Indian Himalaya: Climbing and Other News - 2005


Harish Kapadia

Overall 46 Foreign and 47 Indian expeditions climbed in the Indian Himalaya during the year. This was overall, a lower figure than the normal number of expeditions during  a year. Amongst the foreign expeditions, more that half climbed the  usual peaks like Kun, Kedar Dome, Nun and others.  Many of the expeditions  faced bad weather in mid September and some had to give  up due to poor snow and ice conditions in early October. Amongst the high peaks attempted, Changabang and Kamet, now open for foreigners, and Nanda Devi East were important ascents. The leader of the Italian expedition to Nanda Devi East, Marco Dalla Longa lost his life due to high altitude oedema. The team had carried a satellite phone (supposed to be illegal!), which could have saved his life as a helicopter rescue was arranged. However, as the luck would have it, the helicopter took four days to reach due to bad weather and by that time he had lost his life. His body and the entire team were ultimately evacuated to Munsiary  and then Delhi.

Many expeditions complained of problems in Uttaranchal State, where the Government has imposed a stiff new climbing  fee structure. Apart from paying additional fees, there seems to be much confusion regarding approach routes (only nominated approach routes are allowed), various permits (forest department, Government of Uttaranchal and IMF) and the permit procedures (from various authorities at Dehra Dun, Delhi and locally). This dampened much of the climbing enthusiasm for many.

In a most remarkable self-rescue, a team led by Peter Takeda was trapped high on Nanda Kot in an ice cave in a crevasse  following an avalanche and. They survived a few tense hours and drilled a hole in the ice wall to manage a self-rescue.  An American two-member team of John Varco and Ms. Sue Nott achieved an excellent climb of Kamet in fine Alpine style.  They quickly and safely reached the summit. However they reported much garbage left by the previous expeditions and opined that this high mountain, which is popular, should be attempted by lighter size of expeditions only.

An Indo-American expedition led by Divyesh Muni and Donald J. Goodman enjoyed themselves climbing several unnamed peaks in the Satti nala in the Eastern Karakoram. This was a successful expedition, which climbed many virgin peaks and demonstrated how a mixed team could climb good and safe routes and come back happily.

Of 47 Indian expeditions, many were to routine peaks.  There were attempts on peaks in Spiti, like Khangla Tarbo and Yunam in Lahaul and Sanakdank Jot. And there were attempts on difficult peaks like Papsura.  However, the tragic news was the death of several Indian mountaineers on different peaks. In  a major accident of its kind, Dr. P. M. Das with Inder Kumar and Ms. Nari Dhami, died on the peak of Chomoyummo with two Sherpas.   Five of them lost their lives in an avalanche, each of them an experienced mountaineer with Inder Kumar and Ms. Nari Dhami having climbed Everest in the past.  In another expedition where unfortunately no reports are available, five army men are reported to have died on peak Chaukhamba I in an avalanche. They were from the Air Defence Regiment of the Indian Army. An IMF ladies expedition to Papsura, (in the Manali area) was successful. However one of their members, Malabi Das was too exhausted and after reaching the higher camp she collapsed and died. This was a tragic example of loss of human life, due to strong summit ambitions . Along with two porters who died on the Gangotri glacier these brought the total number of deaths in Indian Himalaya this year to 13, which is disproportionately high in number.

Overall though an active year,  it was marred by tragedies and quite simply covered by more attempts on  easier peaks than on challenging ones. In a seminar towards the end of the year there were suggestions to have some organized rescue facilities, accident insurance and allow satellite phones and GPS and revamp the entire fee structure. But no one know when this will be done !

The IMF elected a new President, Mr. H. P. S. Ahluwalia in November for a term of two years. Maj. Ahluwalia who climbed the summit of Everest in 1965 is an experienced mountaineer and organizer and he leads a newly elected team of Governing Council at the IMF.

SIKKIM

Chomoyummo (6829 m)

This was a high profile expedition of 9 members, organised by The Indian Mountaineering Foundation   led by Dr P M  Das who was  Vice-President of the IMF. The team included two Everest summiteers and 4 experienced Sherpas. The peak is situated in North Sikkim, a relatively unvisited area.

While attempting the summit, the party was caught in an avalanche and were hurled down the slope. They got entangled in the rope they were tied to. In all 5 climbers died while two survived with serious injuries.

