Indian Himalaya: Climbing and Other News - 2001


Harish Kapadia

There were celebrations galore for mountaineers and mountain lovers. Year 2001 began with ‘Millennium celebrations’ and ended with plans for the celebrations for the ‘International Year of the Mountains.’

The new Millennium celebrations began when the Himalayan Club invited three surviving ‘Tiger Sherpas’ at a special gathering in Mumbai. This was a fitting honour to the last three living recipients of the Himalayan Club Tiger Badge. They were Ang Tsering (nearly 100 years in age), Nawang Gombu and Tobgay Sherpa.

The Himalayan Club, fulfilling its historic role, awarded the “Tiger’s Badge” to those Sherpas who had achieved outstanding success in mountains. The badge was awarded only to a select few, judged by many criteria. HC records of the Sherpas, which were instituted by H.W. Tobin with the founding of the Club in 1928, were maintained as one of the chief occupations of Tobin’s successors as Hon Local Secretary in Darjeeling.

Ang Tsering was on the expedition to Everest in 1924 when Irvine and Mallory were lost near the summit. In fact he is the only surviving participant of that pre-War expedition. He was also on Nanga Parbat when Will Merkl died in a storm. He was awarded German Order of Red Cross personally signed by Adolf Hitler.

Nawang Gombu is the most honoured and celebrated Sherpa in India today who has climbed Everest twice, the first person to do so. He is Honorary member of the Alpine Club, London. He has also received many National Awards and honours. His association with mountaineering world is long. Tobgay Sherpa has been an instructor at mountaineering Institutes, both at Darjeeling and Uttarkashi. There are many mountaineers who has learnt their early mountain craft from him.

Another tradition was upheld when the British members of the Himalayan Club gathered in London on 27th April for the ‘London Re-union’ which has been an annual event for decades. Bob Pettigrew, the honorary local secretary gave the lead and Sir Chris Bonington proposed the toast. Harish Kapadia, Hon. Editor of the Himalayan Journal was the speaker.

The Nanda Devi Sanctuary

The Nanda Devi Sanctuary has been in the news during the year. Last year a large Indo-Tibet police expedition had climbed the main peak of Nanda Devi by entering the Sanctuary. One climber died on their ascent. Immediately following them a British trekking group spent few days in the sanctuary. This year in 2001, President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Mr. N. N. Vohra, took pains to organise an expedition to investigate whether the Sanctuary should be opened for mountaineers, trekkers and researchers. It may be recalled that the Nanda Devi Sanctuary is closed since 1983. Local villagers are also not allowed to enter the Sanctuary for traditional grazing rights. The team from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation was cleared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Chief Wildlife Warden, and the Government of Uttaranchal. This was required as per the law as the area is declared a National Park under the Act of Indian Parliament. This team studied the area and submitted a detailed report to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation which was forwarded to various departments in the Government. No final decision has yet been taken to open the Sanctuary for trekkers and mountaineers. But from the press report it appears, that a limited access to scientific expeditions may be allowed.

Following the IMF trekking team, a large expedition of the Indian Army entered the Sanctuary to clear the old garbage lying there from 1970s. They also reached the summit of Nanda Devi and Dunagiri peaks but no further details are available. It must be mentioned that at least two expeditions to the newly formed Uttaranchal State, and attempting peaks bordering the boundaries of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary faced serious permit problems locally. Generally, to climb the peaks on the walls of the Sanctuary from outside was permitted and many expeditions have made ascents in the past, like on Changabang from the north and Nanda Devi East peak from the eastern approaches. However the new state’s authorities stopped a Korean and an American expedition which were attempting Kalanka and Dunagiri respectively. After long delays, the Korean team had to change plans and attempt Nilkanth peak. Future expeditions to the Uttaranchal States (consisting of Garhwal and Kumaun regions) and particularly to the peaks on the rim of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary should be careful in accessing the situation when they apply.

Nun-Kun Peaks

Due to the troubles in the Kashmir state no expeditions were permitted to popular peaks of Nun and Kun during the year. Similarly, no climbing has been allowed in the entire are of Kishtwar. Both these areas of southern Zanskar and Kishtwar have been affected by terrorism in Kashmir.

Arganglas Valley

A major International expedition climbed in the Arganglas valley in the areas near the Siachen Glacier. The team consisting of 2 British, 2 American and 4 Indian mountaineers explored an vast unknown area and made several first ascents. Arganglas is an area where perhaps largest number of unclimbed exists. The two American mountaineers, Mark Richey and Mark Wilford climbed a challenging route on the peak Yamandaka (6218 m), the most challenging climb in the Indian Himalaya during the year, if not in a few years.

