Indian Himalaya: Climbing and Other News - 2004


Harish Kapadia

While the world is opening its doors to mountaineers and mountain lovers, the news from the new Uttaranchal state in India are distressing. The state contains some of the most beautiful areas in the Indian Himalaya with peaks like Nanda Devi, Kamet, Shivling and several others.  The Uttaranchal State has imposed severe restrictions on climbing and imposed special royalty charges for mountaineers to pay. (Minimum US $ 1400) This is addition to charges payable to the Indian  Mountaineering Foundation. Moreover a special and separate permission (red tape!) is to be obtained from the officials in the state, forest department and local authorities. At least half the number of porters must be employed from local villages and each village is to be paid a fee as you trek through. The forest department is to be paid a special fee to camp on their land. The Indian mountaineers and trekkers are also not spared and for the first time Indian teams will have to pay peak fees to climb a peak in their country. After much discussions, negotiations and protests, which were brushed aside, the state government has decided to impose these rules from 2005 season. Please check full details, rates and addresses for formalities on the website www.indmount.org.

Expeditions to the Indian Himalaya   2004

Foreign expeditions

There was a marginal increase in number of foreign expeditions to the Indian Himalaya – 40 teams compared to 35 teams that climbed last year. Ladakh  area received 14 expeditions, mostly to the Nun-Kun massif and many to Stok Kangri – an easy walk up to 6000 m opposite Leh. Stok Kangri now has the reputation to be most climbed 6000 m peak in the world !

The Kumaun range received 5 teams and best climbs were achieved  here. Martin Moran (UK) continued his love affair with the Indian Himalaya and made a fine ascent of Chiring We (6559 m) climbed 25 years ago. The British climbed Adi Kailash and made many fine ascents nearby. Saf Minal (6911 m ), on the edge of the Northern Nanda Devi Sanctuary,  was climbed by an American-British team. The ascent was  after a long gap, having been climbed by the  Japanese team in 1975.

The Gangotri area continued to remain most popular with 10 teams climbing there and adjoining Garhwal received 6 teams. Peaks like Thalay  Sagar, Arwa Spire and Bhagirathi continued to  attract mountaineers.

Lastly in the Himachal Pradesh easy peaks like Manali Peak, Friendship and KR group were climbed several times. A two-,member British team climbed in the Miyar nala of Lahaul. An Indo-British team trekked in relatively unknown areas of the Pangi valleys of Lahaul.  Visiting less frequented valleys they crossed high passes and brought back memorable photos for reference  for future climbers.

Indian Expeditions

Totally 65 expeditions from India climbed in the range. West Bengal led in numbers with 42 teams followed by 10 teams from Maharashtra. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation organized 4 expeditions  (two all women teams). Uttaranchal received 35 teams, followed by the Himachal Pradesh with 26 and Ladakh 3 and Sikkim 1.

The major event for the Indian Himalaya was exploration of the Tsangpo-Siang Bend from the southern approaches. A team of three Indians made a route through thick forest of the Arunachal Pradesh and reached the Line of Control, between India and China, where the Tsangpo enters India to be called the Siang. The same river is called Brahmaputra as it  flows into  the plains  of Assam. The full exploration of the Tsangpo gorge was thus completed.

An Indian army team climbed Kangchenjunga from Nepal  and flagged off the celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of the first ascent of the peak to be held in 2005.

Select expeditions to the Indian Himalaya in 2004

SIKKIM

Tingchenkang (6010 m)

Expedition: The Himalayan Club, Kolkatta Section

Leader: AVM. A. K. Bhattacharyya (retd)

Result: Trekking through the valleys of Sikkim, the team established the base camp at 4200 m on Peck chu. Two more camps were established on the Tingcehnkang glacier and the summit was reached via the northern face (a new route)  on 6th November in extreme cold conditions. Subrata Chakraborty and Pasang Phuter  Sherpa reached the summit. The first recorded ascent was in 1998 by the Indo-British Territorial Armies team by the west ridge. .

