Indian Himalaya: Climbing and Other News - 2003


Harish Kapadia

The total number of expeditions to the Indian Himalaya remained almost the same that is 110 as compared to 108 in the year 2002. 75 Indian and 35 foreign expeditions climbed here, but only about 43 expeditions were to notable peaks and these have been covered here. Again, there was a drop in the number of foreign teams to climb in the Indian Himalaya  - only 35 expeditions climbed here in 2003.  This should be a cause for concern for the authorities – is any one listening? Drop in quality of climbing is also worrying, not many spectacular or new routes or new peaks were climbed.

Expeditions to the Indian Himalaya   2003

Foreign expeditions

There were totally 35 foreign expeditions to the Indian Himalaya from various countries. This was perhaps the smallest number of teams visiting the Indian Himalaya in last few years. Many expeditions were cancelled  after the threat of the SARS epidemic in Asia and the war on Iraq.   Of the total number of expeditions, 11 teams climbed Stok Kangri and Dzo Jongo, two popular and easy peaks. and two other routine easy peaks were attempted by two teams each. Of the rest, 3 teams attempted Satopanth. . Thus out of 35, totally 20 teams went for easy commercial expeditions.

Jammu and Kashmir received only three expeditions while there was no expedition to Himachal Pradesh, which is surprising.  The Gangotri area remained popular with 15 teams attempting different peaks there. Popular peaks were Thalay Sagar - attempted by 5 expeditions, Bhagirathi III and Shivling by 3 expeditions each. The success rate of climbing mountains was rather poor this year, particularly because both post and pre monsoon seasons ran into bad weather and only few teams were successful.

Bureaucratic restrictions for climbing near and around Nanda Devi Sanctuary created problems for various teams. When the teams with permission from Delhi, reached their starting points, some of them had to travel back to Dehradun, which is the new capital of the Uttaranchal State, to seek fresh permission from the state (local) Government.

Uttaranchal proposes  to levy additional peak fees, as is done in Sikkim, which may cause severe financial crunch and hardships to visiting expeditions.   Expeditions to Jammu and Kashmir area find it difficult to climb mountains her due to bureaucratic  problems  such as appointment of local police officers and liaison officers to join them. Overall as far as the foreign expeditions to India were concerned this was perhaps a low point in last few decades.

Indian Expeditions

75 Indian expeditions were organised by various Clubs and Associations in India plus there were three expeditions organized by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, bringing it to a healthy total of 79. However, out of these more than  50 expeditions were to “routine peaks” by normal routes, which are climbed often. They include; Jogin III, Bhagirathi II, Kalanag, Hanuman Tibba, Kedar Dome, Manali, Thelu and others.

There were three expeditions each to popular peaks of Chhamser and Lungser Kangri, Satopanth by normal route and Shri Kailash by normal route. Expeditions to these peaks are not covered here.

The balance noteworthy expeditions are covered as under :

Region-wise Expeditions to the Indian Himalaya – 2003

Gangotri Area (Garhwal) Thalay Sagar (6904 m) 1.Team : French

Leader  : Glairon Rappaz Patrice (3 members)

The Expedition climbed a new route on the north face of Thalay Sagar. The leader and  another member Benouist Stephane climbed the summit in Alpine style in a 10-day push. The summit was reached on 29th September by the north face.

2. Team : American

Leader : Benjamin Buckley Gilmore with Kevin Bradley and Kevin Mahoney.

The expedition established themselves in late April at the foot of Thalay Sagar wanting to attempt the north face of this difficult mountain.  However they had to give up this expedition on 25th of May after reaching 5900 m. They were stormed off the mountain because of excessive avalanches as they were here in the early part of summer.

3. Team : Korean

Leader : Lee Sang Cho  (7 members)

They established base camp by early September wanting to attempt the north face. The maximum height reached was 6600 m by the leader, Bune Sung Ho and one other member Lee Sang Cho  They found very bad weather and poor snow conditions.

