1. Alpine summits in West Sikkim
  2. Exploring Kangri Garpo Range, 2004
  3. The Source of the Mekong — Remotest Corner of East Tibet, 2004
  4. Arupa Lake Trek
  5. Khangri Shar Expedition, 2004
  6. Nangapi Gosum I
  7. Himlung, Blowing Wilderness
  8. Two First Ascents In Damodar Himal
  9. Mustang Expedition, 2004
  10. Gaugiri — The Dream of Emptiness
  12. Auden's Col
  13. Stairway to Heaven
  14. Swachand — The Silent Valley
  15. Srikhand Mahadev
  16. Phawararang, 2004
  17. Neverseen Tower
  18. Expedition to West Tibet, 2004
  19. Highest Peak in Kara Kunlun
  20. A Journey to the Little Pamir
  21. Sarat Chandra Das
1. Alpine summits in West Sikkim

Ascents of Tingchen Khang and Lama Lamini North

Roger Payne

In a 20 day round trip from Gangtok between 15 March and 3 April 2005, Kunzang Bhutia, Julie-Ann Clyma, Roger Payne and Sagar Rai made three excursions on peaks in the Thangsing valley of West Sikkim. The trip was an outcome of a trek to Goecha la in the autumn of 2004, when Clyma and Payne met Bhutia of the Sikkim Amateur Mountaineering Association. Bhutia and Rai are experienced mountaineers who are active in providing training for local guides and rock climbing for young people in Sikkim. Clyma (NZ/UK) and Payne (UK) are climbers and mountain guides based in Switzerland.

After the usual walk-in from Yoksum to Thangsing, on 20 March the four climbers started a reconnaissance and acclimatisation trip on Tingchen Khang. The team followed what they believe is the original route of ascent, climbed with fixed ropes and camps by an Indo-British military expedition in 1998. Deep fresh snow made progress on the rocky wall below the northwest ridge very slow and precarious. Having reached around 5100 m on 21 March the four descended and returned to their valley base on the 22nd.

After a rest and delay for bad weather, the team then set off on 25 March to make a reconnaissance of the unclimbed Lama Lamani group of peaks. On the 26th, they traversed from the northwest side of the group to the south ridge to look for a possible line of ascent. There were very strong winds on the ridges and fresh snow underfoot. On the 27th, the team moved up to a position under the northwest flank of the mountain, which seemed to offer the best ascent route. Next day, climbing alpine style, the four climbers made a pre-dawn start and by 10:00 had made the first ascent of the north summit of Lama Lamani (c. 5650 m). The climbing on the northwest flank and west ridge was around UIAA grade III+ (or AD+) and mostly on snow with rock steps and a good icy ridge. It was very windy and cold on the ridge, but the views were exceptional. Descent was by the same route and involved some abseiling. The valley base was reached the same evening.

After one day's rest, Clyma and Payne then set off on 30 March for an attempt on Tingchen Khang. Because of cloudy conditions, it had not been possible to get a good view of the glacier on the northwest side of Tingchen Khang. Despite previous glimpses of threatening looking serac barriers, the pair decided to try this approach, which they understood had been climbed the previous autumn by a Himalayan Club group1. Strong winds limited progress on the first day and the pair stopped to camp at c. 4850 m near the start of the glacier slopes. Next day, in windy conditions and very deep snow, the pair reached the crest of the northwest ridge (junction with the 1998 route) and camped just below it at c. 5400 m. Despite appearances, the glacier route was not threatened by seracs.

Next day, 1 April, a pre-dawn start was made. Once again, there was deep snow and cold conditions, but no wind. Getting onto the bottom of the rock wall was delicate (around UIAA grade IV, but probably easier when clear of snow). The wall had two fixed ropes in place that led towards then through a short chimney (some loose rock), then onto the crest formed by the top of the wall. Above this there is an ice wall and couloir (on a previous attempt this point had been reached by Bhutia and Rai, but they had to turn back because of lack of good ice climbing equipment). Clyma and Payne followed the couloir for about 150 m, which was in good condition, then exited onto the upper snowfields. Straightforward snow slopes led to the final summit pyramid, which was climbed on the west side to avoid a wide bergshrund. The summit was reached just before 14:00. Alas, warm air and clouds blew in from the southwest to obscure the view. On the summit were two snow stakes and the top of a line of rope, which was otherwise buried. The climbers removed one of the snow stakes as a souvenir for their friends back at the valley base.

The weather improved during the descent with excellent views. Some down climbing and three abseils were needed to descend the rock wall. The previous night's camp was reached by 18:00, but the pair continued down to the base at Thangsing because the walkout was due to start the next day. Just before 23:00 on 1 April, Clyma and Payne made it back to Thangsing, where Bhutia and Rai were waiting.

These two climbs, each made in 3-day round trips from a base at Thangsing, demonstrate the potential for alpine style climbs and small expeditions in West Sikkim. Clyma and Payne would like to record their thanks to the Government of Sikkim and the Sikkim Amateur Mountaineering Association for making this trip possible.


Alpine style ascents in West Sikkim. Peaks Lama Lamini North peak (c. 5650 m) and Tingchen Khang (6010 m) were climbed, each in a three day round trip from their base camp.


  1. See article on their ascent in this Volume.

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2. Exploring Kangri Garpo Range, 2004

Identification of Peaks of a Hidden Valley

Yukio Matsumoto

Outline of the Kangri Garpo Range and scope of survey

The Kangri Garpo range stretches roughly northwest to southeast on its crest axis, extending 280 km from the east of Namcha Barwa (7782 m), extreme east of the Great Himalaya range, as far as the eastern border of the Zayu Xian. There are about 30 peaks above 6000 m, accompanied by numerous 5000 m peaks.

Geographically, the Kangri Garpo range is bordered by the confluence of the Parlung Zangpo with the Yigong Zangpo in Bomi Xian to the western edge, where the rivers flow down to the lowest altitude of 2000 m in height in the area, and demarcated by the Sang Qu in Zayu Xian to the eastern end. The monsoon blowing northward from the Bay of Bengal above the Mishmi Hills on the way brings deep snowfall, developing extensive glaciers and precipitous peaks throughout the range, where thick forests spread over the flanks and valleys.

The f*ckuoka Section of the Japanese Alpine Club dispatched survey teams for four years consecutively from 2001. In 2004, an integrated scope of work was performed, mainly focused on identification of unknown peaks by locations and local names through the northern faces of the range from the east to west verges. We could not enter, however, the southern side due to its location immediately north of the Tibet-India and Myanmar borders.

The survey to date identified approximately 40 peaks and the teams covered over 10,000 km in the total driving distance.

Outcome of the 2004 survey

Period: 31 October to 15 November 2004.

The former half: Party A for route reconnaissance aiming at an unscaled peak in the Midui valley. Party B for geographical survey in unexplored valleys and high peaks in the extreme eastern massif of the range.

The latter half: Reconnaissance survey of uncharted valleys and peaks found between the middle and the west end of the range.

1) Positioning of a 6327m peak in the extreme eastern massif of the rangeThe peak, which had been unknown before, was confirmed and its accurate position was determined with GPS. It was revealed that there were three lofty independent snow peaks in the gigantic massif. These were successfully photographed, probably for the first time ever.

2) Midui valley and correction of misunderstanding committed by Mr. Hanbury-Tracy

The team ascended along the valley in 2002, the second ever try since J. Hanbury-Tracy did in 1935. We successfully made reconnaissance of several possible climbing routes to the unscaled jagged spire. The peak of Kangkarhlamo, which had been mentioned in Hanbury-Tracy's book Black River of Tibet (1940), turned out to be Gemsongu, according to local people. Probably he mistook it for Hamo-konga (also called Hamo-kangkarh, meaning 'white snow goddess'), which is located 8 km east of Gemsongu.

