Crevasses on the Kangriz glacier en route to Camp 1

Crevasses on the Kangriz glacier en route to Camp 1 (Brig. Ashok Abbey)

  1. Trishul West Ridge (Martin Moran)
  2. Cerro Kishtwar - Har Har Mahadev (Stephan Siegrist)
  3. Kalapani Glacier and Peaks (Martin Moran)
  4. A Dream Yet to Touch (Rudra Prasad Haider)
  5. Exploration of Ratang, Spiti (Debasish Bardhan)
  6. A Mission to Climb Reo Purgyil and Leo Purgyil (Maj Jay Prakash Kumar)
  7. Sir George Everest's Home (Dr Sunil K. Pandya)
  8. Along the Upper Arun Valley and its Tributaries (Lakshini Ranganathan)
  9. Ranglik 2017 (Matija Jošt - Matic)
  10. Nostalgia
  11. Hillary and Tenzing (Dr Manohar Singh Gill)
  12. Ladakh Odyssey (Dr Manohar Singh Gill)
  13. My First Climb (Captain M.S. Kohli)



1 Trishul West Ridge

Martin Moran

Only a fit bold team climbing in alpine-style could achieve the true summit from the 6360 m camp in a single day. Realistically, one day is needed to fix ropes to 6700 m and one day to reach the summit.

A nine-person team led by British guides Mark Thomas and Martin Moran made an ascent of the west ridge of 7120 m Trishul in October 2017. The ridge is now the standard route up Trishul and, being one of the few accessible 7000ers in Uttarakhand Himalaya, attracts many expeditions. Many military teams attempt the peak. However, there appear to be few proven successes and no accurate description or photos of the final route, especially the summit climb. An Army team made the last recorded ascent in 2013.

In the last two weeks of September the team prepared the route to the obvious shoulder at 5950 m at the head of the Ronti glacier. From Trishul base camp at 4385 m below Hom Kund, the route climbs a big couloir (snow in spring, scree in autumn) to reach Camp 1 on an open rocky area at 5150 m by the bank of the Ronti glacier. A long easy ascent of the glacier leads to the shoulder. The British team put an intermediate camp at 5540 m and made a Camp 3 on the shoulder at 5950 m. This is a windy spot but gives immediate access to the steep slopes of the upper ridge. Other teams prefer to make a single camp in a sheltered bowl at 5700 m.

Trishul route

Trishul route
Trishul summit ridge from 6975 m

Trishul summit ridge from 6975 m

A continuous ascent of 400 m on a snow-ice slope of 45-57° led to a small niche behind an ice cliff at 6360 m. This is the summit camp (Camp 4 for the British team). The slope can be icy and ropes were fixed throughout. The summit camp is cramped and has room for a maximum of five or six tents; it was affected by strong winds throughout the three nights of occupancy. Above the ridge became more pronounced but continued at sustained angles of 50° to 6750 m. Ropes were also fixed on this section. The slope now broadened and eased and the summit ridge was reached at 6950 m.

Contrary to expectation, the final ridge was found to be difficult, heavily corniced on the east side with a steep step of 50 m at angles up to 60°. On 5 October Mark Thomas Ian Wade, ZacQuain, Sherpa Phurtemba and Chetan Pandey fixed ropes and ascended to the summit ridge at 6975 m but didn’t have the time or resources to complete the final step. On 6 Oct Thomas and Pandey returned to complete the route, taking snow stakes, two axes each and a 60 m rope to ascend the step and then return by abseil. They recorded the summit altitude as 7145 m on their GPS device compared to the official height of 7120 m. Martin Moran and John McLaren followed but turned back from below the step due to lack of time and kit. The ascent of the final step and return took 2½ hours.

On 7 October the team descended to Camp 1 clearing all the ropes below summit camp. An Indian Air Force party was on the mountain at the same time. Their high altitude porters reached summit camp and the members climbed to 5900 m, but high winds and lack of time prevented further progress. Only a fit bold team climbing in alpine- style could achieve the true summit from the 6360 m camp in a single day. Realistically, one day is needed to fix ropes to 6700 m and one day to reach the summit. Teams might consider placing a bivouac camp at 6800-6900 m on the easy-angled slopes below the summit ridge.

In terms of difficulty Trishul west ridge would rate Difficile in the European Alps or grade IV on the Indian Mountaineering Foundation’s grading scale. The upper mountain is arduous and exposed. Even with fixed lines this is not a suitable route for inexperienced mountaineers. Conditions were excellent in the post-monsoon season with a good plastering of stable snow on the upper mountain and low avalanche risk.

Trishul summit camp at 6360 m

Trishul summit
Trishul view south over Trishul II from summit ridge

Trishul view south over Trishul II from summit ridge

A nine-person team led by British guides Mark Thomas and Martin Moran made an ascent of the west ridge of 7120 m Trishul in October 2017.

About the Author

Martin Moran is one of Britain’s most experienced mountain guides and the author of several mountain books. He has achieved many ‘firsts’ in exploratory mountaineering and major mountain traverses, including the first and only completion of Scotland’s Munros within a single winter and in 1993 the first continuous traverse of the 4000-metre summits of the Alps (75 peaks in 52 days), a time as yet unsurpassed.

Martin has made over 25 expeditions to the Uttarakhand, Himachal and Kashmir ranges - most with pioneering objectives. He also has a special liking for exciting unsupported crossings of high passes - most notably the Badrinath-Kedarnath route in 1998 and the Shalang-Poting traverse in 2015. Martin’s autobiography of his life as a professional guide, Higher Ground, was published in 2014.



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The line up the spectacular central northwest wall of Cerro Kishtwar. The route was christened Har Har Mahadev by the team

spectacular central northwest wall of Cerro Kishtwar
2 Cerro Kishtwar - Har Har Mahadev

Stephan Siegrist

On 14 October 2017 Stephan Siegrist, Julian Zanker, and Thomas Huber stood atop the granite giant in Kashmir. They are the fourth team that was able to climb this mountain via a spectacular line. Their goal was the yet unclimbed central northwest face of Cerro Kishtwar.

Climbing History of Cerro Kishtwar (6155 m)

In 1992, two Englishmen Andy Perkins and Brendan Murphy tried to climb their way up the wall. They had to give up 100 m below the summit after 17 days due to exhaustion. A year later their fellow landsmen, Mick Fowler and Steve Sustad reached the peak as the first team to do so. They climbed by way of an ice chute in the left part of the wall to a notch at about 5600 m and moved over into the slightly flatter east part of the mountain. The mountains in Kashmir were then barred for all foreign alpinists for several years for military and political reasons. The ban was lifted early in 2010 and Stephan Siegrist, Denis Burdet, and David Lama made the first expedition into the mountain region in 2011.Their goal was to climb Cerro Kishtwar alpine style. They reached the summit as the second team ever via an ice track on the northwest side to the right of the distinctive granite wall. In 2015 Hayden Kennedy, Marco Prezelj, Manu Pellisier, and Urban Novak climbed the granite tower via the east wall alpine style and were awarded the Piolet d`Or for their ascent.

Cerro Kishtwar
Climbers on the wall

Climbers on the wall

Siegrist, Huber, Zanker on Cerro Kishtwar

The team of three began their adventure in the Kashmir Himalaya on 7 September. They reached base camp on 13 September. Best weather conditions left the team with no break and they were able to establish ABC on 18 September at 5050 m. The team began their ascent of the wall on 1 October after several load ferries but could not complete their climb in five days as planned. They discontinued their first attempt and returned to base camp. They returned on 8 October with renewed strength backed by stable weather. The mornings were clear, clouds came in by noon and the afternoons brought snow. The team had to fight iced up cracks, spindrift, extreme cold with temperatures below -20° C, and difficult techno-climbing up to A3+. On summit day, 14 October, they were rewarded with a sunny day.









Cerro Kishtwar

Cerro Kishtwar

We almost felt like we weren’t alone. Like we were being rewarded for everything we had to go through with this unique moment. We took the last metres together and we could hardly believe it. Cirrostratus clouds flew by in the jet stream 500 m above us and we were standing there in the sun, in complete calm. We all knew that we were only able to make it because we felt like a courageous alliance together! Our route through the northwest wall of the Cerro Kishtwar will be named Har-Har Mahadev. This is from Hindu mythology and dedicated to the god Lord Shiva: “Increase your moral values so you can overcome your fear to master dangerous situations!”
Or as we would say in Bavaria: Get a grip!

Short facts:

The team partially used fixed ropes in the first part of the wall and established Camp 1 at ‘Snowledge’ on the foot of the granite wall at 5450 m. They were able to reach pitch 7 after three days during their first attempt.

They started their second attempt the next day on 8 October. They reached the summit seven days later. The team spent 10 days on the wall in total. They established four camps: Camp 1 ‘Snowledge’, Camp 2 ‘Happyledge’, Camp 3 ‘Sunnyledge’, Camp 4 ‘Kempinski’.

On 14 October 2017 German alpinist Thomas Huber and the Swissmen Stephan Siegrist and Julian Zanker made the first ascent of the central northwest face of Cerro Kishtwar, naming the route Har Har Mahadev. This is only the 4th ascent of the 6155 m peak located in the Indian Himalaya.

Technical details:

Grades: VII, A3+,6b, M6, 80°

First part: 400 m ice and mixed

First part: 400 m ice and mixed

Belays partially equipped with bolts

Drill holes in the pitches: 8 Bathooks and 7 rivets

Material used: 15 Bird Beaks in different sizes, 4 Baby Angels, 6 Lost Arrows, 4 knife-blades, stoppers, double set of Cams up to Nr.4

Portaledge: necessary

Descent: Rappell over the route

About the Author

Stephan Siegrist was born in 1972 in Meikirch, Switzerland and apprenticed as a carpenter after school. But the mountains won Stephan over after his first ski tour and awoke a passion that would later become his career. Since the age of 26, Stephan has earned his living as a professional alpinist and mountain guide. He lives in Ringgenberg with his family. He excels in bouldering and sport climbing, and has proven his talent in big wall, ice and mixed climbing. One of his unique talents is walking the high line and base jumping.

He made first ascents on all seven continents including the great north faces of the Alps (Eiger Nordwand approx. 30 times), expeditions and projects in Northern India and Nepal, North America, Antarctica, South Africa and Patagonia.



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3 Kalapani Glacier and Peaks

Martin Moran

We were done and dusted inside three weeks. The spring snow cover had provided sublime conditions and landscape. The enterprise had felt like real team mountaineering without the jostling of egos that often mars the joy of ventures to loftier objectives.

A team of 10 climbers and three support staff led by Martin Moran explored the Kalapani glacier on the southern side of the Vishnu Ghar Dhar range in Garhwal Himalaya between 30 Apr and 19 May 2017. The Vishnu Ghar chain lies to the south of Nilkanth-Chaukhamba and west of the upper Alaknanda valley. Until 2016 it appears that no trekking or climbing teams had ever explored the southern flanks of the range, which includes over a dozen peaks between 5500 and 6000 m altitude. In May 2016 Moran led a team to explore the Gimme glacier above Kalpeshwar and they climbed the highest peak of the range 5960 m Vishnu Killa1. Harish Kapadia had also surveyed this area on treks to nearby Rudranath temple and took a revealing panoramic photo of these peaks2.