4.  Team : Dutch

Leader : Malvin Redeker with Mike Van Berkel, Cas Van de Gevel.

A team of three experienced members from Holland climbed Thalay Sagar by the northeast face to the southeast ridge. All the three members made an 11-day push from base camp to summit, from 14th September to 23rd September. This was one of the  best climbs in the Indian Himalaya this year. They too faced bad weather in the early part on their climb but they waited out the period to make this attempt.

5. Team : Bulgarian

Leader :  Nikola Levakov (7 members)

This Bulgarian team established base camp on 21st September at 4700 m and attempted the summit via northwest face. Two members reached the summit on 12th October 2003. The summiteers were leader Nikola Levakov with Hristo Hristov. This was a good strong push  of 7 days from base camp to the top. Leader  Nikola Levakov suffered severe frostbites and had to be evacuated by air.

Sudarshan Parvat (6507m)

Team : Assam Police

Leader :  K. C. Deka (10 members)

A large team from Assam Police climbed Sudarshan Parvat on 17th September at following the route of first ascent, via the East Ridge.  10 persons reached the summit. The names of summiteers were Manjur Ahmed, Balmiki Yadav, Lohit Nath, Divyen Kalia, Suresh Rai, Dr. Jagdish Basumatri, Tarung Sakia with three Sherpas.

Devachan (6200m) Team : West Bengal Leader :  Somnath Mondal (15 members)

The  team established camp at foot of the mountain but could not reach the summit due poor ice conditions. The team climbed up almost on the shoulder of Devachan on 24th August but found the going to be too difficult for them to be successful.

Shivling (6543 m)

1. Team :  West Bengal

Leader : Anand Kumar Mandi (15 members)

This expedition established the base camp at 4880 m near Tapovan in early May. Three camps were established on the mountain. However they could reach only up to 6000 m on the west ridge. They could not negotiate a 60 m high overhanging serac and as it broke they had a narrow escape.

2. Team : British - Spanish Expedition

Leader : Andy Perkins, (Organised by Martin Moran Mountaineering from Scotland) (5 members)

The expedition established base camp on 21st September on the Gangotri glacier wanting to attempt the west ridge of Shivling. They reached 6000 m and found that there was no snow on the ridge and it was difficult and dangerous with avalanche conditions. Leader fell about 40 m using an old fixed rope which broke. Luckily he sustained only severe bruises and was evacuated back to camp. The rain lasted till 25th September and it was very clear after that.

3. Team : Czech expedition

Leader : Pavel Novak (10 members)

This large expedition established itself at the foot of Shivling on 12th September. However continuous bad weather stopped them from proceeding anywhere on the west ridge and the highest they reached was Camp 3 at 6000 m before giving up the climb.

Bhagirathi III (6454 m)

1. Team : Swiss

Leader :  Urs Stocker (3 members)

Expedition reached base camp on 10th of September at 4400 m on the Gangotri glacier. Summit was climbed by the west face by the leader and members Rainer  Treppte and Simon Authamatter.

2. Team : American

Leader  : Dylan Taylor (3 members)

The team intended to attempt the southwest pillar of Bhagirathi III and established an advanced base camp at foot of this mountain on 28th of August. However continuous bad weather and the monsoon rain made them stop climbing and they reached only up to 5850 m.

3. Team : Spanish

Leader : Joan Jover Garcia (3 members)

Attempt by the southwest pillar.

The expedition established the base camp at 4400 m on 7th May 2003 near the Gangotri glacier.  The first attempt was made by early May and they made one bivouac at 5540 m. As one member was tired, they reached up to 5560 m and returned. On the second attempt towards late May, bad weather stopped them at 5730 m. The team failed to climb the route.

Unnamed Peak 6193m near Nandanvan

Team : Polish

Leader : Robert Sieklucki  with Marcinwernik

A two-member team reached base of the mountain on 19th April, too early in the season and as expected they found lots of snow. They were tired trying to attempt this peak. Maximum altitude reached was 5450 m.

