Indian Himalaya: Climbing and Other News - 2007


Harish Kapadia

Overview

The year 2007 saw reduced mountaineering activity in the Indian Himalaya. An important reason is the stiff charge enforced by two state governments whose states contain large numbers of peaks i.e. Sikkim and Uttarakhand. In addition to expedition fees imposed by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, these two states insist on additional fees and stiff conditions which have put off many climbers. As a result there was not a single expedition to the east. (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) and very few expeditions to Uttarakhand areas.

There were totally 113 expeditions (61 Indian and 52 foreign). Of these, about 70 expeditions were to very routine peaks which have been climbed often for e.g. Stok Kangri, a peak which can be climbed in about three days from Leh, received as many as 25 expeditions. In fact this peak was always climbed illegally by many parties, but now the Indian Mountaineering Foundation has smartly opened a branch office in Leh and hence these expeditions register here and pay requisite fees.

There were only two expeditions from Japan and one from Britain , countries which have always sent the maximum number of teams here. There were two expeditions each from Italy , Czech , New Zealand and Korea.

The requirement for having X-Visa stamped on the passport has been done away with in the case of 113 peaks (a list is available on the IMF website). For these peaks, IMF has a single window clearance and will even collect fees for paying the State governments when due. For all other peaks, old requirements and formalities continue.

Three expeditions visited the Eastern Karakoram which takes much organizing and clearances. The Siachen area was declared open for trekkers with much fan fare but Pakistan immediately registered a strong protest. At present only one team, consisting of military cadets, visited the first three stages on the Siachen. No trekking is allowed in the area as of now. However, the practice of allowing joint expeditions to the Siachen Glacier continues.

Expeditions to Kalanka, Changabang were beaten by freak storms in September and October. However, expeditions to difficult peaks like Arwa Spire, Arwa Tower were successful in the month of May. Some good climbs were the ascent of Kulu Makalu, Mukut Parvat East Peak , Manirang and Menthosa, all by Indian mountaineers. The west ridge route on Nilkanth, pioneered by Martin Moran in 2000 was repeated by a Himalayan Club, Kolkata team. It was an energetic climb with members proceeding from the last camp to summit and back with two bivouacs in almost 57 continuous hours on the mountain. They had excellent weather and made full use of it. The cryptic message on reaching the summit, as agreed earlier, was “The Himalayan Club is smiling”, which it was!

The Indian Mountaineering Foundation organized as many as seven expeditions in the year. Two of these were ladies’ teams. Its expedition to Changuch, an unclimbed mountain rising above the Pindari Glacier, ran into extremely bad weather. After waiting for a few days, at the first clearing, the team decided to climb along the Pindari icefall to move to higher camp. An avalanche landed on their camp killing two Sherpas on the spot. The third one was rescued but is now destined to spend at least one year recuperating. Similarly, on peak Rimo I, an instructor from a mountaineering institute was drowned in the Terong river in the early part of the expedition. Later running into bad weather, the leader Maj. K. S. Dhami received severe frost bite. Full details of his ascent are still awaited.

Similarly, an Indian-Australian expedition to a 6350 m peak rising above Col Italia could not reach very far as the Thangman glacier was in flood and therefore impossible to cross. The same glacier was crossed, with great difficulty, earlier by an Indo-American expedition that climbed Chong Kumdan I. Their attempt on the virgin peak of Chong Kumdan II did not take off as the glacier was highly broken. This expedition too, lost one porter due to altitude sickness. But a curious case was that of Sherpa Ang Tashi who was struck by pulmonary oedema. Tashi had been regularly climbing at high altitude, had climbed Everest and was one of the fittest Sherpas around. He luckily managed to survive as a helicopter carried him to the hospital in time. Nearby Mamostong Kangri was climbed by two teams; an Indo-French expedition climbed it by the normal route and the Vikas Regiment of the Indian Army made a variation approaching from the east. For the first time there was an Indo-Bangladesh expedition, which climbed Rubal Kang.