GARHWAL

Adi Kailash (5925 m)

An international team of climbers led by Andy Perkins and Martin Welch has made the first ascent of Adi (also known as Chota or Little) Kailash in the Kumaun Himalaya.  The mountain is located close to both the Tibetan and Nepali borders of India in the restricted inner line area, and is revered due to its similarity to the famous holy mountain of Kailash in nearby Tibet.

This guided expedition organised by Martin Moran Mountaineering also made the first ascent of a nearby mountain they named Nikarchu Qilla (The Fortress of Nikarchu) at 5750 m, and C S Pandey, on the 27th September with just 1 porter and no technical gear apart from 1 ice axe crossed the Shin la from Jolingkong to Bedang.

Andy Perkins (UK), Tim Woodward (UK), Jason Hubert (Scotland), Paul Zuchowski (USA), Martin Welch (Scotland), Diarmid Hearns (Scotland), Jack Pearse (UK) and Amanda George (Scotland) made the first ascent of Adi Kailash by the SW ridge on the 8th October 2004 in perfect weather in 7 hours from their ABC at 5400m.  The standard of the route was around alpine PD+/AD-.  Out of respect to local sensitivities, the team stopped a few meters short of the summit, and no fixed rope was left on the route.

Welch, Woodward, Hearns, Pearse, George and Gustavo Fierro-Carrion (Ecuador) also made the first ascent of Nikarchu Qilla (5750m), which is located 3 km NE of the unclimbed Nikurch Rama (5995m).  This alpine style ascent was made by the SW face from a camp at 5200m at alpine F in about 7 hours, and the team also stopped a few metres below the summit.

Arwa Spire (6193m)

Expedition: German

Leader: Thomas Huber

Period: September-October 2004.

Result: This four member German team attempted now popular peaks of Arwa Spire in Central Garhwal. They followed the west ridge and despite some poor weather, on 28th September 2004, Thomas Huber with Alexander Huber and Peter Auzenferger reached the summit.

Bhagirathi III (6454m)

Expedition: German / French

Leader: Walter Hoelzler

Period: April-June 2004.

Result: The team climbed two routes on Bhagirathi III, first by west pillar on 19th May and by north ridge on 20th May. Summiteers on the west  pillar route were Walter Hoelzler and  Joerg Pflugmacher. Jerome Blanc-Gras, Christopher Blanc-Gras, Lionel Deborde and  Philippe Albouy reached the summit by north ridge.

Chandra Parvat (6728 m)

Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Arupam Das

Period: September- October 2004.

Result: The team of seven members attempted the peak and reached 17500 ft on 1st October, which was their camp II. They had established base camp at Vasuki tal. Due to heavy snow they could not proceed beyond camp II.

Chaturangi I (6407 m)

1. Expedition: German

Leader: Joachim Gnoyke

Period: September 2004.

Result: This four member team had excellent weather climbing in September and the summit was reached on 13th by  Joachim Gnoyke, Nadine Bagnoud, Mathieu Aste and 2 local high altitude porters.

2. Expedition: German

Leader: Frieder Kaseberg

Period: August-September 2004.

Result: The large German team comprising of 15 members operated in the Gangotri area on this well-known peak. Seven members reached up to 5947 m on 4th September when the climb was given up.

Chaturangi IV (6304 m)

Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Ms. Jayanti Chaudhuri

Period: September-October 2004.

Result: All peaks of this group are very inviting to climb and are situated on the Gangotri glacier. The team comprised of five members climbed Chaturangi IV on 21st September and the summit was reached by Kalisadhan Ghatak and Tarun Dutta with two high altitude porters.

Chaukhamba  III (6974 m)  and IV (6853 m)

Expedition: Indian (Nehru Institute of Mountaineering)

Leader: Col. Ashok Abbey

Period: June-July 2004

Result: This was the first attempt on these unclimbed peaks. The team consisted of instructors from the Institute. A high point of 6300 m on the western flank was reached on 8 July. The weather conditions were generally poor.