Saife (6167 m)

Team : IMF

Leader : Bimal Ch. Goswami (11 members)

This expedition, sponsored by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, left Delhi on 26th May 2003. Travelling From Uttarkashi, Gangotri and Gaumukh they made camp at the foot of the peak, which lies on the Swetvarna glacier. They established three camps by 7th June and 7 members reached the summit of peak Saife 6167 m.  The team returned to Delhi by middle of June.  Those who reached the summit were Manish Barua, Nizammudin, Pyamcha Mohan, Raju Nanth, Nandu Dual Das, K. W. Lingdo and N. R. Yadav.

Chaturangi I (6407m)

Team : West Bengal

Leader :  Subir Mondal

This team from West Bengal climbed Chaturangi I on 17th September. The leader with two high altitude porters reached the summit.

Satopanth (7075 m)

1. Team : French

Leader : Urban Jean-Noel, with Malaherbe Pierre and Grosheitsch Florence

This team climbed the standard route, the northeast ridge to the top. Two members reached the summit on 18th June 2003 from camp at 6000 m straight to the top. The leader, Urban descended the mountain from the summit by skis. They had excellent weather and climbed in the Alpine style.

2. Team : German Austrian

Leader : Ludwick Siegfried (9 members)

The team with 9 other members made base camp at foot of Satopanth on 31st May and established two more camps by 7th June.  However, they reached a maximum height of 6250 m and finding too much snow and dangerous avalanche conditions, gave up the climb.

3. Team : Slovanian - Mongolian Expedition

Leader : Jernej Bevk (6 members)

The team climbed this popular peak on the Gangotri glacier and reached the summit on 4th November 2003 in a 9-hours push. They climbed by northeast ridge route and the summiteers were leader with Kremelj  Sano, Cuder Tine, Blagus Rok.

Meru Shak’s Fin (6450 m)

1. Team : Korean

Leader : Young Sik Park (4 members)

The expedition established the base camp at Tapovan on 29th of May with 4 other members. They wanted to attempt the east face of Meru Shak’s Fin. However due to persistent bad weather they could reach only 6000 m and gave up any further attempt. Two camps were established up to 5900 m.

2. Team : American

Leader : Doug Chabot with Bruce Miller and Conrad Anker

This strong and experienced team reached the foot of the mountain on the Gangotri glacier on 23rd August and tried climbing the mountain till around end of September. However the monsoons progressed and stopped them from proceeding on the mountain. They reached a high point of 5980 m and returned.

Himachal Pradesh

Gangstang (6162 m)

1.Team : From West Bengal

Leader :  T. K. Dey Tapadar (10 members)

This team established a base camp at 14500ft near Keylong in Lahaul. 6 members including the leader and Sanjay Bhowmick, Deprata Dutta, Vikramajit Nath, Tikaram and Sonam

reached the summit on 18th August.

2.Team : From West Bengal

Leader : Tarun Mandal (11 members) The leader with Raju Dutta, T.K. Roy, S. Gole, Surajit Sarkar, Gobin Singh, Jayant Chandra and Alam Thakur  reached  the summit of Gangstang on 20th July 2003.

Koa Rong (6187m)

Team : IMF expedition

Leader : Sorab D. N. Gandhi (9 members)

This peak  lies east of Darcha in the Lahaul-Spiti area of Himachal Pradesh. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation sponsored this expedition. The entire team reached the summit of this peak along with three high altitude porters, on 6th September 2003.

South Parvati (6632m)

Team : West Bengal

Leader :  Naresh Sabarwal

The team attempted this high and difficult peak in month of August to September. They established two camps but found the entire route highly technical and very difficult.  They reached 5430 m and returned.