3) Investigation of unexplored valleys and routes to the south face of the range

The valleys of Xinguo Longba and Xuru Longba to the immediate west of the Midui valley were traced, probably for the first time ever by foreigners, and the peaks above the headwaters were physiographically clarified.


53. The NE face of nameless 6327 m peak in the eastern end of Kangri Garpo. (H. Watanabe)


54. The N face of Gemsongu (6450 m) from Midui valley, Kangri Garpo. (H. Watanabe)

The investigations to date have verified that several paths and passes over the crest line of the principal range are still used. They include the Kepa Longba from Yupu village, the Jingru Longba from Daxing village, and the Shuwa Longba and the Sui Longba from Shuwa village. At present they are trodden and crossed only in summer by local people as passages from north to their grazings in the south.

On the way the present state of Daxing and Shuwa villages was studied. Explorers in the first half of the 20th century, including F. M. Bailey, H. T. Morshead, A. David-Neel, R. Kaulback and J. Hanbury- Tracy, mentioned these villages in their books.

4) Three peaks southeast of Bomi town and peaks in the extreme western massif of the range

The high peaks in the western massif of the range lie close to Bomi town, the name of which were confirmed to be Shingikanlha (main peak 5688 m), Dupoalimona and Sejopomopundun in that order; likewise we identified Kangjanaripa (5631 m) in the westernmost area.

5) Vegetation and Alpine plants in the Kangri Garpo range

Forests and alpine flora along the trodden valleys were observed.

Besides, H. Watanabe independently carried out fieldwork on alpine flowers in the Gongbo (Kongbo) district in the summer of 2004, recording Primroses, genus of Meconopsis (Blue poppy) and species of Rheum nobile.


The Fourth Kangri Garpo Range Survey Team, f*ckuoka Section, The Japanese Alpine Club

Members: Team leader, Dr. Yukio Matsumoto; deputy leader, Takeshi Nakayama; Manager, Hideki Watanabe; Members, Koji Sasaki, Kazuki Tsuji, Miyoko Watanabe, Dr. Hiroshi Yamamoto and others. (Total 13).

Reference: J.Hanbury-Tracy (1940) Black River of Tibet, The Travel Club, London.

Note: Zangpo-Tsangpo and Qu - Chu are different spellings of the same words.

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3. The Source of the Mekong — Remotest Corner of East Tibet, 2004

The first ascent of Qiajajima

Ryoichi Matsuzaka

Qiajajima massif is the highest mountain in the headwaters of the Mekong river on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. It is located at about 33°28'N and 95°11'E in the remotest and isolated region of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province. The massif has two peaks, Qiajajima I (5930 m) and Qiajajima II (5890 m), which are indicated on a 1:100,000 topographical map of the China People's Liberation Army. They remained unexplored as the region had long been closed to foreigners. In 1997, a special permit was first granted to a foreign party, the Niigata Mountaineering Association, to enter the unvisited area and make an attempt on the untrodden peaks. The association sent an expedition and succeeded in climbing Qiajajima II in that year, but the highest peak, Qiajajima I, was not scaled due to unexpected frequent snow storms in the summer season.

Fortunately a chance came again in 2004. I joined an expedition to re-challenge Qiajajima I, as one of the deputy leaders.

Itinerary and Summary of Activities

We departed from Niigata, Japan on 14 July 2004, and arrived at Xining via Xi'an. Preparations including povisions had already been completed by the Qinghai Mountaineering Association. One bus and two jeeps carried all the expedition members from Xining to Hot springs (336 km), Yushu (510 km) along the Qinghai-Sichuan Highway, then Zadoi (231 km), Zaqeg - Zaigela - camp site (76 km) in five days from the 15th to 20th.

July 21: We employed 6 muleteers and pack animals of 18 horses and 8 yaks.

July 22: Caravan started and marched up 10 km along the stream to a camp site at 4444 m.

July 23: Heavy rainfall, strong wind and swelling of river made us stop.


Mountains in the Headwaters of the Mekong River

July 24: We covered 10 km along the main stream. The trail had been blocked by a major landslide before entering a gorge. We were forced to set up base camp (BC) there at 4690 m.

July 25: As it was not possible to use yaks and horses from BC, loads were carried by porters. The advance base camp (ABC) was built at 4800 m on the river bank of the upper stream. The Chinese members and muleteers were to wait at the BC until climbing was over.

July 26: Two members went ahead for route paving. ABC-II was placed at 4900 m and C1 was built at 5140 m, as ABC was too far away from the wall to climb. The loads were carried to the higher camp.

July 27: C2 was set up at 5360 m at the foot of the wall.

July 29: An advance party of three members commenced assaulting the summit. As there was no space to pitch a tent, they bivouacked at 5587 m.

July 30: They started climbing in early morning. After ascending a chimney, they reached the main ridge, when it got dark. They made the second bivouac at 5780 m.

July 31: The knife-edged main ridge became steeper. They made a detour around the ridge on the north side and then reached the summit of Qiajajima I, 5930 m, at 15:15. GPS indicated 33°28' 33"N and 95°11' 33"E. The summiteers were Shin-ichi Abe, Katsutoshi Suzuki and Miho Kakinuma. On the way down darkness began to fall. They were again forced to bivouac at about 5600 m on the wall, and connected each other with rope. Fierce snow storm bothered them all night. It snowed 20 cm deep.

August 1: The attack party descended to C2 and a support party of three members descended to ABC II.

August 2: All members gathered at BC.

August 11: They returned to Niigata via Xi'an.

Ascent of the West Face of Qiajajima I (by Kazutoshi Suzuki)

The west face of about 900 m is composed of steep snow walls and rock ridges which appear alternately. Rocks are sharply edged and too dangerous to hold them by bare hands. The ridges have some unstable stones. Temperature goes down to minus 4 — 10 degrees C in the early morning and goes up to 25 — 28 degrees C in the sunlight, but below 10 degrees C in the shade. Almost everyday it snows from midnight to morning. Sun melts snow in the daytime, but it is frozen at night. This cycle makes blue ice beneath snow layer on the wall. Mixed climbing of rock and ice continues. As we climb higher, the ridge becomes steeper, and good ledges and terraces are difficult to find.


Qiajajima, Qiajajima 5930

On 29 July, we left C2 to attack the summit and we could gain only a quarter of the west face on the first day. We bivouacked at 5587 m. On the following day we again bivouacked at 5780 m after ascending three-fifth of the route to the summit. Climbing pace was very slow as the conditions were worse than we had foreseen. Solid ice beneath snow and unconsolidated stones on the ridge required careful attention to negotiate.


55. The east face of Qiajajima I 5930 m (left) and II 5890 m (right), in the source of the Mekong river.


56. The south face of Qiajajima 15930 III seen from Qiajajima II in 1997.

On the third day, 31 July, snowfall and strong winds began at dawn. Only one day was left for reaching the summit. We soon resumed climbing with no hesitation. There was very hard blue ice 5 cm beneath fresh snow. We traversed along the foot of a rock wall to the rock ridge and then again we climbed the snow wall. Difficult climbing of a chimney with narrow entrance took us to a steep snow wall, which led straight to the upper part. Making full use of an ice axe and fore teeth of a crampon, careful ice climbing continued. After the snow wall, a snow ridge to the summit appeared. Each side of the snow ridge had a sheer drop, but dense fog interrupted the view.

We followed a knife-edged snow ridge. As the slope gradually became lower, we reached a round top of the ridge. A gentle down slope appeared and the ridge ran ahead of us but it looked lower. Though visibility was too bad to see Qiajajima II to the south, GPS records and the surrounding topography convinced us that the round top where we had stood was undoubtedly the summit of Qiajajima I 5930 m. We achieved the first ascent.