South ridge, Radha parvat

South ridge, Radha parvat

In 2017 we wanted to explore the next glacier to the west – the Kalapani glacier, which has a ring of unclimbed summits at its head. By going early in the season we hoped to utilize a thick cover of winter snow to speed travel and minimize crevasse danger. On arrival at the road-head of Lyari in the Kalpeshwar valley this plan seemed seriously flawed. There was fresh snow down to the top of the forest. After two gentle days trekking up to Bansi Narayan via Kalgot, we hit snowfields on the 3950 m Mainwa Khal. Our horses could go no further than the pass due to mud and slush, and we ferried loads to an open camp ground at 3660 m. A steep descent through rhododendron jungle led to Godhila bridge where the Nandi Kund- Madhyamaneshwar trek heads west. We followed the Gangartoli Gad upstream for four km. The valley is hemmed by narrow ridges, and makes a tight turn at 3950 m. We found a site for base camp at the bend. Upstream we spotted hints of snow-peaks among the afternoon mists.

With help from our stalwart high-altitude porters, Mangal and Heera Singh, and four boys from the Nandakini valley we ferried all our kit to base camp over the next three days. After a cold night the walk up-valley to the snout of the Kalapani glacier was a delightful prance on hard-frozen snow. The valley opened into a broad lower stretch, from which the 800 m icefall reared up to an assemblage of high peaks, all unclimbed and unexplored. A shapely peak of 4788 m guarded the entrance to this wonderland. On our second day we left camp en-masse before dawn and topped out on Gateway peak at 10:00 am. The views both near and far were stupendous. The Vishnu range presents a frontal wave of corrugated gneiss to the south. We were standing on but one protrusion. To see the strata snaking away eastwards through the massif induced a feeling of giddiness.

“That’s the best view I’ve ever seen in my life…,” exclaimed one Himalayan newcomer.

A day later we walked up the lower glacier and made a camp at 4400 m under the icefall where we endured an evening lashing of hail. Extrication from iced tents and packing delayed our start until 4:30 am, way beyond the safe starting time for a shaded icefall ascent. We were caught by the sun less than half-way up. We weaved through fields of crevasses and white séracs, the terrain as beautiful as it was merciless.

At 1:00 pm we reached open gentle slopes at 5355 m altitude and collapsed in gratitude. Prodigious cumulo-nimbus clouds towered above us up to 10000 m altitude promising another big storm. At this point we discovered that Heera and Mangal hadn’t packed the 15 kg of rations we’d left for them. Our sustenance for the next six days was still sitting in base camp. Now they needed to get back down the icefall as quickly as possible.

Summit ridge, Snowcock peak

Snowcock peak
Kalapani glacier and routes

Kalapani glacier and routes

View east from Snowcock peak

View east from Snowcock peak
Summit ridge, Rukmini parbat

Summit ridge, Rukmini parbat

“No problem sir; will bring tomorrow.” Mangal exuded his usual brave confidence.

The storm broke with a vengeance just minutes after we erected our tents, and lasted well into the night. The morning brought renewed suffocating heat. In 15 cm of fresh snow four of us ploughed 400 m back down the icefall to meet the boys and collect the food.

Now we could go climbing.

We chose the left of twin peaks on the Kalapani watershed for our first climb. The route started half-an-hour from camp and followed the rocky skyline of the peak. Freed from heavy loads we enjoyed three hours of mountaineering delight – firm snow, interesting grade II rocky steps, good belays and magnificent views westwards beyond the confines of the Kalapani valley to Pandosera and the Kedarnath ranges – a PD+ to savour.

Kalapani peaks from Mainwa khal

Kalapani peaks from Mainwa khal

Chaukhamba from 1st col

Chaukhamba from 1st col

“If this was in the Alps it would be mobbed,” we observed.

We had indeed found a mini-paradise. The summit was at exactly 5700 m on a short knife-edge where the Panpatia and Chaukhamba peaks came in view. We called the left twin ‘Radha parvat’ in honour of one of Krishna’s consorts, Krishna being the 8th reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Chaukhamba and PK 5898 from Maindgalla glacier

Chaukhamba and PK 5898 from Maindgalla glacier

Our next objective was a shapely ridge of snow to the south of Radha parvat identified as Pk 5532 m on our map. The day’s dawn was tempered by drapes of mist. The summit ridge was exposed high above the Kalapani glacier and the following teams emerged from the fogs in silhouette with a Nanda Devi skyline behind. Having claimed the first ascent of the peak, the second ascent was claimed 10 minutes later by a waddling grouse, probably a Himalayan snow-cock, who followed our trail up the arête and watched us quizzically as we lounged on the top block. Predictably, we named this top Snowcock peak.

Next morning we set our tracks towards the right twin on the skyline. A team of three headed direct up a mixed face of Alpine AD, while the rest of us climbed a grade I couloir to the left and tackled the west ridge of the peak. The crest was fiercely steep so we climbed a slim couloir to its right. Fresh powder snow overlay slabby rocks, giving the feeling of insecurity so resonant of alpine north faces. The summit was a sharp arête of shattered rock at 5685 m altitude. To get down we excavated the choss and found a solid block for an abseil anchor plus a subsidiary spike for a back-up point. After three lovely short climbs in three days we were back in camp at midday. Right twin is 5685 m and we named her ‘Rukmini parvat’, after another of Krishna’s wives.

Kalapani area map

Kalapani area map

Our final objective was to make an exploratory trek starting over a col between the Kalapani and Panpatia basins. Perusal of maps suggested that a complete circuit of the range could be made, with onward crossings from Panpatia to the Maindagalla and Barma valleys, and then back over the shoulder of Peak 4788 m and down to the Kalapani and base camp. The first two passes were probably virgin and we envisaged taking two days to traverse all four.

PK 5898 from Maindgalla glacier

PK 5898 from Maindgalla glacier

Gateway peak (4788 m)

Gateway peak (4788 m)

Six of us left camp at 4:35 am on 14 May and enjoyed a serene glacial passage over the first col at 5510 m where we saw a flaming dawn burst over Chaukhamba. We marched swiftly down the glacier slope on the Panpatia side crossing close under the twins. The glacier was spacious and pristine and squeezed down a narrow canyon to join the lower Panpatia glacier. On the north edge of the glacier the unclimbed turret of Pk 5898 m offers a worthy challenge for a future expedition to the area.

We regained the watershed at the first available col to find a simple slope on the far side that led to the Maindagalla glacier. Our new valley was ringed by beautiful rock pinnacles. The rolling glacier led us gently down to a steeper snout. We staggered downwards through a disintegrating crust of snow to reach a levelling at 4650 m. Up to our left a prominent thumbnail of rock marked the entrance to our third pass. We made immediate camp before a hail storm commenced. By nightfall 20 cm of fresh snow had fallen. We ate our last dinner in knowledge that whatever the weather the ‘thumbnail’ pass offered our only way home.

Collective enthusiasm to sample base camp cooking got us up at 2:00 am and away by 3:45 am. The two km trudge to the pass took us three hours. At least the snow was deep and predictable rather than crusted. Thumbnail col measured 5005 m in altitude. Mellow morning sunshine hit us down at 4700 m on the Barma valley flanks. The fresh snow quickly became a treacherous wet layer overlying old crust. We put on crampons to descend an icy 40° slope until we were level with the familiar outline of Peak 4788 m.

We swopped leads on a long tiring traverse towards the last col on the north ridge of Gateway peak. Within an hour we had gained shepherds’ cairns on the crest at 4550, and were on the homeward run down the lower Kalapani. Transposed to Europe our ‘Four Cols’ route would be an instant classic for ski mountaineers.

We were done and dusted inside three weeks. The spring snow cover had provided sublime conditions and landscape. The enterprise had felt like real team mountaineering without the jostling of egos that often mars the joy of ventures to loftier objectives.

The Team: Martin Moran and Dave Sharpe (guides), Gavin Bishop, Richard Crompton, Aoife McNally, Joe Fender, Stephanie Mielnik, David and Ruth Wolfe and Dave Woods (climbers), Naveen Chandra (cook and field executive), Heera Singh and Mangal Singh (high- altitude porters), Puskar Rawat, Manoj Pandey, Madan Singh and Laxman Singh (base camp porters); with support from staff of Himalayan Run & Trek.

Climbs Achieved

Peak 4788 m: ‘Gateway Peak’ by N face (PD, Scottish grade I) by all members

Kalapani Icefall ascent (PD) by nine members, Heera and Mangal

Kalapani left twin: ‘Radha Parvat’ by S ridge (PD+, II+) (Dave S, MM, SM, GB, JF, RC, RW and DWolfe)

Pk 5520 m (given 5532 m on map): ‘Snowcock peak’ PD (DS, MM, SM, GB, RC, AMc, RW and DW)

Kalapani right twin: ‘Rukmini Parvat’ S face by DS, SM, RW (AD, Scottish grade II), W ridge by MM, RC, AMc, DW, GB (AD, Scottish grade III)

A team of 10 climbers and three support staff led by Martin Moran explored the Kalapani glacier on the southern side of the Vishnu Ghar Dhar range in Garhwal Himalaya between 30 Apr and 19 May 2017. All the climbs were first ascents.

About the Author

Check note on Trishul West Ridge on page 179 of this Volume.


  1. HJ 2017 pp 258-268
  2. HJ 2017 pp 202-203



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4 A Dream Yet to Touch

Rudra Prasad Halder

We wished to explore the region and attempt to scale the peak which, from the available photographs, seemed formidable. We also wished to name the unnamed virgin peak Goutam parvat in memory of Goutam Ghosh who had lost his life trying to climb Mt Everest in the year 2016.

35 years ago, it is said that a four member team from Japan tried to approach an unnamed 6113 m virgin peak in Chamba district, Himachal Pradesh. It was a stroke of bad luck that one of the members got washed away in the river, marking the end of the expedition. In 2012, a team from Sonarpur Arohi, Kolkata, went to explore the area with a mission to climb the same peak. But lack of sufficient information and adverse weather conditions forced them to abandon. However, they managed to photograph the peak and suggest a possible route to reach the summit. This encouraged us to explore the area and attempt the summit yet again.

We chalked out plans to approach the route to our objective during August-September 2017 and decided to follow the route suggested by the 2012 team. We wished to explore the region and attempt to scale the peak which, from the available photographs, seemed formidable. We also wished to name the unnamed virgin peak Goutam parvat1 in memory of Goutam Ghosh who had lost his life trying to climb Mt Everest in the year 2016. The team started from Kolkata reaching Manali on 18 August 2017. On completing official work and local marketing we reached Thriot (2750 m), 120 km from Manali via Keylong.

We left for our transit camp at 7:30 am on 21 August with 16 porters each shouldering 45 kgs of load (total load was 720 kgs). Unfortunately, no mules were allowed on this route - there is a local myth that it is bad omen to allow mules and hens in the vicinity of the village as the Buhari Devta (the principal deity of the village) does not approve of their presence.

After crossing the Buhari temple we trudged through a jungle where deer, bears and leopards were known to be present. Just after we crossed the jungle, we met a shepherd who told us that earlier locals used to visit Chamba and Bharmor along the bank of the dried up canal that met Jholing nala. After that we saw three streams cascading to Jholing river. We set up the transit camp (3800 m) just before the first stream, at 4:00 pm.