Several trekking agencies, particularly those who take students to the mountains are unregulated in India. This year two deaths of young people on very routine treks have raised much controversy. On the initiative of one of the parents, the High Court in Mumbai has taken cognizance and ordered the government to frame rules for such agencies. This could be a welcome step that Indian mountaineers have been waiting for.

Many other changes are evident in the Himalayan range, directly due to global warming. The lower villages are receiving less snow and villagers complain that fields are drier as there is not enough snow melt to irrigate fields. At certain villages flowers and fruits now have to be planted almost a thousand feet higher than earlier as the rising temperature has made it unsustainable at their height. And the glaciers are certainly receding; like the Chong Kumdan glacier.

A trekking team was permitted, for the first time, to trek near the tri-junction where India , China and Burma borders meet – the eastern most point of India. Considering its sensitive nature as Indian and Chinese forces had clashed here, this was a major opening of minds. This team located Chinese inscriptions on a huge rock. This rock was mentioned in the Geographical Journal in 1910 by Ronald Kaulback, who was a member of F. Kingdon-Ward’s party. Further research is needed to completely decipher these writings, but it is an important discovery.

Following are details of some important expeditions in the Indian Himalaya in 2007.

Uttarakhand

The Arwa Group

The Arwa group in central Garhwal has been attracting climbers from many nationalities for few years now. This year was no exception. Despite the administrative difficulties there were two attempts on these two peaks.

Arwa Spire (6193 m)

Expedition : Korean Leader and (Members) : Park Heungsoo (5) Period : June 2007 Details : Bad weather, snow fall.

Arwa Tower (6352 m)

Expedition : Swiss Leader and (Members) : Thomas Senf (4) Period : May - June 2007 Details : Leader plus Stephen Siegrist, Denis Burdet climbed north face on 7/6/07 , Good weather.

Bhrigupanth (6772 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : IMF Ladies Expedition Leader and (Members) : Ms. Bimla Negi Deoskar (8) Period : August- September 2007

Details : Peak was climbed on 19 th September by. Bandana Gurung, Kavita Burathoki,. Chandra Bist and. Kusum Chauhan along with Sherpas. The base camp was at Kedar Tal and the final Camp 2, was set up at 6100 m, ,. This climb, followed the route of the first ascent by Arlene Blum in 1980. The peak was climbed a few times after the first ascent also.

Changabang (6866 m)

Changabang and Kalanka, in Central Garhwal are major climbing challenges. Due to steep walls many routes have been attempted and climbed. However storms in autumn foiled all attempts on these peaks.

(a) Expedition : New Zealand Leader and (Members) : Brian Edward Elder (4) Period : August – October 2007

Details : Attempted north face reaching 6200 m on 18 th Sept and later tried west ridge reaching 6000 m on 1st October. Major storm in late September stopped the climb.

(b) Expedition : French Leader and (Members) : Graziani Yannick and Trommsoorf Christian Period : October 2007

Details : This two-member team reached 5800 m but two huge snow falls stopped attempt.

Kalanka (6931 m)

(a) Expedition : Czech Republic Leader and (Members) : Petr Masek (3) Period : September - October

Details : Continuous bad weather, reached 5200 m on north face.

(b) Expedition : Dutch Leader and (Members) : Mike Van Berkel (3) Period : August - September 2007

Details : Bad weather

Changuch (6322 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : IMF Leader and (Members) : Cdr. Satyabrata Dam Period : October 2007

Details : Team encountered severe bad weather while at a lower camp. While at Camp 2, a serac fell on the camp. Two Sherpas, Ang Nyima and Mingma Sherpa died immediately. Sherpa Pemba was badly injured. Attempt was aborted. The peak is visible from the popular trail to Pindari glacier but has remained virgin due to its difficulties.

