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MAJOR EXPEDITIONS TO THE INDIAN HIMALAYA IN 2010

If you pardon the cliché, whenever God closes a door he opens a window. This adage truly applied to experiences in the Indian Himalaya in the year 2010. There were not many expeditions and few high peaks were climbed. May be this is a reflection of higher peak fees and above all hindrances caused by the bureaucracy.  However there was much activity around small peaks, new regions and smaller teams. This may be an indicator for the future, as these expeditions are cost effective. Many did not mind meeting serious challenges below the height of 5500 m, as above this height, peak fees are payable.

There were 40 foreign expeditions to India – a steep drop from the normal figure of 65. Indian expeditions were 63, but unfortunately many were either to normal peaks or washed out due to bad weather.   

During the year Indian mountaineering lost one of its doyens in the death of Col. (retd) Balwant Sandhu. He was hit by a speeding car in Delhi and after fighting for life for a week, he passed away on  December 10, 2010 at the age of 76. Col. Sandhu was a joint leader with Sir Chris Bonington on the first ascent of Changabang. His other ascents, several as leader include the west ridge of Kamet with the French, Mamostong Kangri ((first ascent) with the Japanese, Nanda Devi traverse expedition with the French and Leo Pargial. His major contribution was to attempt many difficult peaks like Chiring We, Rathong, Chombu East and Gurudongmar.

He was Vice President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (1997-98), the Principal of the premier training institute at Uttarkashi and a soldier from the famed Para regiment of the Indian army. He was the President of the Himalayan Club (1983-84) and was an Honorary Member of the Alpine Club.

Joss Lynam and Bob Lawford, from Ireland and England respectively passed away. Both had a strong India connection. Lynam did pioneering exploration in Kullu and Spiti in 1950s while Lawford lived in India during his childhood years and later for work.

A flash flood hit the lower areas of Ladakh near Leh and elsewhere in remote valleys in early August. Rivers of mud flowed down destroying houses, roads and fields, causing long term damage. Aid from the army and government agencies have poured in but it is never sufficient. Various organisations, including the Himalayan Club raised funds to help various projects. More work on rebuilding and damage repair will commence this summer once the harsh winter is over.

Two new books were published in India. The Siachen Glacier - The Battle of Roses by Harish Kapadia covers the history of the glacier which has been the scene of conflict for the last 26 years. The history of the glacier, based on the author’s several visits to trek and climb is covered. Himalayan Wonderland, an earlier publication on Lahaul and Spiti by Dr M. S. Gill was thoroughly revised and re published with several additional maps and pictures.

The Mussoorie International Writers' Festival the third such festival in the series, was organised at this famous hill station in October 2010. Several leading mountain writers from India and the world  read from their latest works. Amongst the participants  were Ruskin Bond, Jim Curran, Kate Harris, Sheela Jaywant, Harish Kapadia, Bernadette McDonald, Anuradha Roy, Bittu Sahgal, Toby Sinclair  and Garry Weare. George Schaller was the key-note speaker who inaugurated the festival.

Brigadier Ashok Abbey took over as the President of the Himalayan Club. He is a leading mountaineer and has led expeditions and climbed many peak in India and Nepal, including Everest. At the same time Mick Fowler, a climber with major formidable ascents, took over as President of Alpine Club, London. Steve Swenson, President of the American Alpine Club, has attempted high peak and climbed many difficult routes. Thus three major clubs have well known climbers as their Presidents and all have  achieved significant  achievements in the Indian Himalaya. This exemplifies the attraction of the range, which does not contain any 8000 m peak, but still stands on its own.

Following were the major expeditions to the Indian Himalaya.

Major Expeditions to the Indian Himalaya 2010

UTTARAKHAND

Arwa Tower  (6352 m)

Expedition: Dutch    

Leader and (Members): Sebastiaan Van der Smeede  (4)

Period: May- June 2010                               

Brief Details: The Dutch team approached the mountain from Ghastoli and entered Arwa valley. They established base camp at around 4700 m. Two more high camps (camp 1 – 5350 m, Camp 2 – 5775 m) were placed. They attempted the northwest buttress. Ice and snow on rock and increased difficulty repulsed both the attempts made during the end of May and first week of June. They could reach around 6000 m which was the high point of the expedition.

Vasuki Parvat  (6792 m)

Expedition: British New Zealand      

Leader and (Members): Malcolm Bass (3)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: The peak located in the Chaturangi glacier, is so named due to its shape as a serpent hood of a mythological figure, Vasuki. The alpine style ascent of the four-member British-New Zealand team from the unclimbed west face, traverse of the main summit and descent from the northwest ridge was a notable achievement in the Indian Himalaya this year. After establishing their base camp near the junction of Chaturangi and Vasuki Bamak at 4820 m, the attempt started on 03 October. During a continuous push, successive bivouacs were placed at 5400 m, 5700 m, 5900 m, 6000 m, 6200 m, 6500 m and 6700 m on the west face. Malcolm Bass with Paul Figg reached the summit on  12 October. After traversing the summit ridge, they descended the northwest ridge after a bivouac at 6250 m and reached base camp on  13 October 2010.

   

Kamet (7756 m)

Expedition: German, Austrian, Swiss, French        

Leader and (Members): Herbert Wolf (5)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: This international team established their base camp at Vasudhara Tal and followed the traditional route to the summit via the Purbi Kamet glacier and the Meade’s col. Four high camps were established and the attempt took place from the summit camp at an altitude of 7080 m. On  28 September 2010, the leader with Oliver Amann, Nicolas Touboul, Bernd Mayer and Roland Brand reached the summit. Erich Eisele could not go above 5620 m due to health reasons.