Over the next few days we set up, ferried loads and occupied Camp 1 at 4600 m, below a buttress on a glacier field. Members and Sherpas without wasting time fixed rope over 700 m to the top of the ridge. We reached the top of the ridge (5350 m) but were disheartened to see about 800 m of sheer fall. Actually it was a buttress and from that vantage point we discovered two more buttresses ahead of us.

Meanwhile, some members crossed the 2nd stream to explore the area around. They indicated that it was possible to locate a probable route to our targeted peak after moving further south, somewhere near the 3rd stream. Next morning Sanjoy Chakraborty brought photographs of the other side of the 2nd buttress from where the summit could be attempted. So on 27 August we decided to carry all the loads back to base camp to attempt the peak from other side.

After a rest day, on 29 August we all crossed the 2nd stream and climbed up towards the source of the 3rd stream to dump loads and returned to base camp. The next day, after crossing a crevasse-ridden region over six gruelling hours, we stopped below an ice wall. All members except Sanjay Chakraborty, three Sherpas, our cook and I, returned to base camp. We negotiated the ice wall full of open crevasses and, trudging towards the left, faced a 150 m rock wall of 70-80 degree gradient. After tackling the rock wall for two hours we pitched our tent. We named this the new Camp 1 (4700 m).

After a bad weather day, Sanjay and three Sherpas proceeded to open the route to the summit. Meanwhile, Puran Rai, our cook, went down to fetch essential rations from the site where we had dumped our loads. I did a solo attempt to negotiate the spur of the 2nd buttress for a reconnaissance towards the 3rd buttress. The 3rd buttress was too jagged and from my angle it was hardly possible to locate the summit ridge hidden behind it. I thought for a while to climb all the way down to the trunk glacier and try the ice wall beyond the 3rd buttress but we did not have much time. Moreover, there was no guarantee that I would find a reasonable route of climbing on that side. So I came back to new Camp 1.

Puran, Sanjay, the three Sherpas and I met at the new Camp 1 almost simultaneously. They had tried a zigzag course to negotiate a 200 m high ice wall and climbed up a 300 m rock wall. From the edge of the rock wall they found that there was a 600 m sheer drop of an ice wall that met the ice fall flowing down from the peak to coalesce with the main glacier below. It seemed impossible to descend down to the ice fall below. So they returned after dismantling the climbing equipment.

After discussing the situation, we went down to base camp on 3 September. We decided to try the pyramid shaped peak on the right side of our targeted peak. Next day, Sanjay, Omar Faruk and I occupied Camp 1 with all the Sherpas and our cook. We wanted to push for the summit that night but the weather turned and a continuous patter of snow fell on tents.

The next night, Sanjay, three Sherpas and I started for the summit at 12:30 am leaving Omar and our cook at Camp 1 (now our summit camp).

It was a 1200 m climb from summit camp to peak. We were short of 1600 m of fixed rope; the climbing route was so precarious that we had to use 10 snow stakes, 20 rock pitons and two tubular ice pitons. On our way back we had to leave 17 rock pitons, three snap links and all the snow stakes used along the route. The last section to the summit was without fixed rope. For the last 200 m, we used a running belay.

Way to summit

Way to summit

We reached the summit (5789 m; Long-76 deg, 42’ 48” E and Lat- 32 deg 35’05” N) at 2:00 pm. The weather was foggy and overcast and there was no place for three persons to stand. Through the fog we could see the ridge continued for approximately 15 m with about 4-5 m of elevation. After 40 minutes we descended to summit camp, reaching at 9:00 pm.

Post script

Besides climbing a virgin peak, we also learnt about the ‘Alyas’ - our BC was on an alyas. According to local people Alyas is a grassy ground on both sides of a pass, locally known as ‘Lahesh’. From time immemorial Gaddi tribes went regularly to Lahaul and Spiti during the beginning of the summer. They went from Bharmour in the Chamba district through some passes, to let their sheep graze on the nutritious grass there. They used the same route to retreat at the advent of winter. These tribes used only the alyases to graze their flocks. The Kugti, Chhobia and Kalicho passes of Chamba have alyases on both sides. As our BC was on an alyas, it must have had another alyas on the other side of the ridge.

During our expedition, we saw many beautiful technically challenging peaks which are still virgin. To the north of our base camp was a mountain referred to as ‘Nilkanth’ by the locals. Behind Nilkanth was a lake, Nilkanth Mahadev lake. After studying Google Earth we figured that if that lake was made base camp then it is possible to climb at least three 6000 m peaks including Nilkanth. We hope that our effort and experience encourages mountaineers to plan more expeditions in that region.

Team - Rudra Prasad Halder (leader), Biraj Biswas (manager), Omar Faruk (quartermaster), Sanjoy Chakraborty (equipment officer), Biplab Baidya, Partha Sarathi Layak, Biman Naskar, Soumit Mondal and Pratip Kumar Barman.

Support staff - Dawa Sherpa (Sardar), Lobsang Sherpa and Palchen Sherpa and Puran Rai (cook).

This was an attempt on an unnamed Pk 6113 m in Chamba district, Himachal Pradesh. The team from Kolkata made the first ascent of Pk 5789 m in the same region.

About the Author

Rudra Prasad Halder started high altitude mountaineering in 1999. He trained Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. Since then he has participated in 20 expeditions, including Panch Chuli, Papsura, Trishul, Mamostang Kangri, Nun and Everest.

He is interested in exploration and has visited remote areas where modern technology has not reached.


  1. Refer observations in the Editorial on the subject of naming peaks.



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5 Exploration of Ratang, Spiti

Debasish Bardhan

We are looking at fragments of an unexplored area, like a geographical crossword into which none of the known pieces seemed to fit.


Our objective was to explore Ratang river to its head to observe contributory glaciers and cross over the water via a divider ridge to the opposite valley. We wanted to find an easier connection with the Gyundi gorge. Studying maps of this area, I was impressed by the composition. The connecting ridge of the Parvati Parvat (6633 m) and Shigri Parvat (6644 m) which is the peripheral boundary of the Bara Shigri glacier extended up to the Ratang glacier. This ridge, with other connecting ridges creates a junction. In the east is the Ratang gorge, in the south originates the Khamenger glacier, in the north – the Gyundi gorge, in the west - the Bara Shigri glacier, which belongs to Lahaul sub-division. To the west of the Parvati Parvat is the Tichu glacier and to the southwest the Dibibokri glacier, which belong to Kullu district. Trevor Braham wrote in Himalayan Odyssey – “we are looking at fragments of an unexplored area, like a geographical crossword into which none of the known pieces seemed to fit.”

Topographic area map

Topographic area map - Ratang river gorge, Spiti (yellow shaded)/ Dibibokri glacier, Kullu district (sky-blue). Dotted line is the trek route

Length of the Ratang River: 30.8 km
Minimum Elevation Level: 4000 m.
Maximum Elevation Level (RongTong Col.): 6000 m.

History of exploratory expeditions in this area

In 1939, J.O.M. Roberts tried to have an expedition in Ratang river gorge. (He wrote ‘Ratang river’ as mentioned in the Survey of India map. But the local people called the river ‘Rong Tong’ – a Tibetan word, which means confluence / river with much water). This expedition was aborted from the entrance of the gorge, its toughest terrain2.

In 1955, Trevor Braham and Peter Holmes with other four members organized an expedition. They faced problems with porters but they probed into the gorge and climbed two peaks.

In 1956, Peter Holmes entered again into this area with a three- member team. They climbed a peak namely Ratang tower (6170 m).

Crossing the Ratang nala

Crossing the Ratang nala

They exited from the gorge by the south Ratang col to the Khamengar valley3.

In 1993, a Himalayan Club team, led by Harish Kapadia organized a long exploratory expedition. Through the Parahio valley, crossing South Ratang col, they entered Ratang gorge. After 1993, there has been no expedition account on this gorge4.

Expedition stories

On 20 May 2017, Sandeep Thakurta, Kabindranath Banerjee and I set out for Shimla from Kolkata. We reached Kaja on the 23rd and were joined by support staff. After acquiring permits from SDM/Kaja and Forest Dept, we moved to the Rangrik hydel power station by car and began our trek about a kilometre from there. We followed a faint trail towards west. After five hundred metres the trailed vanished so we started to make our own route. Moving up about 300 m, we found an irrigational drain by which we could walk three kilometres or more without difficulty. I saw that the rock wall from both sides practically jumped into the Ratang river and created a deep chasm, more than 300 m from the level of drain. There was a huge amount of water flowing through the river. Its eemed as if the river was coming out of a ‘stone door’. In a span of three kilometres, there were three such door-like features.

We took three hours to reach Chumchumi nala, not too wide - hardly 6-7 m at the confluence with the Ratang. Crossing after a kilometre, a rock wall blocked our trail. So we had to cross the Ratang nala. Another kilometre and the river turned sharply. Laxman and I did a recce but we did not find any way to go further.

Next day, we climbed on clay, a mixed rocky spur to cover the first S-bend of the river. On one side of the river was a hard rock wall and on the other a 60-70 degree gradient of rotten rock and scree terrain. Progress was slow because of route making.

Our second camp was in front of a permanent ice bridge - crossing it wasn’t easy. We moved with one foot in water and the other on a boulder constantly step cutting as we moved.

A three-hour walk along a scree wall by step-cutting is strenuous. When a rock pillar blocked our passage, we had to cross the river again.

I crossed the river and felt the pull of the water. Sandeep was next. Midway, he slipped and lost his balance and missing the grip of his jumar and began to float away. Vinod jumped into the water and pulled Sandeep to the bank. Seeing this, no porter agreed to cross the river so we made a rope bridge. Just one hour’s walk brought us into a deep chasm where moving to higher terrain might reward us with some climbing possibility. We did about 13 m of rock climbing, supporting each other and came up to the level of the river. At five in the evening, we established our third camp.

A small nala in front of our camp, came from the north with reddish water. We found a number of willow trees here, with many birds, and pug marks probably of the Snow Leopard.

An hour of walking by the river, and again we had to enter a narrow gorge. In the afternoon we crossed Sanubga nala. We camped on flat grassy land in the high terrain after crossing the nala. Drinking water was scarce there.

That afternoon, there was a high wind and rain with snowflakes. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a rock avalanche. Actually, big stone pieces were surfing down by the force of the water and that sounded like an avalanche! I had never seen that phenomenon before.

We tried to find a way to go down but the overhanging rocks blocked our view. So we walked upward for an hour and down to the river again when we saw an ice bridge. Crossing it, we had to climb and another one hour’s walk brought us to a place where the two nalas met the Ratang river. The first nala went to the south Ratang col and the second turned west, and at its head was a col formation which might have had an access to the Khamengar glacier. Many ups and downs brought us to the river where a big snow bridge blocked our way.

Middle glacier. Other side of the col is the upper Bara Shigri glacier

Bara Shigri glacier

There were no passages after the snow bridge. So we went up above the spur almost 300 m on the left bank in which first we had to rock climb for 6 m. From the top of the spur we found the snout. The river turned in a semi-circle. We pitched our sixth camp after crossing the snout.