Kamet (7756 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Howrah District Mountaineers and Trekkers Association. Leader and (Members) : N. P. Rao (12) Period : June – July 2007

Details : Team followed the normal route from Purvi Kamet glacier. Six camps were established, upto 7100 m. The summit was reached on 30th June 2007 by one member and six Sherpas , namely Molay Mukherjee Pemba Sherpa, Nyima Sherpa, Dhuppa Sherpa, Dawa Sherpa and Dilip Tirkey

Kharchakund (6632 m)

Expedition : New Zealand Leader and (Members) : Ms. Patricia Deavoll (3) Period : September 2007

Details : Reached up to 5900 m and were stopped by a storm.

Mukut Parvat East (7130 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Saad Mountaineers Leader and (Members) : Rajan Deshmukh (8) Period : June – July 2007

Details : This is a satellite peak of Mukut Parvat , Koreans climbed a lower point in 1998 paving way for the first ascent next year by an Indian team. The Koreans returned to climb the main peak in 2000. The present team climbed Mukut Parvat East from the last camp at 6520 m on Slingsby’s col with the East ridge Of Abi Gamin. They followed the route taken by NIM and Koreans. The summit was climbed on 17 th July.

Nanda Devi East (7434 m)

Expedition : Italian Leader and (Members) : Yuri Parimbelli (3) Period : September 2007

Details : Attempted Nanda Devi East. Bad weather, rock fall.

Panwali Dwar (6663 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : IMF Leader and (Members) : Lt. Col. Vijay Singh Period : May – June 2007

Details : An IMF expedition attempted the peak, following the normal route, pioneered by early Japanese expeditions. Due soft snow and poor weather the expedition did not reach high.

Shivling (6543 m)

Shivling, on the Gangotri glacier, remains popular as ever. Most number of expeditions in Garhwal were organized to this peak.

(a) Expedition : Indian Organisers : Giripremi, Pune Leader and (Members) : Rahul Yelange Period : May – June 2007

Details : After the first ascent by ITBP team, led by Hukam Singh, surprisingly no civilian Indian team had climbed this challenging peak. This team of young climbers from Pune just achieved that. They followed the normal route and set up Camp 3 at 6040 m. On way to the summit they climbed the wall, a major difficulty of this route. The summit was reached on 9 th and 10 th June..

(b) Expedition : Korean Leader and (Members) : Ko Jim Hee (5) Period : August- September 2007

Details : The team attempted north face. A high point of 6400 m was reached on 2 nd September. They faced constant bad weather.

(c) Expedition : Czech Republic Leader and (Members) : Jiri Pankava (6) Period : June - July 2007

Details : The team followed the normal route. For the first fortnight they faced many days of bad weather. However the summit was climbed by all seven members.

(d) Expedition : Indian Organisers : South Calcutta Trekkers Association Leader and (Members) : Brijes Day (8) Period : August - September 2007

Details : Following the first successful Indian civilian climb, another ascent was made on 1 st September by a team from Kolkata. They too established three camps. The summiteers were :Rajsekhar Maity, Barun Majumder, Pasang, Pemba and Phurba Sherpa.

(e) Expedition : Indian Organisers : Summiteers, Kolkata Leader and (Members) : Susanta Basak (10) Period : June - July 2007

Details : Shivling was climbed againby a team from Kolkata. From Camp 3 at 6000 m, six climbers reached the summit.

Nilkanth (6596 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : The Himalayan Club, Kolkata. Leader and (Members) : A.V.M. (Retd) A. K. Bhattacharrya (11) Period : May - June 2007

Details : 11 members reached the summit on 11 th June. Attempt was via west ridge, the route followed by Martin Moran in 2000. After difficulties and inclement weather on the lower slopes, team fixed ropes and set up Camp 2. Finally on the ascent, the team bivouacked at 5900 m because of bad weather, anchoring on fixed ropes. They established Camp 3 at 6300 m. On 11 th June they left their bivouac at 1.30 a.m. with headlamps. They reached a gully at 5.30 a.m. after a long trudge on the snow slope. By 9.30 a.m. , they were at the proposed site of Camp 3. Although tired, they continued towards the summit as weather was favourable and the slopes ahead were gentler. After reaching the summit they returned straight down to the bivouac point reaching there at 3.00 a.m. They were at Camp 2 by 2.00 p.m. the next day. They had spent almost 57 hours climbing continuously from Camp 2 to summit and back with two bivouacs en route. This was the first Indian ascent from the west ridge.

