In August 2018, I led our team’s expedition to Mt. Lalana (6265 m), situated to the west of Bara Shigri Glacier, in the Lahaul region of Himachal Pradesh. If you start from Batal, Mt. Lalana is the first peak to the right of Bara Shigri Glacier. This peak was first successfully climbed by an all women Bengali team in 1970 and they named it as Lalana, a Bengali word meaning Woman.
We reached Manali on 11th August, where our friends joined us. On 13th we took the long trek to Batal, full of hazards. Lalana becomes visible on the way from Manali to Batal. Next day we moved to occupy Base Camp (3919 m), crossing Karcha Nala en route. Nowadays there is a wire on Karcha Nala, making it a simple crossing. It was a beautiful Camp Site with a small lake.
On 15th August, the Independence Day, we began our load ferries. Our target area was the snout of the Glacier. We trekked along the true right bank of the Nala. At first it was a normal boulder zone, but very soon we had to traverse high gradient boulder zones, and had to be very cautious. We reached at top of the snout, but could neither find any proper place for a campsite nor water. Then we came down to the river bed. And here we pitched a tent, though it was not a proper place for Camp. From here we got a chance for a closer look at Mt. Lalana. Temperature was around 5-7 degrees.
Next day we took rest. On 17th, nine members of the team started out to occupy Camp-I, with myself and another member staying back to maintain the Base Camp. At noon they reached Camp-I (3978 m), almost to the top of the snout point. Mohar and Pitambar returned in the evening with the news that it would take almost 8 hrs. to reach Camp-II, and another 15 hrs of hard ice fall climbing to the Summit Camp, there being a lot of crevasses in the route.
Next day it was quite bad weather, however we started out to occupy Camp ll, climbing through a steep boulder zone. A stream from Lalana Glacier meets Sigri glacier. We climbed through the true left of that stream. It was almost 70 degrees gradient, with some rock fall zones. We crossed the boulder zone and entered into the Glacier, finding it fully crevasse zone. Big crevasses divided the whole glacier. At 1.20 PM we reached and occupied Camp-II (4380 m), on hard glacier. It was raining with strong winds blowing.
On a recce of the hanging glacier, we found it was all crevasse zone with about 70-80 degree gradient. Early next morning, the weather was clear. Three climbers started out for route opening through the Ice Fall. Crevasses were everywhere and seracs were breaking off on both sides. They had stop and start several times, trying to search for possible routes. After 3 hours of trying to open the route through the Ice Fall, the climbers reached a dead end, with a long rock wall to their left and a stream to their right. They had to turn back from 4645m, failing to find any possible route upward, which was truly heartbreaking for all of us.
Lalana peak is a tough climb, with multiple crevasses all along, requiring a long programme for route finding and rope fixing, and a large quantity of equipment. We descended back to Base Camp, determined to plan another expedition to this majestic peak and repeat the feat of that first formidable team of women.
- Indranil Kumar