Difficult descent followed. We rappelled in succession, but it was not possible to return to C2. The descent was more difficult and dangerous than the ascent. The third bivouac on the rock wall was extremely uncomfortable. On 1 August we continued descent and were warmly received by the support party.


There are three outstanding mountain massifs in the source of the Mekong river. They form a watershed which feeds the main stream of the Mekong river and a large tributary of the upper Yangtze river (Chinese name: Tongtian He). They lie from east to west:-

  1. Qiajajima and neighbouring peaks.
  2. Sedari 5770 m and 5700 — 5800 m peaks ranging to the west, where glaciers are most developed. This massif remains unvisited. No photographs of the mountains have ever been taken.
  3. Massif in the true source of the Mekong river, where some 5500 m peaks were already climbed by a party of Tokyo University of Agriculture, Japan, in 1994.

An exploration of the area B would be interesting and worthy of undertaking. A topographical map is by Tamotsu Nakamura.


Japanese — Niigata Mountaineering Associationn

Shin-ichi Abe (57) (leader), Ryoichi Matsuzaka (70), Katsutoshi Suzuki (60)(both deputy leaders), Norihiro Asano (64), Shizuo Sugai (52), Tatsuko Anno (58), Miho Kakinuma (25) and Yoko Abe (28).


The first ascent of Qiajajima I, 5930 m, by a Japanese team. This is the highest mountain of the range at the headwaters of the Mekong river.

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4. Arupa Lake Trek

Dibang Valley, Arunachal Pradesh

Ravindra Apte

In one of my travels in Arunachal Pradesh I met some local youths in Anini, the district headquarter of Upper Dibang valley district. They were good hunters and hence they had a fair knowledge of the surrounding region. They described a lake region near Anini where they go for hunting. From their description of the region it seemed that the lake region would be between 3500 to 3700 m. My new friends were willing to take me to the region in September - October as that is a good season. Very few people choose Arunachal as a travel destination. This is mainly due to the lack of infrastructure and time required to travel to any destination in Arunachal. There is hardly any information available regarding trekking routes.

To reach Anini, one has to travel through the lower and upper Dibang valley districts. The rivers Mathun and Dree meet near Anini, and the Talon river, originating near Keya pass merges with this river near Etalin and the resulting river ahead is called Dibang. The Dibang meets the Brahmaputra in Assam. This region is inhabited by mostly Idu Mishmi tribe.

The 2004 monsoon was very severe and prolonged. Many bridges were washed away and there were many landslides resulting in four - five weeks of isolation of the Dibang valley. Hence in the last week of October a small group of trekkers left Mumbai for Tinsukhia. Two local youth of Roing, Ipra and Drama Mekhola joined us in Roing to complete the team. Ipra Mekhola was trying to develop the Mayodia- Mehao lake trek route near Roing.

We reached Tinsukhia on 26 October. On the 27th we crossed the Brahmaputra near Dhaula and reached Roing via Shantipur. After preparations in Roing we left for Anini on the 29th. The distance of Roing to Anini is about 190 km, but it takes more than ten hours to cover it. The bridge over the Deo Pani river, near Roing, was washed away in the recent floods. The road is bad and is mostly along the banks of the Dibang. The river can be seen deep in the valley. After going through the beautiful jungle one reaches Mayodia (2130 m). There are small hotels and guesthouses here. The area gets fair amount of snowfall and is the closest snow-covered hill station for people in the hot plains of Assam. In winter there are many tourist coming here from Assam. Our friend Ipra runs a hotel here and has a good business. He explained the trek route he wished to develop. It is a two/three days trek from Mayodia along the Surundi ridge to Mehao lake at about 1500 m near Roing.

The road to Anini goes through the Mayodia pass (2525 m) and reaches Anini via Hunly, Tiwari camp, Etalin and Arzoo etc. Anini is situated at 1520 m and is spread over small hills. Around Anini the hills are barren, a result of heavy cutting of forest. Some bamboo plantation is seen; grass and fern cover rest of the area. We came to know a unique feature of the tribal society. Clans own the rights to hunt and exploit the mountains and meadows in their areas. A member of a different clan is not supposed to enter the forest, else one has to pay a heavy fine. Our guide Jongo Tacho formally invited Ipra and Drama to come on a trek leading to Arupa. As non-tribal outsiders we were welcome to enter any area as long as we respected the local traditions. Of course our friend and guide Jongo would not be able to guide us in any other area.

On 31 October we started our trek from Achuli village (1350 m), 16 km from Anini. The trail goes through fields developed under Jhum cultivation. There are no well-marked trails in this region. The trail is used only by hunters and has to be negotiated by cutting shrubs. It is very steep, close to 30 to 35 degrees and is called Eungu in the Idu language which simply means 'a steep trail'. Initially the trail is through ferns and tall grass. There is no water till one reaches a height of about 3300 m. Around 1800 m the steepness relents and forest starts. It is a forest being invaded by bamboo growth. The old forest of large trees is receding and yielding to bamboos. The forest is thick and the bushes and mosses hide the potholes. The visibility is just about 10 m because of the thick forest. We camped at 2375 m and managed with the water carried from the village.

1 November: We climbed up to Eung Uya (2530 m). Uya means 'water hole'. There is a small pond but water had a reddish tint because of the decaying leaves in it, but it was still okay to drink. The nearby forest has the Apona trees having huge leaves. The hill on which we were climbing is separate from the main range and is connected to it by a narrow ridge. From the ridge one gets the view of Chithi peak in the northeast and on west one sees the Akanda range. There is a trail on Akanda range leading to Arupa lake.

Our guides were hunters to the bones. There was the call of the Mishmi Monal, a vary beautiful, colourful, large bird and our guides forgot everything and ran into the thick forest leaving us dumb struck. After an hour or so they returned with beaming faces and with the dead bird. For dinner there was always a fowl or a quail or a Monal. We were sorry for the beautiful birds. In fact the Mishmi Monal is an endangered species list but we were helpless against this local hunting tradition. One way to save the wild life would be to provide alternate means of economic activity for the local population. Adventure tourism may be one of them. We camped at 2880 m in thick forest.

2 November: Near the camp we crossed the Apeya nala. The trail is very steep and it is possible to cross the nala only near a small waterfall. One has to climb out of the nala on steep side at about 60 degrees. After climbing for about 300 m one comes out of the forest and you get a first view of Angrim valley. One can see up to the Acheso village. There is a log cabin at 3340 m. It provides shelter for the hunters escaping the cold weather of upper reaches. Dry wood is always stocked here along with some utensils. There is a water source near by. From here onwards the forest starts thinning and the trail reaches the main range. One gets the first view of the twin peaks of Apuindivu (3960 m). There is a gully between the two peaks, which can be climbed. At about 3790 m there is a plateau with a stream, which is an ideal campsite. One can see the lights of Anini from this camp. On the northeast one can see the highest peak in the Dibang valley, Rupundi or Chipisi called by locals. One can see the ranges extending to Tibet border. There was heavy snowfall in the night. The next day, 3 November, weather was also bad with visibility less that 5 m. The whole day was spent near the camp.

4 November: The weather was sunny and hence we proceeded towards the lake. We climbed though a gully to the saddle between the peaks. The peaks were rounded and grassy. The whole area is covered with fine meadows. We descended on the other side towards east. At about 3840 m one has to negotiate a tricky traverse of about one and half kilometre. The traverse leads to slopes above Arupa lake. The lake itself is at 3780 m and is about 600 to 700 m in length and about 200 to 250 m in width. It has an outlet on the west side. The water is infested with daphnia and so may not be suitable for drinking. The molten snow from the surrounding peaks is collected in the lake. There are number of lakes on the northeast of Arupa and few of them are bigger than Arupa. One has to negotiate a pass to reach the lakes and two more camps would be required. We had limited time and we returned from Arupa to our camp. Our guide informed us that we were the first non-Idu and non- Arunachali people to visit the lake. We were pleased with the new region and having accomplished a totally new trek route, we returned to Anini in two days.

