of the Spire. 85 m of climbing leads to a gap holding a squat pinnacle. We drop down and ascend mixed ground to gain the slabs of the spire proper. The rock is immaculate and covered in 'chicken heads' with the climbing much easier than we had anticipated (up to Severe). We gain the obvious long corner as the sky dulls and a biting wind rises. A short pitch above the top of the corner and we are on the wildly undercut summit block. The situation is spectacular but the views to the north are swallowed by a fast approaching storm. We make a hasty descent, with long abseils, through driving snow, intuition guiding us down alternative routes from the ascent. Again the great lammergeyer sails past. We end up in the snow gully to the west of the lower ridge and have to climb up onto it by an interesting mixed pitch (Scottish Grade III). We end up at exactly the right point for the descent down the gully to the east and back to the bivi site. A hasty packing of sacs and we head down into the gloom, over fresh snow covered boulders, arriving at BC at 1800 after a full 12 hour day.

Kevin and Brian's mountain experience (written by Kevin):

Attempt at a route on Peak 5960 m bordering the Jangpar and Dali glaciers - referred to, with reference to a previous Slovak text, as peak 7.

13 May

With the aid of two porters we climb the moraines directly above base camp to gain the lower extent of the Dali glacier. Here we establish a food cache, with a view to trying one of the ice and rock lines on the flanking walls of the hanging valley after an attempt on Peak 5960 m. We take advantage of the cold early morning conditions and continue quickly with our porters as far as the rock band that bars access to the upper glacier system. This rock band had been described as having pitches on rock slabs of grade UIAA IV. We find them to be almost entirely covered by snow and ice, although, as the day starts to warm, the thaw turns the lower and slightly steeper rock ramp into a waterfall. Our porters leave our company here as they are not equipped, skilled nor paid to tackle such terrain. Brian leads the first pitch which although wet is technically easy and gains the snow field towards the left of the band which continues over steep scree and rocks for several hundred metres to the last short rock step, Scottish I, and the upper glacier. By the time that we start the long slog up the snow slope, the sun is full upon us and the snow turns quickly to sugary mush. The going, although technically straightforward, is physically very taxing and is threatened from above by avalanche and rock fall as winter starts to release its grip on the surrounding mountains. By early afternoon we gain the snout of the upper glacier, which has ablated considerably and appears to be stable. We dump our gear by a rock protrusion near the top of the band and head back down to the foot of the steepening to repeat the process with the gear deposited by our porters. Quite exhausted, we pitch our tent c. 4800 m and set the alarm for 0200.

First view up the Jangpar glacier.

35. First view up the Jangpar glacier. (Jim Lowther)

14 May

We wake up to find the tent being buffeted by a moderate, but terribly cold wind coming down the valley. It is very cold. The two litre pan of water in the porch, as with everything bar ourselves, is frozen solid. It is still very much winter here. We slowly brew, eat, brew, gear up. We strip the camp with frozen fingers and manage to load all of yesterdays' loads incongruously into or onto our rucksacks. The sky is clear and moonless. I set off trailing a rope to Brian. We move very slowly in the thin air and under our Himalayan loads. Our target is to camp below the south ridge of our peak. The wind soon drops and just as the sun is coming round onto our corner of the glacier we drop our rucksacks at the foot of the west flank of the south ridge c.5200 m. I rush to get my boots off, as I can't feel the toes of my right foot. Brian makes a brew. I enjoy tea and the hot aches as the temperature swings wildly from freezing to scorching in the unhindered sunshine. We identify a line that will climb the slope above us, to a notch on the south ridge. Then ascend the south ridge until we can traverse the south face to a gully system that dissects the south face from a large buttress on the west ridge, which can hopefully be climbed to gain the summit ridge. Our aim, to tackle long rock routes on golden granite, has been laid to waste by the prevalence of snow on all but the steepest faces (for which we are ill equipped).