Chiring We (6599 m)

Expedition:  British

Leader: Martin Moran

Period: September 2004

Result: Chiring We is situated at the head of the Kalabaland glacier and is not frequently visited by mountaineers. The first ascent was achieved in 1979 by a team from Mumbai under the leadership of Harish Kapadia. The twelve members team led by Martin Moran completed the second ascent after twenty five years.  They followed the west ridge (route of first ascent) after establishing four camps above base camp and the summit was reached on 26th September. The nine summiteers were Martin Moran, Alex Moran, Jonathan Preston, Liam Warren, Paul Watson, Stuart Reid, Christopher Wheatley, Geoffrey Dawson and Christopher Harle.

Januhut (6805 m)

Expedition: British / New Zealand

Leader: Malcom Neal Bass

Period: September-October 2004.

Result: This unclimbed peak near Chaukhamba I was attempted by the British-New Zealand team. They were climbing in the post monsoon season. Following the southwest ridge they reached the height of 6400 m on 10th November. However at that point, heavy snowfall of early winter caught them unawares and they had to retreat.

Kalanka (6931 m)

Expedition: American

Leader: Carlos Buhler

Period: April-June 2004.

Result: The American climber Carlos Buhler continued his affair with this group of peaks. He was on Changabang and now he is concentrating on the peak of Kalanka. They were attempting this peak in pre monsoon season by the north face. Unfortunately they encountered serious bad weather and snowfall, which could have avalanched.  They reached 6075 m on 30th May. They were a three-member team with the leader Carlos Buhler, John M. Lyall and Sandy Allan and all three climbers reached the high point.

Kamet (7756 m) and Abi Gamin (7355 m)

Expedition: Indian

Leader: Samir Sengupta

Period: May-June 2004.

Result: This large team from Bengal comprising of fifteen members, five Sherpas and four high altitude porters climbed both the peaks on 29th May 2004. The route followed on Kamet was from the northeast face and Abi Gamin via the west ridge. Both mountains were climbed an hour apart on the same day, from the common last camp. The summiteers who reached the top of Kamet were Samrat Basu, Dawa Sherpa, Thukpa Sherpa and Na Dorjee Sherpa. The summiteers who reached the top of Abi Gamin were Prodyut Bhattacharjee, Sandip Roy, Nima Sherpa, Debender Singh Rana, and Shohan S. Martholiya.

Kedarnath (6968 m)

Expedition: Japanese

Leader: Yosuke Narisue

Period: August-September 2004.

Result: The Japanese team of 5 members attempted the normal route on Kedarnath. Not using any high altitude support, members on their own ferried the luggage and reached 4400 m by the normal route. By then, they were too tired to continue further.

Mana Northwest (7092 m)

Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Arupam Das

Period: June 2004.

Result: A team of eight members from Bengal attempted this subsidiary peak of Mana in Central Garhwal. The peak is situated near Kamet. The members after establishing camp reached 6900m on 21st June following through Purvi Kamet glacier.

The team members feel that the height of Mana Northwest is not 7092 m as traditionally believed, but actually it is around 6900 m or in the vicinity of the point that they have reached. They also write in their report that the claim of climb of Mana Northwest by the Indo-Japanese team in 1995 needs to be looked into in view of the change in height and the route.

Meru (6660 m) and Shivling (6543 m)

Expedition: Japanese

Leader:  Hiroyoshi Manome

Period: August-October 2004.

Result: This five members Japanese team in different pairs attempted both the peaks in post monsoon area. In the early stages of the expedition one member had a serious fall and was hurt in his leg. All the members helped in the rescue but some equipment was lost. Later they attempted Meru reaching 5850m on 3rd September by the northeast face. Another team reached 5900m on Shivling on 4th September attempting the west face. They had to give up the further climb.

Parvati Parvat (6257 m)

Expedition: Indian (Indian Mountain-

eering Foundation)

Leader: Lovraj Singh Dharamshaktu

Period: September 2004.

