Indian Himalaya: Climbing and Other News - 2006


Harish Kapadia

Overview

Climbing expeditions to the Indian Himalaya appears to be at a standstill. Overall there were reduced numbers of teams, both from foreign countries and Indian teams. More than that it was reduction in number of peaks being attempted, specially the challenging peaks and routes, that is more evident. One of the main reason is the unrealistic fee structures and rules by State governments that has deterred climbers. The climbing activity was at much reduced scale in Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal) and nil in case of Sikkim.

Trekking in the Himalaya has grown by leaps and bounds and more Indians enjoy the range than ever. This has also brought the concerns of environment protection to the fore. What impact trekkers can make on the environment is rather negligible compared to the damage caused by the pilgrims, security forces and local population themselves as they are now introduced to packaging from the plains replacing simple paper packing with aluminium foils. With the Global warming and retreating glaciers many aspects needs to be looked into by the government.

Foreign Expeditions

A total of 37 foreign expeditions visited the Indian Himalaya this year. Majority of them were either commercially organised on easy routine peaks or on popular high mountains. In all, six expeditions climbed Stok Kangri, (officially that is!), two went for Dzo Jongo and two for Kang Yissey. The Nun Kun massif was visited by four expeditions; Meru, Shivling and Satopanth received three teams each where as Kedar Dome had two teams. Changabang was also visited by two expeditions out of which one ended in disaster, with the disappearance of two climbers.

There were 16 expeditions to Jammu & Kashmir including one to Kishtwar Shivling and one to Eastern Karakoram. 19 expeditions visited Uttarakhand where the ever-popular Gangotri area drew 13 out of these. 6 expeditions operated in the Kumaun Himalaya. 2 teams visited Himachal Pradesh. The poor weather pattern was the reason for a lower success ratio this year. This unpredictability in the weather conditions is becoming a major concern on the Himalayan climbing scene.

Indian Expeditions

Year after year, the number of Indian mountaineers visiting their own mountain ranges is showing a decrease. The trend of attempting routine peaks such as Kalanag, Rudugaira, Hanuman Tibba, Deo Tibba, Chhamser and Lungser Kangri has been replaced by height, which now seems to be in vogue. Kamet, the third highest mountain was attempted twice and Satopanth, the mighty seven-thou sander in the Gangotri area had four expeditions with one attempting Nun. But some climbers also attempted difficult mountains such as Shivling, Dunagiri, Panwali Dwar, Nanda Khat, Manirang and other lesser peaks. 26 expeditions visited Himachal Pradesh ; where as (even after the application of additional peak fees by State government), 20 expeditions visited Uttarakhand. Ladakh and its surroundings received six expeditions but all to routine peaks.

After a long time, an army expedition climbed Junction peak in the Siachen glacier. It has been climbed twice before (first by Bullock-Workman team in 1912). However their attempt of challenging Singhi Kangri was aborted. Their plans to take on Saltoro Kangri II (7705 m), one of the highest unclimbed peaks in the world, could not materialise because of the ongoing the Siachen glacier war. Hopefully this ascent and attempt by the army is indicative of opening of the area in future.

It is interesting to note that except one major exploration in the Arunachal Pradesh, not a single expedition visited any peaks or areas east of Kumaun. The otherwise active areas of Sikkim remained unvisited this year. The concentration of mountaineers was restricted to only three Himalayan states, those of J & K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Region wise review of important expeditions in the year 2006:

Kumaun Uttarakhand

Nanda Devi East (7434 m)

Team: Spanish Ladies expedition | Leader: Rosa Maria Real Soriano

This high peak, a twin of the Nanda Devi peak, can be approached from the eastern side only. This is the route by which it was first climbed. This year an eight-member ladies team from Spain failed due to bad snow conditions and avalanches. They reached up to 6000 m (Longstaff col). They were attempting the south ridge (1939 Polish route) where they placed two high camps. This pre monsoon attempt took place in the months of May-June 2006.

Changabang (6864 m)

Team: Czech Republic | Leader: Tomas Rinn

In the months of September / October 2006, seven Czech climbers attempted the north face of Changabang. But they could reach only up to 6200 m.