Ekdant (6100 m)

Expedition: Portuguese        

Leader and (Members): Daniela E.N. Teixeira (1)

Period: May June 2010                                

Brief Details: This two-member team from Portugal did not attempt Chaukhamba III as originally planned. Instead, they made two ascents in the area of Satopanth Tal. The leader with Paulo Roxo made the first ascent of the north spur of Ekdant (6100 m) on 21 May and an Unnamed Peak (5115 m) on 02 June 2010. They have proposed to name this peak as Kartik. They also attempted Parvati Parvat but bad snow conditions foiled their plan.

Nithal Thaur (6236 m)

Expedition: Slovenian          

Leader and (Members): Urban Golob (3)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: The following route was followed to approach the mountain: Munsiyari- Lilam- Bugdiyar- Rilkot- Milam- Nithal Thaur (base camp) at 4200 m. Then the Slovenian team followed Milam glacier and established two high camps. Loose rocks and seracs on the south ridge of Hardeol stopped their attempt at an altitude of 5800 m. They changed their objective and on 10 October 2010, in an alpine style ascent, Boris Lorencic, Karel Zavrsnik and Matija Jost reached the summit of Nithal Thaur (6236 m) by the southwest and west ridge. 

Trisuli (7074 m)

Expedition: Swiss German  

Leader and (Members): Walter Josef Pfeifhofer (9)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: Because of heavy rainfall and broken route, the team reached the base camp at Nithal Thaur very late in the season. While on the glacier at 4700 m, mountain guide Michael Nellen stepped into a crevasse and dislocated his knee. Two high camps were established and the team could reach a maximum height of 5700 m. The team retreated due to lack of time.

Bhagirathi III (6454 m)

Expedition: French   

Leader and (Members): Christophe Moulin (7)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: Two routes were simultaneously climbed on Bhagirathi III by this French team. On 23 September, Bletton Antoine, Gentet Frederic and Messina Dimitri reached the summit via east ridge, which is the normal route of this peak. On 26 September all team members reached the summit by a new route on the west face. They established one high camp at 5500 m on each route before reaching the summit.

Shivling (6543 m)

(1) Expedition: Indian

Organisers: Indian Mountaineering Foundation       

Leader and (Members): Sorab Gandhi (12)

Period: May-June 2010                                

Brief Details: This large thirteen-member team followed the traditional route in traditional style. On 18 June 2010, Ram Singh, Rakesh Joshi, Amit Ranghar, Roopa Sahi, Stanzin Youthog, Kavita Burathoki with Chandra Bahadur and Raj Bahadur Shahi reached the summit.

(2) Expedition: Spanish        

Leader and (Members): Santiago Pardros Calvache (2)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: The leader with Elies Coll climbed the normal route in alpine style in two days from base camp to reach the summit on 27 September.

Trisul (7120 m)

Expedition: British    

Leader and (Members): Simon Hall (5)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: This high peak was attempted from its western approaches. The team established three high camps on the mountain and the top camp was placed at 6400 m. Unfortunately, it remained the high point of the expedition as the team retreated due to adverse weather and snow conditions.

Nanda Ghunti (6390 m)

Expedition: Indian

Organisers: Parvat Abhiyatri Sangha, Kolkata

Leader and (Members): Shyamal Sarkar (11)

Period: June 2010                            

Brief Details: A large team from Kolkata, India, attempted Nanda Ghunti - a peak named after the ‘Veil of Nanda Devi’. On 13 August, Sukumar Roy and Dilip Banerjee reached the summit following the traditional route.

Gangotri I (6672 m)

Expedition: Indian

Organisers: Mountain Quest of Calcutta

Leader and (Members): Ramesh Chandra Roy (8)

Period: June 2010                            

Brief Details: Situated near the temple of the same name, Gangotri is group of three peaks, each climbed many times. This team from Kolkata, reached the summit by the traditional route.  On 17 June, the leader with Lakhpa Sherpa reached the summit.

Nanda Khat (6611 m)

Expedition: Indian

Organisers: Indian Mountaineering Foundation

Leader and (Members): Dr Anil Gurtoo (11)

Period: May-June 2010                                

Brief Details: Nanda Khat is an often attempted mountain in Kumaun. The Indian team followed the traditional route passing through Song, Dwali and Phurkia. The base camp was established at 4482 m. The team climbed via a new route on the northeast spur to the north summit to reach the main summit after establishing two high camps (5352 m and 5325 m). Dhruv Joshi, Tapka Norbu, Chetan Pandey and Bharat Bhushan reached the main summit on 22 June 2010. No high altitude supporters were employed.

Ranglana and other peaks in the Obra valley

Boris Korzh, Philip Leadbeater, Kunal Masania, Andrew McLellan and Jonathan Phillips, all from Imperial College London, have recently made three first ascents in the little visited Obra valley, west of the Bandarpunch-Swargarohini Group in India's far Western Garhwal.

The five mountaineers, who were supported by the Imperial College Exploration Board, Mount Everest Foundation, British Mountaineering Council, Welsh Sports Association and the Lyon Equipment Award, formed only the third group to climb in this area. Fortunately, a fine spell of weather, not long after their arrival, meant that their expedition was certainly the most successful.