Tirsuli West Peak

One of the major climb was the reported first ascent of Tirsuli West, one of the last unclimbed 7000m virgin peaks in Garhwal. The expedition was from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi and was led by its vice-principal Major K. S. Dhami. The Institute has now been at the forefront of training mountaineers in India and its instructors have made some major ascents on various expeditions.

Statistics

During the year expeditions visited several areas in the Indian Himalaya. There were no major expeditions to Sikkim, Kishtwar and Zanskar. Out of 138 expeditions, 60 were to routine peaks which are not covered here as listed below. Out of these 19 were foreign expeditions and 41 from India.

The Indian Mountaineering Foundation

During the year in November 2001, elections for the President and the Governing Councils for the Indian Mountaineering Foundation were held in New Delhi. The current President, Shri N. N. Vohra was elected unanimously for the two year term. 12 other members were elected and Shri H. C. S. Rawat and Ms. Rita Marwah were appointed Vice-Presidents of the Foundation. Shri N. N. Vohra is an experienced bureaucrat and a senior official, who has served in the various high capacities with the Government of India. With his knowledge of the functioning of the Government he has been instrumental in solving various matters and to get help to promote mountaineering in the country. With Mr. Vohra at the helm of affairs the Indian Mountaineering would be in safe hands.

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Major Expeditions In The Indian Himalaya In 2001

GARHWAL - KUMAUN

Gangotri glacier area:

Shivling (6543 m)

(A.) Expedition : French/Brazilian Leader : Ratouis Emmanuel (3 members) Period : April – May

This was an expedition consisting of climbing guides from the French Alps. They climbed the west ridge of Shivling in 20 hours from the base camp. All four climbers reached the summit. The leader, Emmanuel made a ski-descent, completing a wonderful climb and descent. The other summiteers were; Marchand Severin and Razel Jean Claude.

(B) Expedition – Swedish Leader : Krister Jonsson (3 members) Period : May – June.

Though the expedition suffered from bad weather, they managed to make an excellent accent on the west ridge to summit of this difficult peak. 2 members reached the summit starting on the 3rd June and reaching the top on the 5th in a 3 day push. Summiteers were Magnus Eriksson and Christian Edelstam. Later, on 9th and 10th June, in 2 days, the leader made a fast solo ascent to the summit. All the ascents were made via the west ridge.

( C ) Expedition – German Leader : Bogdan Brakus (11 members) Period : May

This experienced team climbed to the summit by the west ridge. They established advanced base camp at 4850m, Camp I and 5100m and Camp II at 5850m and from there all the climbs were made. According to the expedition, the climb was very serious and they had to undertake climbing on vertical seracs of 75 m. at height of above 6000m.

On 23rd May, 2 members reached the summit, they were Beand Tritsches and Johann Hirschbichles. On 24th May, the leader with Michael Schoff and Karl Eisenberges reached the summit. While on 25th May, 2 members reached the top. They were Jorg Hanel and Christian Mqurchqer. This was a quick climb by a very experienced team.

Meru Central (6450 m)

Expedition : Russian Leader : Valeri Babanov and Zdanovitch Igor (2 member team) Period: September

This strong team attempted Shark's Fin on the north face of Meru Central. They made a base camp at 4300m and advanced base camp at 4900m. This is a technically difficult route and they faced several rock falls, avalanches and continuous bad weather. Finally on 22nd September, the leader reached the summit in a big push.

This was their second attempt on the peak this year. Earlier, the same team had attempted the same route in April-May. But had failed to proceed beyond 5850m. Their dedication later in the year paid dividends.

A jury, presided over by Sir Chris Bonington, awarded GHM's Piolet d'Or award to this expedition for the outstanding climb in 2001.

Meru (6261 m)

Expedition : American Leader : Peter Takeda (3 members) Period : May-June

Expedition had multiple aims in the Gangotri area. First they attempted Meru which they failed to climb due to technical difficulties. Two camps were made up to 6000m. As a consolation, later they climbed Kedar Dome reaching the summit on 14th May. The summiteers were Charles Bird, Jonathan Degenhardt, Mahesh Dixit (LO) and Arvind Bist (LO of nearby expedition).