The climbers who perished on the mountain were: Dr P. M. Das, Inder Kumar, Ms. Nari Dhami (these two had summitted Everest), Dawa Sherpa and Dawa Wangchuk., Sherpas from the Sonam Gyasto Mountaineering School at Gangtok.

Unfortunately available details are sketchy as all leading members died on the mountain.

Dr P M Das, apart from being the  Vice-President of the IMF, was Hon. Local Secretary of the Himalayan Club for Punjab. Hailing from Guwahati, Assam he was brilliant police officer who had won medals for his bravery during the days of Punjab militancy.  He had participated in 33 mountaineering expeditions, including Everest (reaching Camp 5 at 7700 m), Mana and Mukut peaks- both 7000ers, Gorichen East (6222 m) amongst others. In his death, the Indian mountaineering world has lost a senior climber and able administrator.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH

In Search of the Old Pilgrimage Route to Takpa Siri

In remote and rarely visited Arunachal Pradesh, much remains to be explored. One such area was the valley of the Subansiri river in central Arunachal. A team from Mumbai (Harish Kapadia, Wing Commander P. K. Sashindran, Ms. Sangeetha Sashindran and Prateek  Deo) explored this unique area one of the first civil team to be allowed there. They followed the ancient pilgrimage route of Takpa Siri.

The Takpa Siri mountain, also known as the ‘Crystal mountain’ is holy to the Tibetans, Monpas and Tagins of Arunachal Pradesh. A pilgrimage was undertaken every 12 years, starting from Chosam in Tibet. It followed the Tsari Chu valley till its junction with the Subansiri river and then went up the Subansiri river valley till Taksing. From here the route turned north along the Yume Chu. The pilgrimage would end at the holy Yume Gompa (monastery). This longer version of pilgrimage, called ‘Ringkor’, was undertaken over a three month period and several thousand pilgrims passed on this route, staying in caves and bamboo shelters, which were called ‘Tsukang’. The local people stocked these shelters with food and wood for  pilgrims who passed through this challenging and difficult route. The Tagins, who stay in the Upper Subansiri valley, were paid yearly tributes by the Tibetans of Longju, and a special large tribute to help this pilgrimage every 12th year. Today, the pilgrimage has stopped as the McMahon Line or Line of Actual Control (LAC) divides Takpa Siri and the valleys of Arunachal Pradesh. The pilgrim route at Maja enters the Indian territory and from Taksing, along the Yume Chu returns back towards China. Thus this fine tradition is now lost.

This team   followed the Ringkor route on both sides, as much as possible from the Indian areas. From Guwahati, road travel of almost 850 km was undertaken over 4 days, via Tezpur, Itanagar, Kimin, Ziro, Daporijo  to reach  Limiking, the starting point of the  trek.

The trek began  across the first bridge, named after soldier Shere Thapa, with a 600 m steep climb, which snaked its way up. At many places the Tagins had erected improvised local wooden ladders, most of the time, over exposed areas, where a slip can drag you down the slope or to the river. After the climb was Tame Chung Chung (TCC, ‘place of snakes’).  From TCC the first exploration was along the Tsari Chu valley to Bidak, little short of Maja, as ahead is the Tibetan territories.

Later the team proceeded to explore the Subansiri valley to trek towards Taksing, the last village on the India side.  From Taksing one can look towards the junction of the Chayal Chu and Yume Chu and the LAC. At the merging point of these two rivers, the Subansiri is formed which flows down to meet the Brahmaputra river in the plains of Assam.

Early explorers such as F. M.Bailey and H. T. Morshead had visited the area from Tibet. They have written about the both the pilgrimages around Takpa Siri.  F. Ludlow and later F. Kingdon-Ward also undertook the pilgrimage and observed and wrote about the traditions and botany of these areas. In 1956 Tony Huber, studied the pilgrimage in detail and wrote a thesis for his doctorate called, The Cult of the Pure Crystal Mountain narrating details of route and various legends associated with it.