The middle reaches of the Obra are dominated by the splendid icy peak of Ranglana (5554 m). This peak has been the main objective of several  climbing teams  to visit this valley. The British pair Gerry and Louise Wilson, with Harish Kapadia and seven friends were here in 2006. As the conditions were poor only a lower summit, Dhodu Ka Gunchha (5130 m), was climbed. Ranglana was not attempted, and neither were the highest peaks, Pts 5877 m, 5849 m and 5760 m, which lie at the head of the valley. Vinay Hegde, a leading Mumbai mountaineer was particularly attracted to this valley and to peak Ranglana. With a young team he made three visits here but poor conditions and lack of time beat them back.

These high peaks formed the target for Derek Buckle, Toto Gronlund, Martin Scott and Bill Thurston in 2008. On a BMC approved expedition these four were unsuccessful on the northwest ridge of Pt 5760 m and had to settle for a consolation prize of Pt 5165 m north of base camp, which they christened Lammergeyer Peak.

The Imperial College team battled receding snow and slush in the upper valley to establish a high camp at 4900 m, from where they made the first ascent of Pt 5480 m via the southwest ridge (500 m, AD-). Moving their camp a little higher to 5100 m, five members then climbed the valley's highest peak, Pt 5877 m, thought to be known locally as ‘Dauru’. Ascent was made via the northwest ridge (700 m, AD) and the summit snow cap gave a truly excellent panorama.

Finally, the team climbed the shapely Ranglana (5554 m). A reconnaissance had shown the south ridge, rising above the Maninda valley to the east, to offer a feasible route.  The five placed a high camp just below a col on the southwest ridge and then next day crossed the pass. They now descended a short distance towards the Maninda valley, before traversing to Ranglana's south ridge and following it to the summit (900 m, D-).

(Lindsay Griffin)

HIMACHAL PRADESH

Ascents in Jiwa Nala (Kullu)

Five members of the Alpine Club have recently returned from a successful exploratory expedition to the Indian Himalaya, where they climbed four previously virgin peaks.

The Alpine Club organises a number of 'meets' throughout the year, from weekends in the Peak District to expeditions in the Greater Ranges. The most recent saw Derek Buckle, Michael Cocker, Drew Cook, John Hudson and Laura Millichamp visit the Jiwa nala in the protected region of the Great Himalayan National Park. Located in Himachal Pradesh, the Jiwa drains west towards the Beas river, south of the famous tourist resort of Manali. It lies in the Banjar region, approximately 70 kms east-southeast of the large regional town of Kullu. The Great Himalayan National Park is well-known for its biodiversity and the team frequently came across bear scat and saw snow leopard tracks on the glacier.   The area had, as far as is known, had not previously been visited by mountaineers.

While shepherds had occasionally grazed flocks in the past, the valley can only be accessed via two difficult passes and no permanent settlement has ever been established. Peaks at the valley head rise to 5445 m. From a high camp just below the glacial snout, Buckle, Cocker and Cook accessed an upper glacier via a steep snow couloir and then made the first ascent of Snow Leopard Peak (5365 m), climbing a mixed route on the south face at AD.

The expedition also made first ascents of Tribulation Point (5125 m) and Sentinel Peak (5140 m), which lie in the crenulated cirque south of Snow Leopard. After establishing a different high camp, they also climbed Snowcock Point (4890 m), south of the main valley.

(Derek Buckle and Mike Cocker with Lindsay Griffin) 

Singekang (6000 m)

Expedition: Irish-British

Leader and (Members): Alan Tees (5)

Period: October-November 2010                             

Brief Details: This peak is located in the Singekang valley of Himachal Pradesh. This valley in Spiti was approached via Poh and Pomrang villages in southern Spiti. The team suffered poor snow conditions on Singekang and thus shifted their focus to a nearby Unnamed Peak (5500 m). They followed the west ridge and reached the summit on 12 November 2010. The leader with Sandra Kennedy, Andrew Tees, George Carleton, Jeremy Windsor and Niall Boner reached the top. 

Manirang (6593 m)

Expedition: Indian

Organisers: Howrah District Mountaineers and Trekkers Association, West Bengal.

Leader and (Members): Anal Das (11)

Period: July-August 2010                             

Brief Details: Manirang is a high peak located on the borders of Spiti and Kinnaur. It was first climbed by South African couple Dr and Mrs J. de V. Graaf in 1952 with the legendary Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama and Tashi Sherpa. The present team was also accompanied by 9 trekkers. After reaching the base camp location at Spoana (4580 m), they further established two high camps; Camp 1 at Sojana (5150 m) and the summit camp at 5740 m. They climbed south face of the peak. Molay Mukherjee, Kuntal Karar, Abhrajit Chatterjee with Norbu, Lakpa and Lopsang reached the summit on 03 August.

Menthosa (6443 m)

Expedition: Indian

Organisers: Bharat Scouts and Guides, Kolkata

Leader and (Members): Somenath Mondal (12)

Period: August 2010                         

Brief Details: This popular peak in Lahaul was climbed by its traditional route. In the final stage, the team climbed through the southeast ridge instead of the east ridge. On 19 August 2010, Samir Sarkar with Pyarelal and Fatehchand reached the summit.

  

Ramjak (6318 m)

Expedition: Indian

Organisers: Punjab Police Adventure Sports Club

Leader and (Members): HC Mohan Lal (3)

Period: July 2010                              

Brief Details: Ramjak lies on the popular trek route from Manali, passing through Shingo la to Zanskar. The four member Punjab police team made a quick ascent of this peak and all of them reached the summit. They followed the route taken by the earlier teams and ascended the eastern slopes to reach a col situated on the north ridge and then turned south to climb the north ridge of the mountain. On 14 July 2010, the leader with Jagdev Raj Kodpha, Dina Nath and Aryan Singh reached the summit.

