(Compiled by Harish Kapadia. Member, IMF)
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 Uttarakhand) 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.
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trend of attempting routine peaks such as Kalanag, Rudugaira, Hanuman Tibba, Deo Tibba, Chhamser and Lungser Kangri has been replaced by height, which now seems to be in vogue.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.
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.