After the snout, we moved west. To our right (north) was a gully by which we could have had an easier access to the Gyundi gorge. At least the Ratang side was accessible. We observed that the Ratang river was generated by the accumulated contribution of three glaciers and the snout of the first, south flank, and the middle glacier nearby. We knew from the map that the third or north flank glacier and the middle glacier ended at the water divide of the upper Bara Shigri glacier. If we crossed that water divider at any point, we could reach the upper Bara Shigri glacier. The third glacier is lengthier and semi-circular.

After lunch Sandeep and I moved upwards by the hard snow gradient in the east to observe the composition of the area, to find out which glacier was the main glacier of Ratang river. From that height, we saw the Snow Cone peak which is in one corner of the third glacier, to the north-west. I reminded my companions of Joyce Dunsheath in Bara Shigri glacier. In 1956, he had observed that the first glacier was the main glacier which fed most of the water to Ratang. It was more than five kms in length – much bigger than the middle glacier. The third glacier in north flank moved backward a little and the glacier was covered in moraine. The southern wall of the first glacier (south flank) was the water divide with the Khamegar and Ratang glaciers.

Next day we divided ourselves into two teams. We recced the middle glacier. It was a packed snow covered field, for about 3-4 kms. A rotten, brittle rock wall stood at the end of glacier. Rock pitons couldn’t be driven into it. But from the south corner of the wall, it had a comparatively accessible gradient of ice.

Padam went to the top of the col to study the first glacier. He gave us the details of the route. I decided that since we had gone to explore the Ratang river, we should go by the southern glacier as it was the main supplier of the river.

Moving towards the col

Moving towards the col

On 4 June we started to move southwards. Then we turned to the west to get to the glacial field. It was a packed snow covered field, pleasant to walk on. The gradient was not steep except for a few humps. As the day advanced, the snow became softer. After four hours of walking, we arrived at the ridge wall. The gradient was about 70-75 degrees. We spotted three rocky projections and planned to climb the wall via one of them. We reached the first rocky projection without rope by step cutting. The gradient was steep but because every crevasse was filled up with snow the danger level was minimal.

Four members moved towards the second rock projection also by step-cutting, without fixed rope or belay. I saw, just below the top, a corniced projection from Pk 6150 so we moved towards the right by cutting steps. In an hour and a half five of us reached atop the Ratang col, 5870 m.

We were happy to have completed the exploration of the Ratang river system.

Standing over the col, we saw the massive Shigri parvat nearby. Parvati parvat was far to the west. Dibibokri pyramid was to the southwest. Pk Khamengar was behind us (southeast).

Two sides of the col were flanked by Pk 6140 m in the south and Pk 6050 m in the north. The high peaks of Bara Shigri glacier were seen in the distance, with Tiger Tooth to the northwest. To the east Chau Chau Kang Nilda (CCKN) was prominent with Shilla. Since the weather was good, we saw a faint suggestion of Gya in the far east.

Coordinate – Ratang col:- 72*08’36.18” N / 77*48’41.50” E

We spent half an hour on Ratang col. Peaks were all around us but I could recognize only a few. Then we started to descend via a couloir rotten stone, dust and hard ice. The ice was hard because the sun’s rays didn’t enter the couloir. The gradient was about 80 degrees. I could not see the bottom of the couloirs. I told everyone to move with the help of ropes. There were no hard rocks for fixing the rope by driving pitons into them nor could we probe through the rotten rock layer. So I dug a big and deep horseshoe into the rotten rock and tied a rope loop around it. Laxman gave us belay but he said –“do not depend on the belay – it’s there just to give you confidence”. He himself was not properly anchored. Slowly, feeling assured and keeping good balance at every step, we descended about 200 m. We repeated this process till we reached a safer snow covered zone. We camped near Shigri parvat.

Next morning, we walked down by the Khamengar glacier. Suddenly, looking back, I saw the rock pillar of Kulu Pumori’s northeast ridge through the gap of Parvati parvat. We took two hours to reach the snout. At 4:00 pm, we camped near the confluence of Khamengar and an unnamed nala which emerged from the Parvati southeast glacier.

We crossed Khangla Tarbo nala cautiously as the currents there were dangerous. We reached Thango at 5:00 pm.

At Thango, the Debsa nala comes from the south, meets with Khamengar and the river is thenceforth named Parahio. Parahio was a beautiful valley with colourful mountains and a variety of flora. We reached Sagnam village and finally Kaja.

Khamengar + Parahio river length: 55 km.

Length of Khamengar glacier: 6.25 km

Maximum elevation we reached at Khamengar (Camp 8) 5554 m

Debashish and his team set out to explore the Ratang river to its head to observe contributory glaciers The objective was to find an easier connection with the Gyundi gorge. The highpoint they reached was the Ratang col at 5870 m.

About the Author

Debashish who works with the Indian railways, began mountaineering in 1991 and ever since has participated in 11 expedition and 20 treks. He is especially interested in exploratory expeditions in lesser known gorges and mountains. These include Itchu col in Fulangpa valley, Zanskar, Takling la from the north side (HJ – Vol 68) and Shilla nala - Gyundi gorge - which are pioneering explorations.


  1. HJ, Vol XII
  2. HJ, Vol XX
  3. HJ, Vol 50



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6 A Mission to Climb Reo Purgyil and Leo Pargial

Maj Jay Prakash Kumar

Reo Purgyil, also known as ‘Devil’s abode’ in local folklore, looks scary like a devil’s face. In local mythology, nobody can climb this mountain unless the Devil (Reo) desires so.

The twin peaks, Reo Purgyil (6817 m) and Leo Pargial (6791 m) are located at the southern end of the Zaskar range in the western Himalaya on the Himachal Pradesh/Tibetan border in the Kinnaur district. The northern peak is Leo Pargial which has an appearance of a lion’s den. Reo Purgyil lies two km to its south. Leo Pargial has a snow covered ridgeline and peak right from its base. The ridgeline is gradual with a gradient of nearly 60-70 degrees at some places. Reo Purgyil, also known as ‘Devil’s abode’ in local folklore, looks scary like a devil’s face. In local mythology, nobody can climb this mountain unless the Devil (Reo) desires so. The climbing face visible from the west is full of loose rock and scree. The summit block is relatively wider and appears like a leaf of lotus flower. There is ice/snow present in two gullies on the surface but the ridgeline which connects this flap is sharp like a knife. The Shipki la face drops down to river Satluj with 4000 m approx of cliff face.

The 34-member climbing team was led by Maj Jay Prakash Kumar, of the Indian Army. The team moved from New Delhi on 15 Jun 2016 and summited Leo Pargial on 12 July 2016. They also scaled the heights of 6489 m of Reo Purgyil on 5 July 2016. This is the highest point reached by any team on Reo PurgyiI.

The team reached Pooh on 17 Jun 2016 and visited Nako village and Shipki la on 18 Jun 2016. Shipki la is one of the oldest trade routes between India and Tibet. The Satluj enters India at this point. It gave the team an idea about how to plan and execute summit for Reo. Reo Purgyil is visible from Sangam bridge where the Spiti river joins the mighty Satluj. The team visited Namgya village to meet retired IG of ITBP, Mr. R. S. Negi, who was part of the Reo Purgyil expedition in the past.

Nako is a small village at the height of approx 4000 m. Tourists throng this place because of its picturesque location. The team reached here on 19 Jun 2016 and established two intermediate camps ahead at 4108 m and 4686 m over the next few days. The intermediate camps acted as good resting points and helped the team to acclimatize well. The team finally established base camp on 26 June at 5116 m and moved to ABC at 5429 m on 28 June. The team leader located the next camp and was able to find a new route for Camp 1 on Reo Purgyil which was considerably shorter than the traditional route.

Camp 1 for Reo Purgyil was established on 30 June at 5670 m. To reach this camp the team had to climb, crossing big boulders and then climb down an 80 degree slope wall of loose stones and scree which at times ran a scare down one’s spine. This camp acted as the main support point for the summit camp and beyond. All logistics were managed from this camp and adequate rations were stored here. Camp 2 was established on 3 July at height of 5870 m on the col just below the western ridge of Reo Purgyil. The approx 4000 m high cliff is visible from this camp. Tents were pitched with great difficulty behind big boulders and tied up with extra guy ropes as the winds were blowing at very high speed. This was a staging camp and equipment and rations were stored here for the summit. We decided that this camp would be occupied for rest and recuperation only during the summit attempt.

Summit camp was established on 4 July at 6131 m and loads were dumped for further route opening. The technical team negotiated very narrow traverses, boulder big stones and even used hands and feet at places to successfully fix the rope till 6489 m, beyond which there was a 30 m razor sharp ridgeline till the end followed by a pimple of nearly 50 m height. On either side of the ridge there were loose rocks. Considering the high risk to life, the team leader took a call and aborted any further atempts on Reo Purgyil.

Leo Pargial

The team closed summit camp and Camp 2 and concentrated now to summit Leo Pargial. The team moved for summit camp at 5890 m on 9 July with all the required loads. The weather turned bad and it continued snowing till 11 July. It was only in the night that the weather cleared. Finally the team moved for the summit attempt at 10:00 pm on 11 July in three different small teams. The technical team fixed ropes and opened the route, the second team carried extra ropes and equipment and the third team comprised the remaining climbers. At 9:00 am on 12 July, 17 army personnel reached the top of Leo Pargial. Everyone was tired but all fatigue vanished once we reached the top.

After a quick photography session and hugs, the team started the descent to summit camp. The summit camp was closed the same day, ropes were unfixed and equipment retrieved. The team moved to Nako on 13 July after closing all camps. Although the team could not summit Reo Purgyil as planned, they reached 6489 m, the highest point reached so far. 17 members summited Leo Pargial.

A 34-member Indian Army climbing team led by Maj Jay Prakash Kumar successfully climbed Leo Pargial and scaled 6489 m of Reo Purgyil (6817 m). This is the highest point reached by any team on Reo PurgyiI.

About the Author

Maj Jay Prakash Kumar is a serving officer from Dogra Regiment of Indian Army. He is a paratrooper, rock climber, ice climber, scuba diver, military skier and sky diver and has served in active counter insurgency and high altitude areas of Jammu & Kashmir as well as in the north-east. He has been part of more than 15 mountaineering expeditions since 2009 has been conferred with the Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card and the Director General of NSG Disc and Commendation for his contribution in the field of mountaineering.



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7 Sir George Everest’s Home

Dr Sunil K. Pandya

Several segments of the home have collapsed; there are cracks, leakage and vegetation. Graffiti has been sprayed on the walls. Debris, including bottles of alcohol lies strewn on the ground around the home.


Colonel Sir George Everest (4 July 1790 - 1 December 1866) has been described as the man made famous by a mountain. This is an injustice. His fame has its origins in his own accomplishments. The mountain was named after him because of his achievements as Surveyor-General of India from 1830-1843.

In 1852, Radhanath Sikdar, a mathematician working for the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, described Himalayan Peak XV as the highest summit in the world. Perhaps because he was an Indian, it was only after Colonel Andrew Scott Waugh, then Surveyor-General, completed his computations, that Waugh accepted his conclusions and decided to name it after his predecessor.