Meru North Peak (6450 m)

Expedition : Japanese Leader : Hiroyoshi Manome (3 members) Period : September-October

This small expedition from Japan was attempting the northeast face and the north pillar route. They established camps and reached 6050m. Several falling stones and objective dangers were experienced. However, an avalanche destroyed the cache of their equipment rolling down all the plastic boots. The attempt had to be given up.

Meru South (6660 m)

Expedition : Spanish Leader : Jordi Coromings (6 members) Period : September-October

The expedition established various camps by 17th September. Advanced base camp was at 4900m and the final Camp 3 was at 5900 m. From this camp the first attempt was made between 30th September to 2nd October reaching up to 6100m, while the second attempt on 6th & 7th October reached 6400m. They encountered serious danger from falling stones and gave up the climb.

Bhagirathi III (6454 m)

Expedition : German Leader : Walter Holzler (3 members) Period : April-May

The expedition had the intention of attempting the southwest pillar. They made a base camp at 4450 m at Nandanvan and Camp 1 at 5000 m. However, continuous bad weather and snowfall made the peak rather dangerous and the route almost impossible to attempt. They gave up the climb.

Manda I (6511 m)

Expedition :Korean Leader :Hyoung Duk Kim (2 members) Period :September

The team climbed the west face on the north ridge on way to the summit on 17th September. The leader and porter Laxman attempted the summit. While Laxman stayed below the summit, leader made a solo climb of the peak.

Bhrigu Parvat (6041 m)

Expedition :Indian Leader :Dr. Anjan Chaudhary (9 members) Period :September – October

The peak is situated near Manda group and was approached from Kedar Kharak. The summit was reached on 2nd September by Arun Kanti Das and Tanmoy Chakraborty.

Bhrigupanth (6772 m)

Expedition :The Netherlands Leader :Melvi Redukar (3 members) Period :October

The expedition attempted the peak, approaching it from the Gangotri temple. They made an advance base camp and reached the col between Bhirgupanth and Thalay Sagar wishing to attempt both the peaks. Bhrigupanth was climbed by the southeast ridge and face on 10th October by all 4 members. Leader, with Andreas Amons, Mike V. Berkel and Car J. D. Gevel reached the summit. No attempt was made on Thalay Sagar.

Sudarshan Parvat (6507 m)

Expedition :Indian Leader :Dipankar Ghosh (12 members) Period :May

This expedition from Hooghly (West Bengal) successfully reached the summit on 12th May via the east face. The summiteers were Prosenjit Mukherjee and Joysingh Sahi.

Chaturangi IV (6304 m)

Expedition :Indian Leader :Stimit Srimany (10 members) Period :June

This expedition from West Bengal climbed Chaturangi IV, on 27th and 28th of June. On 27th, the summiteers were Asis Mukherjee, Ashok Banerjee and Sanjay Mukherjee. The summiteers on 28th June were Tarun Mondal and Jayanta Chandra.

Manda II (6568 m)

Expedition :Indian Leader :Avijit Das (8 members) Period :June

The expedition approached this peak from Gangotri, Gaumukh and beyond. Establishing 3 camps, the summit was reached on 21st June via the east ridge. The summiteers were Arnab Banerjee, Avijit Das, Arka Ghosh, R. K. Gamb-Isane and Kaushik Pal.

Gangotri I (6672 m)

Expedition : Indian (IMF Ladies Expedition) (8 members) Leader : Ms. Lata Joshi Period : Sept. – Oct.

A ladies team, selected by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, climbed this high peak south of Gangotri temple. They set up a base camp at 4420 m on 16 September at Rudugaira Kharak. They set up three more camps till 5790 m. On 26th September in two teams of 8 and 4 climbers each the summit was reached by the normal route. They faced poor weather and the summit was reached in dense fog and cloudy weather. The summit was climbed by; leader with Sushma Thakur, Asmita, Manju Negi, Reena Kaushal, Vinita Verma, Deena Ramola and Dr. Bhawana S. Jadhav with three high altitude supporters.

Central Garhwal

Tirsuli West (7035m) and Shambu ka kila (6160m)

(A) Expedition : British Leader : Colin R. Knowles (6 members) Period : April – May

The 8 member team reached the base camp via Malari and going up a subsidiary gully of Kunti Bhannar. They then proceeded south along Shepherd Pass to make a base camp at 3600m on the Siruanch glacier. After observations of the route, Tirsuli West was not attempted as they found excessive objective danger on the face from a hanging glacier. So they turned their attention to peak 6160m, 5 km north of Tirsuli West. They followed the southwest face and reached the summit on 16th May. The summiteers along with leader were Ms. Benham Angela, Arnison Roland, Drinkwater Christopher, Philips Andren and T. Kajannagh. This peak was named as ‘Shambhu-ka-Killa’ (Fort of Lord Shiva).