Result: The ten members team approached the peak from the south via the Panpatia Bamak. On 17th September, Nadre and Balwant with three high altitude porters reached the col between Nilkanth and Parvati Parbat. From the col they climbed the east ridge to a high point in whiteout conditions. They placed a snow stick there and returned. On 21st September, the leader with Ashish, Deepesh, Surender and Umesh with two high altitude porters reached the same high point in clearer weather and could see two more tops (estimated 100 m higher). They could not reach any of them.

Saf Minal (6911 m)

Expedition: American / British

Leader: John Varko

Period: September-October 2004.

Result: A two-member team of John Varko and Ian Parnell climbed the northwest ridge of this high peak situated on the northern rim of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.  The summit was reached on 6th October. They had excellent weather, except for four days. This  American British team has made one of the best ascents in this season in the Indian Himalaya.

Shivling (6543 m)

Expedition:  Spanish

Leader: Simon Elias

Period: April – June 2004

Result: Despite having a long time to attempt this peak; due to very poor snow conditions and snow fall above camp I this six members team could reach up to 5700 m only. They were attempting the west ridge. Like many other expeditions now coming to Garhwal, they faced problems of permits from Uttaranchal Forest Department and had to pay extra fees despite having all the permissions from Delhi and the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.

Sudarshan Parvat (6507 m)

1. Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader : Biswadeb Ghosh

Period: June 2004.

Result: The peak rising above the Gangotri glacier was climbed on 19th of June by the popular east ridge. The summiteers from this ten members team were Dalip Sahoo, Dev Jyoti Datta and 4 high altitude porters.

2. Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Partha Majumder

Period: May June 2004

Result: On 27th May, three members of the team with their two high altitude porters could reach up to 6470 m on the northeast face of the mountain.

Thalay Sagar (6904 m)

1. Expedition: International

Leader: Stephan Siegrist

Period: August-October 2004.

Result: This strong Swiss-American-German climbing team of six members climbed the northwest buttress route to reach the summit on 27th September. Summiteers were Thomas Senf, Dennis Burdet, Ralf Weber and the leader. They encountered excellent weather throughout the ascent.

2. Expedition: Korean

Leader: Kim Hyung II

Period: August-September 2004.

Result: The Korean team comprising of four members attempted the formidable north face of this peak. However, continuous snowfall and sickness of some members stopped them quite lower down the mountain and the high point of only around 6000 m was reached on 14th September.

Yogeshwar (6617 m)

Expedition: Indian (Maharashtra)

Leader: Chandrashekar Shirsat

Period: May-June 2004.

Result: The Indian team comprising of six members attempted this peak from Shyamvarna valley in May and June 2004. After establishing camps on the glacier they reached 6250 m on June 1. Gautam Raut, Datta Chalke and Rajendra Shinde were the members who reached this high point.

HIMACHAL PRADESH

First Ascent of Khhang Shiling (6360 m)

A three-member team sponsored by The Himalayan Club made the first ascent of Khhang Shiling (6360 m – 20866 ft) on 19th September 2004 assisted by Sherpa Lakhpa Bhote. (“Khhang Shiling” means – Snow Mountain of four ridges). The team consisted of Divyesh Muni, Vineeta Muni and Shripad Sapkal. They explored the Khamengar valley in Spiti, a rarely visited area in Himachal Pradesh. The peak Khhang Shiling is a prominent mountain at the head of the Khamengar valley.

They approached from Mikkim near Kaja to reach base camp (4320 m) in three days. ABC was  located  at 5160 m.  We established Camp I at 5880 m in a basin formed between a large rock feature and the Shigri Parvat massif

Climbing  along the glacier until a bergschrund below the col between Shigri Parvat and Khhang Shiling they dumped equipment there. Next day fixing three rope-lengths, they were at the top by 1.30 p.m.

The party returned via the Pin Parvati pass to Kullu.

CB – 9 (6108 m) (Lahaul)

Expedition: Indian (Indian Mountai-

neering Foundation)

Leader: I. D. Sharma

Period: August 2004.

Result: This nine members IMF sponsored expedition approached their peak in the Milang glacier after establishing 3 camps above the base camp. On 25th August, bad weather and technical difficulties stopped the attempt at 5600 m.