15 May

It is another cold night with the inside of the tent thick with frost. We start thirty minutes after midnight and our initial progress is slow. These higher snow slopes do not seem to have been affected by the warming of the sun and given the continuing cold air temperatures, have not thawed to any depth. Several hours of step plunging in steep snow, consisting of a thin crust on deep powder, deliver us to the notch on the south ridge. The unseen east flank drops steeply to the glacier below and the cornice is substantial. The lower section of the ridge is sharply defined and consists of a soft flaky rock. I lead a mixed pitch across a narrow foot rail, outflanking the wall that blocks access from the notch to the ridge proper - 60m of Scottish IV with poor gear and belay. On the way across my head torch battery runs out. By the time Brian joins me and leads past to the easier ridge crest, it is daylight. We climb the ridge for a while then traverse from the ridge across the south face to gain the gully that we had seen from the tent. The snow conditions are not very good, with large amounts of unconsolidated powder sitting on what appear to be steep granite slabs. We move as quickly as possible, but with few runners, to gain the gully where I find a reliable belay at the foot of the now clearly defined and narrow gully. The next pitch rears up from the gully bed and constricts to form a chimney on ice and rock. Brian leads this difficult pitch - Scottish V. The rock immediately surrounding our position is of poor quality, the gully the product of the quicker erosion of a softer rock to the surrounding granite. Runners are poor and spaced, as are belays. The next pitch is Scottish II on rotten ice. I lead through quickly as Brian's stance is no more than a foot ledge on a ramp in the gully wall. The route continues in this manner for pitch after pitch. It's hard to get a measure of the distance climbed as so often we move together to allow the leader to find gear to belay on. We begin to tire, as we can find no place to rest or at the very least take food or water. Movement is continuous. As the sun melts the snow and ice in the gully bed, the 'easy' pitches become more and more demanding as they are transformed to bottomless wet sugar. Brian climbs one more mixed pitch up a rib protruding from the gully bed and finally belays a short way below a ledge near the top of the granite tower that defines the west ridge of the peak.

Looking up the crack line on the Orange Tower.

36. Looking up the crack line on the Orange Tower. (Jim Lowther)

Peak 5960 m, south face.

37. Peak 5960 m, south face. (Jim Lowther)

From here we should be able to brew up and recover ourselves. Brian is moving very slowly now and I am producing a competent display of slurred speech and mild confusion. Exhaustion is starting to have an affect on us both. The terrain to the summit ridge consists of several pitches of easy angled, but soft snow. The gully as a route is over. As I am following the last technical section, there is a shout and obligatory crash from above. I duck my head tight into my ice tools, but the sound is a bit different to the usual 'fridge size blocks'. I pop my head up as Brian's rucksack, holding his spare clothing, all of our gas, the pan and most of the food (I have a tin of tuna in my sack), spins out into space. I'm too tired to care and as I struggle over the last bulge, I see an apologetic Brian on the first decent belay since the start of the gully. The plan had been to brew up, and as the sun was leaving the face wait for the snow slopes above to firm up a bit. Given we no longer have any food and our remaining water bottle is frozen, we conclude that we can't risk a night on the face; our attempt to climb the peak has to be finished as soon as possible. I traverse off the belay and into the gully and proceed to thrash around in the snow of the gully bed. It becomes apparent that my progress is so incredibly slow that benightment is inevitable. I struggle back to the stance and set up the first abseil. We abseil back down our line; the worrying belays of earlier in the day are now our abseil anchors. We gain the foot of the south face and recover Brian's rucksack. I notice as we descend to the glacier, that the slopes we traversed to gain the gully proper have avalanched their full depth. It's getting dark as we get back to the tent. We don't know the time as Brian lost his watch thrashing around on the slopes below the notch on the ridge.

base camp on the glacier.

38. Above: base camp on the glacier.
Below: on the Jangpar glacier, looking at 'Gates of Mordor'. (Jim Lowther)

on the Jangpar glacier, looking at 'Gates of Mordor'.