Losar Valley

Team : Kolkatta

Leader :  Ujjal Ray     (10 members)

The team from Kolkatta climbed in the Losar valley in the Spiti area of Himachal Pradesh. The  first unnamed 6000 m peak  was climbed by Tushar K. Sarkar, Satyajit Shroff, Subrata Mukherjee, Surojit Bhowmick, Rajan Aich and Deb Das Nandi. The summit was reached on 28th August. On 29th August,  Ujjal Ray, Surojit Bhowmick, Satyajit Shroff and Deb Das Nandi climbed peak Dava Kangri, 6140 m.

Manirang (6583 m)

Team : West Bengal

Leader :  N. K. Chatopadhyay (13 members)

The team started from Kolkata on 12th August for this peak on the Spiti- Kinnaur divide. The base camp was established at 5400 m on 21st August and they made two more camps towards the summit reaching 5980 m. However, due to illness of a member, and heavy snowfall the attempt was given up on 27th August.

Rubal Kang (6187 m)

Team : Kolkatta

Leader :  Avijit Banerjee (10 members)

The team started trekking  on 24th August going up the Parvati valley and into Dibibokri nala at the head of which this peak is located. Three camps were established up to 3rd September and on 5th September, 6 members reached the summit. They included the leader with Amit Bhattacharya and Sherpas Nima Gyalzen, Lakpa Chowme and Tashi.

Shiva (6142 m)

Team : Kolkatta

Leader :  Raj Shekhar Ghosh (6 members)

This is a gentle peak situated in Lahaul. This team from Kolkata made three camps from its northern approaches and reached the summit on 26th August 2003. Leader with Arupam and two porters Laxman Singh Rana and Kendru Singh Rana reached the summit.

CB 13 (6264 m)

Team : West Bengal

Leader :  Kaushik Bhatacharya

This is a popular peak in Chandra Bhaga group. The  expedition from West Bengal climbed this 6264 m peak on 1st September. The summiteers were the leader with Binod Kumar Ram and three high altitude porters, Alam Thakur, Krishna Thakur and Mohinder Singh.

Ladakh

Kun (7077 m)

by east ridge

1. Team :  French

Leader  : Monnerat Raymond (10 members)

The expedition established itself at base camp on 5200m at Gulmatang on the Safat nala. Climbing the popular route along the east ridge on 1st August, all members reached the summit from the southeast ridge which is the normal route. They had very clear and excellent weather all throughout.

2.Team : French

Leader : Jean Claude Stalla

The French expedition established camp by mid July at foot of the mountain, but failed to climb the peak due to persistent bad weather. The attempt was given up.

Mashiro Kangri (5367m)

Team : Kolkatta

Leader :  Sandeep Roy Chaudhary

This gentle peak lies to the east of Stok Kangri in Ladakh area. The team established base camp and climbed Mashiro Kangri on 2nd September. The summiteers were Biren Mukherjee, Swapana Dutta and Gaur Das.

Gya (6794 m)

Team : Indian army, 7 / 11 Gorkha Rifles

Leader : Major  Pankaj Singh (20 members)

The peak is located at the tri-junction of Ladakh, Spiti and Tibet and had been climbed three times before: by the Indian army team team  in 1998 (led by Lt Col. A. B. Goth),  the Indian Mountaineering Foundation team in 1999 (led by Motup Chewang) and by the Indo-Tibet Border Police team in 2002. All ascents were by the northwest ridge.

The Indian army team in 2003 also followed the same route and summit was reached on 4 July. The successful climb was led by Capt. S. S. Negi and 9 other soldiers reached the summit. The summiteers were : Capt S S Negi, Rfn Nima Wangdi Sherpa, Rfn Anil Kumar Rai, Rfn Hari Shrestha, Rfn Pradeep Rai, Rfn Daya Man Rai, Rfn Bhakta Bahadur Limbu, Rfn Sangay Tamang, Rfn Suman Kumar Limbu and Lnk  Mohan Rai.