Raldang (5499 m)

Expedition: Catalan

Leader and (Members): Silvia Vidal (solo)

Period: July 2010                              

Brief Details:  Catalan female Sílvia Vidal, one of the most accomplished big wall aid climbers in the world, attempted  an El Capitan-sized granite wall in the Kinnaur region of the Indian Himalaya.

Before arriving in India, the only information on the wall that Vidal possessed was a single photograph and Google Earth coordinates. The picture of the face had originally been posted on the big wall website of American John Middendorf. To spark a lengthy on-line competition, Middendorf offered a hammer to anyone who could identify the location of this impressive formation.

It was eventually discovered on the southern flanks of Raldang (5499 m) in the Kinnaur Kailash Range, approximately northeast of Sangla village in the Baspa valley. Most impressive view of this peak and face is obtained from Kalpa, directly to its west. As per the records this pinnacle was climbed by Lt P. R. Oliver in 1931.  This pinnacle is clearly visible from many angles, especially from Kalpa and it was waiting to be climbed after almost 80 years!

She established base camp at 3800 m with porters. During the seven days spent there, she was never able to see the whole face due to cloud and heavy rain, and it took two days to find the foot of the wall. Access was via a complex and slippery ravine, in which she needed to fix a few ropes. After fixing the first three pitches of the face, Vidal set off for her 25-day stint alone. Two weeks into the route and above pitch 10 she reluctantly had to resort to drilling bat hooks through completely featureless sections.

However, she tried not to use bat hooking to increase the grade and emphasises that the crux A4 and A4+ sections were all natural.

(Lindsay Griffin)

Dome Peak (5650 m), Point JAMES (4965 m),

Miyar valley (Lahaul)

Expedition: Spanish

Leader and (Members): Anna Pfaff and Camilo Lopez

Period: August-Sept. 2010                           

Brief Details:   At the end of August, after a three-day trek, Anna Pfaff and Camilo Lopez established base camp in the Miyar nala, Lahaul, on the grassy meadow below Castle Peak. Taking advantage of an eight-day weather window we had been enjoying during the approach, we set off on 1 September for the southeast face of unnamed Peak 5650 m on the north side of the Chhudong valley.  After three-quarters height, instead of a traverse right to a gully, we opted for the headwall. Lopez led a steep face of 5.10 then Anna led two pitches of 5.10+, overcoming a loose section before I continued up moderate 5.8 terrain to the summit, arriving in twilight.

We slung the most prominent section of the summit with our rope, and then began the first of 14 rappels through the night. Along the way we lost one of our ropes, ran out of slings for rappel anchors, and almost lost our bivouac gear, but eventually made it down in one piece. We named the route Lopez-Pfaff Direct (IV 5.10+, 800m), and the previously virgin summit Dome Peak.

After this, the weather turned bad for 10 days, forcing us to play the waiting game. Having decided to retreat, the weather began to improve!!  The fine pyramid of ‘Point James’ was close at hand, and we thought the southeast ridge was unclimbed. After climbing moderate terrain on an exciting ridge, we reached a point where it ended below a headwall. On a good ledge we changed into rock shoes and contemplated the weather. As we were close to the top, we decided to go for it. Lopez led a full 70 m pitch up a 5.10 finger crack through exposed, solid rock, and then Anna took over the lead and reached a roof, which she bypassed by a rightward traverse that proved to be the crux of the entire route. Lopez followed, to find her on a hanging belay just a couple of metres below the summit. Reaching the top involved crossing an exposed overhang with no protection. Lopez led only a few minutes but it felt like hours. Soon we were hugging each other on the very top, having completed the 600 m southeast ridge at III 5.10c.

(Camilo Lopez)

Shiva Shankar West  (5510 m)  

Expedition: Italian     

Leader and (Members): Bruno Moretti (3)

Period: Aug-Sept 2010                                 

Brief Details:  From mid August-mid September Lynn Lacobini De Fazio, Massimo Marcheggiani, and Bruno Moretti, all mountaineering instructors with the Italian Alpine Club, explored the Saichu valley, the first of the Pangi's sub-valleys right of the Chenab.

After braving floods and washed out roads, they  eventually reached the lush Saichu valley Two days trekking took them  to the narrow entrance to the Tarundi valley, leading to the east side of Shiva.  As  horses were unable to go beyond this point, base camp (3535m),  was established unfortunately much lower than desirable.

Taking advantage of a good weather window, they  continued north up valley, camping at 4165 m, 4600 m and 5080 m, the last 20 m above a col overlooking Sural valley, and dominated to the west by Peak 5860m. Visible to the southwest was the huge northeast face and magic east pillar of Shiva. On 1 September they  started up the face immediately east of the col, first climbing a 200 m wall of very loose rock (crumbly shale in huge unstable blocks) with difficulties up to UIAA V. Some of this was verglassed and they  had to climb in crampons. Then they  climbed a steep ice slope, followed by a snow shoulder that led to the 5510 m rounded dome of Shiva Shankar West  This summit was first climbed in 2005 by Italian Diego Stefani, who named it “Zero Point”. Continuing east would led to the summit of Shiva Shankar (6011m) - the Horn of Shiva. All information suggests that the two Italian expeditions are the only ones to have climbed from the Tarundi valley.

Shiva (6142 m)

Expedition:  Russian            

Leader and (Members): Andrey Muryshev (3)

Period: Aug-Sept 2010                                 

Brief Details:  Shiva was , first climbed in 1988 by Junko Tabei. They went in September 2010 with fellow climbers Evgeny Korol and Alexander Kornilov, and snowboarder Natalia Lapina, to see and climb it. Only the first part of the plan was successful.