Name of the Summiteers : Gautam Ghosh, Debraj Datta, Subrata Chakrabarty, Gautam Saha, Bijender Sing, G. Prasanna, Dinesh Rawat, Mingma Sherpa, Ang Nima, Thendup Sherpa, Pemba Sherpa

Exploration in the Panpatia Glacier

The trail from Badrinath to Kedarnath valley, as followed by the team of Shipton and Tilman is a fascinating piece of history. Their trail via the Gandharpongi valley was followed by a British team led by Martin Moran. There was a route from the nearby Panpatia glacier to cross a pass towards the southern valley, giving an easier exit to the Kedar valley. This exploration was completed this year by a team led by Tapan Pandit from West Bengal. In June they entered the Khirao valley and reached its head where the Panpatia Bamak lies. Following the northern edge they crossed Parvati Col to reach the upper plateau. Traversing to southwest on this plateau they crossed Panpatia Col to descend to Kachni Tal and Madhyamaheshwar.

Few parties had tried to undertake this crossing from both directions in the past and failed. With this historic crossing the routes of earlier explorations are now completed.

Himachal Pradesh

Gangstang (6170 m)

(a) Expedition : British Leader and (Members) : Martin Moran (8) Period : September – October 2007

Details : Martin Moran, Arun Mahajan, Peter Ashworth, Gustav Fierrocarion, John Leeddle, Luder Sing (LO) reached the summit on 30 th September..This was a new route, west face couloir and south west ridge. They had clear weather on and off. They had originally planned to climb nearby Nainghar Choti.

(b) Expedition : Indian Organisers : Mountaineers and Trekkers Unit, W.B. Leader and (Members) : Pijush Kanti Das (12) Period : June – July 2007

Details : The team was unsuccessful due to bad weather.

(c) Expedition : Indian Organisers : Kolkata Trekkers Youth Leader and (Members) : Ashim Kr Ghosh (10) Period : August September

Details : After establishing three camps up to 5640 m, Sanjib Kumar Dey and Mohansing Thakur climbed the peak on 31 st August.

Khang Shilling (6360 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Snout Adventurers Association, Kolkata Leader and (Members) : Ujjal Ray (11) Period : August – September 2007

Details : Approached from Khamengar valley, the second ascent of this peak was made by the same route. They established two camps, upto 5550 m. The north ridge of the peak forms a col with Shigri Parvat. First attempt was made on 2 nd September, which stopped at 6010 m because of snowfall. The summit was climbed by Devdas Nandy, Surojit Bhowmick, Deepankar Ghosh, Inderjeet and Chandar on 3 rd September. The peak stands at the head of the Khamengar valley to the west

Kullu Makalu (c. 6100 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Mountaineering Association of Krishnanagar, W.B. Leader and (Members) : Basanta Singha Roy (10) Period : May – June 2007

Details : As the name suggests this peak stands in the Kullu Himalaya. However it nowhere near to Makalu in Nepal in terms of difficulties. The present team fixed ropes till Camp 2 but the final rock wall stopped them. They reached 6200 m on 13 th June, having established three camps till 5600 m.

Manirang (6593 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Himalayan association, Kolkata Leader and (Members) : Ujjwal Ganguly (6) Period : August – September 2007

Details : Spiti area. After a gap of more than a decade, this peak was climbed again.

The summit was reached on 2 nd September through south ridge from Manirang pass. Uttam Jana and two Sherpas, Nima Dorje, Narender reached the summit.

Earlier ascents were by J. de V Graaf (first-1952), Col. Balwant Sandhu (1988) and Paul Nunn and Divyesh Muni in 1994 as part of the Indian-British expedition.