UTTARANCHAL

Kumaun

Changabang (6866 m)

(A)

The three-member British expedition with led by Nicholas Bullock, Stuart Mclean and Ollie Saunder planned to attempt the west face of Changabang. They set up the base camp on 9th September on the Bagini glacier and attempted the summit till 6200m. They found adverse weather conditions with deep snow on the face making the climb very dangerous.  A few days later a big snowfall over two days left about one and half metre  snow, increasing difficulties. Hence the climb was given up.

(B)

A four-member Dutch team including led by  Melvin Rederkar set up their base camp on Bagini Kharak from Dunagiri village.  They were attempting the north face of this high peak. Base camp was set up on 25th August and advanced base camp on 1st September. They were to climb in Alpine style and in first two weeks of good weather, they progressed well.  However, from 10th September, a spell of heavy snowfall and bad weather caught them unawares and nearly all equipment was buried under 4-5 m of snow, including most of the gear, 600 m of rope and pitons and other stuff.  They had reached maximum 5750 m on 25th September and later could not proceed to the summit.

( C )

A Korean  expedition (leader  Chung Seung Kwon and 5 members)  established base camp at 4200m on a large meadow on the eastern side of the Bagini glacier. Their intention was to attempt the north face and the left hand side ice gully.  They wanted to follow this from the left corner of the overhang and on to the summit. The ABC (5200 m) was on 10th May on the glacier, Camp 1 (5700 m) was established on 24th May, below the ledge above the ice gully and Camp 2 at 5950 m on 31st May, about 300 m above.  It was around this time that uncertain weather caught up with them and there were snow showers everyday making the route and the face very dangerous to climb. They returned to base camp n 7th June and gave up the climb.

Nanda Ghunti (6390m)

(A)

Andy Perkins, who lives in France led this British expedition to Garhwal. Following the route from Sutol via Ghat they made base camp at 4350 m on 23rd September. Spending few days they established three camps till 5500 m. The summit was attempted on 2nd October at 10.30 p.m. because of unstable snow, but they had to return because of soft snow and high avalanche risk. The leader made the attempt with Chris Morrow, Kevin Maurice, Mike Simpson and Has Mangle.

(B)

The team from Kolkatta reached the base camp in the Ronti gad area on 7th June. After establishing three high camps the summit was reached on 15th June via its east face and north ridge. Leader Ramesh Chandra Roy with P. Day, J. Byapari and Gyaljen Sherpa, Surinder Singh Rawat reached the summit.

Nandakhat (6545 m)

Prasanta Kumar Das led a Kolkatta based team to attempt this peak above the famed Pindari glacier. The base camp was established at Martoli, in the Pindar valley. They further established 3 camps via the Pindari glacier and Buria nala. On  2nd June they attempted the peak but could not reach the summit due to bad weather, snowfall and white-out.

Nanda Devi East (7434 m)

Marco Dalla Longa led a large Italian expedition of twelve members to this high peak from the east. The other approaches are closed at present. They approached the peak from Munsiary and the Milam valley.  The base camp was established on 31st August and they followed the eastern face with the middle pyramidal structured rock. Three camps were set up to 5400 m by 7th September.  Despite tough conditions, the Italian team made good progress on Nanda Devi East, through the Central Pillar on the East face. Divided into three working teams, the CAI Bergamo expedition reached top of the first tower on the Pillar.

They fixed ropes and were proceeding towards the summit when a long spell of bad weather from 9th September to 18th September made them sit up at the higher camps. As the route was not suitable for climbing, the team climbed Nanda Lapak (5782 m) on 23rd September. P. Yuri, M. Pierongelo, Cristian and C. Ferruccio reached the summit via the southern ridge of Nanda Lapak.

Towards the end of the expedition, tragedy struck the Italian team on Nanda Devi: Expedition leader Marco Dalla Longa passed away suddenly.  A helicopter for his rescue was requested. However due to bad weather it took four days for the rescue to be effected. Finally he died by a coma stroke on 24th September. The team’s doctor suspected cerebral oedema. An autopsy is to be performed in Italy to confirm the exact cause of death. Marco was young and fit, with no health problems reported during the expedition. The entire expedition was evacuated by air from 27th September to Munsiary and to Delhi by air the next day.

Nanda Kot (6861 m)

A five-member team from USA, led by Peter M. Takeda, attempted Nanda Kot. They approached from the Milam valley setting up base camp on 7th September. From 8th September till 13th October they operated on the north face of the mountain. They reached 5945 m before a huge avalanche caught them and the team was trapped in a crevasse for five days with two major storms raging.