Changabang (6864 m)

Accident on Changabang

Team: Mexican | Leader: Andres Delgado Caldernon

The leader with another member, Alphonso De La Patra, began the attempt on 1 st October. They were celebrated climbers from Mexico and had a vast experience in mountain climbing and travel. It appears that they finished the climb on the West face and returned to base. (Their route was little variation of the Kurtayka Route of the West Face) They spoke to their family and friends in Mexico via a satellite phone. They were last seen on the col between Changabang and Kalanka by the leader of the Czech expedition attempting Changabang. It is not known what their plans were, after the ascent.

Both the climbers were missing for several days when an alarm was sounded. Indian Air Force helicopters conducted aerial searches. They could neither locate the climbers nor find any trace. The Indo-Tibet Border Police team on ground also could not make much headway, as they did not have details of exact location. - Whether the Mexicans had tried to descend into the Northern Sanctuary of the Nanda Devi or had taken some other route was not known.

Finally the rescue attempts were called off due to bad weather and fresh snow. Search for their remains will resume once summer arrives though there is not much hope of their being alive.

Nanda Khat (6611 m)

Team: Indian | Organisers: Himalaya ’s Beckon, West. Bengal. | Leader: Rajsekhar Ghosh

The 12-member team climbed this difficult peak on 15th September 2006. Arupam Das with Pemba Sherpa and Pasang Sherpa reached the summit.

The peak is situated on the northern slopes from the Pindari glacier. It is always tricky to cross the icefall and the glacier at its snout to approach the peak. In 1970, two climbers from a Mumbai-based team were killed in an avalanche in the Pindari glacier. Anup Sah from Nainital, Uttarakhand led the first ascent of this peak in 1974.

Panwali Dwar (6663 m)

Team: Indian | Organisers: Mountaineers Association of Krishnanagar, Nadia, West Bengal | Leader: Debasis Biswas

This peak, adjoining Nanda Khat peak and on the rim of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary has a formidable record. It defied several attempts till a Japanese team made the first ascent in 1980. This ten-member team made a successful ascent of the difficult peak on 22 nd August 2006. Basant Singha Roy, Debasis Biswas, Pasang Sherpa and Pemba Sherpa reached the summit. They followed the traditional route of the first ascent.

Purvi Dunagiri (6489 m)

Team: Indian | Organisers: Howrah District Mountaineers and Trekkers Association, West Bengal | Leader: Swaraj Ghosh.

As the name suggests this peak is situated east of the famous and higher Dunagiri peak. This eastern peak is also quite challenging. The seven-member team could reach up to 5850 m where their Camp 3 was located. Due to bad weather the attempt was called off on 31 st August.

Tharkot (6099 m)

Team: Indian | Organisers: Mainak Explorer, Durgapur, West Bengal | Leader: Ashok Kumar Ghosh

This is a small range at foot of the southern Sanctuary of Nanda Devi. Also known as Simsaga range it contains several smaller peaks with Tharkot being the highest. This eleven-member team followed the Dhakuri - Sukhram cave route and established Camp 1 but could not proceed further.

[caption id="attachment_461" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Adi Kailash, Parvati Tal and Mount Kailash from upper slopes of Ishan Parbat (Photo:Martin Welch)"]Adi Kailash, Parvati Tal and Mount Kailash from upper slopes of Ishan Parbat (Photo:Martin Welch)[/caption]

Adi Kailash (6150 m)

Team: British | Leader: Martin Moran

When the pilgrimage to the main peak of Kailash (Tibet) was stopped, it was this peak in eastern Kumaun that drew faithfuls. It is situated at head of the Kuthi valley in eastern-most Kumaun. The seven-member British team established base camp on 21st September 2006 ahead of the Kuthi village. They climbed the peak from its northeastern ridge after establishing two high camps at 4450 m and 5450 m respectively. The leader, with Martin Welch, James Gibb, Mike Freeman, Stephan Rink, John Venier and Mangal Singh reached summit on 30th September at 8.45 a.m.