Menthosa (6443 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Indian Mountaineering Foundation Ladies Expedition Leader and (Members) : Chaula Jagirdar (6) Period : August 2007

Details : This peak stands half way up the Miyar valley above the Urgus village. The team reached Tingrot by road. From Tingrot village they approached the higher slopes via Urgus nala. Camp 2 was at 5945 m. From here Bhanita Timyunpi, Tusi Das, Ms. Chanda, Sange Sherpa, Lakhpa Tenzing, Lakpa Sherpa and Harsh reached the summit on 18 th August.

Mulkila IV (6514 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Indian Mountaineering Foundation Ladies Expedition. Leader and (Members) : Deepu Sharma (8) Period : June – July 2007.

Details : Peaks of the Mulkila Group are named from Peak 1 to 10, as they rise about a circque. Mulkila IV is the highest and most challenging peak of the group.

The team approached the peak from Milang glacier in Lahaul. Two camps were established. They left for the summit on 14 th July at 2.00 am ,, climbing via north ridge. They crossed sharp rock ridges and climbed two gullies of about 10 m each. They found a small box containing a paper with names of 1939 expedition summiteers who had made the first ascent. They fixed almost 155 m of rope. The summit was reached at 3.00 pm after 13 hours of continuous climb. They reach Camp 2 near midnight. The peak was climbed by Parineeta Chauhan, Kusum Bharati, N. Bidyapati Devi, Neeta Rani and Rinchen Sherpa. Amar Prakash a leading mountaineer from Manali was appointed as ‘advisor’ to the team.

Mulkila V (6370 m)

Expedition : Indian

Organisers : Bhadrakali Padatik, Hooghly , W.B. Leader and (Members) : Prosenjit Mukherjee (7) Period : June – July 2007 Details : This is a relatively easy summit of the Mulkila Group. The team approached the peak from Taragiri glacier and climbed the south face. Camp 2 was set up at 5700 m. All members reached the summit on 23 rd June

Phawararang (6394 m)

(a) Expedition : Indian

Organisers : Kamarhati Trekkers Association, Kolkata Leader and (Members) : Malay Kani Halder (7) Period : August – September 2007 Details : The peak rises to the east of the Jorkanden massif. Approaching from the Lalanti glacier they established two camps. Six persons reached the summit on 29th August.

(b) Expedition : Indian Organisers : Climbers Circle , Kolkata Leader and (Members) : Tapan Kr Mukhopadhyay (6) Period : September 2007

Details : This team approached via the normal route from the Lalanti glacier. On 22 nd September they reached 6300 m but could not proceed to the top.

Ramjak (6318 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Phoenix , Kolkata Leader and (Members) : Debashish Kanji (5) Period : June – July 2007

Details : The peak is seen from the popular trekking route of Darcha to Shingo la. However it had defied several attempts till it was first climbed by an Indian team in 2002. This team attempted the peak via the south-southeast ridge. They could not proceed above 5350 m due to bad weather.

Rubalkang (6187 m)

Expedition : Indian- Bangladesh Joint Expedition Leaders and (Members) : Basanta Kumar Singha Roy and S. M. Muntasir Mamun (14) Period : May - June 2007

Details :This team was unique in that it was the first joint team of climbers from Bangladesh and India. They climbed this relatively easy peak in the Kullu Himalaya, by the south face, on 30th May (6 members) and 31st May (5 members).

P. 6036 m (Miyar glacier)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Nilkanth Abhijatri Sangha, W.B. Leader and (Members) : Sameer Sengupta (7) Period : July 2007

Details : This a small peak in the Miyar nala in Lahaul. They set up the base camp near Dali got. The summit was reached by all eight members on 30 th July.

P. 5617 m (‘ Forward Peak ’)

Expedition : Japanese Organisers : Osaka University Leader and (Members) : Daisuke Tsutsumi (7) Period : August – September 2007.