This expedition also had problems with the new formed Uttaranchal State Government despite the clearances obtained from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, they had difficulties in approaching the mountain.

(B) Expedition : German Leader : Ralf Messbacher (7 members) Period : May

The expedition reached the base of this unclimbed peak and traversed smaller peaks up to 6320m while trying to reach the west ridge of Tirsuli West. However, the peak was not attempted beyond this because of continuing bad weather, avalanche and loose rock danger. The expedition generally suffered from rather poor weather.

Nanda Ghunti (6390 m) from both sides

This British expedition was led by Martin Moran with 6 members. They climbed in May June. Martin Moran has been a consistent visitor to the Indian Himalaya and almost every year he has made noteworthy ascents and explorations in the range.

The present expedition had the original intention of attempting Trisul. But this was given up due to continuous bad weather.

On 19th May, the recce of the route on Nanda Ghunti was undertaken and Camp I was established at 5400 m, on 25th May. Andrew Nisbet and Mike Brennan climbed Nanda Ghunti on 2nd June, via the south face – a new route. This route is steep but follows directly to the summit. They climbed a curving couloir between two pinnacles (50-55 deg. angle) to gain the upper slopes. They graded the climb as AD+.

The summit of Nanda Ghunti was also climbed via the north ridge – the normal route, on 2nd of June, same day as the other team. The leader with Tom Rankin, Ian Lee Bapty, Des Winterbone and H. Singh (HAP) reached the summit. This is a long strenuous approach from Hom Kund over Ronti Saddle which has a big cornice on its north side. Apart from reaching Hom Kund at 4650 m, it has the start of 50 deg. steepness on the north ridge. The rest of the route is easy.

Lampak South (6181 m)

Expedition :Indian Leader :Swaraj Ghosh (7 members) Period :August – September

Lampak group of peaks stand on the Lampak glacier near Joshimath. Not many expeditions attempt these peaks. This team from Howrah, West Bengal climbed Lampak South (or Lampak II). The summiteers were Swaraj Ghosh, Anal Das, Sibrata Banerjee, B. Biswas, N. P. Rao, Gautam Chatterjee and B. Jetty.

Nilkanth (6596 m)

(A) Expedition :Japanese Leader :Daisuke Narumi (4 members) Period :September The expedition intended to attempt the north face via the west ridge. They tried to overcome a dangerous icefall on the north face. However, many avalanches stopped their progress. One member was sick and hence they called off the expedition.

(B) Expedition :Korean Leader :Ja Eok Gook (7 members) Period :August

The expedition originally intended to attempt Dunagiri, which is on the outer walls of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. They proceeded with full clearance going towards this peak. However, they were denied permission locally from the state of Uttaranchal. They had to change their objective at the last minute to attempt Nilkanth. They set up Camp II, but due to stone fall, avalanches and crevasses, the attempt was called off. Their heart was certainly not in it.

(C) Expedition :Slovania Leader & Members: Marco Prezelj, Matija Jost, and Dr. Zarko Guzej Period :October

A strong Slovanian expedition was the only team which successfully climbed Nilkanth this year. They climbed the summit via the west ridge on 14th October and they had an excellent spell of weather all throughout. They approached the summit from Hanuman Chatti, Baenakuli along the Khirao Ganga to Panpatia glacier in the north.

Kalanka (6553 m)

Expedition :American Leader & Member: Carlos Buhlar and John Roberts Period :September

This expedition too faced problems of clearances and delay from Uttaranchal State Government locally. This peak is situated on the rim of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary and they were to attempt from outside the sanctuary. They approached the mountain along the Bagini glacier planning to attempt the stupendous north face. They were delayed due to the bureaucratic hassles. Finally, they made a recce on 11th September and established Camp 1 at 5660 m. However no attempt was made on the wall and the team also faced problems of acclimatization due to rush tactics.

Kamet (7756 m)

(A) Expedition :Polish Leader :Jerzy Tillak (8 members) Period :July – August

The expedition was attempting the west ridge and this was a team of strong climbers. They reached 7390m on 26th August having approached this peak from Gamsali and Niti. Among the higher camps, Camp IV was at 6600m and Camp V at 7120m. They encountered very high winds and loose powder snow which forced them to give up the climb.