On our return to Roing we decided to trek to Mehao lake. It is an overnight trek but we had a late start, in fact we started in the afternoon. Naturally we had to make a halt in the jungle and could not reach the rest house on the shores of the lake. The forest is almost tropical with hot humid air. Even in November the forest was infested with leeches. The trail is not well maintained and at places it is washed out in recent landslides. The next day as we reached the lake there was downpour for an hour. It is a huge lake with a number of small lakes joined together. It covers about 4/5 square km of surface. On all sides there is a thick forest. The rest house is in a dilapidated state, but still offers a shelter. Our return trek was eventful. Half way down it was night and we had no option other than to descend in darkness, as we had our reservation for return journey the next day at 5 a.m. It was an experience to negotiate the thick forest on a non-existent trail with burning bamboo torches.

The region offers great opportunity to explore the forest and lake regions in one of the less visited part of Arunachal Pradesh. The local youths recognise the importance and potential of adventure tourism and are ready to develop the region as a new destination for trekking in a pristine area.


A trek to Arupa lake in the Dibang valley.

Period : 31 October to 6 November 2004

Region : Upper Dibang valley, Arunachal Pradesh

Members : Ravindra Apte, Subhash Gawarikar, Vilas Raje, Ms Manika Biswas, Ipra Mekhola and Drama Mekhola

Guides : Jongo Tacho and Jyonti Mikho

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5. Khangri Shar Expedition, 2004

A Climb in Nepal

Howard Jones

In October 2004 a small British expedition set out to attempt the first ascent of Khangri Shar (6811 m) which lies on the ridge forming the border between Nepal and Tibet, just west of Pumori in the Khumbu region of Nepal. This was a commercial expedition organised by UK- based 'Adventure Peaks'. It comprised the leader Tim Blakemore, John Waterhouse and myself, with local support from Anil Bhattarai (Sirdar), Nuru Wangchhu Sherpa (climbing Sherpa) and Lhakpa Sherpa (cook).

Tim, a professional outdoor instructor engaged to lead the trip, has climbed extensively and had recently led another expedition to Tien Shan. John and myself, weekend climbers in our fifties, have climbed in the European Alps, and I had previously been trekking in the Annapurna region. For all three of us, this was our first mountaineering trip to the Himalaya.

Khangri Shar is situated some distance up the Khangri Shar glacier. This is covered with loose moraine and is unsuitable for yaks, so the closest we could get our base camp was at about 5400 m beside a small lake on the south flank of Pumori, the usual site for expeditions attempting the Pumori ridge. Although small, this was a pleasant site with fantastic views of Everest and Nuptse. However it had the drawback of requiring a long approach before we could start the climbing proper, and the ridge obscured our view of the proposed route.

We had very little advance information about the mountain. We had a single photograph taken from the south. This showed an obvious route up a hanging glacier to a col at 6479 m which separated our peak from Pumori. We were aware that a Japanese expedition had failed on this route in 2003, apparently turned back by the bergschrund. There is also an obvious and attractive ridge leading direct to the summit, but this looked difficult in the photo. Just before we left Britain, we got hold of another photo taken from the north, which suggested that the long ridge leading from the col to the summit might be heavily corniced. None of this was very encouraging.

When we saw the mountain from close up, it looked even harder than the photos had suggested. The southeast ridge forming the direct route was much steeper than appeared in the photo, and was clearly far too difficult. The hanging glacier turned out to have a major icefall which the picture had not shown, while the bergschrund which had defeated the Japanese seemed huge, and was clearly visible even from a distance while trekking in.

Our first day of exploration took us up the lower part of the Pumori ridge. The idea was to see whether it would be possible to traverse from the ridge into the upper basin, which would avoid the icefall and, we hoped, the bergschrund. We followed a steep rocky path alongside the glacier which overhung base camp, enjoying good views of Everest, Nuptse and Ama Dablam. However on reaching the ridge it was apparent that the traverse was not a feasible option. We would have to try the original plan via the hanging glacier.


57. Khangri Shar (centre) and Pumori. (Howard Jones)


58. Camp 1 on Khangri Shar. (Howard Jones)

The following day, while John rested at base camp, Wangchhu, Tim and I set off to explore the icefall. From base camp we first had to descend a very loose slope of glacial silt embedded with loose rocks in order to reach the main glacier, which at this point was covered with loose and unstable moraine. We struggled up this until we were below the icefall. Wangchhu had gone ahead and was already up there, prospecting for a route. Tim and I climbed up to join him and we spent some time trying to find a way through the maze of crevasses and seracs. Eventually we gave up and returned to base camp. The descent on the moraine and the final climb back up the loose slope was just as tiring as the initial ascent.

While we rested the following day, the Sherpas carried on exploring and succeeded in establishing Camp 1 above the icefall. We decided to make our summit bid. Our plan was to go to Camp 1, and then the following day we would try to establish Camp 2 as high as possible, returning to Camp 1 to sleep. We would then move up to Camp 2 and from there try for the summit. We spent the rest of the day packing gear and getting ready.

The next day we again made the horrible descent down the loose slope to the glacier, dodging falling stones as we went. Climbing up the loose moraine was even more tiring now that we were carrying loads. After about 1 km we got off the moraine onto bare ice, and easier going. A pleasant walk along the glacier took us past the icefall.

On the way we came across the tattered remains of a sleeping bag and a down jacket. A few other pieces of equipment, including a glove and a boot, lay around. We assumed this was debris from the Japanese expedition. We saw no human remains, so presumably this was the result of a dropped rucksack rather than anything more tragic.

Once past the icefall, we began to ascend a rocky slope. Although this was not too steep, it was very loose underfoot which made for strenuous climbing. There was a short section of easy climbing (II-III), but nothing which necessitated roping up. Eventually we came to a steep snow slope and the bottom of the fixed ropes which our sherpas had set up the previous day. We hauled ourselves up these for a couple of hundred metres until we emerged onto more level snow. Just around the corner, tucked into the shelter of a crevasse, was Camp 1.

Above us reared the steep south face and the southeast ridge. Behind us, more seracs barred the way to the steep ice wall which rose up to the col between Khangri Shar and Pumori, broken only by the massive bergschrund. It looked difficult. In front of us was a magnificent view down to the main glacier and over to Ama Dablam. We tucked ourselves up in our tents and settled down for a long night.

I was exhausted after the steep climb up the fixed ropes and I had not been acclimatising well. The next morning John and I both decided to go back down. Tim and Wangchhu feared that this would be heavily corniced. The direct route up the southeast ridge looks like a stunning line but appears very difficult, and should present a fine challenge to a sufficiently competent party.

In spite our failure to reach our objective, we greatly enjoyed our first foray into Himalayan mountaineering. The mountain is in a great situation and we enjoyed fantastic views. We also benefited from being the only expedition on the mountain and were able to enjoy feeling remote from the rest of the world.


An attempt on Khangri Shar (6811 m) in the Khumbu valley, Nepal.

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6. Nangapi Gosum I

Ascent by Slovenian Climbers

Urban Golob

In the middle of October, a Slovenian expedition made the first ascent of Nangapi Gosum I (7351 m ) or Pasang Lhamu peak from SE (Nepal side) and also made the first ascent of Dazampa Tse (6295 m).