East Karakoram

Argan Kangri (6789 m)

Team : IMF

Leader : Ms. Rita Marwah (9 members)

The IMF sponsored an all ladies expedition to Argan Kangri led by its Vice-President Ms. Rita Gombu Marwah. This 9-member team, accompanied by 4 high altitude Sherpas, successfully climbed this peak on 20th July 2003.  Summiteers were four ladies and four Sherpas:  Ms. P. M. Tamang, Ms. Shushma Thakur, Ms. Kavita Burathoki and Ms. Reena Kaushik with Sherpas  Dawa, Samgyal, Sangepuri and Pasang Dorjee. The expedition operated from 1st to 31st July.

This peak was attempted by the Indo-British expedition in the year 2001, led by Sir Chris Bonington and Harish Kapadia. They failed to climb the mountain. After their expedition Mr Josef Hala, a researcher from Prague, Czech Republic, drew attention to a report about this area.

There is a report of a peak climbed in this area in 1970 by the Indian army. That peak is located on  similar latitude and longitude and height, and it is on  the same glacier.  They called that mountain as ‘Phunangma’ after the name of the glacier at its foot. However, it is not conclusively known as yet whether both peaks are one and the same. Please refer to the following note printed in the Himalayan Journal Vol. 58,which is reproduced here.

From Letter by Mr Josef Hala, in Himalayan Journal Vol. 58, p. 254

Argan Kangri climb 1970

The Himalayan Club Newsletter No. 28, June 1971: (Page 2)

Compiled by Soli S. Mehta

Ladakh

2. PHUNANGMA 22,272 ft. First Ascent

This peak in Ladakh was climbed on 4 August 1970 by Capt. F. C. Bahaduri, Nk. S. K. Thapa, Nk. S. Tashi, Hav. S. S. Bhandari and two Sherpas. Capt. N. K. Kalia, Nk. P. Stobdon and a porter again climbed the peak on 5 August 1970. Maj. R. C. Naidu led the expedition.

Also mentioned in Ichiro Yoshizawa (670 pages) Concise Alphabetical Register of World Mountains, published in Tokyo, 1984.

PHUNANGMA 6788 (5186) 34 degree 35 N and 77 degree 50 E

(Argan Kangri is of height of  6789 m with similar co-ordinates as the above peak. It must be noted that there are several peaks in the area within these  co-ordinates but not of similar height.)

– Ed

Saser Kangri  I (7672 m) and  IV (7364 m)

Team :           Indian Navy

Leader :         Cdr Satyabrata Dam

Period :          Aug – Sep 2003

Peak Climbed: Saser Kangri IV (7364 m) was climbed by Lt Amit Pande, Surg Lt Viking Bhanoo, MCERA Rajkumar and Sange Puri on 22nd September 2003 and by Cdr S Dam and Pema on 23rd September. The team reached around 7300 m on Saser Kangri I, before giving up the attempt due to extreme objective hazards and inclement weather.

Details: The Indian Navy team flew in to Leh on 26th August and after initial acclimatisation reached the road head of Panamik on 30th. The opening of trail along the Phukpoche Lungpa commenced on 31st August. Several loads of vital equipment were lost on the way to Base Camp. The team established Base Camp on 4th September at 4750 m close to the camp sights of earlier expeditions. It was late for climbing in East Karakoram and the place was intensely cold that only worsened as the days progressed. Following the cairns placed by the earlier teams, the Indian Navy team established ABC at 5360 m on the central moraine of South Phukpoche glacier on 8th September. The weather was very bad and remained so for the entire expedition. They opened route through the crevasse-infested glacier, facing zero visibility  and avalanches over the next four days and established C1 at 5880 m on 12th September. Avalanches from the Plateau peak and the Saser west face constantly besieged C1. One massive avalanche passed over C1, burying tents and equipment on 13th. The route opening through the dreaded west ridge and rock band took a tremendous effort from the team, and finally the route was opened on 18th September. C2 was established on the ice field beyond west ridge at 7000 m on 20th September. Immediately, the team started further route opening for Saser Kangri I ridge and to their utter dismay, they discovered a  huge crevasse field above C2, directly on the way to the Col that leads to the ridge. This was the crux of the climb to Saser Kangri I. The team managed to reach around 7300 m at the Col, before abandoning the attempt due to very severe objective hazards and extremely bad weather. The heavy deposit of soft snow made them sink till the waist. As the weather continued to be bad, it was decided to attempt Saser IV first and then, weather permitting, attempt Saser I.