(Article HJ Vol. 63)

Garwal Gangotri area

Meru (6660 m)

Team: Australian | Leader: Dr. Glenn Singleman

They climbed Meru Central (a.k.a. Shark’s Fin) 6550 m., via the west face. After reaching base camp at Tapovan on 3rd May 2006, they put up four more camps before reaching the summit. Michael Geoffrey Hill, Malcolm Haskins, reached the top on 18th May followed by Tove Petterson on 20th May.

Two members achieved new world record for altitude base-jumping. The leader with Heather Swan flew wing-suits from a ledge at 6604 m. For more details: www.baseclimb.com

Team: Japanese | Leader: Hiroyoshi Manome

This four-member team established base camp at Tapovan on 1 st September 2006 and ABC at 4800 m, C1 at 5300 m as well as two bivouacs at 5800 m and 6200 m. They climbed via the northeast face. The leader with Makoto Kuroda, Okada Yasushi and Hanatani Yasuhiro reached summit on 26th Sept at 7.30 a.m.

Team: Czech | Leader: Jan Kreisinger and Marek Holecek

This two-member team, after establishing advanced base camp at 5400 m, climbed the northeast face in alpine style. On 6th October 2006, both the members reached the summit.

Shivling (6543 m)

Team: Korean | Leader: Bae Hyo Soon

The eight-member team attempted the peak via its northeast face (new route) but could not reach the summit. They reached up to 6000 m. They were stopped due to a very steep route, heavy rock fall and some avalanches. The attempt took place in the months of August / September 2006.

Team: Spanish | Leader: Alberto Inurrategui Iriarte

The leader with Jon Beloqui Iceta and Eneko Guenechea Sasiain reached the summit on 11th May 2006 at 2.00 p.m. This three-member team climbed the west face after establishing base camp on 26th April and Camp 1 at 5600 m.

Team: Polish | Leader: Pawel Garwolinski

All four members of the team reached the summit via the west ridge on 18th September after establishing three high camps.

Team: Indian | Organisers: Phoenix, Kolkata, West Bengal | Leader: Debasish Kanji

The eight-member team climbed via the west ridge. However they had to stop 150 m short of the summit as weather turned bad. They had to give up the attempt.

Satopanth (7075 m)

Team: Italian (International) | Leader: Armin Fisher

After establishing base camp at north of the peak on 23rd September 2006, they put up 3 more camps on the northeast ridge. The leader, with Jeffery Colegrave, Roland Tomaschko, David Schneiber, Amresh Jha (LO) and Dorjee Sherpa reached the summit on 3rd October at 9.30 a.m.

Team: British | Leader: Simon Moore

The eight-member British team attempted the peak from the north ridge. After establishing 4 camps, Colin Harding with Alex Thorpe reached the summit on 18th September at 10.00 a.m.

Team: Swiss - German | Leader: Jurg Jakob Anderegg

This team reached up to 6950 m on northeast ridge on 17th October. It is not known why they stopped just a little short of the main peak. The liaison officer reported garbage and pollution at the base camp of this peak, which is a rather common problem with commercial expeditions. On the positive side the team sighted a snow fox / Ibex.

Team: Indian | Organisers: Parvat Abhiyatri Sangh, Kolkata, West Bengal | Leader: Shyamal Sarkar

Four members with four Sherpas reached the summit via the traditional northeast ridge on 1 st July 2006. The summiteers were Prosenjit Samanta, Suman Chakraborty, Indranil Chatterjee, Debasish Kundu, Sherpa Pemba, Gyalzen, Thendup and Pasang. There were totally 15 members in the team.

(Article HJ Vol. 63)

Kedar Dome (6830 m)

Team: French | Leader: Villard Emmanuel

The twelve-member French team established their base camp at Khada Patthar (4470 m). Three high camps were established before they reached 6470 m. The attempt was given up due to the possibility of avalanches after fresh snowfall. The expedition operated in the months of September / October 2006.

Team: British | Leader: Ian Parnell

This small two-member team of Ian Parnell and Tim Emmett climbed the southeast pillar route. They reached the summit on 8th October 2006.