The team (Urban Azman, Tadej Golob, Uros Samec, Samo Krmelj, Rok Blagus, Doctor Zare Guzej and me Urban Golob as expedition leader) set up base camp near Sumna glacier, one hour away from the traditional yak caravan route from Tibet over Nangpa la to Namche Bazar. This was the site of base camp of an American team in 2002 when the SE side of the mountain was the objective. However, Americans found themselves in trouble during acclimatisation near Nangpa la and went home without really trying the mountain. On 5 October, two days after reaching base camp, the ABC (5555 m) on the foot of the SE face was built. In the time of unpredictable weather, a party of Uros Samec, Samo Krmelj and Rok Blagus acclimatised by climbing twice on the chosen route on SE face because there are no easier mountains, suitable for acclimatisation in the neighbourhood. During the first acclimatisation, they climbed to 6100 m, slept there and equipped rappels for an easier descent after the summit push. On the 17th, after a period of bad weather (when I had to leave the base camp because of pneumonia and went home) they reached 6400 m and returned to base camp the next day. On the 22nd they went for the summit push from base camp and reached ABC. From here they began at 1 a.m. After a long day they reached S ridge (6650 m) and rested there for a day, looking for the route on the complicated ridge. On 24 October they started from camp at 2 a.m. and reached the summit at 9 a.m. in high winds and very low temperatures. Almost immediately they turned back, descended to tent and continued their way down to ABC. They reached the foot of the SE face at the evening making 19 rappels from the ridge. They named their ascent Slovenian route VI, 5 M, 1550 m.

On 18 October the other party of Tadej Golob and Urban Azman climbed SW face of Dzasampa Tse (6295 m), south of Nangpai Gosum I. They started from south col at 6 a.m. and reached the top after almost 7 hours of mostly unroped climbing on slopes of 55-65 degrees and one mixed pitch of 40 m. They named the first ascent route as Mali prince and rated it at TD+, 5 M, 600 m.

Until our expedition there were just two ascents of this highest peak of the Nangpai Gosum group. First ascent was made by Japanese expedition in 1986 on NW ridge starting from Tibet and in 1996, an international expedition made the integral NW ridge starting the climb on Nangpa la.


An ascent of Nangpai Gosum I (7351 m ) or Pasang Lhamu peak from SE (Nepal side) and the first ascent of Dazampa Tse (6295 m).

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7. Himlung, Blowing Wilderness

An Attempt in the Damodar Himal

Alexia Zuberer

Nested between the Annapurnas, the Manaslu and Tibet, the aesthetic shapes of Himlung Himal (7126 m) shine in the valleys of Damodar Himal. This area is wild and isolated, open to people only since 2001. The southeast ridge is a route more enjoyable than serious, not so hard technically but enough of a hint of adventure to make the trip special... a charming face of alpinism.

The Trip

It was, first of all, a human trip; through passes and valleys, from Manang to Naar and Phu, via the Kangla la, meeting people living in these highlands: Gurung and Bhotias. Real mountain dwellers like the Sherpas and as strong as them. They have impregnated the country and the mountains with their own identity. We walk in their paths, in their history. You walk through these valleys and you can imagine Tibetan people coming and living between Tibet and Nepal for business.

How to describe the magic of the Himalaya? The altitude, the light, colours of dawn and twilight. Constantly living with the elements you feel the real depth of nature, its brilliant power and beauty.

The altitude owns a colour: the one which is pure, bare of dust.

The Mountain

On Himlung Himal our group grew closer to each other; closer to oneself even. We were all dedicated to try to climb this mountain. We knew that we needed a team spirit which implies respect between all the members of the expedition. We also respected and grew close to the Sherpas and Gurungs. We shared their customs, traditions, strength and kindness. To them with whom we shared the ascent, we say a big thank you to the great work they do, and for the people they are. Without them our venture would have surely been unsuccessful!


59-60. Himlung Himal. (Alexia Zuberer)


To climb Himlung peak, from the base camp (4850 m), we needed three high camps: Camp 1 at 5600 m, Camp 2 at 6200 m and Camp 3 at 6350 m with long distances up and down, slopes and ridges.

The Elements

This year the monsoon had been longer than usual. Almost without transition, the wind turned into north. A very strong wind, a jet-stream announcing winter time. During our climb to the summit, a strong wind was blowing even below 6000 m. Now we were sure to enjoy great sun but also bitter cold. The recent snowfalls did not leave much choice but to put the tents up for Camp 3 at 6000 m instead of the usual place which is 200 m higher. We were actually just under a big serac. Not much of a choice between dangers of avalanche or another dangers! This year the features of the glacier changed between Camp 1 and Camp 2. Ropes had been fixed because of the steepness of some seracs to climb. A consequence of climatic change? Some Sherpas told us that some easy trekking snow peaks now need technical rock climbing ability.

It's very early morning of 20 October in Camp 3. Our tent is being shaken by a furious wind. As the first day opens up like a flower, we can see a magnificent scarf of snow blown from the top ridges of Himlung.

We are climbing up in a freezing shade. The rays of the sun, like petals dash into the sky. But they don't touch us. Our feet wearing simple winter boots for the Alps (we did not think that altitude boots would be useful here; what a mistake! But this season was particularly cold anyway), are just freezing. Even those of Pasang and Ang Pasang, our Sherpas are freezing. At 6800 m we decide to leave Himlung peak to its loneliness. Soon, at the end of the day two Austrian guys and a Tamang Nepali man will reach the top, dressed like for an 8000 m peak.

On the way down, Pasang, Ang Pasang and me look at each other: We touched Everest summit but not Himlung! This is no easy mountain. And we laughed, happy to come back to more human conditions, and happy to have lived through a nice but hard expedition, all together.

No doubt, many alpinists, appreciating wilderness, loneliness and inexpensive trips at altitude, will visit this valley. Damodar Himal is almost unknown because it's in the shadow of famous mountains like Manaslu, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. It's possible to find any kind of alpinism here: difficult or reasonable.

Swimming in loneliness is like walking in beauty.


An attempt on Himlung Himal (7126 m) in autumn of 2004.

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8. Two First Ascents In Damodar Himal

Koichi Kato

I got a permit to climb Gajiang (6111 m) as it was the first object for my expedition. Gajiang has attracted me strongly. It soars like Machhapuchare in a less frequented area of Damodar Himal. However, this peak had very steep slopes. In spite of a 4-day recce, I could not find any viable climbing route, so I gave up the plan. Instead, I was able to climb two unnamed peaks, 6084 m and 6130 m respectively.

(1) Gajiang (6111 m) 20 to 23 October

I was impressed by Gajiang because of its fascinating profile towering to the sky. I feared that it would be hardly possible to climb that mountain with my technique and climbing gear. But I decided to give it a try as I had already paid a climbing fee 1000 US dollars. We set up BC at 4550 m (keeping other mountains in mind), set up ABC at 5000 m and started to reconnoiter. We first left for the north ridge from the 5200 m glacier for investigation. But we gave up climbing via the north ridge, since it was hard to climb ice, and the lower part was very precipitous. Then we investigated another route via an adjacent lower peak and climbed up to 5608 m but there was no going further on. As a result, I gave up climbing Gajiang from the north face.


61. The east face of Gajiang 6111 m seen from BC, Damodar Himal. (Koichi Kato)

(2) Unnamed peak (6084 m) (I called it Namy peak)
24 — 26 October

The snow-covered Namy peak is located to the south of Jomsong Himal and the highest in this area.

We went from BC to Labse khola to the north and set up ABC (5000 m) at the end of a glacier. Then we set up C1 at 5200 m on the right of the moraine. There we could see the mountain ridges extending to the top. On the way, we stopped using the climbing rope under a cornice, and plodded in the knee-deep snow.

On the summit, I had my pictures taken, with Gajiang in the background. I measured the location of this mountain using GPS. I saw Pokarkan to the east, which had I first ascended two year ago.