The Italian expedition, which was in the adjoining valley, was involved in sickness and death of its leader and this team was helpful.  The Americans retreated after the avalanche but climbed up to Longstaff  Col on the shoulder of Nanda Devi East before returning to the base camp.

The avalanche hit them on the night of 23rd-24th September at Camp 2 about 5950 m.  They had stayed in an ice cave on the 23rd night and had a very narrow escape being trapped in the cave for more than three days being hit by three different avalanches. Finally they drilled an ice hole to safety and climbed down the mountain on their own. It was a most heroic self-rescue achieved.

Garhwal

Uja Tirche  (6202 m)

This peak, first climbed by the Scotttish Himalayan Expedition 1950, led by Bill Murray is situated on the Siruanch glacier near the Girthi valley in the Joshimath area of Garhwal.  The expedition established base camp at 4470 m on the glacier. Two further camps were set up at 5085 m and 5470 m. On 16th September four climbers, leader with Mohanlal H.C., Ashish Singh and Gopal Singh Rathore reached the summit. . They followed the glacier till its head and after a climb on the south face reached the summit via the southeast ridge. It was long 15-hour climb via circuitous route.  This 8 member team from Kolkatta was led by  Debabrata Mukherjee.

Kamet (7756 m)

(A)

Kamet  was recently opened for foreign mountaineers. The British expedition, led by Martin Moran,  attempted Kamet on the border of Garhwal and Tibet.  This strong team reached 7680 m, only 80 m below the summit. They could not proceed to the top because of deep snow, deteriorating weather and lack of further time to wait for it to clear. They found constant strong westerly winds and had to bear with three major snowfalls during May and early June. Their team suffered two cases of frostbite with both members evacuated by foot.

(B)

A two-member (John Varco and Ms. Sue Nott) American team made a fast ascent of Kamet. John Varco and Ms. Sue Nott set up base camp at 4700m near Vasudhara Tal on 9th September and subsequent camps were made on 13th and 17th of September. In an Alpine style push the summit was reached on 4th October 2005. They were back to civilization on 10th October. In his report, the leader writes, “Since this peak has not been opened to non-Indian teams for sometime, it is a sad statement of outdated style, high impact large Indian expeditions, which travel with way too much gear and leave tons of trash in camps and in trails. This aspect needs to be looked into. However, this year’s Army expedition did a good job of removing this trash and was very friendly and helpful.”

(C )

Ludovic Challeat led a team of 13 members from France. The team of mountain guides from France was successful in climbing Kamet on 6th October at 2 p.m.  Ten members with their leader and four Sherpas reached the summit.

The expedition established base camp on the Purvi Kamet glacier on 22nd September and several camps were established till 7100m on the normal route of the expedition.   Finally despite the cold weather ten members reached the summit. The member who reached the summit were as under :  Leader, Jean C. Annequin, Ms. Frederiquie Mesnage, Ms. Muriel Vaudey, Ms. Marion Jocheres, Charles H. Rossignol, Gilles Roman, Philippe Cabanal, and the Sherpas who reached the summit were Temba, Lal Singh Tamang, Sangyal and Tashi.

Deoban (6855 m)

This high  peak  lies in the Amrit ganga valley, Deoban glacier near Kamet.  The Kolkatta based team 10 member team was led by Amitava Roy.  The team reached the base camp at Thaur Udiar (4095 m) in the Amrit ganga valley on  26th June.  They established three camps after entering the Deoban glacier. From Camp 3 they climbed peak 6123 m on 3 June. Arupam Das, Susanta Basak and the leader climbed the peak via the east ridge. From the same camp on  4th June Bidhan Parvat was climbed from its Southeast face by Arupam Das, Tashi (Sherpa) and Gyalgen (Sherpa).

The team did not attempt Deoban due to the risk of avalanches on their proposed route.

Gangotri Glacier

Shivling (6543m)

(A)

A  team  from Belgium attempted the west ridge on Shivling and established two camps up to 5600m by late April. However on the mountain they found adverse snow conditions, as they were early in the season. There was a huge serac, which threatened the route, they found some loose ice towers about 30 m from Camp I and there was constant loose powder snow. The weather also did not remain favourable and hence by 7th May, in 14 days of setting up base camp they retreated. This 7 member team was led by Nicky Merciny.