(B) Expedition : Indian (Senior citizen expedition) Leader : Ashwini Kumar (67 years) Period : Sept. – Oct.

This was an expedition of retired police and other officers, organised to climb this high peak. However the leader is reported to have died on reaching the lower slopes of the mountain. No further details are available.

(C) Expedition : Indian – (West Bengal) Leader : Debasashi Kanji Period : Aug. – Sept.

This team is reported to have attempted this high peak. No further details are available.

Chaukhamba I (7138 m)

(A) Expedition :Indian (14 members) Leader :Brijes Dey Period :May

This team from Calcutta attempted the north face of this high mountain approaching from Badrinath and Mana. They found the huge face very avalanche prone and may large crevasses baring their way. The attempt was given up.

(B) Expedition :Indian Leader :Ujjwal Ganguly (9 members) Period :September

This team attempted the normal route on the north face. They were trapped in an avalanche at Camp 3, (6350 m). Two members; Palash Mukherjee and Serabjit Sadhu were killed and they bodies were not recovered. The expedition was given up.

HIMACHAL PRADESH

TAGNE (6111 m)

Expedition :British Leader :Andrew Vine (4 members) Period :July

This was a team of young students and they made the ascent of Tagne on 20th July via south face and north ridge. The summit was reached by the leader with Narendra Singh. Tagne is situated near Chandra Tal in Lahaul. The expedition also climbed peak 6030m via north-east ridge on 26th July. The summit was reached by Stephen Jolly, Alan Gear and Jon Ellis. Their approach route was from Chandra Tal to Topko Yongma where they made their base camp and approached the summit from the south Tagne glacier.

Behali Jot North (6290 m)

Expedition : Japanese Leader : Shoji Sakamoto (9 members) Period : June

The team made a mass ascent of Behali Jot North on 3 different days. All climbs were via the southeast ridge. On 13th June, Takao Momozawa, Akitoshi Hayakawa and Hidejiro Katsuno reached the summit. On 14th Shizuo Takegami, Kaori Iguchi, Pasang Bodh and Prakash Bodh reached the summit, While on the 15th Shoji Sakamoto, Norifusa Akakura, A .K. Sharma (LO) and Prakash Bodh reached the summit. This was the first ascent of the North peak.

Fluted Peak (6122 m)

(A) Expedition: Indian Leader :Gautam Banit (11 members) Period :Aug.-Sept.

This peak situated near Karcha Parvat on border of Lahaul and Spiti has been climbed several times. The peak was climbed on 27th Aug. by Niraj Kumar, Ms. Madhabi Barman, Subrata Roy and Bablu Sen. The peak is situated on the borders of Lahaul and Spiti on the Karcha nala. . (B)

Expedition: Japanese Leader : Yachiyo Yamanaka (3 members) Period :August

The expedition made 2 camps, the last one being at 5350m. The summit was climbed on 16th August by the Leader with Tokie Suzuki and Nobuo Iihama, Hiroshi Fukino with 3 high altitude porters.

Unnamed Peak 6184 m (Lahaul)

Expedition : Japanese Leader :Yasutada Sawairi (12 members) Period : July-August

This peak is situated northeast of peak Phabrang whose normal approach route is via going up the Thirot nala. However this expedition came from Jankar Sumdo in the east and followed the right flanking glacier from here. The peak is opposite the Gangstang glacier. The team was led by 71 year old leader. They attempted the summit on 8th August, reaching 5750 m. Unfortunately, on most of the other days the weather was bad and they faced constant danger of rock fall. The summit attempt was given up.

Gangstang (6162 m)

(A)

Expedition: Japanese Leader :Tsuneo Suzuki Period :August This well known peak was attempted by senior citizens from Japan in two different expeditions from two different directions. The above expedition attempted the south west ridge. They approached from Keylong via Biliang Nala and set up a base camp at 4650m. The leader was a veteran mountaineer, 65 years old, and the members was consisting of senior members which were between 66 and 72 years old, including two ladies over 64 years.The summit was climbed on 5th and 8th August, totally by 6 members with 2 Sherpas and other 4 high altitude porters.

(B).

Expedition: Japanese Leader :Tatsumi Mizumo (5 members) Period: August The second Japanese expedition was also consisting of senior members which were between 50 and 67 years old. They climbed to the summit by north face to east ridge. They approached the mountain from Jankar Sumdo and set up a base camp at 4050m. The summit was reached on 5th August, by 4 members with 3 Sherpas and 2 high altitude porters.