The date of arrival at the summit: 26 October, Left C1 at 5:40 hrs.; On the summit 12:00 — 12:45 hrs.; Back to C1 14:45 hrs; GPS data: 28°49'18.8"N, 84°08'14.1"E; Height 6094 m.

(3) Unnamed peak (6130 m) (I called it Yury peak)
29 — 30 October

This peak, snow-capped on the southern side, is at the dividing point of the Labse khola massif. From ABC (5000 m) we followed the moraine on the left and reached the foot of Yury peak. We climbed the rock ridge between a waterfall and a valley, then followed the valley, and went up 100 m to a gully on the left side. Then we set up C1 (5480 m) on a flat ridge at the top of the gully.


62. The south face of nameless peak 6130 m, Damodar Himal. (Koichi Kato)


63. The north face of nameless peak 6084 m, Damodar Himal. (Koichi Kato)

Looking up from C1, we caught a glimpse of the white snow on the summit beyond on a rock ridge. Above C1 there was a steep slope of 25 — 30 degrees, with small rocks and little snow. My feet slipped many times on the rocks and I began to pant. But I carefully climbed, minding the falling rocks. 200 m below the summit there was much snow, but I managed to reach the top. There was space enough for only one person to stand.

From the top, I was able to see Jomsong Himal in the south and, in the north, Khumjungar Himal which is the highest mountain in the Damodar Himal area.

We took pictures and measured the location of this mountain using GPS, then returned to C1.

The date of arrival at the summit: 30 October, Left C1 06:05 hrs; On the top 10:35 — 10:45 hrs; Return to C1 12:30 hrs; Arrived at ABC-14:40 hrs; GPS data: 28°51'12.2"N, 84°07'23.1"E; Height 6143 m.


First ascents in Damodar Himal, 2004. Period: 6 October to 21 November 2004.

Member: Koichi Kato (63, leader, Japanese) with Pasang Tamang (36, Sherpa).

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9. Mustang Expedition, 2004

First Ascent of Chhiv Himal (6650 m)

Takeshi Wada

Four members of the Japanese Alpine Club Student Section, made the first ascent of Chhiv Himal (6650 m) on 18 September 2004. On the following day, all five members of the expedition reached the summit of Saribung (6328 m); it was the second ascent of the peak, but via a new route.

The passage to a new area

Located in the northern-most part of central Nepal, the kingdom of Mustang is a frontier region that well preserves an old form of Tibetan Buddhist culture. The Damodar Himal mountain group is located in the eastern part of Mustang. To reach it we followed the main trading route to Lo Manthang, the capital of Mustang, as far as Ghami. The old trading route first follows the broad riverbed of the Kali Gandaki, then at a point near Kagbeni it goes into a gorge to enter the territory of the kingdom of Mustang. At Ghami, our caravan bifurcated from the main route and headed toward the east, following a tributary of the Kali Gandaki. After crossing three passes all exceeding 5000 m, we suddenly saw the magnificent group of mountains of the Damodar Himal. It was a nine- day trek from Jomsom (including one rest day).

With Khumjungar Himal (6759 m) as the main peak, the group of mountains encircles the Namta khola glacier in a horseshoe form. One wing of the mountains extends northeast towards the border with Tibet. Chhiv Himal (6650 m) is an independent (and previously unclimbed) peak located to the southeast of Khumjungar Himal.



Climbing and Exploration

On 8 September we set up the base camp (5250 m) at the end of the glacier which flows north-eastward from the foot of Chhiv Himal. From BC we went up along the moraine on the left side of the glacier and made Camp 1 at 5650 m on 11 September.

To reach C2 it was necessary to cross the glacier, about a kilometre wide at the crossing point. The left bank of the glacier was deeper than the rest. The whole glacier field was filled with seracs (ice blocks or towers), some of which were 20 m tall. The glacier was followed by a moraine band flowing down from a 6225 m peak in a northeast to southwest direction. We took a route along this moraine band (10 m in width) toward the upper field. As the sun rose, the bottom part of the 6225 m peak became dangerous due to frequently falling rocks from the ridge. In addition, the snow plateau that leads to the west face of Saribung was fraught with hidden crevasses. Therefore, we set up Camp 2 on the col (6170 m) between Chhiv Himal and Saribung, on 15 September.


Route to Chhiv Himal

Chhiv Himal

The northwest face of Chhiv Himal is shrouded in snow due to the strong wind, while its eastward side is a rocky. Further away a cornice develops towards the northwest. On 16 September we worked in two groups: one advanced group to open the route to the summit of Chhiv Himal and the other carried up the equipment and provisions to C2. The route to be taken was on the ridge that came down northeast-ward from the peak. To reach the ridge we first descended from the col about 10 m, then climbed a 15 m steep mixed wall. On the ridge we followed a snowy razor-sharp narrow snow ridge that had rocky features on its east side. It continued for the length of three rope pitches until we were faced by the massive base of a snow wall that had a rather steep face of about 60 degrees. It took four pitches to climb that wall. Fortunately the snow condition was sound. On top of the wall the ridge became flat and led to the summit. At this point (6450 m), we stopped the advance for the day and returned to C2.


64. The northwest face of Chhiv Himal 6550 m.

To Summit

On 17 September all five team members started from C2 to climb Chhiv Himal. It only took three hours to reach the top of the snow wall as against nine hours on the day before. From there we continued along the gentle ridge and fixed some ropes. The sharp ridge with a cornice leading to the 6610 m peak turned out to be the critical point. When we reached the 6610 m peak, almost all our snow pitons and fixed ropes had been used. The weather becoming worse, we decided to return to C2.

On 18 September four team members started from C2 to the peak. On the way we retrieved some of the fixed ropes for use on the final ridge to the summit. Unfortunately the visibility was poor because of fog. From 6610 m the party carefully followed the knife-edged ridge of snow which was often indistinguishable in a white-out. Finally at 13:15, after following the snow ridge for two more pitches, the four man team reached the broad snow stance of the summit, (the first ascent of Chhiv Himal). The total length of the ropes we fixed was approximately 850 m.


All five team members started from C2 to the summit of this peak on 19 September. The route selected was the south ridge. As the south face of Saribung is fortified by rock walls and several crevasses, we proceeded carefully; fixing seven pitches of rope before we reached the summit. By 12:30 all five team members had made the second ascent of the peak, via a new route. As the base snow layer was icy, we used a lot of ice screws to make anchors. As we approached the summit, the inclination became milder to a point where a gentle snow slope appeared.

The first ascent of Saribung was made by an American party in 2003. The members were Jim Frush, past president of the American Alpine Club (AAC), Steven Furman, AAC Board director and Peter Ackroyd, AAC International Conservation Committee. This is their report

First Ascent of Saribung, 2003 (a report from American Alpine Club members)

American Alpine Club Cascade Section Chair Peter Ackroyd, Board of Director Member Steve Furman, and Past President Jim Frush, made the first ascent of 6328 m (20,760 ft) Saribung (Selibun) in the Damodar Himal north of the Annapurnas in October.

Last year, while making the first ascent of 6110 m Gaugiri further north in the range, Peter and Jim gazed to the south and viewed a handsome range of mountains that, to our knowledge, had been little explored much less climbed. Saribung is located much more in the centre of the range and was therefore more inaccessible.

We flew from Kathmandu to Honge, in the Manang valley on 2 October 2003. From there we dropped down the valley to the village of Chame, then north on our journey up the Phu khola. Steve and Jim had explored the Phu khola in 2000 and had made the first ascent of an unnamed 6152 m peak a couple of days northeast of the last village, Phu. We had no idea of what the upper valley might present. The map indicated a trail that ran up to the border, but the maps are notoriously unreliable.