Strangely, though this peak was long known to the Nepalis as Sagarmatha and to the natives of Tibet as Chomolungma, Waugh wrote, ‘… here is a mountain most probably the highest in the world without any local name that I can discover.’ He therefore proposed, ‘… to perpetuate the memory of that illustrious master of geographical research… Everest.’

Portrait of Sir George Everest

Portrait of Sir George Everest (Burrard 1929)

Everest was always embarrassed by the honour as he had regarded Sikdar as a mathematician of rare genius and had praised Sikdar as ‘a hardy, energetic young man, ready to undergo any fatigue, and acquire a practical knowledge of all parts of his profession… There are a few of my instruments that he cannot manage; and none of my computations of which he is not thoroughly master. He can not only apply formulae but investigate them.’

Everest also felt that local names should be honoured without foisting a Western appellation on such natural monuments.

A brief note on Everest

Sir George pronounced his own last name as ‘Eve-rest’ (the first half as in the name of the first Biblical woman). Of Welsh extraction, he excelled in mathematics in school and at the military academy at Woolwich. He came to India as a cadet in 1806. After surveying the Indonesian islands between 1814 and 1816 at the instance of Sir Stamford Raffles, he was appointed assistant to Colonel William Lambton in the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India. Everest succeeded Lambton as Superintendent of the Survey and later as Surveyor-General of India. He was knighted in 1861.

Whilst in India he suffered from typhus, malaria, rheumatism, osteomyelitis of the vertebrae in the neck, probably Guillain-Barré syndrome and gout. He passed away in Greenwich in 1866.

Everest and the Survey of India

‘The Great Trigonometrical Survey India, begun at Cape Comorin in 1806 by William Lambton, would run almost 2400 km north to the Himalaya. During this tremendous undertaking, Everest was relentless in his pursuit of accuracy. To that end, he made countless adaptations to the surveying equipment, methods and mathematics in order to minimize challenges specific to the Great Survey: its immense size and scope, the terrain, weather conditions, and the desired accuracy…By 1841, twenty-three years had passed from the time Everest had first begun work on the Great Arc. It would take him two more years to complete the computations, and compile the results before he retired and returned to England.

‘In 1848, he was awarded high honours by the Royal Astronomical Society. In making the presentation, Sir John Herschel said: “The Great Meridianal Arc of India is a trophy of which any nation, or any government of the world would have reason to be proud, and will be one of the most enduring monuments of their power and enlightened regard for the progress of human knowledge.” ’

Sir Clements Markham (1871) echoed these sentiments when he noted that Everest ‘…was a creative genius’ who “had completed one of the most stupendous works in the whole history of science.”

All had not been smooth sailing for Lt. Col. Everest. His letters to the President, The Royal Society, London (Everest 1839), describe some of his difficulties. In his preface he had boldly stated, “I ask no advocate – I court no favour; I complain of wrong inflicted by a body of men, powerful from their influence, their learning, their rank; and all that I ask is a fair and impartial hearing.”

History vindicated his stand.

Everest’s Home

In 1829, Everest was appointed Surveyor-General of India in addition to being the Superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical Survey. He chafed at having his headquarters in Calcutta when the Great Arc was centred 1500 km to the west. Accordingly, he obtained permission to move to Mussoorie and the actual office, 44 km south to Dehra Dun. Everest was permitted to spend the rainy season on his estate at Mussoorie, 1600 m higher in the foothills of the Himalaya.

John Keay (2000) visited this home before writing his oft-quoted book The Great Arc. He provides information of considerable interest. Referring to the term Hathipaon given to Everest’s home and its surroundings, he says:

Hathipaon means elephant’s foot, although whether this refers to the stumpy profile of one of the flanking hills or to the indentation left between them is unclear. The house had been built in1829-30, when Everest was in England, by a British Colonel who had taken a fancy to this commanding ridge on the edge of the Himalaya. At the time, along the ridge to the east, the little village of Masuri was already developing into the toffee-nosed township of Mussoorie (The name masuri was derived from Coriariane palenses – a shrub that grows in the foothills of the Himalayas and blooms with yellow flowers between February and May). The Colonel’s investment proved as sound as his house. When he headed back to Britain in 1832, it was reportedly at a very heavy cost that both Hathipaon and the surrounding six-hundred acre park estate were purchased by the now Captain George Everest.

Today, this house, at the height of 2200 m above sea level, overlooks Doon valley on one side and the Aglar river valley and snow bound Himalayan ranges on the other.

Smith (1994) informs us that Everest purchased this house from Lieutenant-General Whish and lived there for about 10 years. Everest took up residence in this home in May 1833.

Keay describes the changes made by the new owner, “Within the main home, the five hundred square feet of deal flooring and decorative plasterwork, which had been a drawing room, now became a drawing office.

Outside, he built workshops, a small observatory and extensive storage facilities. Logarithm Lodge and Bachelors’ Hall were laid out to house his assistants; other members of his staff would be encouraged to erect their own temporary accommodations with the grounds.

The near perpendicular access track was regarded as a carriage road. Heavy and extremely fragile loads were soon being hauled gingerly up the four-thousand-foot escarpment by cart and porter. The woods sang with saws and the workshops billowed with smoke…

Four thousand feet below lay spread the Dun. A broad expanse of farmland, about 30 miles wide, separated the Ganges and Jumna rivers as they emerge from the mountains. Going beyond it to the south, the crumbling hill profile was that of the Siwaliks…

On 18 February 1835 Everest was confined to bed with an inflamed left hip joint that was to leave him crippled for life. “For long periods between May and October 1835 he was near to death. On one occasion it is recorded that he was bled to fainting by 1000 leeches, suffered 30 or 40 cupping glasses and numerous doses of nauseating medicine.

In 1839 he converted this home into a laboratory.

Keay resumes his account of Everest’s home:

When in 1843, with the Arc completed, Everest finally put Hathipaon on the market and, embracing retirement, headed home…Much of the most eloquent testimony to his life’s obsession lies in the ruined shell of Hathipaon on its ridge above the Dun. There he spent his last years in India, dreading the health risks of a return to the plains, working on his reports and tables and overseeing the operations of his subordinates...

The note on this house in Wikipedia reads:

The house is under the jurisdiction of the Tourism Department. These underground water cisterns (or perhaps pits for storing ice, although water is scarce in the area) are quite deep and lie uncovered in the front yard outside the house, filled with litter and posing danger of slipping.

The interior has been stripped but the fireplaces, roof, and the door and window frames still remain. The house is secured by steel grills and cannot be entered. Now that this property is better known and the access road has been improved, the walls are covered with graffiti and then periodically whitewashed clean.

My wife and I eagerly looked forward to paying our homage to Everest by visiting his home where so much work on The Great Arc had been done.

Our mild optimism was dashed to pieces during our visit. There is little interest in this historic home among the locals in Mussoorie. Most knew not of its existence or its whereabouts.

At Sea Green Lodge, as we turned off on to Everest Road, the bitumen road ended and we were on an uneven, stony trail that rose, fell, twisted and turned. Traces of what was a well-formed road have all but disappeared. Eventually, we reached our objective. A yellow sign tried to enlighten us on this monument. The date of construction as given here is 1827. Far from development, we witnessed decay.

Several segments of the home have collapsed; there are cracks, leakage and vegetation. Graffiti has been sprayed on the walls. Debris, including bottles of alcohol lies strewn on the ground around the home. No entry is permitted as all doors are locked and anyway the sight through the windows would make all but the most stout- hearted reluctant to enter. Everest’s drawing office has not been spared. Fireplaces have been walled up or lie broken as do lintels above doors. Large gaps are seen in some walls and in the incongruous white tiles in what may have been a kitchen.

What was once a noble home is now a ruin.

This memorial to a great scientist deserves to be restored to what it was when Sir George Everest lived and work in it. It could be maintained as a museum attracting many from home and abroad. The restored home with the relics of the survey enshrined within it will need to be protected and maintained.

Can the Survey of India office in Dehradun undertake this very important restoration and maintenance?


Keay, John. The Great Arc (2000), Harper Collins; Wikipedia.

This is a brief biographic note on Sir George Everest and a plea for restoration of his house, with its rich history relating to the Great Trigonometric Survey of India.

About the Author

Dr Sunil Pandya practices in the Department of Neurosurgery, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai.



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8 Along the Upper Arun Valley and its Tributaries

Lakshmi Ranganathan

The placid Arun soon turned predatory as it roared over huge boulders while descending.

The Arun is the largest trans-Himalayan river passing through Nepal and is snow fed, originating from the Yebokanjilala glacier in Tibet below Shishapangma (8027 m). Here, at its headwaters, the river is known as Man Qu, and later as Peng Qu for most of its course in Tibet. Joined by some tributaries, the Peng Qu crosses the Himalayan ranges south of the village of Kharta at 2175 m to enter Nepal at the border village of Kimathangka as the Arun. Ornithologist E.W. Cronin, who was one of the leaders of a large four-year scientific expedition to the Arun valley in the early 1970s, describes the river in his book The Arun:

Cold and grey, the Arun river is older than the Himalaya. Her advanced age is indicated by her drainage, for she defies the normal laws of watershed and cuts right through the axis of the mountains. Her waters first collect north of the wall of peaks, flowing slowly across the barren expanses of Tibet, a sparse land dwelling in the rain shadow of the Himalaya. Then, gathering power in descent, the Arun turns south to excavate a wide breach between the mountains. Waves, whirlpools and churning foam mark a precipitous fall. Rock, crushed by her power and silt eroded from the slopes color her waters dark as weathered slate. Finally, she emerges quietly on the plains of India, a subdued wanderer that flows through rice paddies and muddy canals to meet the Ganges and later empty into the Bay of Bengal. The Arun river forms one of the deepest valleys (20000 ft) as less than 80 miles separate the summits of Mount Everest and Kangchendzonga. The many tributaries of it in Nepal create their own valleys and thus, the main Arun Valley is a series of parallel canyons, like furrows in a freshly ploughed field.

Barun river

Barun river in a gorge just before its confluence with the Arun river at Barun-Doban (Prakash Nuggehalli)

Chyamthang - Thudam section of the trail

Top & Bottom: Peaks seen on the Chyamthang - Thudam section of the trail (Prakash Nuggehalli; identification: Gunter Seyfferth)

Bottom Peaks

Cronin has also classified the vegetation of the valley into six zones that ‘abut each other like a brick wall’. They range from the tropical and subtropical forests, through lower and upper temperate zones, to the alpine zone, and, at the very top, the aeolian zone, named after Aeolus, the mythical Greek God of Wind.