Dharamsura (6420 m)

Expedition :Indian Leader :Aloke Kumar Das (12 members) Period :August The summit was reached on 22nd August by Amitava Roy, Goutam Ghosh, Arupam Das, Susanta Basak and Sherpa Pasang. This peak is located on the Tos nala in the Kullu area.

Baralacha Peak (6111m)

Team :Indian Leader :Ms. Kalpana Mukherjee (6 members) Period :August – September

The expedition approached this peak across the Baralacha Pass. There are several climbing opportunities around the Pass and this peak was first climbed 2 years before by a team from West Bengal. The summit was reached on 5th September by the leader with Taponayan Ghosh and Partha Majumdar.

Unnamed Peak (6248 m)

Expedition :Indian Leader :Sudhir S. Raut (3 members) Period :August

This peak lies on the ridge continuing from the Shingo la pass, which is a popular trekking route. The base camp was set up at Chuminakpo (4660 m). The team climbed along the right of the Shingo nala and set up Camp 2 at 5410 m. From here they followed steep slopes to a col. The summit was about 200m from the col and was reached in poor weather. The summiteers were; leader with Nitin Gandhi and Paresh Rathod. They reached the top on 15th August .

Chau Chau Kang Nila (6304 m)

Expedition : Indian (West Bengal) Leader : Dipankar Ghosh Period : Sept. – Oct.

This is a small peak in Spiti, lies northeast of Kaja. The peak was successfully climbed by 4 climbers with 3 handicapped persons.

KASHMIR - LADAKH

Chittapani (5280 m)

Expedition :Indian Leader :Shaukat Ali Mir (6 members) Period :July

This small but lovely peak lies in the Kashmir valley. It was heartening to note that despite the troubled times, the Kashmiris themselves have continued a love affair with nature and mountains. The summit of this was reached on 18th of July by Shokat Hussain, Mohammed Amin, Mohammed Altaf, Tariq Ahmed Kachroo and Champak Singh.

Ascents In the Pangong Range (Ladakh) Aug-Sept 2001

Ascents Of Kangju Kangri (6725 m), Unnamed Peak 658 0m, Kakstet Kangri, (6461m) and Unnamed Peak 6134 m

This was an large expedition from 8 Mountain Division (Indian Army). It was led by Lieutenant. Colonel A Abbey, who is an experienced mountaineer and current Principal of the Nehru Institute of Mountyaineering in Uttarkashi, Uttaranchal State.

Dates and Routes climbed: Ascents made are as under :-

(a) Kangju Kangri, 6725 m, via the south face on 30 August 2001, at 1305hrs. Summiteers: Lt. Col A Abbey, Sub Ram Lal, Hav Shurbir Singh, Nk Shashi Bhusan, L/Nk Manjeet Singh, L/Nk Anoop Singh and L/Nk Upinder Singh.

(b) Unnamed Peak 6580 m, via the south face, southwest ridge on 02 Sept 2001, at 1130 hrs. Summiteers : Lt Col A Abbey, Sub Prem Singh, Hav Baljinder Singh, Nk RK Manahas, L/Nk Bhagat Singh, Hav Gulbar Singh, L/Nk Sudhir Kumar, Nk Vijay Kumar L/Nk Upinder Singh and L/Nk Rakesh

(c) Kakstet Kangri 6461m, via the southeast face, southwest ridge, on 03 Sept 2001, at 1040 hrs. Summiteers : Capt R Bhandari, Capt PS Cheema, Lt. S Charan, Sub Ram Lal, Nb Sub Gian Chand, L/Nk Manjeet Singh, L/Nk Bhagat Singh, L/Nk Anoop Singh, L/Nk Jagdeep Singh, L/Nk Dhyan Singh and Rfn Satender Singh.

(d) Unnamed Peak 6134 m, via the northwest face on 03 Sept 2001, at 1055 hrs. Summiteers : Lt Col A Abbey, Hav Shurbir Singh, Nk Shashi Bhusan, L/Nk Rakesh and Sepoy P Vellu.

The remote Pangong Range lies to the south of the famous Pangong Tso Lake and to the north of the Ladakh range, in Ladakh. This was a young team of soldiers from the crack 8 Mountain Division of the Indian Army. Base Camp was established on the Chushul- Tangtse axis.