[caption id="attachment_462" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Thalay Sagar"]Thalay Sagar[/caption]

Thalay Sagar (6904 m)

Team: Korean | Leader: Hee Young Park

They established the base camp at Kedar Tal (4700 m) on 1 st August 2006. Two high camps at 5100 m and 5400 m were established on the north face. After one bivi at 6600 m. Sang Bem You reached the summit on 9th September at 1.17 p.m.

Central Garwal

Kamet (7756 m)

Team: Indian | Organisers: The Himalayan Club (Kolkata Section) | Leader: AVM (Retd.) A. K. Bhattacharyya

The Tata Steel-sponsored expedition to Kamet (7756 m) was organized in May-June-July 2006. The other members, all from the HC Kolkata, were: Gautam Ghosh (deputy leader), Jayanta Chattopadhyay, Subrata Chakraborty, Pradeep Ch.Sahoo, Debajyoti Bhattacharya, Debraj Dutta, Tapas Sanyal, Subrata Santra, Shibnath Basu, Subhasis Roy, Rupjoy Dewan. Four Sherpas and two high altitude friends (porters) were included as climbing members of the team.

The team planned to retrace the footsteps of the first successful team lead by Frank S Smythe in 1931 and hence the traditional Meade Col route was selected for the climb, with an intended summit date close to 21 st June in line with that of the 1931 ascent.

The summit team comprised of 4 members and 6 support climbers: Gautam Ghosh (deputy leader), Jayanta Chattapadhyay, Subrata Chakraborty, Pradeep Ch.Sahoo, Mingma Sherpa, Lhakpa Sherpa, Dawa Sherpa, Lama Sherpa, Devinder Singh Rana, Kapil Rana.

The summit of Kamet [7756 m] was reached on 24th June 2006, after establishing five camps between the base and summit. All the members of the summit team reached the top, thus representing a satisfying commemorative expedition.

Arwa Tower (6352 m)

Team: Dutch | Leader: Michael van Geemen

The four member Dutch team chose the northwest pillar route on this challenging rocky peak. However as they reached higher, bad weather forced them to stop. As there was no hope of improvement, they gave up the climb at 6150 m. Their attempt was in the months of May / June 2006.

Arwa Spire (6193 m)

Team: Spanish | Leader: Ruben De Francisco

It was not the mountain but human factors that defeated this team. The four-member team wasted a week at road head due to non-availability of porters and were held up due to various administrative problems. Finally, once on the mountain, they could reach up to 6000 m on the north face before their time and supplies ran out.

Himachal Pradesh

Kullu Pumori (6553 m)

Team: French / American | Leader: Remy Lecluse

The expedition operated in the months of May-June 2006. Members could not climb the peak due to bad weather as the monsoons arrived early. However the main objective of the team was to ski down and that was achieved by various routes. The seven member team reached up to 6400 m.

Team: Indian | Organisers: Nilkantha Abhijatri Sangh, Kolkata, West Bengal | Leader: Samir Sengupta

This peak is situated in centre of the Bara Shigri glacier. It is a challenging peak and was first climbed by Bob Pettigrew’s team in 1964. On 30th August 2006, 2 members and 3 high altitude supporters reached the summit of this peak by the same route. More details are awaited.

KR 3 (6157 m)

Team: Belgium | Leader: Stijn Vandendriessche

Though their intended peak KR 3 was not climbed, this eight-member team climbed KR 2 (6194 m) on 14th August and 19th August 2006. The leader with six members reached the summit via its southeast ridge. They established their base camp at 4800 m and Camp 1 at 5600 m.

Shiva (6142 m)

Team: Indian | Organisers: Mount Quest of Calcutta, West Bengal | Leader: Ramesh Chandra Roy

This small and beautiful peak lies in the Pangi valley and can be approached by road from Manali till its starting point at Cheig – Parman. This 11-member team climbed the west ridge and on 20th August 2006.