Our journey began at the village of Num in Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal in October 2017 to trek to Makalu base camp first and later follow the Arun valley upstream until Kimathangka. The Barun river, with its origin near Makalu base camp, is a tributary of Arun, which in turn is a major tributary of Sun (Sapta) Kosi which enters Bihar in India from Nepal as the Kosi, where it also picks up the unflattering moniker ‘The sorrow of Bihar’ and eventually joins the Ganges. The Makalu Barun region has of late seen more trekkers to Makalu base camp with the introduction of rudimentary tea house lodges, thus making the trips somewhat hassle free. In recent years, with high demand for the expensive alpine ‘cash crop’, the caterpillar fungus Yarsugumba, a different genre of trekkers, i.e. locals, are also seen in this region particularly in the monsoon months of June and July. The lower Arun valley, south of Num had always been a popular walk-in route to Everest and Makalu base camps but is now a motor road. However, the upper Arun valley, north of Num, until recent times has been less popular with trekkers, although it was one of the ancient trade routes from India to Tibet. Surprisingly, in the 1960`s and 1970`s this region saw motley groups of botanists, zoologists and horticulturists coming to study the flora and fauna and particularly to collect seeds to supply the nurseries and gardens of the West, especially the United Kingdom. However, since 2009, when the ‘Great Himalayan Trail’ (GHT) became a brand and the Holy G(T)rail of extreme trekkers, the upper Arun valley has become a link via the Lumbasumba pass between the Kangchendzonga and Makalu regions, and has seen a modest footfall over the years. This may not continue for long though, as the trail along the upper Arun valley is now set to become a road. The run of the river (RoR) Arun III hydroelectric project and the dam site are now close to Num. Funded by the Indian Government, this 900-MW project was sanctioned in February 2017 and construction is going on ‘with many blasts’ literally! A fallout of this project (and two more proposed RoR projects, the Upper Arun IV near Hatiya - Chepuwa and the Kimathangka HEP project) is the construction of the 362- km north-south Kosi highway connecting remote Kimathangka via Num to the town of Biratnagar in the plains.

When we landed at Num, with official permits and papers intact, we were rather numbed by the unexpected turn of events. The recent 73-day political stand-off between India and China during June-August 2017 at Doklam in Bhutan had had far-reaching repercussions. We were told by the local police that ‘Indians’ were ‘forbidden’ to go to Kimathangka by orders of the Nepal Government. Although very disappointed, but not wanting to cause undue problems to the locals there, we decided to skip the detour to the villages of Kimathangka and Ridak from the main trail and instead follow Arun upstream up to a point called Hikchu just beyond the village of Chyamthang. Here, we would cross Arun and continue further east, according to our intended plan. Our trek began along the classic trail from Num, passing through the campsites at Seduwa, Tashigaon, Khongma, Dobato, Yangri Kharkha and Langmale Kharka to reach Makalu base camp. We had panoramic views of the peaks Chamlang, Peak 7, Peak 6 (Tutse), Hongku Chuli, Peak 4, Peak 3 (Yaupa Shar), Peak 5 (Saldim) and the most impressive of them all, Makalu, at 8485 m the fifth highest in the world. Further ahead of the base camp, along the Barun glacier, the distant views of Nuptse, Lhotse and the east face of Everest truly gave us that ‘top of the world’ feeling. On 20 April 2017, a rockfall from Peak 5 had triggered a glacial lake outburst near Langmale Kharkha that snowballed into a major flood down the Barun valley, causing extensive damage, especially to the campsite at Yangri Kharkha and some bridges across the Barun. Fortunately, the newly constructed log bridges helped us get past. On our return from Makalu base camp, we did not go back to Num to continue our trek up the Arun valley as we did not want to run into the Nepal police again. They had sounded our presence to all the check posts north of Num! Hence, we took a detour after Tashigaon to descend on a steep, narrow, nearly hidden trail to the village of Sekadim deep in the valley of Kasuwa Khola, another tributary of Arun. Crossing it on a good bridge, we ascended steeply to the twin villages of Ala and Ulin and stayed overnight at Ala. From here, across the valley, we could clearly see Num (and the police check post) sitting plum on a promontory with Arun winding deep below and the zig zag scars of road construction in between.

The Arun river below Chyamthang

The Arun river below Chyamthang, seen from a ridge above the Hikchu bridge (Prakash Nuggehalli)

The next day, we rejoined the main trail coming up from Num at a village called Belgutitar. High above Arun valley now, with only fleeting glimpses of it, we switched between sections of the road under construction and the pristine mule trail along stands of shrub jungle and golden fields of ripening millet and cardamom plantations. Past the petite hamlets of Simma, Pathibara and Ekuwa (overnight camp) we reached the check-post village of Gola situated at the confluence of Arun with Wang Khola. The single official there gently told us not to go to Kimathangka and we assured him that we would not do that. Oh, what a relief! Well past Gola, the distant roar of Arun now became very audible and soon, we were on a sandy flat terrain which was Barun Doban right beside the confluence of the clear waters of Barun (from the Makalu area) and the murky waters of Arun. With just a few houses here, one of which was our lodge, this place looked more like a caravanserai than a village. The dominant ethnic groups of the lower hills, the Rais and Chethris, peter out here, and beyond, the culture is mostly Tibetan. During the April 2017 floods, the debris from Barun blocked Arun around here, creating a transient three km long dam.

We crossed Barun, just upstream of the confluence on a high steel suspension bridge the next morning. To see Barun from this bridge squeezing through a rocky gorge, less than 50 feet wide in a foaming cascade, akin to the famed Tsangpo gorge in Tibet, although on a much smaller scale, was truly a gorgeous sight. The trail to the next village Hatiya ascended deep in the jungle. The placid Arun soon turned predatory as it roared over huge boulders while descending. The ascending trail soon took a deep plunge almost touching Arun before climbing again. The forest canopy was dense here and at times we could see the fields of Hatiya but never the village, which was visible only when we were right in front of it. Going past a long mani wall at the end of which was a chorten with an unusual sign that read Ganatantra Chowk (Republic Junction) we reached our lodge. Hatiya is very Tibetan in character, with prayer flags rising from each house. The main ethnic group predominant here including Kimathangka and Chepuwa are the Shingsawas (farmers). The Tibetan Sherpas are known as Lhomis (southerner). The tree tomato (tamarillo) found abundantly in the Makalu-Barun area and here was ripe at this time of the year and we greatly enjoyed copious portions of the chutney made from this sour fruit.

As we ascended from Hatiya, views of it got better. Located on a rare flat plateau amidst the hills and surrounded by terraced fields, with Arun flowing deep below, this pristine setting is now getting bulldozed by road construction, being just 14 km away from Kimathangka. A long haul of switchbacks followed through the villages of Gimber and Chepuwa across fields, bridged tributaries and dense stands of forest. Arun was now a deep, distant streak of white that gleamed like a silver ribbon now and then when it caught the sun. Chepuwa is a large village with a police check post which was fortunately closed when we came in. Unable to find any lodges here in the dark, we ascended to the next village Linggam, less than an hour`s trek away. In recent years many villages around here have begun growing medicinal and aromatic plants to supply the unending demand in India and China. One of them is locally known as Chiretta (Swertia, a member of the gentian family).

An hour’s trek from Linggam brought us to a trail junction, the northern path going to Kimathangka and the eastern trail to Chyamthang, where we headed and took the day off. After many days, we could see the Himalayan ranges on the border with Tibet from here. Chyamthang is a fairly large village with sprawling terraced fields and Arun flows deep in the valley below it. Past this village the trail descends steeply to Arun, and at a place called Hikchu, we crossed it for the last time on a steel suspension bridge. Upstream, Arun is joined by another major tributary, Bagang Khola, in whose valley lies another prominent village, Ridak, from where two trails lead to the border with Tibet. These border villages depend on supplies from China for their day-to-day living and everybody was quite in favour of the road reaching this remote region, especially for access to schools and hospitals. Ascending steeply after the Hikchu bridge along a completely wild trail deep in the dense forest we had the last glimpse of Arun valley near a rocky outcrop. A switchback trail followed, at times hardly a foot wide and masked by over growth, through dense jungle with large stands of bamboo. At regular intervals, we saw signboards that said, ‘Way to Chyamthang’, never, ‘Way to Thudam’ where we were heading! Subsequently, we descended to a small meadow with a dilapidated shelter marked as Yak Kharkha 1 on the map after which the deep dark jungle path continued, until at about 4:00 pm, emerging out of the forest, we suddenly saw a rundown thatched shelter on a small meadow below the trail. This was Yak Kharkha 2, our camping spot for the night with the water source a good ten minutes away.

The Thanglu la above the Syanging Khola

The Thanglu la above the Syanging Khola (Prakash Nuggehalli)

Morning dawned bright and clear and we could see the summits of Peak 7, Tutse, Chamlang, Peak 4, Makalu and Chomolonzo in the horizon as they jutted high over the lower ranges. The ascending trail meandered through the densest and wildest part of the forests seen so far on the Arun valley trail. Apart from bamboo, maple, oaks and other broad-leaved species, rhododendrons and juniper made their appearance too. The very narrow trail was hidden with overgrowth, but was still very distinct, indicating that people did pass this way often. Many switchbacks followed, some streams were crossed, but overall it was a steep ascent. Past a landslide-ridden zone, we entered a dark, dense, enchanting birch and rhododendron forest where many domesticated yaks were resting. Just past this ‘yak retreat’, through a clearing in the canopy, the east face of Makalu with its two shoulder peaks grew in prominence, looking very regal from here, not stunted and foreshortened as seen at Makalu base camp. The Chomolonzo main and middle peaks (both in Tibet), east of Makalu, also put up a grand display. Higher up on the trail, the Tibetan peaks further east, namely Khartaphu, Khartachangri and Ragka Tse reared their heads. This fabulous high ridge view of the roof of the world, the Great Himalayan range, was one of the most spectacular vistas seen so far, with the stunning panorama lasting quite a while as we ascended.

Past noon, crossing a narrow prayer-flagged pass high on the ridge we descended steeply on a scratch of a trail into a deep stream less scrub valley that looked totally wild, almost Tolkienesque with dense stands of bamboo and moss-covered rocks. After an hour, emerging from this scrub, we could see, right ahead a narrow, foaming stream deep in a narrow valley. This is the valley of the Medok Chheje Khola, a tributary of Arun which it joins below Chyamthang. Descending along some pastures, we finally arrived at the fabled, medieval looking village of Thudam which is well hidden on a shallow plateau on the valley floor, on the true right bank of Medok Chheje Khola, near its confluence with its tributary, Syanging Khola. Thudam lived up to its reputation of having been frozen in time. Looking back on our days along the Arun valley, I would say that the most thrilling stage of the trek was the one between Chyamthang and Thudam, completely wild, with no trace of habitation. It has been reported that in bad weather many trekkers have got lost on this stretch. No doubt of that, as this distinct but very narrow trail with countless switchbacks which we were fortunate to encounter in great weather could easily be missed because of overgrowth or if it were covered in snow. Most people of Thudam are herders, also engaged, because of its proximity to Tibet, in trading timber, bamboo and medicinal herbs with it in exchange for foodgrains and other essentials. Little wonder that the forests are being fast depleted. The trading trail is along Medok Chheje Khola which leads to the Tibetan border at Umbak La, just four hours away.