A guide with horses was hired in the village of Phu to lead us to the upper part of the valley and he showed us a high route that was not on the map. We reached the Khamjungar khola and the edge of the Bhatchauk glacier in a couple of days. As far as what might lie up the Bhatchauk glacier, our 'guide' had no information. There was absolutely no reason to go up there as there was no grazing. A few peaks above this valley have been climbed from the north and the west, never from this side, and we were without question the first foreign group to traverse the glacier's eight-mile length and perhaps the first humans to set foot there.

After several days of exploration of the glacier and its nasty moraine, we finally sighted our objective - Saribung - only visible above base camp. Base camp was a very cold, flat spot on the glacier at 5360 m and received no more than six hours of sunlight a day.

A few days later, we established and occupied a high camp on the edge of the moraine below Saribung at approximately 5700 m. Our day moving up to stay at the high camp was punctuated with an early morning evacuation of a porter with pulmonary oedema. He was evacuated from Phu by helicopter a couple of days later and recovered completely.

On 15 October we negotiated the lower icefall and began encountering difficult snow conditions. We reached the north col and could see into the heart of the Damodar range. Steep unconsolidated snow, interrupted with crevasses and breakable crust, caused us to take some eight hours to gain the last 600 vertical meters. When the peak steepened to 70-80 degrees near its summit it became difficult to gain elevation. We attempted the last few pitches to the top by the northeast ridge but could not make progress and were required to finish up on the steep headwall at the top of the north ridge. The view from the top was incredible with monstrously twisted summits and glaciers all about us, the Annapurnas and Dhauligiri to the south. To the north we could make out last year's peak, Gaugiri.

The descent was largely unremarkable and we were soon headed out to Kathmandu down the Annapurna circuit trail to Besi Sahar. The only incident was a close encounter with Maoists who entered one of the villages we stayed in. To avoid conflict we were awakened in the middle of the night and took flight out of the village, avoiding all conflict with the Maoists.

This was our fourth trip to the range in four years, and each one has produced at least one first ascent of a 6000 m peak. (Jim Frush, Peter Ackroyd and Steve Furman)


The first ascent of Chhiv Himal (6650 m) on 18 September 2004. On the 19 all five members of the expedition reached the summit of Saribung (6328 m); it was the second ascent of the peak, but via a new route. (With report of the first ascent of Saribung by the American group on 15 October 2003.)

Members: Takeshi Wada (leader), Chiba University Alpine Club, Takeo Yoshinaga (deputy leader) Waseda University Alpine Club, Kenichiro Kato, Rikkyo University Alpine Club, Yuko Shibata, Gakushuin University Alpine Club and Mitsuhiro Kosei, Waseda University Alpine Club

The ascent was planned and done with no assistance from climbing Sherpas.

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10. Gaugiri — The Dream of Emptiness

Edmund Wirbel

Monsoon in Pokhara (17 August 2004) - would the flight to Jomsom take off or not? After three hours of waiting at Pokhara airport, we knew it would. This was the last European-like question for our team. We were a small team going to Mustang: My wife Annemarie, my daughter Anna (age 16) a good friend, Hannes, the Nepali group led by Guna Tamang and myself.

Three years ago, during another trip we had looked from Kagbeni into upper Mustang. The dream was born and with time, it grew in our hearts.

First we went to Muktinath for acclimatisation, and as all pilgrims do, to pray for a good and safe expedition. The route in upper Mustang passes villages Tanghe, Chuksang, Chele, Syangmochen, Geling, Ghami, Tsarang to Lo Mathang. Going up and down, crossing several passes, our mind became more and more empty in the great high- desert landscape. We developed a great respect for the hard lives of the local people in these secluded villages.

During the whole trip of 18 days that we spent in upper Mustang- we met only four foreign tourists and a few Nepali or Indian Hindu pilgrims. After the visit to Lo Mathang, the residence of the 'king of Mustang', we passed the Kali Gandaki river, went to Dhi and then to Yara, the last village before the way to Damodar Kund. We were very impressed with Lo Mathang, the streets and people in their cultural dresses, the holy Buddhist gompas with old and wonderful paintings. The view of the yellow wilderness in the direction of the Tibetan border from the roof of the gompa is so fantastic that for this alone the trip to Lo Mathang is worth everything.

We came to Yara feeling like in an ancient century in this small and plain village, with some dusty, wondering and laughing children. Nearly all people were threshing corn and singing the same refrain all the time.

In Yara we started the long secluded journey to Damodar Kund. Two days and three passes (from 5000 to 5500 m) later we reached the base camp at Damodar Kund. This was at 5300 m, above the ancient holy shrine. The first pass was much more green than the desert like Mustang valley, and beyond this pass we could see only stones and more stones. The distances from one camp to the next in this region are very long (around 8 to 11 hours) because there is no water in between. So we were all really tired in the evening and slept very well.

In the base camp we spent a very cold bivouac- night, because the porter had a problem with donkeys, who arrived with the camp equipment and warm clothing one day later. After a rest (and warming) day we started early morning on 27 August towards the Gaugiri peak (6110 m). It took us about four and half hours to the top. We were surprised that there was very little snow on the southwest ridge. Corresponding to report by Peter Ackroyd and Jim Frush, who had made the first ascent in 2001, we expected deep snow and ice, but we found steep stones (two steps up and one down). View from the peak is vast. You see Dhaulagiri, the whole Annapurna range, a lot of other peaks and the desert-like wilderness of the Tibetan country. We spent about two hours on the top and then went down with deep contentment in our hearts.

The way back, over Yara, Tange to Chuksang and Kagbeni was long over some new passes and through rivers in an empty land, and there too we had to cover very long distances for the next water point. Back in Jomsom we had no flight because of a strike and so we had to walk to Beni and then to Pokhara from where we took a bus.

In Nepal there are a lot of higher, more famous, more difficult and dangerous mountains where you can climb, but it is not guaranteed that this means more experience and beauty. For all of us it was a long long way, each day in a great, empty and quiet land. It was really more a piligrimage, than a mountaineering expedition. More a trip inside the heart. I am sure we took with us a part of the soul of this land, and left behind a part of our hearts.


First Austrian expedition to Gaugiri (6110 m).

Gaugiri has been opened since 2001 and the first ascent was made in 2001 by two Americans Peter Ackroyd and Jim Frush. This was the fifth expedition to Gaugiri and the fourth that was successful. Five climbers from this team reached the top : Anna Wirbel (female, age 16) Hannes Mihatsch (male, age 55), Edmund Wirbel (male, age 54,leader), Guna Tamang (male, Sirdar), Oisal Tamang (male, mountaineering Sherpa).

Anna was possibly the first woman to scale the peak.

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11. Little Kailash Diary

Andy Perkins

London to base camp : 19 September to 25 September 2004

Left London and travelled via Delhi to Kathgodam. We drove to Chaukori and Dharchula by the 20th. From Dharchula on jeeps we arrive Mangti nala, start walking at approx 2 km up the road from Mangti Nala. Arrive at Malpa for lunch. Overcast and drizzle. Past Lamari arrived at Budhi (2740 m) by evening.


34. Climbers on ascent of Jolingkong I. Rajula peak behind. (Andy Perkins).


35. Nikarchu Killa from west. First ascent was via snow ramp on right. (Andy Perkins)


36. Adi Kailash South peak from North peak. (Andy Perkins).

After a day of rain we walked to Chhiyalekh (3350 m), Garbyang for lunch, and arrive Gunji (3300 m). Bridge across to Nepal below Garbyang blown up by Maoist rebels and a rumour (later denied by ITBP) that 3 Nepali policemen had been shot. Stay in village meeting house. We left early arriving Nampa (3540 m) for lunch, 11 km from Gunji and 7 km from Kuthi. Arrived Kuthi (3850 m) at 1500. Weather clouding over slowly which may have been due to team taking a rest in a holy spot in the shade of the Panch Pandav Qilla just below Kuthi village.