(B)

A large Czech expedition with 10 members, led by  Petr Sindel attempted the west pillar route on Shivling. From the days of establishing their base camp on 15th September at Tapovan they faced intermittent bad weather, which left deep snow on the pillar.  They could reach up to 5880m and had to give up their attempt.

(C)

A team from Poland consisting of 4 members was led by   Witold Szylderowicz.  The team established base camp at Tapovan at 4400 m on 2nd October and were to attempt the west ridge of this mountain. Camp 2 was set up at 5600 m.  They waited few days even as the weather was good, as they felt that the snow conditions were poor and the slope was made of very hard ice, which would have made their climb unsafe. Hence the attempt was given up and the team returned back by middle of October.

(D)

A Czech expedition led by Michal Banes with 14 members established base camp at Tapovan (4300m) to attempt the west ridge of Shivling. However, during middle of September like all other expeditions they found constant rain and snow and were confined mostly  to base camp.  After making two attempts they found the conditions too dangerous to proceed and the attempt was given up.

Meru (6450 m)

Se Joon Kim led a 4 member South Korean expedition from Seoul.. The base camp was established at Tapovan at 4400m in early August.  Again from the time of setting up base camp the expedition wanting to attempt “Shark’s Fin” ran into continuous bad weather. It made the route quite difficult for them to attempt. This five-member team, employed 74 porters to reach the base camp and one for high altitude.

Bhagirathi III (6454 m)

David Garcia Iturrichd led a  six-member team of mountain guides from Spain . They were to attempt the southwest pillar route on the Bhagirathi III peak. They arrived at the base camp of Gangotri on 17th September and made higher camps till 2nd October. However, they were caught in continuous bad weather, which made climbing very dangerous with much snowfall. Hence they gave up their attempt at 5450 m.

Kedarnath (6940 m)

On the basis of the available information it seems that both the teams attempted the peak jointly. (The dates, locations and movements are identical.) The base camp was established at 4875 m on 18th May on left bank of Kirti Bamak. Three other camps were established reaching till 6000 m by 31st May. Due to heavy snow and poor weather they reached 6500 m on 3rd June. They found snow conditions poor and then the attempt was given up. Both teams were from West Bengal and were led by Prosenjit Mukherjee and Kalyan Banik

HIMACHAL PRADESH

Lahaul and Spiti

Yunam (6113 m)

A West Bengal team led Debabrata Mukherjee climbed Yunam (6123 m) in upper Lahaul valley.   The base camp was established on 24th July near Bharatpur opposite Yunam Tso at 4800 m. in Upper Lahaul valley. They established one high camp at 5395 m. On 5th August the summit of Yunam was reached by the south face, Southeast ridge. The leader with Soumendu Mordunya, Biman Biswas, Ms. Bharati Dhua, Siddhartha Das, Subhas Paul reached the summit.

KR II (6187 m)

KR (Koa Rang) group peaks are centrepiece of Lahaul. They can be approached from Pachi nala. KR II was the objective of a West Bengal team led by      Govinda Mondal with 12 members.  The base camp was established on  21st August at 5100 m on the banks of Panchi nala. Two high camps were established. On  28th August, Amiya Sarkar, Bikramjit Debnath, Sanjay Bhowmik and Sonam Lama (HAS) reached the summit of KR II from Camp 2 (5895 m), via the west ridge .

KR  V (6258 m)

The peak is situated near Suraj Tal (Baralacha la). A West Bengal team 10 members set up base camp was placed at 4780 m and two more camps were established till 5900 m. The summit was climbed from the east ridge. On 3rd September, Subrata Mujumdar, Raju Kumar, Tsar Paul, Alamchand Thakur, Khemraj Thakur and Nanakchand Thakur reached the summit.  Team was led by Biplab Sengupta.