On 22nd September, Amit Pande, Bhanoo, Rajkumar and Sange, took a little under 4 hours to reach the top of Saser Kangri IV. Satyabrata Dam and Pema climbed Saser IV on 23rd and they descended to C1 on the same day. The second team came up and occupied C2 for attempting Saser IV on 24th. But soon the weather deteriorated rapidly with  a severe blizzard and the second team was asked to come down. They had many close calls but managed to reach C1 in zero visibility on 24th and the entire team reassembled later at ABC the same day. On 25th September, the team returned to BC.

The ‘Bailey Trail’ : A trek in Arunachal Pradesh A team of three  (Harish Kapadia, Dr Kamal Limdi and Huzefa Electricwala) trekked in the rarely  frequented valleys of  Arunachal Pradesh, northeast India. They visited Bum La on the Tibetan border and Zimithang and Lumpho.  These were the areas along the McMahon Line where the 1962 Indo-China war was fought with disastrous results. In the second half of the trip they undertook a 22-day long trek going along the old Bailey Trail of 1913 from Thembang  to near the Tibetan frontier. This was the trail pioneered by Lt. Col. F.M. Bailey and Capt. H.T. Morshead in 1913. H W Tilman followed part of this route in 1938 when he was looking for views of Kangto and Gorichen peaks. One of his Sherpas unfortunately died due to an attack of malaria and he too suffered severely from it. The forest around the trail was magnificent starting from rain forests, which went up to high altitudes. The views of mountains, which were available only in the mornings, were beautiful. The team could see Kangto (7042 m) a huge mountain rising on the horizon on several occasions. Kangto is the only peak above 7000 m in Arunachal Pradesh (as per latest maps) and the highest in the Indian Eastern Himalaya. Gorichen group of peaks were seen from different angles. They reached two points, Pt 4640 m and Pt. 4983 m near Tse La pass from Pota.

The area now welcomes trekkers and visitors. It does not have  many facilities and it is best to visit for trekking  during September to November, as otherwise it rains/snows or is foggy.

Permits and Rules for entry

The entire areas of Arunachal Pradesh remain under the “inner line”, the imaginary line drawn on the map, which requires permission for visitors to cross.  At present, the rules are as under:

1.  Any Indian national, on producing minimum proof, is granted 7-day permission to visit Arunachal Pradesh in the open area. This permit can be extended for every 7 days as desired. Naturally for a long trek or an expedition a special permit has to be obtained from Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh. This is easily given and on payment of small fee.

  1. For foreigners, a group of a minimum of four foreigners can visit Arunachal Pradesh for travel or trek.  The current fees are $50 for a period of 10-days, which can be renewed for another 10-days for a trek.  Generally, it is expected that the foreigners would go  through some travel agent registered in Arunachal Pradesh. There are no restrictions on photography (except army areas) and they are allowed to visit open areas in the state.
Other Events
The year started with celebrations of the completion of 75 the year of the Himalayan Club,  at its headquarters at Mumbai. Several lectures and discussions were held. President of UIAA, Ian McNaught Davis and Robert Pettigrew participated from UK while Hiroshi Sakai and Tamotsu Nakamura represented Japanese Alpine Club. They climbed Kalsubai, 1646 m, the highest peak in the Sahyadri Range (the Western Ghats) near Mumbai to start the celebrations. The party then travelled to Kumaun  for three wonderful days, walking and enjoying the great range – a truly Himalayan celebration.