17 May

With the first light of day I get up and make a brew. Our aim is to gain the col at the foot of the west ridge of the peak that we'd just failed on. As I climb out of the tent I notice that there is quite a lot of cloud build-up that has appeared overnight, moving in from the west. We make our way over the glacier and up to the 5300 m col on still firm snow - Scottish I. From this vantage point we gain excellent views of the whole Jangpar glacier system. Even in the poor and flat light the massive walls and numerous complex and jagged towers cannot fail to impress. The architecture of this fantastic valley is awe-inspiring. We linger only to take a few photos and as the weather gives every indication of breaking, descend to camp. As the cloud builds we strip our camp and once again, crippled under huge sacks stagger back to the rock step. In the few days since we gained the top of the band the snows have receded considerably, exposing smooth granite slabs. The descent of these and the now much less secure scree is time and energy consuming, but in time we reach our lower food cache as the first snow starts to fall. The thaw has greatly affected the lower ice routes, yet the rock walls that we examined on the way up are still snow covered in their upper reaches. In failing weather we descend to base camp.

New routes on a large area of granite slabs on the east side of the Miyar valley, 5km south of BC.

21 May

Today we moved our tent from BC, just over an hour down the valley, to a pitch below a sweep of granite slabs. We pitch the tent and climb steeply up the mountainside to gain the right hand end of the slabs c. 4400 m. From here we follow the fine arete through its entirety. This gives us a fine line, 'Time after Thyme' 360 m UIAA IV. As we descend to our rucksacks we see that a river has sprung from the boulders above the tent and is flowing across our campsite. When we finally gain our tent we find that, more by luck than design, we have pitched it on a slight hillock that diverts the water around rather than through our lodgings.

22 May

An early start in fine weather sees us tackling a line up the main body of slabs. We follow a vague line of grooves, ramps and cracks more or less straight up, aiming for a large V shaped break in the skyline at the top of the slabs. We make quick progress, spurred on by the appearance of a large amount of dark blue-grey cloud that is moving steadily down the valley. 'Bent Fork of Acceptance' 750 m UIAA V, terminates a considerable way up the mountain affording excellent views of the surrounding objectives in the neighbouring tributary valleys. Once again we descend with haste, getting to the tent as the snow starts in earnest.

Future Objectives

Where to start! The whole Miyar nala/glacier area has vast potential, some of it already identified by Slovenian and Italian expeditions. There is an absolute wealth of unclimbed peaks, mixed faces and rock walls surrounding the Jangpar glaciers and we will confine our comments to these.

  • Peak 5760 m - big, mixed north face with an obvious line up a wide fan narrowing to a gully leading to a high notch on the northwest ridge.
  • Peak 5780 m - beautiful snow-fluted north face.
  • Peak 5960 m - a gob-smacking rock pyramid of a peak when viewed from the Jangpar glacier. The west ridge would be a good, challenging line and the col at its foot can be accessed from either the north (steep with objective danger) or the south (easy).
  • Peak 6000 m - the neighbour of Peak 5960 m and carrying a lot more snow. A serac wall sits below the connecting col, threatening the narrow snow/ice face below - no obvious safe route.
  • Flat Top, 6000 m - at the junction of the east and west arms of the Jangpar glacier with a monstrous rock wall to the west.
  • 'The Devil's Horns', 6280 m and 6320 m - the vast and complex 1300 m high 'Devil's Wall' falls to the west - serious stuff!
  • Peak 6280 m - a big retiring peak at the head of East Jangpar glacier.
  • Peak 6150 m - a hidden snowy peak at the junction of ridges. East face looks formidable, south face easier.
  • Triple Towers - all just over 6000 m and pretty formidable. The North Tower is the most distinctive and looks climbable from the east via a 1000 m buttress. The Middle Tower is the proud owner of the 'Marbled Wall' on its southeast flank, at a sheer 800 m, the best looking bit of rock in the area - the ultimate objective for a serious big wall team. The South Tower is the least attractive of the three, with no obvious line. Seracs hang over the east flank of the col between the Middle and South Towers (but don't threaten the main section of the 'Marbled Wall').
  • Peak 6200 m - an obscure snowy peak. Between it and Peak 6040 m, to the west, a wide spur juts to the south with a truncated rock tower at its termination (5700 m).
  • Peak 6040 m - could be climbed by a reasonable looking route on the south face from the glacier to the north and above the Jangpar glacier.
  • Christina Peak, 5420 m - the baby of the area but a superb viewpoint. The only peak yet climbed! A long, corniced, ridge runs east from the summit and terminates in an impressive vertical rock wall.
  • The Orange Tower, 5200 m - a very impressive tower of grey and orange coloured granite. The nose (attempted by GL and JL) is the most obvious line. A good and easier alternative would be round to the left where a ramp up a buttress of grey rock (which is the best quality) leads to the top of the tower that sits behind The Orange Tower.