The next day, we headed upstream from Thudam and later along Lapsi Khola, a tributary of Medok Chheje Khola, towards our intended destination, the twin Lumbasumba pass (5177 m). Often referred to as one, they are actually two passes, Lumba and Sumba, separated by a wide basin. From our overnight meadow camp, the dawn views of Makalu and Chomolonzo in the western horizon, reflected in the almost frozen Lapsi Khola were scintillating. As we were ascending to the pass, we had good views of Lumbasumba Himal. However, just before the pass, a sudden spell of bad weather with white-outs and snowfall forced us to head back to Thudam. The next day we left Thudam, crossing the third and last bridge across Medok Chheje Khola to its true left bank. Here, a steep climb along the narrow valley of Syanging Khola began on its true right bank. As we ascended, views of Peak 4, Chonko Chuli, Makalu and Chomolonzo were seen in parts. Great stands of rhododendron were seen along the route and plastered across the slopes and along with the flaming polygonum, they made the whole landscape very picturesque. At the head of the valley was a highly pinnacled peak, wherein lay Thanglu La (5065 m), the gateway to Taplejung. As we ascended, Syanging Khola, now near its source, split into many channels and some of them were partially frozen in places. Crossing them was tricky. Huge rock and scree slopes rose on either side of the valley. Visited by plant collectors in past years, this region is known for the rare golden edelweiss which appears as mats of pale yellow wooly rosettes. We camped at the base of Thanglu La at 4631 m amidst a sea of boulders and dwarf juniper.

The Thanglu Pokhari below the Thanglu La pass at dawn (Karma Sherpa)

The Thanglu Pokhari

Next morning, after traipsing across the rivulets and ascending over a rocky path, the prayer-flag adorned Thanglu La loomed into view, where, just below it, almost hidden within its contours is a lovely glacial lake, Thanglu Pokhari, which is the origin of Syanging Khola. Its pristine waters would eventually end up in the polluted Ganges via Arun. What a depressing future for the waters of this lovely lake. From the pass, the descent is very steep, again on a boulder strewn path, to some pastures below. Later, the descent to the village of Topke Gola follows the headwaters of the valley of Mewa Khola. This small village was almost deserted, with everybody having headed to the lower valleys at this time of the year. Topke Gola is a botanist`s haven, many seed collectors having used this as their base. The village and the slopes around it were smothered with dwarf rhododendron. What a Garden of Eden this place must be in summer, with the rhododendrons in full bloom. From Topke Gola, the steep descent resumed along dense jungles of fir, juniper, rhododendron and other alpine shrubs passing a holy lake called Saune Pokhari. This lake sees an annual pilgrimage by the locals, going by the little shrines and tridents and other objects of worship found around here, to appease the goddess of this lake. The long descending trail then crossed a few bridges along the gorge of Mewa Khola and continued through wild jungle, past some cascades and some hamlets to finally reach the village of Papung, the current road head and halt for the night. However, no vehicles were to be seen here and the knee-breaking descent continued the next day through the villages of Thukima, Lingtep and Hangdrung from where a jeep to Taplejung was available.

Thus ended our journey along pristine and wild tributary valleys of the upper Arun. How long it will remain so with the proposed and under-construction dams and road is the haunting question. Will the wild Arun valley soon come to be known as ‘A ruined’ valley? Only time will tell.

Prakash Nuggehalli and Lakshmi Ranganathan, supported by Karma Sherpa, Pasang and Lhakpa trekked to Makalu base camp and the upper Arun valley and its tributaries in Nepal between 16 October and 14 November 2017.

About the Author

A biotechnologist by profession, Lakshmi is a researcher at Novozymes, Bangalore. Every year she manages to break free from a busy corporate life to follow her passion of travelling, trekking and connecting with the hill tribes in the Himalaya. Her treks have taken her mainly to Nepal, Bhutan, Arunachal, Sikkim and Ladakh.



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9 Rangtik 2017

Matija Jošt - Matic

There is plenty of room for pristine alpinism at its best. Dimensions of mountains are more like Alps than the Himalaya, just with higher altitudes. Every expedition is pollution somehow.


A team of three climbers from Slovenia spent summer holidays in the mountains surrounding Rangtik Tokpo in the Haptal mountain massif. The mountains west and southwest of the Doda river (also referred to as the Stod river) are rarely visited by mountaineers and provide a great potential for alpine style ascents of all sorts and of all grades. Summits in this area rise up to 6400 m and the dimensions of faces are similar to those in the Alps. Also approaches from villages along Kargil – Pensi La - Padum road are not too long, so most of the mountains can be reached in a day. Our idea was to climb rock routes to the probably virgin summits in light alpine style, with using as little aid or big wall tactics as possible. The village of Tungri was our point of departure, but we couldn’t resist the comfort of a BC so we set one in Rangtik Tokpo (GPS: 33°28’30” North, 76°45’13 East, 4926 m). After 18 days spent there we managed to climb to the top of Remalaye (6278 m, aka H5), Chakdor Ri (6193 m, aka H8) and Jamyang Ri (5800 m) mountains. We would like to thank the Alpine association of Slovenia for financial support.

Remalaye and Chakdor Ri

Remalaye and Chakdor Ri

Chakdor Ri - route

Chakdor Ri - route

Map of Rangtik and Shimling Topko

Map of Rangtik and Shimling Topko

Short climbing history of Rangtik Tokpo, mapping and naming the peaks

In 2008, Spanish climber Sergi Ricart who spent several months in Ladakh and Zanskar also visited the Haptal area. At that time he also visited Rangtik Tokpo. He and Luc Pellissa made the first ascent of Shawa Kangri (GPS: 5728 m, 33°27’46 North, 76°44’07” East) on 16th August 2008. They named their approximately 500 m high route ‘Rolling Stones’ and graded it D+, ice 65°, rock UIAA V+. The summit block looks like a horn so they named it Shawa (horn in the Ladakhi).

Matic on the summit of Jamyang Ri (5800 m)

4. Matic on the summit of Jamyang Ri (5800 m) (Matjaž Dušič)

In 2012, a Japanese expedition of senior members explored the area. Their leader Kimikazu Sakamoto reported their activity and also made better maps of the area and identified many peaks. He marked peaks with H1, H2 etc for Haptal Tokpo, and with M1, M2, etc for peaks in Mulung Tokpo.

In 2016, Anastasija Davidova and I repeated route Rolling Stones route up to Shawa Kangri (5728 m). We also made an acclimatization climb on the south slopes of Remalaye (H5, 6278 m). We reached prominent point on the west ridge of the mountain (Remalaye west, GPS: 6266 m, 33°28’50” North, 76°43’33” east). It was obvious that the main summit is higher and also some ridge gendarmes leading to the main summit looked higher than our standing point. During that we were also exploring Shimling Tokpo and Denyai Tokpo and made a sketch map of Rangtik & Shimling Tokpo.

Mountains above Rangtik glacier. From left Shawa Kangri (5728 m), P6085 m (aka H2), Chakdor Ri (6193 m), Remalaye (6278 m)

Mountains above Rangtik glacier

This year I updated the Rangtik & Shimling Tokpo sketch map. I used the same peak names and heights as Sakamoto did where it was possible but I also used peak names I got from local people. In 2017 they suggested new name for P 5800 in Rangtik which one now became Jamyang Ri. Local people also suggested name for P 6193 which now became Chakdor Ri (aka H8).

We departed from Slovenia on 12th July 2017 and made first ascent of Remalaye (6278 m) on 22nd July. On 1st August we reached Chakdor Ri (6193 m, aka H8) summit and on 5th August 2017 we made ascent of Jamyang Ri (5800 m). After trekking and travelling we were back in Slovenia on 22nd August.

I had earlier said that unspoiled fragile nature, friendly people of Zanskar, heritage of Tibetan Buddhism and of course great mountains to climb are the main attributes to visit the area. There is plenty of room for pristine alpinism at its best. Dimensions of mountains are more like Alps than the Himalaya, just with higher altitudes. Every expedition is pollution somehow. One of possible ways to minimize the pollution is to operate in small teams with modest comfort. We must try to climb clean and leave mountains as nice as we find them. And I haven’t changed my opinion after this year’s trip.

Team - Matjaž Dušič, Matija Jošt – Matic, Tomaž Žerovnik, Lobsang Rinchan (manager), Lobsang Gonbo (cook), Sonam Ragbas (assistant)

A team of three climbers from Slovenia spent their summer holidays in the mountains surrounding Rangtik Tokpo in the Haptal mountain massif in Zanskar. They made several first ascents, trekked and generally enjoyed themselves.

About the Author

Born in 1971, Matija Jošt (Matic) began alpine climbing at age of six with his parents in Slovenian Alps. Since then, he is passionate mountaineer and climber. Between expeditions he works as self employed civil engineer.



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10 Hillary and Tenzing

Dr Manohar Singh Gill

I went as the first civilian to train at Darjeeling with Tenzing. Tenzing was a dedicated instructor. When we were almost buried under snow in a heavy snow storm at about 5000 m at the Chouri Khiang camp, Tenzing woke up in the bitter cold at midnight, and dusted the snow off our tents, like a father would.

It does not surprise me that the world reacted with such warmth and affection when Ed Hillary passed away. This tall angular, craggy faced New Zealander had on 29 May 1953 walked on to the Everest crown, with Sherpa Tenzing, a diminutive, cherubic, angel faced, little man from Nepal, with a genial, ever welcoming smile. On the 28th Evans and Bourdillon had returned a few hundred metres short. If they had the luck, the world would have had two dour, serious minded, pure British heroes, forgotten by now. But the Auckland beekeeper, and the little man from Darjeeling, as they came down the mountain to the real world, held us all in thrall. Modest to the core, fully conscious that destiny had touched them with a magic wand, they never lost their human touch, grace, and shyness. In Katmandu, local chauvinists tried to project Tenzing as the real hero. Tenzing would have none of it. Others tried to show, that it was all a Hillary effort, and he had pulled Tenzing up the now famous Hillary step, and walked him the last few yards to the top. Hillary dismissed such petty attempts to prove the white man’s superiority with contempt.

In Delhi, Indian President Rajendra Prasad honoured them all. Tenzing and family were to fly for the first time to London to meet the young Queen who had just been crowned. Nehru ever the emotional affectionate man, took Tenzing home, opened his wardrobe and asked Tenzing to take as many achkans (formal Indian suits) as he needed. They were about the same height. Tenzing took Britain, in fact the West, by storm, with his loveable personality.

Nehru set up the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, and made Tenzing, Director of Training. He himself became the President, and would go there every year to preside over the graduation of young Indian climbers. In 1961, as a young lAS officer, I went as the first civilian to train at Darjeeling with Tenzing. Tenzing was a dedicated instructor. When we were almost buried under snow in a heavy snow storm at about 5000 m at the Chouri Khiang camp, Tenzing woke up in the bitter cold at midnight, and dusted the snow off our tents, like a father would. At Darjeeling, I was given my ice axe badge by Nehru in the presence of Indira Gandhi and her two young sons. I remember Rajiv’s big puffy hairstyle.

Hillary made his success relevant by using his name to collect money from all over the world, particularly from the rich West, to build schools and hospitals for Sherpas living at the foot of Everest. He visited them without fail every summer. He built little air strips in the area. Tragically, he lost his wife and daughter, in an air crash at Lukla. The resilient Hillary recovered, and continued with his service to mankind. More than the climb, which was emulated by many later, he won the world’s affection with his visible humanity.

The New Zealand Government took an imaginative decision in appointing Hillary the High Commissioner to India. The sub- continent loved him. He went everywhere to encourage the young. I invited him with his second wife, June Mulgrew, to Chandigarh. The University and college students loved them. June was a contrast to the lanky Hillary. A petite charming woman, she had the most stunning crinkly-eyed smile. At a private lunch with just the two of us, I asked Hillary the usual question: “Did you step on Everest first?” He refused to fall for my pettiness; just laughed, and talked of his and Tenzing’s friendship. I met Tenzing in Delhi many times before he died – I knew him as a friend. He, too, would not fall for the bait. The answer always was, ‘we together’.