Climbing the north side of Shiva is problematic. It is divided into two parts by a central spur. In the lower section of the east-northeast face, huge hanging glaciers constantly discharge ice avalanches. There are two fine ice couloirs that rise almost to the summit but accessing them is difficult, and due to poor weather during our stay, they were avalanching. The north face is only 50° and shorter, because it starts from a large and easily accessible ice terrace at c. 5000 m.

We tried the central line starting at 5000 m. Although it looked simple at first, the 45-50°snow was wet, deep and unstable. Next  four days the weather was bad, and when we returned, they  found our equipment had been buried by a huge ice avalanche and  climbing was over.

Pangi Valley; mountaineering history; unclimbed objectives from the Saichu valley

Early history in the Pangi was made by Japanese Junko Tabei, the first women to summit Everest, who in 1988 made the first ascent of Shiva by the southwest face from the Parmar valley.  In 2001 a Japanese team climbed Baihali Jot (6290 m) by the north ridge  In 2002 an Indian expedition made the second ascent of Shiva, following the 1988 route . In 2004, Chris Bonington, Harish Kapadia, and friends trekked north up the Saichu as far as the confluence between Tarundi and Paphita valleys, then continued east up the latter to climb Jot Mund (5130), Jambu Peak (5105) and Pimu Peak (5480) on the watershed with the Miyar valley. The following year Diego Stefani's expedition climbed Shiva Shankar West.

In 2007 Bonington returned, this time going up the Sural valley from the administrative capital, Killar. While he and Raj Kumar climbed Peak 5027 m, the other three members of his British team, Rob Ferguson, Graham Little and Jim Lowther, attempted the northwest face of unclimbed Shiva Shankar (6011m), failing due to rotten rock. It was left to Japanese Kazuo Kozu, Hidetaka Lizuka, and Reiko Maruyama, with three Indian porters, to make the first ascent of Shiva Shankar (a.k.a Sersank Peak, because it dominates the Sersank Pass to the north) the following year, via the same route attempted by the British trio.

Many challenges remain for future parties, the most notable being the eastern and northern aspects of Shiva [attempted by the Russians)  Equally interesting are the unclimbed icy northwestern faces of Menthosa (6443 m), Baihali Jot (6290 m) and its satellites, the latter with elegant ice faces above the Saichu valley. No less intriguing is the south face of Shiva Shankar, though it has a disturbing array of seracs that get the sun's rays most of the day. East of our base camp lay the confusingly named Baheli Jot (5600m) - a miniature Everest. The southwest ridge would provide good acclimatisation and an interesting exploratory climb. Most of the history of climbing in the Pangi region is yet to be written.

(Bruno Moretti)

LADAKH AND EASTERN KARAKORAM

Barma Kangri (6515 m)

Expedition: Japanese

Leader and (Members): Masato Oki (1)

Period: July-August 2010                             

Brief Details: Mari is located southwest of Pangong Tso in the Pangong range of the Ladakh Himalaya. The base camp was established at a place called Kongma (4800 m), which is also a roadhead 23 kms away from Chushul on Tangtse road. The team established three high camps at 5400 m, 6000 m and 6100 m. They did not climb Mari (6587 m) their original objective, but climbed Barma Kangri (6515 m). They ascended the southeast ridge and on 12 July 2010, Rentaro Nishijima with Konchok Thinles and Pemba Sherpa reached the summit. On 17 July they were followed by Masato Oki with the same high altitude supporters to the summit.

Peak (5850 m), and  Peak (5995 m)

Peaks in Thanglasgo valley 

Expedition: British- American- Finland

Leader and (Members): Christopher John Horobin (6)

Period: July-August 2010                             

Brief Details: Lying north of Leh in the rain shadow of the Himalaya, this region has seen few parties operate outside the main trekking routes, and because of its proximity to the Pakistan border, it is regarded by the Indian military as being particularly sensitive.

They had originally planned to attempt Telthop (6120 m) which was not  possible due difficulties of terrain where mules could not go.  Hence they changed their plans for peaks above Thanglasgo.

Reaching Hundar, in the western Nubra valley, they  made plans to access the mountain via the main Thanglasgo valley. A three-day trek took us to Thanglasgo hamlet (c. 4600 m) and the start of an unexplored valley to the east that we hoped would lead to our peak.

A reconnaissance next day showed this approach to be long and difficult, with much moraine and a steep glacier. Later they caught sight of a peak at the head of the initial valley. It is marked on the map as 5850 m and was confirmed by our Sherpas to be unclimbed.

From a base camp at Thanglasgo hamlet we established a high camp in the valley leading to 5850 m, and the day after crossed incredibly unstable moraine and a long glacier to reach the northwest face. This gave 300 m of climbing up to 60° and led to the snowy, sometimes knife- edge, northeast ridge.  Andrea Bainbridge, Sarah Reynolds, Bob Shiels, and Chris Horobin  climbed rapidly in deteriorating weather to reach the rocky summit.

In the few days remaining we attempted the peak north of Shabib Chasser. Given the warm weather and poor snow conditions they  decided to reconnoitre the southeast ridge, which was mainly rocky. They placed another high camp, and after a few hours sleep the mandatory alpine start saw them  scrambling in the dark up a loose scree/boulder slope to gain the ridge. The crest gave climbing up to British Severe in standard, and after nine hours Reynolds, Shiels, and Chris Horobin reached the summit, on which recorded a GPS altitude of 5995 m.

Other members of the expedition were Colin Bainbridge, Henry Latti (Finland), David Moseley and Matt Powell (USA).