On 21 Aug a base camp was set up at Tatsang Lungpa, (4900 m). Camp I was established at an altitude of 5560m, next to small glacial lake on 23 Aug . Camp II for the ascent of Kangju Kangri, was established on the lateral moraine of the Kangju Glacier, at an altitude of 6020m on 27 Aug 2001. For the ascent of Pt. 6580m, Camp II was shifted to an altitude of 6010m on 01 Sept on a different axis. The Camp was further shifted on 02 Sept, below the Shimdi la pass and established at an altitude of 5400m for the ascent of Kakstet Kangri and Pt. 6134m. Climbing as separate sub teams, as part of same expedition, the team made four ascents of Kangju Kangri 6725m, Unnamed Peak 6580m, Kakstet Kangri 6461m and Unnamed Peak 6134m.

18 members, including the leader crossed the 5630m high Shimdi la Pass and recorded the first known traverse of the range, finishing at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso. The expedition accomplished its objectives in excellent shape and form, all in a time frame of fifteen days.

Ramjak (6318 m)

Expedition : Indian Mountaineering Foundation Leader : Lt. Col. S. Upadhyay (9 members) Period : August

Ramjak is an unclimbed challenging mountain with sharp ice dome as the summit. The peak is located near Shingo la which is a popular trek route from Himachal to Zanskar. At least 3 expeditions have failed in the past on this peak and one Indian climber died on its slopes. The first to try the peak from the western approaches was a ladies team from Mumbai which attempted it in 1994 from the Bagrari glacier. In 1996 another team from Mumbai attempted the peak, where Dinesh Shertate died at 5400 m due to medical complications.

This year the Indian Mountaineering Foundation expedition reached the area in early August and trekked on the well known route from Darcha - Palamo and set up base camp little short of Chuminakpo at 4620m. After a recce, Camp 1 (4880 m) was set up besides a glacial stream running down from the glacier. Next three days were spent in recceing the place for Camp 2 which was ultimately set up on 11th August. On the 12th, they reached a rock wall and fixed ropes (400 m) through a gully and after surmounting the wall, at 5800 m they saw a long ridge running to the summit. However, the summit was too far for them and they were deterred by the terrain and the expedition retreated.

Chakula (6529 m)

Expedition :British Leader :Michael J. Ratty (5 members) Period :August

Michael Ratty has been attempting this peak for few years. This year they succeeded in making an ascent from south face on 13th August. Trevor Willis, Christopher Mothersdale reached the summit. Their LO was sick and had to be evacuated. This peak is situated in the Rupshu district and is one of the prominent high points in the area. It has religious significance and is situated near a monastery. The monastery had requested the expedition not to carry any meat on the mountain which they obliged.

EAST KARAKORAM

The Arganglas International expedition 2001

A team of mountaineers from India (4), U.K.(2) and U.S.A.(2) climbed in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh. The area is situated near the Siachen Glacier in the East Karakoram. The team made the first ascents of three peaks, explored 5 glaciers and attempted two peaks. No mountaineering party had ever visited this area. A large number of peaks are located around these two glaciers which were photographed and recorded.

Leaders of the joint team were Sir Chris Bonington and Harish Kapadia. They had organised two expeditions jointly in the past in the Indian Himalaya. The Arganglas region near the Siachen glacier is home to the Argans, a community comprising the off-springs of Yarkandi or Kashmiri Muslims who used to frequent the trade routes to Central Asia, (a region that after Sept 11 has leaped back into the international spotlights) and the local Ladakhi women with whom they cohabited.

For armchair adventurers all around the world, sharing the joy of this expedition was just a click away. Pictures from a digital camera were being uploaded and latest information on the expedition was provided on www.bonington.com, thanks to Bonington’s son Rupert who runs a multi-media company in the UK.

The Base camp was set up in a dry lake bed at the foot of the Phunangama Glacier (4800 m / 15,750 ft). Two advanced base camps were set up on the glacier. Teams then divided in smaller teams and operated as small independent parties from there. There is phenomenal potential here for alpine style climbing on peaks up to 6800 meters.

Abale (6360 m / 20,865 ft) and Amale (6312 m / 20,708 ft) and other Peaks : In between companionable bridge sessions, the other members had been occupied with their own climbs and explorations. Shroff and Muni along with Samgyal Sherpa climbed a virgin peak which they named as Abale (6360 m) (‘grand father’) with its corniced summit in the Nono glacier just before the heavy snows and clouds came swirling in. Satyabrata Dam, a navy officer from Mumbai and the liaison officer Capt. Lingwal and Sherpa Wangchuk climbed another peak Amale (6312 m) (‘grand mother’) The British climbers, Bonington and Jim Lowther were forced back because of bad weather from their attempt but reached an unknown pass Konto La.