Manirang (6593 m)

Team: Indian | Organisers: Summiteers, Kolkata, West Bengal | Leader: Kajal Dasgupta

The 12-member team followed Manali – Kaja – Mane – Yang Lake route towards this high peak which is situated on the borders of Kinnaur and Spiti. From there, they followed the south ridge thus climbing the peak from a new route. On 16th July, five climbers reached the summit.

LADAKH

Kun (7077 m)

Team: French | Leader: Malblanc Richard

After reaching the base camp on 8th August 2006, they established three more camps at 5200 m, 6100 m and 6300 m and the summit was reached on the 18th at 1.00 p.m. They approached the peak by the east face. The leader with Courtois Andre, Wagner Phillipe, Buysschaert Phillipe and Bordeaux Montrieux Jean reached the top.

Team: French | Leader: Eynac Francois Remi

This 14-member French team was unsuccessful because of consistent bad weather. They operated in the months of July / August 2006.

Team: Spanish | Leader: Ms. Leire Mujika

This 11-member Spanish team was also unsuccessful due to bad weather. They reached up to 6400 m.

Nun (7135 m)

Team: Spanish | Leader: Juan Carlos Garcia Gallego

This four-member team established three high camps at 4900 m, 5400 m and 6440 m respectively on the west face of the peak. The leader reached the top on 23rd August 2006, at 17.40 p.m.

Team: Indian | Organisers: Shikhar Mountaineering Club, Kolkata, West Bengal | Leader: Gopal Das

The leader with two high altitude supporters namely, Raju Bhatt and Ratan Singh reached the summit on 31 st July. The 13-member team followed the west ridge route.

P. 6250 m & P. 6440 m. (Rupshu valley)

Team: Indian | Organisers: Sainik School, Kunjpura | Leader: J. S. Gulia

On 8th July 2006, a 20-member school team reached one summit, which they have claimed as a first ascent. Details about the exact location and routes are awaited.

EASTERN KARAKORAM

Plateau Peak (7287 m)

Team: Indo - Italian | Leaders: M.S. Gomase and Marco Meazzini

Bad weather interrupted the attempt of this 15-member Indian-Italian attempt at 5800 m. The base camp was established at the snout of the glacier at 4700 m. They established Camp 1 at 5400 m on central Phukpoche glacier. From there, slopes leading to west ridge of the peak were equipped with ropes and dumps of food. The expedition took place in the month of August 2006.

The Siachen Glacier (Karakoram Range)

Team: Indian | Army Karakoram Expedition 2006 | Leader: Col. Ashok Abbey

The expedition was conducted in the post monsoon in four phases, during 31st August to 7th October 2006. The team commenced moving up the Siachen glacier on 1st September,making rapid progress. Traversing the glacier, base camp (4900 m) was established at the ‘Oasis’, the junction of the Siachen and the Teram Shehr glacier on 12th September.

[caption id="attachment_464" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Junction Peak Siachen Glacier"]Junction Peak Siachen Glacier[/caption]

Junction Peak (6350 m)

This peak rises at a vantage point, in the centre of the glacier. It was first climbed by Fanny Bullock-Workman in 1912 with Italian guides. The 12-member team established Camp 1 at 5320 m on 14th September, approaching it from the west face. The team climbed the highly avalanche-prone mountain, on 18th September, at 1305 hrs 1.05 p.m. after an 8˝ hour ascent from the final camp.

Singhi Kangri (7202 m)

This was the second attempt in the history of the mountain. It was first climbed by a Japanese team in 1976. It was a remarkable climb as they entered the glacier across Bilafond la, crossed Staghar Pass into the Shaksgam valley and climbed the peak of Singhi Kangri from north. They had found the south face too difficult.

[caption id="attachment_465" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Singhi Kangri The face Attempted By The Army (Poto:Harish Kapadia)"]Singhi Kangri The face Attempted By The Army (Poto:Harish Kapadia)[/caption]

This was face that this expedition challenged, a new route from an unclimbed face. Base camp (at 5100 m) was established on 16th September on the upper Siachen glacier. Camp 1 was established after negotiating the difficult west face of the mountain at 6325 m on 21st September, which was the crux of the climb. Only one more camp was required to be set up, prior to attempting the summit of Singhi Kangri and Pt. 6850 m. Due to very inclement weather and dangerous snow conditions, further attempts on the mountain had to be called off on 29th September after a long wait.