Lingsarmo (Pinnacle peak) (6995 m)

Expedition: American-Canadian

Leader and (Members): Ms. Alison Sara Criscitiello (2)

Period: August-September 2010                              

Brief Details: This historic peak was first climbed in 1906 by Mrs. Fanny Bullock-Workman. Following the footsteps of Bullock-Workman, this three-woman team reached Nun base camp from Shafat village. After entering the Shafat glacier, they placed three high camps respectively at 5490 m, 6130 m, and 6270 m ascending the Swiss face. They climbed to the col between Kun and Pinnacle Peak and on 16 August 2010, the leader with Rebecca Haspel reached the summit. Kate Harris was the third climber of the party.  

Note by author: The  historic first ascent of Pinnacle Peak was made in 1906 via the southeast ridge by American Fanny Bullock Workman with Savoye (her guide), and a porter. At the time it was the highest summit reached by a woman, and close to the human altitude record. The ascent is well recorded in the Workmans' 1 909 book, Peaks and Glaciers of Nun Kun. The first editor of the Himalayan Journal, Kenneth Mason, created doubts about this ascent through his writings, although he never wrote explicitly that he doubted the ascent; "Mrs. Bullock Workman claimed to have ascended to 23,300', to the summit of a peak which she named Pinnacle Peak, and which she persistently referred to as the second highest peak of the group. Her heights and this statement were at variance with previously triangulated values". This was published in A note on the topography of the Nun Kun Massif in Ladakh, and later repeated in Mason's scholarly work, Abode of Snow. The use of the word "claimed" fuelled a certain controversy, though it is not clear whether Mason doubted Workman's ascent, or whether he, as a surveyor, was only discussing the height she gave to the peak.

Over the years, other teams have also climbed this summit, particularly in the 1980s, and referred to it as Pinnacle Peak. These ascents have been well-recorded in various journals, and photos taken of the summit show it to be the same as that which appears on the front cover of the Workmans' book, confirming Fanny Bullock Workman's claim. Modern maps have renamed it Lingsarmo, and quote both Nun and Kun as 7135m, making Workman's peak the third highest in the group. It appears on the official list of new peaks opened for climbing in 2009.

Gulmothungos  Rocks

 

The valleys from Ringdom monastery to Padam contain several rock pinnacles, peaks and passes. Photographs of these were published in the Himalayan Journal, vol. 66.  These small valleys offer good climbs without need for much arrangement or planning.

One such group of high walls is near the check post at Gulmothungos. After crossing the river the small valley of same name is approached and it offers a wide variety of rock climbs. A team of young American rock climbers, led by Rushad Nanavatty spent an enjoyable three weeks in the summer of 2010  climbing challenging routes.

Hagshu (6515 m)

Expedition: French

Leader and (Members): Mikael Dubois Bedin (2)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: The team found very bad conditions for climbing on the mountain, particularly falling rocks. They attempted northeast ridge but could not reach very high.

Mamostong Kangri (7516 m)

Expedition: Indian

Organisers: The Himalayan Club, Kolkata section

Leader and (Members): Pradeep Chandra Sahoo (7)

Period: July-August 2010                             

Brief Details: Base camp was set up at about 4500 m near Skyangpoche. The team occupied advanced base camp at an altitude of about 4800 m on the 22 July. Camp 1 was  set  up  at  5300 m on the Mamostong glacier, below the Hope col (5885 m). Camp 2 was established on the Thangman glacier (Kichik Kumdan glacier) at 5600 m after crossing the Hope col. The route down the Hope col onto the Thangman glacier was tricky because of its steep gradient and numerous crevasses near the bottom of the wall. The descent route had to be fixed with 200 m of rope to safeguard the regular ferrying across the col. After three days of bad weather, Camp 2 was finally occupied on 1 August and the final camp was established at 6500 m on the upper snowfield below the east ridge on the following day. 600 m of rope was fixed on the rock and ice gully leading to the upper snowfield.

 

Two attempts failed due to bad weather conditions. On the night of 6 August the snowfall stopped and the summit team left the summit camp under overcast skies.  Poor visibility and soft snow made their progress extremely slow and exhausting. They fixed 800 m of rope on the steep incline of the summit ridge. After toiling for more than ten hours, at 11.30 am of the morning of the 7 August, Debraj Dutta, accompanied by three Sherpas, Phurba Sherpa, Pemba Sherpa and Dawa Sherpa, reached the summit. 

Continuous snowfall and avalanches had swept away the fixed rope between the Hope col and Camp 2, which were fixed again for a safe return.

(P.C. Sahoo)

Ibsti Kangri (6340 m)

 

Expedition: Indian-American

Organisers: The Himalayan Club

Leader and (Members): Divyesh Muni and Don Goodman (4)

Period: July-August 2010                             

Brief Details: Peak 6340 m which the team named as Ibsti Kangri is located in the Nimaling Topko area of Ladakh. The team drove along the Leh-Manali road to reach Lato to approach the mountain crossing Puja la (4930 m). After crossing another pass (5354 m) they camped on the Nimaling Topko. The base camp was established at 5200 m and advanced base camp was placed at 5620 m.

On 14 August, Divyesh, Don, Dave and Dawa began their ascent from Camp 1 established at   the base of southeast face of the peak. The initial slope of soft snow took them to the rock strip. An easy scramble brought them to the start of the gully. They stuck to the edge of the gully and weaved their way between rock outcrops on the snow and ice slope of the face. It was a fairly steady climb of about 45 to 50 degrees. The snow was firm, allowing them fairly quick un-roped progress. The weather stayed cloudy, keeping the snow firm. They fixed one rope on the final slope before they got to the east ridge of the summit, as they had to negotiate a few patches of steep ice. About a 100 odd metres of careful climbing on the ridge brought them to the summit in low visibility at 9.30 a.m. They were surprised to find a small cairn on the summit towards the north ridge of the peak as there was no previous record of any ascent of the mountain.