Lhakhang (6250 m)

Towards northern Spiti between peak Shilla and Parilungbi stands this unnamed peak of 6250 m which was first attempted by M. H Contractor and Harsinh in 1987. They named it Lhakhang – ‘temple of God’.  They were attempting from the Syarma nala and the eastern routes.  This year a Japanese expedition of 4 senior members led by  Tatsumi Mizuno approached it from the north-western approach , which is open to foreigners. Crossing Parang la they turned south to make a base camp at the foot of this peak on 28th July 2005. From this base camp at 5050m they reached the summit with all members and three high altitude porters. Summiteers were leader, Topu Taru Yanagihara, K. Mizuno, Ms. Takako Niura, Kya Kanade with a Liaison Officer and four other porters.

Unnamed (6206 m) (on ridge of Parang la)

This was  a Japanese expedition with three members; Tsuneo Suzuki (leader) age 70, Kunihiko Noro, age 64 and Mrs. Midori Basada,. The peak was approached from Kaja in Spiti and across Parang la descending towards the northeast. From a base camp, on the trail, from Parang la the peak lies towards the northwest, almost on the ridge between Parang la and Takling la. All three members reached the summit on 2nd August. They had excellent weather all throughout.

Tela  2  (6035 m)

The Polish expedition led by Andrez Zoinski, aged 70, with 10 other members attempted this peak on the Tela glacier. Travelling from Rohtang pass across Lahaul to Darcha they trekked towards northeast on to the Tela glacier. This glacier has ten peaks in a ring of mountains and each one is numbered from T-1 to T–10. They attempted the north face of T-2. However they were caught in bad weather by middle of August and could reach up to 5500 m. They returned back to Delhi by late September.

Sanakdank (6044 m)

The peak is situated near Gushal village on Leh-Manali highway and 7 kms before Keylong. It was attempted by a team from Kolkatta led by  Dr. Anjan Chowdhury with 7 members.  From Gushal the team trekked for two days towards south west to established base camp on 9th August on 15,000 ft. Two more camps were established till the foot of the mountain. On 15th August Aun Kanti Das, Tapan Kumar Mukherjee and Dibyendu Halder reached the summit with two high altitude supporters.

Khangla Tarbo II (6120 m)

(A)

Mountaineers frequently visit this peak in the Khamengar valley, western Spiti. This year a West Bengal team led by    Samar Adak with 6 members attempted it.  On 27th August the summit was reached in two ropes.  Subir Mondal, Pasang and Karma Sherpa reached the top at 10.30 a.m. followed half an hour later by Subhendu Mondal, Sajal Burman and Tapash Nath.

(B)

Another West Bengal  team led by  Debabratra Dutta (13 members)  reached up to 5500 m on this peak. They travelled to Spiti and established a base camp ahead of Thango village from Mikkim. However some poor weather and lack of ropes stopped further progress.

CB 13 (6264 m)

The Chandra Bhaga Group (CB Group) has several peaks and they are approached easily. A Kolkatta based team was led by veteran  Ujwal Ganguly and consisted of 6 members.  They travelled from Manali to Batal and made camps along the South Dhaka glacier.  Uttam Jana, Shankar Roy reached the summit on 7th September with Tikamram Thakur and Bhagawan Singh. They climbed the peak by its south face.

Kinnaur

Pks.  6132 m & 6154 m

N. Prasad Rao led a 13 member team to this peak in Kinnaur. These peaks are situated at the head of Armasong nala, which drains into the Baspa river. The team travelled from Sangla to Chhitkul and via Rani kanda, Dhunti.  Base camp was established at Nithal Thach on the banks of Armasong nala (4380 m). Two further camps were established at 4880 m and 5560 m. From here both the peaks were simultaneously climbed. The leader with Sanjoy Ghosh, Bimal Krishna Biswas, Ajoy Mondal, Subrata Banerjee, Molay Mukherjee, Somnath Hazara and Dilip Tirky with 4 HAS (Lalbadhur, Kolbahadhur, Himmat Singh and Balwant Singh) reached the summits on 19th August.

Papsura (6451 m)

(A)

The Himalayan Club sponsored  team from Kolkatta attempted this peak, known as ‘peak of Devil’. It consisted of 11 members and was led by Avm A K Bhattacharyya (Retd). Base camp was established on 12th September in poor weather, after trekking from Manali. To compensate for days lost due to bad weather,  they decided to alter the route from the SE ridge to the SW ridge.

Two camps were established at 4720 m, 5030 m and 5485 m. The final summit camp was set up at 5790 m. This rapid movement was possible due to the three clear days and also because of the fitness of the young members.