This was the greatness of Hillary and Tenzing. Their feat was perhaps more dramatic than Armstrong’s stepping on the moon. But they retained this grace for half a century with their modest demeanour, and a true consciousness of their place in the world. Compare this conduct with several sportsmen in today’s world - there is little sportsmanship; there is every type of gamesmanship, the absurd, absolute desire to win at all costs.

Hillary and Tenzing are fresh in our memories 54 years after the event, and will always remain a beacon to youth.

This note, written a few years ago is a look at the first and greatest icons of the mountaineering world.



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11 Ladakh Odyssey

Dr Manohar Singh Gill

People in Parliament, no matter of which party, should understand this mosaic, this quilt of many hues and colours, which keeps India warm, cozy and comfortable, in a cold cruel world.

Born in an Amritsar village, I am a mountaineer at heart, the only lAS officer of those days to ask for and train at the HMI, Darjeeling, with Tenzing, and climb to about 6500 m in the Kullu Himalaya. My autumn-age memories are of a walk from Keylong to Manali in the winter, over the Rohtang pass, with the locals, in 1962. Even today, the mountains sustain me and mine.

I have not been to the moon, but I do intend to go, and I think I shall be able to, before I climb the final Everest of life. The moon journey is not possible yet, but I do know that the nearest equivalent to that experience is a journey to Ladakh. I have seen and walked a moonscape in Spiti, but the scale and the grandeur in Ladakh is beyond description. The Shyok and Nubra river valleys are so huge, and on such a scale of mountains and riverbeds that no photograph does justice to what the eye sees.

The meeting of the Siachen-Nubra river with the Shyok is a grand spectacle in that theatre of the Himalaya. There is plenty of green in the side valleys that emerge into the main one, but the mountains also are not embarrassed to bare themselves, in all their colours, every shade of brown and khaki, ochre lilac, saleti1 and more. The sun playing through the floating clouds changes shades every minute. It is a magic landscape.

A clever diversion of water from the glaciers to the sides of the valleys has produced plenty of greenery. We went in spring, 11 to 18 June. The poplars and the weeping willows were a shimmering green; wild roses, yellow and every shade of pink and purple were everywhere, in huge bushes. Siachen means a place of roses, but these roses are in every valley. In the pleasant early summer weather, birds are on song. We saw the Tibetan chikor. Not shy at all, I suppose, because there is no shooting. We stopped within seven metres of one, and saw it pecking away at stones. Red robins, citrine wagtails, Himalayan eagles soaring on high, pigeons, yellow-beaked hill crows, sparrows of course, and so many more. As we climbed high to the passes, marmots were everywhere. A young officer told me he had been able to see herds of Ibex high on the Siachen mountains, from twenty metres, not afraid and not shy. A variety of ducks speckled the lakes.

We spent two days in Leh, 4000 m to acclimatize, then crossed the snow covered Khardungla pass, approx 6000 m, the highest motor road in the world. Over three days, we travelled all over the Shyok and Nubra valleys. At Thoise I met our Air-Force boys, braver patriots I have not known. My wife and I went up the Nubra valley to Panamik, the last village, and had lunch with an artillery regiment. These boys, happened to all be from Gurdaspur and Amritsar! Believe me, I did not plan this political handshake, but weren’t they happy to meet a Tarn Taran man. They gave us a lovely lunch, and we bathed, of course separately, in the hot sulphur springs.

The mosaic of the real India is seen magnificently on these harsh frontiers, with the Armed Forces. Across the Khardungla at North Tappu, 5000 m. we had tea with Maj. Sharma, from Godhra2 in Gujarat. I felt sorry that he seemed embarrassed to mention his home-town. Why? All I know is that Maj. Sharma is a specimen of the best of our young soldiers, performing their duty, at those heights. Further down the valley at Khalsar, we were given lunch by young Capt. Raj from Muzzafarabad. Newly married, with his young bride on a short visit, he was doing yeoman service in the harshest part of the valley with no complaints, no desire for a soft posting. At Panamik, the regiment leaving Siachen was commanded by Maj. Sethu of Kerala, the incoming one by Col. Dutta from Bengal. At the pass, I met another young officer from Kerala, who had requested a second duty on the highest part of the Siachen, at a post height 7000 m. His troops were Punjabis. The Brig. commanding the entire sector was from a nearby Haryana town. At the Air Force camp, Sqn. Ldr. R. Singh, was from Gwalior, and wanted to talk Shivpuri with me! People in Parliament, no matter of which party, should understand this mosaic, this quilt of many hues and colours, which keeps India warm, cozy and comfortable, in a cold cruel world.

On 11 June, we went to the great monastery of Hemis in the Indus valley, for their annual dance festival. The high lama presided. It was a great gathering of visitors from across the world, Lamas, Ladakhis and Indians in a packed narrow rocky valley. For two days, in a Cambridge quadrangle-like enclosure, a hundred lamas, each in a different silken costume (our Dilli dress designers could learn a thing or two) danced to soulful Buddhist music and chanting. The spectacle and the sound, enthralled and uplifted. Later, the lama gave us darshan and the finest vegetarian lunch.

Back in Leh, over two days, we were entertained by the Ladakhis. A dinner in the 200-year-old Stok palace was hosted by Raja Jigme Namgyal with his family and the guest list included several luminaries. It gave me an opportunity to understand problems that people of Ladakh faced. The Raja is an educated, cultured and socially concerned person, who runs institutions for the handicapped and for the preservation of Ladakh’s fragile heritage.

Some of the issues - Leh’s only link with the rest of the country is by air, during most of the year. Tourism, the main income earner is not fully exploited. Therefore there is a need for more flight connections to carry tourists to and fro and thus increase tourism. The flight cost is also far too high. There is also the question of medical treatment in the long winters thus there should be cheap and regular flights to cities such as Chandigarh.

I would like to end my musings with a final word. In the Indian coalition of cultures, there are small groups as worthy as the large ones who have a huge presence in Parliament. They must be heard. I believe Indian democracy survives because our Parliament is a listening Parliament. Our governments keep their ear close to the ground to hear the last delicate sound in the beautiful orchestra that is this country. The people wait for promises made to be fulfilled.

A memory of travels in Ladakh.

About the Author

Manohar Singh Gill is an MP in the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. He was earlier, among other posts the Chief Election Commissioner of India and later the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports. Mountaineering has been a love and passion so he has tirelessly worked with and is Former President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and The Himalayan Club. Mr. Gill is now President Emeritus of The Himalayan Club.


  1. Grey, slate coloured.
  2. The place notorious for sparking communal riots in 2002



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12 My First Climb

Captain M.S. Kohli

I realized how human spirit could overcome any challenges that came along the way. Most of all I realized that I could climb quite well. This small climb laid the foundation of my climbing.

In 1939, when I was around seven years old, I was summoned by my father. He asked me if I would like to go to the martyrs’ summit which was a 600 m peak facing my native town of Haripur in the North West Frontier. It was here that my ancestors were executed by Afghan rebels during the Sikh Rule.

I had been waiting for this chance ever since I had first heard the story, and I was thrilled. My father’s faith in my abilities made me more confident. I said I was ready, making my excitement all too obvious. I arose early on the day and took a quick dip in the nearby stream with my father, as was the ritual. Visiting the gurudwara to offer ‘ardaas’ was also a part of the daily routine; only this one was special and I asked for strength to make our journey successful.

An hour-long walk took me to the neighbouring village of Sarai Saleh. It was March and the snow had started melting on the mountain tops - rivulets snaked their way down to join the swollen river Dor. The route needed us to cross the river at many points. I jumped from rock to rock, but eventually had to wade across the water. At one point, the current was so strong that I stumbled and was almost swept away. My father stood back, watching my struggle; I knew he would have eventually come to my rescue. But at that point, he wanted me to tackle the situation on my own. I slapped my arms and paddled furiously, finally making it to the other side. It was a scary moment but the manner in which I had tackled it boosted my drive to continue forward. Soon, I arrived at the start of the climb.

The hill was resplendent, dotted with myriad flowers that formed colourful carpets in little patches all over. It was as if it had adorned itself to welcome us. Looking up the hill, I realised that there was no trail that I could follow through the vegetation, since people only visited the spot once a year. The trodden grass in certain places was the only sign of those who had walked before us.

The climb began gradually and I felt quite comfortable walking behind my father. I looked up frequently to check on our progress. I skipped past a few people, who had stopped to catch their breath. Despite the sun beating down on us, there was a nip in the air that provided some relief as we worked our way up. The only time I paused was to pick ripe berries that hung on the many shrubs dotting the slopes. They quenched my thirst and gave me the energy to continue. En route, I saw stupas from King Ashoka’s time with inscriptions in the Pali language, which had long been forgotten in the region. The language we spoke all over Haripur was Hindko while at school, we studied in Urdu with English as an optional subject.

The terrain soon got steeper and there was no way we could continue climbing straight up as we had done so far. For a short distance, we had to traverse the slope to find a way through to make progress. My father told me a little story about the rituals that were carried out at the top. Prayers were recited in the memory of the martyrs and their exploits were remembered through folk songs. Offerings of flowers and prasad were made to the departed souls as well.

I was finally out of breath but turning around to see where we had reached, I realized that we were just short of the top. My father’s story-telling had been the perfect distraction from the rigours of the climb. As I strained my ear, I could hear the hymns that were being chanted on the summit by the people who had reached before us.

Soon, the youngest Kohli stood with the rest of the clan, a big smile on his face. My father held me in his arms and congratulated me. Together, we said a little prayer of thanks for making our pilgrimage a success.

I surveyed the verdant valley below and the rolling hills in the distance. The river Indus serpentine, made its way through the fields, irrigating them and then disappeared over the horizon. The huts down below were mere specks, swallowed by the expanse that rose to the towering peaks in the distance that dominated the landscape. I had never felt this way before. I felt proud of standing there in that moment.

When my thoughts drifted towards my ancestors who had succumbed at the very spot, I had a mixed feeling of sorrow and pride. After about an hour, it was time to go down. I vowed to come back to the martyrs’ summit, whenever I could. The walk back was relatively easy.

That night when I lay in my bed, there was a sense of achievement. I felt one step closer to my roots, of being a Kohli from Haripur. I realized how human spirit could overcome any challenges that came along the way. Most of all I realized that I could climb quite well. This small climb laid the foundation of my climbing.

This simple essay is by Capt M. S. Kohli, the Naval Officer who led the expedition that put the first Indians, nine of them, atop Everest in 1965. Besides this, his achievements and accolades could cover several pages. Suffice to say, that this is a story of inspiration.

About the Author

Captain Mohan Singh Kohli was the iconic leader of India’s historic ascent of Everest in 1965. This event alone rejuvenated a whole generation of young Indians in independent India and opened floodgates of adventure in our country. Captain Kohli who was in the Indian Navy became a mentor of the Sherpas of Darjeeling and also authored several books on various subjects ranging from adventure to spiritualism. He continues to work for the environment and write books even today.

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