 

In the second phase, the team decided to attempt P 6200 m and P. 6265 m. These twin peaks are marked as Dzo Jongo on some maps. Vineeta and Divyesh established a high camp at 5800 m whereas Don, Natala, Dave and the two Sherpas ascended directly from ABC up the east ridge. They all met up at about 6000 m to complete the climb together and by 9.30 am the entire team was on the summit.

The west summit of the peak (6265 m) stretched a kilometre away, and Don, Dave and Divyesh decided to attempt the traverse. The rocks were surprisingly solid allowing them to move un-roped. They reached the west summit at 12.30 p.m. after an hour and half of traverse. There are no previous records of any attempts of the west peak.

The team also visited Lalung la (5630 m), which is an alternative route down to the junction of Shiyul nala and Lalung nala. As the road between Lato and Upshi was washed away during the Ladakh floods, the team had to cross Kongmaru la (5250 m) and trekked down to Shyam Sumdo to reach Leh.

(Divyesh Muni)

SIKKIM

Tingchenkhang (6010 m)

 

Expedition: Indian

Organisers: Chakram Hikers, Mumbai

Leader and (Members): Rajesh Gadgil (5)

Period: September-October 2010                            

Brief Details: In October 2009, Chakram Hikers, Mumbai had organised an expedition to Tingchenkhang (6010 m) in west Sikkim. Two members, Mangesh Deshpande and Sekar Sadashivan reached the summit but were killed in an accident while descending (see The Himalayan Club E LETTER, Vol. 17). The two Sherpas who accompanied them were rescued. Since winter was imminent, it was not possible at that time to retrieve the bodies of the two unfortunate climbers. Thus another expedition was organised in September-October 2010 to retrieve the bodies.

A team consisting of 6 members, a liaison officer and 7 climbing Sherpas left Yuksam and reached base camp (4150 m) at Devtaghar on the true left bank of the Prek Chu river on 27 September.

Advanced base camp was set up at 4835 m and after negotiating the steep icy slopes towards the east and the icefield, Camp 1 was established at 5463 m. 

On 5 October, 5 Sherpas, Rahul and the leader reached the high point by 10.00 a.m. According to the information they had from the 2009 expedition, they should have come across a steep but continuous slope that led towards the summit. Instead, there was a gaping bergschrund and a complex crevasse field between the team, and the final summit slopes. They fixed more ropes to reach an altitude of 5915 m, where, according to the Sherpas who accompanied the 2009 expedition, the bodies of Mangesh and Sekar had been buried after the accident. The whole place was covered by a huge bergschrund. Both the walls of the bergschrund were full of hanging glaciers and seracs and it was dangerous to venture below them.

The team searched likely locations inside the bergschrund on 5 October as well as on 6 October. They were unable to find any signs of the bodies.  They decided to call off the search.

(Rajesh Gadgil)

Jopuno

Expedition: Swiss     

Leader and (Members): Roger Payne (2)

Period: Oct-Nov  2009                                 

Brief Details:  In the autumn of 2009 Julie-Ann Clyma and Roger Payne  were back in Western Sikkim, and together with Hugh Sheehan, made an attempt on Jopuno. On November 7 they  climbed the left side of the southwest face to gain the crest of the west ridge at the base of the black rock section. We climbed this until just below the snowy fore-summit, but by this time it was windy and cloudy, and we did not have time or equipment to go further. More than half our descent was made in the dark.

WW Graham described climbing 'Jobonu' in 1883. In the 1884 Alpine Journal he writes that it was, "incomparably the hardest ascent we had in the Himalaya owing to the great steepness of the glacier work". It is hard to imagine that Jopuno was climbed in 1883, but I would have thought that the west ridge would have been the line of choice in the pioneering days of alpinism. Nothing in his account fits the topography of Jopuno, and my current view is that he might have climbed the northwest glacier on Tinchenkang and mistaken this for Jopuno.

(Roger Payne)

Lama Lamani, Pk 5500 m and Jopuno

Expedition: British-American           

Leader and (Members): P. Swienton (5)

Period: May 2010                 

Brief Details:  Inspired by British mountaineer Roger Payne and his accounts of the mountains of Sikkim, from May 8-22 Geoff Cohen, Bob Hamilton, Dick Isherwood, Steve Kennedy, Dave Ritchie (all UK), and I (USA) visited the Thangsing Valley.

First the team attempted an obvious line on the west face of Lama Lamani, going up to a col south of the final elegant snow arête of the north top. They left some gear in the boulders below the face and on the 11th began climbing the face in excellent weather.

Overall, the route was c.  600 m and AD+ and by following various degrees of difficulties by noon all reached the summit. By this time, afternoon cloud had already built so no clear view was possible except the impressive Pt. 5833 m (sometimes mistaken for Narsing), and a tiny glimpse of the top of the steep east face of Jopuno.

On the 14th Bob and Dave climbed an unnamed peak of 5500 m between Jopuno and Lama Lamani. The pair traversed steep snow and ice for a couple of rope lengths to reach a snow arête on the south face, followed this for a pitch, and then climbed two short pitches up mixed grooves to the summit block, which was gained by exposed moves.