First Ascent of peak Yamandaka (6218 m) by its North Face and descent by the Shingskam Topko : The hi-tech could not really minimise some of the risks, or the thrills of the unknown as the two Americans or two Marks -- Mark Richey and Mark Wilford discovered. They had a tough but successful climb of the North face of Yamandaka where they had to spend three nights perched on tiny ledges chopped into the ice with just enough room to try and sit or lie down.

From the day they arrived in BC below the Phunangma glacier, Mark Wilford and Mark Richey were at once captivated by the obvious and direct line on peak 6218 m’ s north face. The wall was estimated to be about 4000 ft high and a steep mix of rock and ice. On the 8th of Sept. two Marks crossed the Phunangma glacier and set camp at the base of the face beneath a huge boulder.

From Sept. 9th to the 12th Marks climbed over 20 pitches of 60 meters each of technical rock and ice on the face. All rock climbing was done with crampons in full winter conditions. A fair amount of direct aid was employed including 2 pendulums. They sack-hauled on most of the pitches and the second jumared with a heavy pack. Several sections of frighteningly loose, stacked blocks had to be negotiated. At one point, a television-sized rock, set loose by hand pressure, nearly severed the lead rope. The ice climbing was mainly confined to the initial four pitches of 45 degree snow and ice and then the final three pitches of water ice up to 70 degrees and including the final overhanging cornice. They braved snowfall on all days except the 11th and topped out in a full blizzard which dumped nearly a foot of snow. They made three bivouacs on the face, the first two were excellent platforms and they were able to erect a small tent. The final open bivouac on the face was a narrow ledge chopped into a 50 degree ice slope. Heavy spindrift during the night kept them from much sleep. They also spent one night just below the summit.

Due to the heavy snowfall their original plans of descent down the North East ridge to the Phunangma glacier seemed excessively dangerous. Instead, they opted for a descent down the South face of the mountain to a glacier system on the opposite side of the range. In fact, the gentle disarming glacier ultimately funneled its way down into a steep and terrifying gorge leading all the way to the Nubra valley. By the time they realized this, they were too exhausted to retrace path, already day 7 on 5 days of food. Finally, after ten hours of brutal descent, they stood atop a huge water fall longer than their rope. Beyond, the smooth canyon walls disappeared out of sight. Unwilling to make this final commitment, they searched for an escape. One side of the canyon presented a slight weakness. Wilford led up a wall of huge blocks literally cemented in place with mud. As Mark put it "It was the most frightening pitch I have ever climbed" Two more vertical pitches of rock and 500 ft of scrambling led them finally to the Canyon rim and their 7th night out in the Shingskam Topko Valley. The following morning, they descended to the Nubra valley where they met a very relieved porter sent down to look for them. That day expedition companions were ready to send out the search helicopter. Back at ABC, they had built a lovely temple and prayed for their safety. Argan Kangri (6789 m) the highest peak on the glacier and was one of the prime aims of the expedition. However bad weather and poor snow conditions did not allow an attempt on this peak till towards the last days of the expedition. The expedition also reached Konto La (5920 m / 19,422 ft) a col between Karpo Kangri (6540 m / 21,460 ft) and Pk. 6640 m at the eastern head of the Phunangma Glacier.

Explorations in the Rassa and Yah Glaciers : Harish Kapadia and S. Dam with three porters formed an independent team and to explored the above two glaciers in the area, containing a large number of unclimbed peaks. Later they traversed to west to enter the Yah Glacier which is near the shapely peak of Nya Kangri (6480 m / 21,260 ft). Covering ground on rocks and soft snow and across crevasses the steep pass, Yah La (5770 m / 18,930 ft), was reached on 23rd September but it was not possible to descend on the other side towards the Sumur Lungpa as intended. The party retraced route back to the Arganglas valley and joined the main team the next day.

To end, I cannot help narrating an anecdote that happened during my lecture in London at the Himalayan Club dinner last April. Sir Chris Bonington, proposing a toast, narrated how we enjoy on our joint expeditions. ‘It is not only cheese and biscuits on our trips, we have Mr Gandhi supplying tasty Indian food and Mr Gandhi supplying Mumbai bhel and Mr Gandhi supplying dosas’. He went on making mouth-watering mention of the local ‘Gandhi Stores’ in Mumbai, who had supplied food to our expeditions efficiently.

After the dinner, an elderly lady came up to me and asked me in all seriousness, as I listened in amazement; ‘By any chance, was Mahatma Gandhi a food supplier?’