On 22nd September, in cloudy weather conditions, the five climbers attempted the summit.  After a rigorous and difficult climb of more than 8 hrs, when the summit was visible within around 40 metres, the weather closed and there was a white-out condition all around. After waiting for some time , the team decided to withdraw from the mountain and returned to the summit camp late in the evening.

(B)

A 9 member  ladies team from the   Indian Mountaineering Foundation consisting of various climbers from all over India climbed Papsura at head of the Tos nala. It was led by  Ms. Vinita Verma The summit was reached on 4th October via the normal route by 7 climbers: leader with Ms. Santa Devi, Bandana Gurung, Lovely Das, Malabi Das, N. Ayingbi and Savita Bodh.

After a log day of climbing, Ms Malabi Das from Kolkatta was very exhausted while returning from the summit. She barely managed to reach the last camp and finally  died of exhaustion. She was an experienced and enthusiastic mountaineer having climbed Sudarshan Parvat and Chhamaser Kangri – both peaks higher then Papsura.

LADAKH AND EAST KARAKORAM

East Karakoram

Karpo Kangri (6535 m) and other peaks

Divyesh Muni and Don Goodman led a team from the Himalayan Club, Mumbai  to this remote area in the East Karakoram. It consisted of 14 climbers from USA and India.

This  expedition was to the Lung Tung glacier near Satti village on the Shyok river.  Base camp was established near a place called Spangchenmo at an altitude of 5150 m. During the expedition, the team established two more high camps at 5540 m and 5920 m respectively. From these camps, members reached summits of Karpo Kangri (6535 m), Gjungma Kangri (6287 m), Rdung Ring (6082 m), Bukbuk  (6289 m). and Thongsa Ri (5889 m) between 19th August and 24th August 2005.

The team then returned by the Koyak glacier route to reach the Rongdo valley by crossing the Koyak pass (5840 m). This was the first known crossing of this high glacial pass joining Satti and Rongdo valleys.  This was one of the most successful expedition in India  for the year 2005.

Zanskar

Unnamed (5135 m) “Giorgio”

An Italian expedition led by Mazzoleni Giovanni. With 10 members the Italian team travelled via Kargil to the foot of Ringdom gompa in Zanskar.  The  peak lies towards the south of this area where a base camp was established. However, finding the higher peak of 6500 m, their original aim,  beyond their means, they climbed this peak of 5135 m, which they named as above. Summit was climbed on 15th of August from an ABC at 4300m. The leader, P. Naerino, P Giovanni, C Valerio, C. Anorga, V. Dario and R. Simone, reached the summit. They had good weather all throughout and the final summit was achieved in 36 hours with one camp on the mountain.

Kang Yissay II (6460 m)

The Italian Alpine Club expedition of 13 members was led by     Sergio Maturi. They  travelled from Spituk and made the base camp at 5045 m.  The leader with Renzo Liberti, Vittorio Vantaggi and Sharing Ungdu, guide, reached the summit on 30th September via the west ridge..

Nun (7135 m)

The Indian Mountaineering Foundation sent a ladies team  of 6 members to climb this high peak in Zanskar.  It was led by Reena K. Dharamshaktu  The team left Delhi on 9th August and travelled via Srinagar to Kargil.  Base camp (4200 m) was reached via Tangole on 16th August. They made three further camps at 5030 m and 5470 m and 6100 m. They were to attempt the summit on 27th August but weather turned bad and they returned.  Theirs was the fifth expedition to fail to climb Nun this season.

Siachen Glacier

Laxmi (6850 m)

Since the Cease Fire on the war-torn Siachen glacier no team has ventured to climb there. Finally  a 10 member Naval team led by  Lt. Cdr. Amit Pande attempted Laxmi (6850 m), a virgin peak on the Teram Shehr glacier in east Karakoram, to the east of the Siachen Glacier.   Lt Cdr Amit Pande, who was the Dy Leader for the Naval Everest expedition in 2004, led the team. The team left New Delhi on  19th April  and reached Siachen Base Camp on 23rd April via Thoise Partapur and the Nubra Valley. The weather in 2005 has been extremely bad and there was unusually heavy snowfall in April and May. It took five days for the team to reach the confluence of the Teram Shehr and the Siachen glaciers.