The Himalayan Club covering history of the Club and Himalayan exploration produced a special CD-Rom titled ‘Such A Long Journey’. It contains text from the Himalayan Journal and many historic photos. (Copies available at nominal contribution from the Club).

The 50th year of the first ascent of Everest was celebrated in New Delhi in presence of Sir Ed Hillary and the Prime minister of India. Several awards were presented.

One of the books  published in India that merits attention is Spies in the Himalaya (Capt. M. S. Kohli and Kenneth Conboy). It recalls unknown episodes in the 1960s when Americans tried to set up a nuclear device on summit of Nanda Devi. It was never found and created a huge political controversy.  Land of Early Dawn, Northeast India by Romesh Bhattacharji covers the unknown areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Sherpas  - The Himalayan Legends (Capt. M. S. Kohli) records life of many Sherpa climbers in India. A study of the early Tibetan expeditions  called Tibetan Wars through Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal, by Col. M. N. Gulati recalls the Younghusband expedition of 1904 and the history associated with it. But Bill Aitken provides the best references to the Indian Himalaya in Footloose in the Himalaya, a delightful book about the author’s travels in those  delightful parts of the lower Himalaya that climbers often tend to forget about.

Later in the year Her Majesty the Queen awarded the  ‘Patron’s Medal’ of the Royal Geographical Society to Harish Kapadia for his Himalayan explorations, writing and editing. Only one other Indian has received this honour –Pundit Nain Singh in 1877, exactly 125 year ago. The award was presented to him at the RGS, London,  on 2nd June 2003, day of  the 50th anniversary of the Coronation and in the 50th year of  the first ascent of Everest.

The member’s List of the Alpine Club carries a page dedicated to “The Roll of Honour of the Alpine Club” in memory of those who had sacrificed their life in First and Second World Wars. Taking a cue from this the Himalayan Club held a memorial service at the army cantonment at Almora during the visit to Kumaun to remember old member-soldiers. The Gorkha Battalion of the Indian Army conducted an impressive ceremony at the army memorial under pine trees and with a view of Nanda Devi as a backdrop.  As the buglers sounded the Last Post all present were deeply moved. The power of peace, Himalaya and sacrifice was evident.

Deaths on Panch Chuli peaks

Celebrations turned into mourning at the 24th Battalion Headquarters of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police at Mirthi as all nine members of an ITBP mountaineering team were killed in an avalanche on 20th September 2003  while returning after successfully scaling Panch Chuli II (6904 m).

The expedition which started on  29  August  had scaled the peak on same day. However, they were trapped in an avalanche and were swept away around 1230 p.m.  By late evening, all the nine bodies had been recovered by ITBP rescue teams which proceeded  to the site in  bad weather. Despite two sorties by helicopters at Dharchula, the bodies could not be brought back for next 2 days.

The mountaineers whose bodies had been found include Ishwar Singh Dhuvan, Commandant of the battalion, Sange Sherpa of the 4th Battalion, Tasi Ram of 1st Battalion, Angchuk Dorje of 23rd Battalion, Yograj of 24th Battalion, Satanzein Loshal of 17th Battalion and two porters, Pasang  Dorje Sherpa and Dawa Sherpa. Bodies of  S.D. Sharma, Commandant of 15th Battalion and Sanjay Roy of 14th Battalion were not recovered. Sharma was an outstanding mountaineer who had climbed Kangchenjunga from the east, Everest and many other peaks and there were 4 Everest  summiteers amongst the dead.

The team was following the route from the western  approaches which is guarded by a ferocious icefall. The route was opened in 1992 by  the Indo-British team (Sir Chris Bonington and Harish Kapadia) when they climbed the main peak with several other  ascents.

Within a few days of  this tragedy, another mountaineer was killed and four were injured while returning after successfully climbing the same peak on 4th October. These mountaineers were from the Kumaun Regiment  of the  Indian army who had climbed to the summit from the eastern approaches. While they were returning after scaling the peak a fixed  rope on which they were descending snapped killing one.