CB-13 (6264 m) (Lahaul)

Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Pijush Kanti Das

Period: July-August 2004.

Result: A twelve members team from Bengal climbed this popular peak in summer. They followed the traditional route and established two camps on the mountain. The peak was climbed on 27th July by Samar Prasad, Mithun Talukdar, Biplab Mondal with Sonam Rana (high altitude porter).

CB-14 (6078 m) (Lahaul)

Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Anal Das

Result: On 19th of August, the peak was climbed by Swaraj Ghosh, Ajoy Mondal, Subrata Banerjee, Sanjay Ghosh, Moloy Mukherjee, Arindam Mukherjee with three high altitude porters. They followed the west ridge to the summit.

On their approach to the mountain this large team comprising of fourteen members located the wreckage of a plane, which had crashed here in 1968. They reported the matter to the nearest authorities and in a large recovery effort many parts of the plane were brought back and a major mystery was thus solved.

Dharamsura (6445 m)

Expedition: Indian (Indian Mountai-

neering Foundation)

Leader: Ms. Deepu Sharma

Period: July-August 2004.

Result: This all women team comprising of ten members climbed Dharamsura (also known as White Sail), on 14th August via east ridge. The summiteers were Nari Dhami, Asmita, Chandra Bisht, Bhuvneshwari Thakur and Krishna Thakur.

Indrasan (6221 m)

Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Basanta Singha Roy

Period: August-September 2004.

Result: On  30th August, leader with three high altitude porters reached the summit of Indrasan. This was the first ascent by Indian team of this formidable peak (Two Indians with a French team climbed Indrasan in 1989 – Ref. NL 43 page 26). They followed the east ridge to the summit. The expedition operated in August-September and the team consisted of four members.

KR – 7 (6096 m) (Lahaul)

Expedition: Polish

Leader: Adam Sredniawa

Period: July-September 2004.

Result: The Polish team of eight members climbed East Ridge in three different ascents. Summit was reached on 16th, 17th and 22nd August. All climbers reached the top.

Menthosa (6443 m)

Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Bikash Roy

Period: August-September 2004.

Result: This is a high peak in Pangi valley in Lahaul. It was climbed by Japanese and Indian teams in the past following a route from the Urgus pass and then going to an ice wall to the summit.  This large team comprising of twelve members, two Sherpas and two high altitude porters reached above camp II on 1st September through Urgus pass but could not establish camp III, which was to be their summit camp. They reached 19200 ft on the mountain.

Phawararang (6349 m) (Kinnaur)

1. Expedition: Indian (Maharashtra)

Leader: Dhananjay Bhagat

Period: August-September 2004.

Result: This is the peak situated in little known valley of Kinnaur.  The circumambulation route of Kinnaur Kailash passes at its foot.  The team comprising of nine members reached there in early August and the summit was reached on 31st August. They followed the north ridge and Dhananjay Bhagat with guide Manoj reached the summit.

2. Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader: Chanchal Bhaduri

Period: September-October 2004.

Result: This eleven members Indian team had some strange experiences with the bureaucracy. In spite of having permissions from the IMF they were not allowed to go beyond base camp at Zonikanda (4250m). The local army and the Indo-Tibet Border Authorities refused permission to proceed on 20th September.

Unnamed Peaks (6240 m, 6100 m) (Spiti valley, northeast of Parang la)

Expedition: Indian (Bengal)

Leader : Ujjal Ray

Period: August-September 2004.

Result: The team comprising of twelve members from Bengal climbed both these peaks, situated in the Pakshi Lamur river basin of Spiti valley. They approached the peaks after crossing Parang la and established their base camp near the confluence of Pare Chu and Pakshi Lamur Nala. Peak 6240 m was climbed on 28th August by Surojit Bhowmick, Debdas Nandy,Subhabrata Mukherjee, Dipankar Ghosh and Rajib Bhattacharjee via the west ridge. Peak 6100 m was climbed on 29th August by Ujjal Ray, Surojit Bhowmick, Satyajit Shaw, Dipankar Ghosh, Rajendar Aich via the south west face.