Siachen Glacier

This was traversed from the snout to Sia la, the western most tip of the Siachen glacier.

Peak 36 Glacier

This was also traversed. A ground rece of the northeast face of Saltoro Kangri I 7742 m and Saltoro Kangri II 7705 m was also carried out for a future attempt.

Arunachal Pradesh

Exploring the Dibang Valley, Eastern Arunachal Pradesh

Not many trekkers and explorers have been deep into the various remote valleys of the Arunachal due to difficulties and restrictions. The Dibang valley, in eastern Arunachal Pradesh (formerly NEFA) is deep and thickly wooded. To its north and east lies Tibet (China) and to its west is the Siang (Tsangpo) valley. Having visited the Kameng, Subansiri and Siang valleys, in past three years we turned to the Dibang, further east

On the northern border (the McMahon Line) lies the Yonggyap La. This pass, with the adjoining pass Andra La, leads to the Chimdro area of Tibet. The holy mountain Kundu Potrang lies across these passes, almost due north of the Andra La. Pundit explorer Kinthup had made a pilgrimage to this mountain during his search for the passage of the Tsangpo into India. Many Tibetan pilgrims visit this place and perform circumambulations now that the Chinese have restored religious freedom. In last decade a party led by Ian Baker made a visit to this peak from the Tibetan plateau (See his book The Heart of the World).

F.M. Bailey and H. T. Morshead, two British army officers, made a journey to these passes in 1913. After trying unsuccessfully to cross Andra La, they crossed the Yonggyap La in May, in pouring rain. After a descent from this pass, another pass, Pungpung La is to be crossed on the fourth day. Many Tibetans, their supplies running short, had perished after being caught in storms between these two passes.

Yonggyap La

We reached Anini, at the head of the Dibang valley, on 10th November, having travelled 445 km from Dibrugarh, via Chappakhowa, Roing, Hunli and Etalin. From Anini, we followed the Mathun valley at first and reached Mipi. Bailey had stayed a month at this village making friends with the Tibetans settled here. They guided him further. Following Bailey’s route, we reached Basam, a lovely place in thick forest. From here the difficulties of the trek started and we had to go through a thick jungle on a faint track, with many steep ups and downs. At many places the trail had to be cleared in thick bamboo forest. The camps were in a small forest clearings and one had to be careful about Dim Dam flies. Mercifully snakes and leeches were mostly absent as it was autumn. From Chapu the route climbed steeply and there were many difficult stages, as the Yonggyap chu (river) was left well below. Camping at four other camps our team reached Pabbow at the foot of the Yonggyap La. In deteriorating weather, Yonggyap La was reached on 22nd November 2006.

As the party returned to the last camp, a freak and fierce storm engulfed the area. For next 5 days some members were snowed in without respite and there was heavy accumulation of snow, prohibiting any movement. It was dangerous and even impossible to find a way through thick bamboo growth and rickety log bridges. Rations were running low and soon the last of the chapattis were eaten. Four porters decided to desert and make a dash back risking their lives, a sure sign of the grim situation. There was imminent danger of starvation and being overcome by heavy snow. The party was in contact with the army via wireless communication. Luckily on the 27th November there was a break in weather and clouds lifted for 6 hours. During this opening two Cheetah helicopters of the Indian Air Force rescued the trapped party and brought them back to Anini. It was a stunning display of flying in difficult conditions and narrow valley. The helis came prepared with skis to land and a winch to lift trekkers if required. Without this clearing in the weather and brave pilots, a disaster was waiting to happen. Four porters also returned in the next 3days.

Some members of the party also trekked in the adjoining Dri valley where again due to the storm they had to return early.

Members: Harish Kapadia (leader) Lt. Gen (retd) R. K. Nanavatty, Vijay Kothari, Rajendra Wani and Captain Sandeep Dhankar.

Period: 7th November to 6th December 2006