Details : This small peak is located in the Miyar nala valley, Lahaul,near the Tarasalmu pass that leads to Darcha in the east. The summit was reached 8 th September by the north face.

Zanskar and Ladakh

P. 5200 m (Kargil area)

Expedition : Italian Leader and (Members) : Mourizio Orsi (5) Period : August 2007

Details : This is a small peak in Zanskar, near Gulmotonga (Kargil). All members reached the summit on 20 th August. The east face and north ridge route was followed. They proposed to name the peak as Golden Sentinel.

Mari (6587 m)

Expedition : Japanese Leader and (Members) : Rentaro Nishijima (6) Period : July – August 2007

Details : The peak stands near the Pangong lake in village Man, Ladakh. The team attempted Mari via P. 6342, hoping to traverse to Mari. But the ridge was rocky and knife-edged and they could not cross it. So P. 6342 was reached by south face by seven members on different dates.

Eastern Karakoram

Chong Kumdan I (7071 m)

Expedition : Indian-American Joint Expedition Organisers : The Himalayan Club, Mumbai Leader and (Members) : Divyesh Muni and Don Goodman (8) Period : July – August 2007.

Details : On 20 th August, 2007 at 4 p.m. , expedition members, Divyesh Muni, Donald Goodman, Marlin Geist and Chris Robertson; and Sherpas Nima Dorje, Ming Temba and Pemba Norbu climbed a new route on Chong Kumdan I. The new route climbed the southeast ridge to its intersection with the main east ridge , following it to the summit. This was the second ascent of this high peak, the first being by an Indian-British team led by Harish Kapadia in 1991. They had attempted this route but reached the summit via the north west ridge.

The main ambition was to climb the virgin peak of Chong Kumdan II (7004 m). However the glacier proved to be too difficult and dangerous (especially for porters) therefore this attempt never took off.

The route on Chong Kumdan I involved 45 to 55 degree ice for 400 m to the crest of the southeast ridge with 500 m of fixed line. Further, we followed the crest of the southeast ridge a few hundred metres to elevation 6,450 m where we established Camp 2. Hard ice paved the 20 to 30 degree slopes. They spent nearly four hours excavating tent platforms. From Camp 2, the team climbed the remainder of the ridge to where it intersects the east ridge near 6,800 m.

Above Camp 2, four ropes were fixed and the route continued past several gendarmes and a cornice to the right at the top of the slope. This part of the climb could be made without fixed lines, as the slopes were moderate. The maximum slopes are about 45 degrees near the intersection with the east ridge. Due to poor condition of the snow, it took over five hours to negotiate the last section to the summit.

A Kumauni porter, Anand Ram passed away on 10 th August due to high altitude sickness at the Saser Brangza Army camp. The Sherpa Sirdar, Ang Tashi took ill on 15 th August at Camp 1. He was accompanied down to ABC by members on 16 th and when there was no improvement in his health despite being provided bottled oxygen and medication, he was evacuated by helicopter and was hospitalised at Hundar.

Mamostong Kangri (7516 m)

(a) Expedition : Indian-French Joint Expedition Leaders and (Members) : Chewang Motup Goba and Paulo Grobel (7 French and 9 Indians) Period : July – August 2007

Details : This high mountain (peak of Thousand Devils) stands on the ancient trade route to Saser La. It has been climbed several times before. The Indo-French joint expedition climbed via the southeast ridge, the normal route. Paulo Grobel, Gayton Michel, Sherpa and Thinless Konchok reached the summit on 19 th August 2007.

(b) Expedition : Indian Army Leader and (Members) : Col. Ashok Abbey (30) Period : October-November 2007

Details : This strong team made an ascent of the peak as autumn cold and snow was settling in the area. The followed a new approach route. After crossing Saser La they turned north along the Shrok and turned further west in the Thangman valley leading towards the Mamostong Kangri peak. Climbing a ridge directly they avoided the Hope Col. Several members reached the summit (numbers and names are not known at present).