BC on the Teram Shehr glacier was established at an altitude of 5250 m. The peak was attempted from the NW face.  C1 / summit camp was established next to a narrow ridge line at an altitude of 6000 m prior getting on to the face of the mountain.  Route on the mountain was opened till 6380 m.

The weather meanwhile continued to play truant and the team could not leave BC for several days. ‘Indian Meteorological Dept’ forecasted a long spell of bad weather along with blizzards in the area. The team had to temporarily withdraw to a lower camp. During their stay at the lower camp the team attempted Junction peak. However a minor avalanche hit the team on  25th May. Three members suffered injuries. All three were sent back and the expedition subsequently withdrawn.  Junction was first climbed by Fanny Bullock Workman in 1912 with Italian guides. She named the adjoining peaks as Laxmi, after the Goddess of Wealth.

Celebrations

During the year, the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Kangchenjunga was celebrated, especially as this is the highest peak in India. Two summiteers from the 1955 team, George  Band and Norman Hardie with John Jackson, a member of the team, visited India to join the celebrations.  Many lectures and felicitations were held at Mumbai where enthusiastic audience listened to their experiences with rapt attention. The same was repeated later at Kolkatta and Darjeeling. The three members had a nostalgic   view of the peak from Darjeeling as they met many old Sherpa friends.

The Himalayan Environment Trust organised a two-day conference at Mussoorie with Maurice Herzog and Junko Tabie as special guests. Various opinions about environment protection of the Himalaya and the recent stringent rules by the host Uttaranchal government were aired.

Deaths

A budding Indian mountaineer Ajay Tambe was killed in an avalanche in the Alps. With the spread of Indian communities abroad (known as ‘Non Resident Indians’) there are many Indian climbers who  now climb in different ranges. Of the old timers, John Banon,  passed away peacefully on 9th November 2005 at Manali. For several decades Banon family has lived in this then remote part of the Kullu, some of them married locally and explored  surrounding valleys. John Banon was a well known figure in these parts and helped many expeditions with his knowledge and contacts.  He is survived by his wife Mrs. Ruldi Banon and children. Though born a Britisher he spent his life in these lovely hills, running a hotel and acting as Hon. Secretary at Manali for the Himalayan Club.

John Jackson, a mountain lover, was associated with the Indian Himalaya. He visited these parts often for last 5 decades. John Jackson was part of the successful 1953 Everest expedition. Since then he has been, along with his wife Eileen, to all the Everest reunions.  He has been on many expeditions in  the world’s great mountain ranges. He was a climbing member of the team that made the first ascent of Kangchenjunga, 28,208 feet. He was on the Daily Mail Yeti Expedition, made the first solo traverse from Everest to Kangchenjunga, and led an expedition to the Garhwal Himalaya.  He had travelled widely on photographic journeys in Canada, U.S.A., Ladakh, Zanskar, Kashmir, India, Nepal etc. For 18 years he was director of Plas-y-Brenin Mountain Centre in Wales. Fortunately his last trip was to India and he stood in front of the peak he loved, Kangchenjunga and met friends he loved, the Sherpas. He will be missed in India.

Books

Three books relating to the Indian Himalaya were published during the year.  Touching Upon the Himalaya, by Bill Aitken considers many unusual aspects of the range and is  laced with the usual sharp and witty comments by India’s leading mountain-travel writer. Similarly Adventure Travel in the Himalaya, by John Jackson narrates mountain experiences from 1950 when the author visited the range for the first time. It is a major link between the past and the present. The last book Into Untravelled Himalaya, by Harish Kapadia continues recording the exploratory and smaller treks by the author.

In the photography book Joy of The Himalaya, by J. Ramanan, the Himalayan range is seen through the eye of a modern photographer. There are some stunning black and white photos, a lost art at present and interesting experiments  with digital photography. The  author has used a technique where high peaks of the Himalaya are mixed with views from the south or different parts of India.  For example, images of Kangchenjunga rising   above  the temples of southern India; Gangotri glacier peaks visited by galloping horses from the plains and mountains of Sikkim are portrayed  above beaches of Chennai!  It will be interesting to know views of a purist about such photography.  The day is not too far when perhaps the Big Ben will be shown standing   with the peaks of the Siachen glacier !