On the 18th Steve, Bob, Geoff, and I left camp to repeat the west ridge of Jopuno. Above c. 5450 m the ridge became icy, and the section above was well covered in snow. They reached the foot of the looser black rock that forms the summit of the mountain.  It appeared unlikely that the summit could be reached so they turned around.

Together with Tingchenkang (6010 m), Lama Lamani and Jopuno have been designated “Alpine Peaks” by Sikkim authorities, and it is easy to arrange permits. All three offer good, medium-grade alpine ascents and could become classics of the Eastern Himalaya.

(P. Swienton)

ARUNACHAL PRADESH

Looking for Kangto - Exploration in the east Kameng valley

The Himalayan range east of high mountains of Bhutan starts getting lower in height as it enters Arunachal Pradesh. But there is one group of mountains – the Kangto Range – which is the last high range.  Further east the range has smaller peaks and lower passes. The eastern-most peak of the Himalaya is Namcha Barwa, which is entirely in Tibet. On the borders of Arunachal Pradesh and India the “S” bend of the Tsangpo is considered the eastern edge of the Himalaya. Here the range drops to 600 m allowing the great Tsangpo river to enter into Arunachal Pradesh, India, after a long journey in Tibet.

The Kangto range rises to 7042 m, with its second peak of 6953 m. The high peaks of Gorichen (6488 m) is to its west, while to the east of Kangto peaks are Chomo I (6878 m), Chomo II (6710 m) and Nyegi Kangsang (6983 m). They stand along with many other peaks above 6000 m and going up to 6800 m. The main peak, Kangto I was climbed by the Japanese team in 1981 - approaching from the Tibetan Plateau in the north. However these peaks had never been approached from the south. Two expeditions to locate the approaches to its base camp in the south had failed due to difficulties of the terrain. In fact it was not known from where this peak can be climbed, where it could be approached from or the way to its base camp. There were no explorers to this valley during the last century or earlier.

This group of peaks rises at head of the Pachuk valley, in the East Kameng district of the Arunachal. It is on the McMahon Line which is the international border. As there are no passes to Tibet from here local or the defence forces have not ventured here. In the early part of the century, people used to trek to Tibet via the adjoining valley of Mago to buy salt. However after the India-China war of 1962 this trail is not used. The approach is through thick forest, with scant trails and remote villages. 

Trip in 2010

We travelled from Guwahati to Seppa (450 m) to Baming (1400 m) by road. After four very tiring and hot days we reached Lada (1500 m). A large Tourist Bungalow was being constructed. However who would walk for three days in this hot valley to visit the bungalow was a question nobody could answer.  

Next day we woke up by 4 am to a clear sky and a magnificent view. From the ridge, on which Lada was located, we could observe the entire Kangto range which we had come to witness. Such stunning and clear views are rare in these valleys as for about 10 months it remains cloudy, and out of these five months it pours. All the peaks: Gorichen, Kangto, Chomo, Nyegi Kansang and host of others were observed including a few in Tibet. 

We trekked to the head of the valley first to Sachong village attending the local Church service, with loud traditional singing. A priest, simply called “Prembhai”- Brother of Love, with a long beard, was responsible for establishing such Catholic churches in the Kameng valley. Due to his efforts most villages were Christians and there was no large scale drinking, no smoking and the people were god-fearing.

Three days ahead was Bisal, through similar terrain. Ahead of Bisal, on the left bank of the Pachuk river is Chalran Lake (4625 m). The trail to the lake was over a sharp ridge and through a rarely used shikari trail. The main obstacle on the route was crossing of the Pachuk river below Bisal where an old iron wire was hanging high between the two banks as the bridge was washed away. Shikaris would hang on the wire with an improvised harness and go across pulling themselves. It was scary and dangerous. So crossing the river to visit the lake was ruled out.

Back to Lada we returned by a new route via  the West Kameng valley crossing  “Lapung Pass”(2400 m) (or Lupoi Pass as on  map), through a veritable paradise of forest, specially large areas  of bamboo growth. We emerged at Khajlang (1500 m), near a new dam, and returned via Nofra, Solari  and reached Bomdila, on the main road.

Members: Harish Kapadia (65), Vijay Kothari  (66), Atul Rawal   (63) and Geeta Kapadia (59). 18 October to 20 November 2010.

(Harish Kapadia)

Damn them?

The incursions of civilisation are alarming in Arunachal Pradesh, Near Khajlang village (Nofra area) an earthen dam was being built and heavy machinery had brought havoc to the forest nearby. A two kilometre long road stood like a huge scar on the terrain.

What we learn was even more alarming. 700 such dams, big and small, are sanctioned to be built in the state. The official told us that “Arunachal will become the power house of Asia.”. 

One major dam is already being constructed on the Subansiri river near the plains of Assam. Internal wrangling for water has started with Assam government opposing the dam as it will restrict flow of supply of water in Brahmaputra which flows through their state.

This is a reaction to Chinese building huge damns across the border on the Tsangpo. There are many questions: what would be the impact on the forest and ecology. Wherever roads are built it is easy to encroach on forest and thus trees vanish soon.

But at the same time there are huge water resources in the state and therefore how to utilise these is the question. Most of the villages have no power, there are no roads and no industry due to lack of power. They want electricity, employment and roads. They do not wish to stay “tribal” and live only on forest products in this day and age. It is a difficult question you are damned if you built those dams, and damned if you don’t. Where is that  proverbial “Golden Mean” ?

(I am grateful to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Lindsay Griffin, Rajesh Gadgil  and several  individual contributors, as mentioned,  for the information)

http://www.shikhar.com/