LADAKH – ZANSKAR

Harong (6210 m)

Expedition: Japanese

Leader: Masato Oki

Period: August-September 2004.

Result: The Japanese team comprising of seven members attempted the east face of this gentle peak near the Pangong lake, Ladakh. On 18th August Hideho Masudu, Sherpa Pem Tsering and Sherpa Sangay Pun reached the top.

Nun (7135 m) and Kun (7077 m)

These popular peaks in Zanskar were climbed by large expeditions in July and August.

Each peak received two ascents by French, American and Swiss teams.

Exploring the Tsangpo Gorge from south

The romance of exploration of the Tsangpo gorge had puzzled geographers for centuries. The Tsangpo  (as it is called in Tibet) originates near  Lake Manasarovar at foot of Kailash. Flowing east across the Tibetan plateau its progress is blocked by Namcha Barwa and Gyala Peri massif and the river takes a huge turn between these peaks called the ‘Great Tsangpo Bend’. Here onwards the Tsangpo descends steeply towards south from the Tibetan plateau to the Himalayan divide leading to the McMahon Line and India.

As the river enters the Indian territory (Arunachal Pradesh) at 580 m it takes a ‘S’  loop, the ‘Tsangpo/Siang Bend’. In Arunachal Pradesh it is called by different names like the Siang and Dihang and is joined by various tributaries. On reaching the Assam plains it is joined by the Dibang and Lohit rivers and onwards river is called Brahmaputra river.

A three member team, Harish Kapadia, Motup Chewang and Wing Cdr. V K Sashindran travelled from the Brahmaputrain the Assam valley, along the Siang river to the Tsangpo Gorge where it enters the Indian territory. Thus they completed the exploration of this mighty river which had started in 1715. Though the ‘Great Tsangpo Bend’ in the north (Pemako area in Tibet) was explored, but the ‘ S ‘ bend at the border of India-China was not reached due to inhospitable terrain.  After the 1962 war with China the area was out of bounds. Now in 2004 a team of three Indians reached it from the Indian side, the entry point of the river into India, thus completing the final exploration of the Tsangpo.

Death

N. S. Thapa was a leading film producer and cameraman for the Films Division of India. He made several documentaries on Himalayan subjects since 1950s, when such an art was a novelty in India.  Earlier he had served in the Burma  War. He received many prizes and became a confidante of the Nehru-Gandhi family, assisting them in film making. But his main love remained the Himalayan range. Thapa passed away in 2004 in Mumbai.

Books

Few publications from India were worth noting. Capt. M. S. Kohli published his autobiography titled One More Step covering his illustrious career in the Himalaya and in the Navy.

J B Auden A Centenary Tribute was published by the Geological Survey of India paying tributes to this foremost Geologist in early part of the  last century. And towards end of the year came Adventure Travels in the Himalaya by John Jackson   covering his life time of travels and climbs in the range.

Save Siachen

The war-torn Siachen Glacier remains peaceful due to a lasting ceasefire. But the soldiers continue to die as they stay put at heights. Pollution is still there and the shrinking glacier is a warning for disaster. A conference, chaired by Dr Saleem Ali, a young professor from the US, was held in Mumbai. It considered various proposals and means to protect the glacier. Political talks, between India and Pakistan are moving, albeit slowly, towards a peaceful solution.

And finally

A new photographic book by J. Ramanan  titled Joy of the Himalaya covers the range with beautiful pictures.  The author has  used digital merging of the Himalayan pictures with other subjects, a controversial topic. The photographer states clearly that these photos are merged and mixed up. For example  Kamet  peak on top will have beach of Kerala at the bottom in the same picture.  Gangotri’s Shivling peak will have horses riding on the Chennai race course  in the frame, well merged to create a visual impact. Similarly a peak in the Sikkim will be shown rising about the Indus in Ladakh. Take your pick whether this new technology is a welcome addition or a monster or simply a shape of things to come ? You can be projected  on the summit of Everest with fields of the Lake District, or for that matter Tower of London at its foot !