Although we did not explore the area to the east of the upper Miyar glacier, it is obvious that there is a network of untouched glaciers flanked by many fine unclimbed peaks up to 6300 m.

Mapping, Names and Heights

Available mapping of the Miyar nala/glacier area is generally small scale and of poor quality. Sketch maps produced by Slovenian and Italian expeditions are useful although not topographically very accurate. Some of the heights claimed for peaks climbed by these expeditions are exaggerated. The outline map of the Jangpar glacier area is more accurate although peak heights are only accurate to +/- 70m.

There is mounting confusion over the names of the glaciers that lie to the east of the Miyar nala/glacier. Taking Dali Got, at the foot of the Miyar glacier, as the reference point, the following names have been used, with the favoured version first followed by alternatives.

Glaciers linking to the Miyar glacier:

Jangpar glacier (no alternative) - the final glacier to join the Miyar glacier (about 6 km above Dali Got at its snout).

Glaciers not linking to the Miyar glacier:

Dali glacier (Spaghetti glacier, Thunder glacier) - Lies directly above Dali Got.

Chhudong glacier (Tawa glacier) - Lies just over 1 km down valley from the Dali Got.

Takdung glacier (Nameless glacier) - Lies 4 km down valley from the Dali Got.


This pre-monsoon expedition went to the Miyar nala area of Lahaul/Pangi in Himachal Pradesh with the objectives of exploring the (hitherto unexplored) Jangpar glacier, doing some rock climbing on the granite towers and buttresses and making a basic topographic map of the area.

Despite exceptionally heavy snowfall in late April (the heaviest for 25 years) the expedition eventually reached base camp on 10 May and was active in the area until 23 May. The following was achieved:

  • First ascent of Christina Peak, 5420 m, by Graham Little and Jim Lowther on 14 May by the south face (Alpine PD, but possibly easier without snow); this excellent viewpoint allowed a survey of the surrounding mountain complex. Descent was by the west face on snow and a couple of short ice steps.
  • Penetration of the Jangpar glacier, by Graham Little and Jim Lowther, passing between the vast rock walls at the mouth of West Jangpar glacier and continuing up it to a height of 4950 m, just below the icefall.
  • Attempt on the south face of peak 5960 m, by Brian Davison and Kevin Kelly, via a mixed line with pitches to Scottish V with poor belays and protection. Retreated from a height of about 5800 m after a rucksack was dropped.
  • Brian Davison and Kevin Kelly climbed to the col, 5300 m, immediately to the west of Peak 5960 m, gaining a good view of the peaks surrounding the Jangpar glacier.
  • Two attempts on the nose of 'The Orange Tower', c. 5200 m, by Graham Little and Jim Lowther. Retreated from the base of a very steep wall at a height of about 5000 m (after about 400 m of climbing to 5a).
  • First ascent of Lammergeyer Spire, 5350 m, by Graham Little and Jim Lowther on 22 May, via the west face. Although the actual face gave 8 pitches to Severe, getting to the foot of the face was a climb in its own right, involving a pinnacled ridge, mixed sections and tricky route finding (Alpine D with rock to Severe). Descent, in a blizzard, was largely by the ascent route but with a few interesting short cuts!
  • First ascent of two long rock routes, by Brian Davison and Kevin Kelly, on the slabs above Khai Got on the east side of the Miyar nala.

The Team

Graham E. Little (leader), Jim Lowther, Kevin Kelly and Brian Davison.


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