Rimo I (7385 m)

Expedition : Indian Organisers : Indian Mountaineering Foundation Leader and (Members) : Maj. K. S. Dhami (6) Period : July – August 2007

Details : This peak stands in the side valley to the east of the Siachen glacier. Bad weather and porter trouble hounded the expedition from the start. Kalyansing (an instructor at NIM) died, being drowned in the Terong river, in first few days of the expedition. Leader Dhami suffered serious frostbite. They claim to have reached the summit of this difficult peak in poor weather. Further details and photographs are awaited.

Unnamed Peak (6350 m)

Expedition : Indian-Australian Joint Expedition Leader and (Members) : Motup Chewang Goba and Geoff Beiley (13) Period : May – June 2007

Details : The peak is situated near Col Italia, Eastern Karakoram. The expedition had planned to cross Saser La, and follow trail along the Shyok and Chong Kumdan glacier dam site. However due to poor weather, rivers were flooded. Soon after crossing Saser la they reached the Aq Tash nala, which was in flood. The horses could not cross and the expedition had to be abandoned.

Arunachal Pradesh

Expedition : Indian Members : Harish Kapadia, Wing Cdr. V.K. Sashindran and Sangeetha Sashindran. Period : October - November 2007 Area : The Lohit Valley , Eastern Arunachal Pradesh.

Details : The Lohit valley, in the eastern Arunachal Pradesh (formerly NEFA) is deep and thickly wooded. It is the easternmost valley of India. At its eastern extremity, the borders of India - China and Burma meet at what is called the ’Tri-Junction‘. To the north of Tri-Junction is Jechep la, leading to China and to the south lies the Diphu La (Taluk Pass) which leads to Burma. This valley is of historical significance for many reasons. There were many early travellers here which approached the route from the Sadiya Frontier district and went on to travel to Rima in the Zayul (now in China). This was the easiest of routes as no high pass is to be crossed and the trail runs along the river. Many parties followed this trail, prominent being F. Kingdon-Ward, Col. F. M. Bailey, T. T. Cooper and the Pandit explorer A. K. (nicknamed Krishna or Rai Bahadur Kishen Singh). Both the Chinese and the British surveyed the area and built a track from their respective areas.

In 1962, in a bloody war the Chinese aggressors attacked Indian posts and came down to Walong and little beyond. The heroic battles at the Namti Plains and the Tri Junction are legends. The team visited the ‘Helmet Top’ where the remains of the gallant Indian defenders are kept, and walked to the ‘Millennium Point’ where, amongst few other places, the receiving of the first sun rays of the present Millennium to the Asian Sub-Continent was celebrated.

The aim was to reach the Diphu La (the Taluk Pass) which stands at the head of the Dichu valley. Many explorers like Kingdon-Ward and others had travelled on this route often and apart from early difficulties the valley follows the natural line to the pass. However the present day political conditions dictated that the Dichu valley cannot be approached. Hence the party had to follow the Sat Ti valley to its south.

Delayed due to local festivities, members started the trek from Dong, a village 6 km to the north and on the left bank of the Lohit. Early on the trail, a single log bridge about 100 feet above and across the Sat Ti had to be crossed. The group had crossed many bridges in earlier Arunachal treks (Foot Suspension Bridges) which were scary enough, but in this less trodden valley such ‘single log bridges’ were particularly dangerous. The trail otherwise was through thick jungles and with many steep ups and downs. At one point they came across a bridge with water flowing over it. One had to jump across few thin branches to reach the other bank. Two more such dangerous bridges were promised ahead. It was thought that the discretion is better part of the valour and so they decided to return - to be safe rather than sorry and cause a major inconvenience in the area.

Walong Inscriptions

After several inquiries, the party could locate Chinese inscriptions on a huge rock, which were mentioned by Ronald Kaulback, in the Geographical Journal.

On clearing the surroundings, red letters of Chinese markings (written in 1910 or much before) were seen. These were partly deciphered and this significant find will require further research.