Two members leave Kuthi to recce for BC site. Decide to put BC at Nikarchu nala (4250 m) which is the major stream bed from where you see Nikurch Rama. This site is flat and easily accessible, with good exposure to sun during the day. The only downside is a 50 m descent to get water, so we kept on a cook boy.

ABC and first summit: 26 September - 29 September

Sun hits BC at 0630. We made a quick trip to the valley beyond Jolingkong (Parvati) lake to recce an ABC for Jolingkong acclimatisation trip. Few went up the glacier towards Nikurch Rama to recce. We also recce for Shin la approach.

All team go for a recce/acclimatisation up. C. S.Pandey, our agent, crosses Shin la, leaving Jolingkong at 0330 with no technical gear except for one ice axe. Reaches Shin la at 0800, offers prayers and descends to Bedang, reaching there at 1345. Conditions on descent were difficult with deep snow over rocks.

Leave BC 0900 in increasing cloud. Arrive Jolingkong temple and arrive 1215 at Jolingkong ABC (4650 m) which is 5.5 miles NW of the BC site in valley to the N of Parvati lake. Camp on nice flat spot right next to a stream.

Drizzle all night. Cloud slowly lifting at 0600 but still misty. 0820 depart for Jolingkong III, summit (5350 m) at 1120. Scree run down, followed by session on glacier roping up. Back at camp 1330, finding edelweiss in the meadow on the way.

On to summits : 30 September to 8 October.

Up at 0300 away 0410. summit of Jolingkong I (JK) at 5460 m by 0900. This is the highest point on the ridge visible from Parvati lake with prominent twin pinnacles. Gaining it involves climbing loose scree and snow for approx 300 m, then a tottering rock pinnacle with a move of IV to the summit. From here, the ridge turns NW and rises about another 200 m over 1 km to what we will call Jolingkong I ! Some reached a point at 5640 approx halfway between JK 1 and JK III.

1-2 October

Rest day. Kumaon Scouts (Indian army) officer, Lt. Amit Viyas, arrives at BC with 2 soldiers, announcing intention to hunt ibex with a light machine gun, knowing them to be an endangered species in this valley. Session on jumar and abseil procedure. Heavy cloud to S by 1600, followed by rain for 2 hours.

3 October

Up at 0300, visibility 50 to 100 m at ABC. Light snow all day. Leave 0430, Andy led trail breaking mid calf to hip snow for 1 hour to ridge above ABC. 80 m drop-off down 40 degree slope on far side, leaving fixed rope. Up left into bowl seeing various possibilities to col between this and Pt. 6321 m. Camp site next to large boulder at 5400 m. Summit Raider pitched here and cache of kit left. 5 minutes to base of wall. 10 m of Scottish IV on muddy shale and 50 m to a good belay on Friend 1.5 and Rock 1. Another 60 m to excellent belay on Friend 2 and hex. Angle easing at 5600 m. Col looks achievable. Return to BC via easy route around rather than over ridge. Windy at 1430, with patches of blue. Pressure steady.

4 October

Up 0200, usual poor visibility. Away 0330, C1 at 0430. Up fixed rope then short roping up diagonally to col on 35 to 40 degree snow with a final steep pitch to the col to a bucket seat and screw and picket belay. Col is knife-edge rather than flat with no possibility of a camp anywhere. Lake to 6321 m involves 100 m of very steep snow/ice. Decision to go down rather than trying to push for summit due to bad weather. 120 m lower for the team, Andy abseils off Abalakov and then down climbs. Andy then lowers team to head of fixed rope at 5600 m then climbs up to refix rope with idea of going right of gendarme. Back to C1 for 1200, then ABC for 1300 and BC.

5 October

Two members arrive fresh from summit of what is eventually called Nikarchu Qilla (5705 m) to the NE of Nikurch Rama.

8 October

Up at 2300, cloud & light snow, thick mist at C1. Away 1240, up fixed rope, finds base of fixed rope above gully. Up to base of gendarme, round shale rock, finding good belays every 30 to 50 m in gendarme wall using Friends 1.5 to 3, Rocks 2 to 9 plus Rockcentrics 6 to 8. Poor visibility till 0400 and 5650 m. Up side of buttress on 40 degree snow leads to col right of gendarme, then two short pitches along arete to flat spot where ridge merges into bulk of LK. Andy puts in fixed rope from col down and left to buttress off two screws, meeting four who has taken decision to go for summit from ABC. Summit (5900 m) at 0730 for Andy's team by going right to rocky ridge and then up immediately right of this on snow. Awesome views of Nanda Devi, Kailash, Api. Depart 0815, leaving 2 screws on col to facilitate descent.

Return: 9 October to 16 October.

Base camp, return trek, Delhi and back to London.


Climbs on smaller peaks by a British team in Eastern Kumaun, in area of Kuthi and Jolingkong lake.

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12. Auden's Col

A crossing from Khatling side

Sabyasachi Bose

The most practical and feasible connection between two pilgrim centres — Kedarnath and Gangotri — is through Maiali pass and Auden's col. Maiali pass has become a regular trek route to reach Kedarnath from Ghuttu. But Auden's col is different. It is situated on the connecting ridge of Gangotri III (6577 m) and Jogin I (6465 m) — between the Rudugaira glacier glacier and Khatling glacier. One of the early visitors here was Dr. J. B. Auden, in around 1939-40. He crossed the col from Rudugaira and descended to Bhilangana valley via Khatling bamak (glacier). This col has been named after him.

Approach to the col is little easier from Rudugaira, but descending through Khatling glacier is tough as some part of the glacier has icefall and all adjacent glaciers are broken. Even so, sometimes, explorers descend through Khatling as a probable route could be chalked out from upper reaches of Khatling. But approaching the col from Khatling was a difficult task, as one would have to face an icefall. According to records, although there were few expeditions from Rudugaira, there have been only two expeditions till date from the Khatling. The first one was 21 years back, in 1983, when two explorers from Kolkata - Ranjit Lahiri and Arun Ghosh managed the daunting task (H.J. Vol.40, page 164). Though this expedition has been recorded as successful, much confusion and controversy surround the effort. Since the explorers were lost the following year while attempting Panpatia col, there was no way to solve the riddle. In 1985, an RAF trekking party attempted the same route, but no information is available on that, except a mention in the Indian Mountaineer. In the year 1983, another team crossed from Rudugaira. We met one member, Bidyut Sarkar. He gave us some information on the route from his faded memory but the story was 21 years old.

In 2004 my friend Amitava Dutta and me prepared ourselves for another attempt to Auden's col from Khatling. We reached Ghuttu on the morning of 14 September 2004, via Haridwar, Teheri and Ghamsali. Next day we started our plod towards the settlement of Reeh keeping Bhilangana on our right. It rained intermittently. We reached Reeh bungalow in the afternoon. Next day we reached Gangi in rain and then 16 km trek from Gangi to Kharsoli.

The next day, to acclimatise, we set out for Khatling cave. As weather was clear, we decided to go ahead of Khatling cave. Crossing over the lateral moraine of the receded Khatling glacier we pitched tent on a flowery patch in the multi-streamed Bhilangana. The view was spectacular. We could see the hanging glacier of Ratangrian, further ahead. Above us was Satling glacier and Satling Spire was peeping over the clouds. It is important to note that although according to the Survey of India map, Khatling glacier's snout was supposed to be in front of Khatling cave, we found that it had receded many miles.

On 20 September morning we started for Khatling glacier. We could see the snout a little further. On coming closer, we were stunned to see a dual snout of the glacier. I found that features of the lower reaches of Khatling glacier has been changed a lot compared to my last visit in 2001.

It was neither practical nor advisable to get on to the glacier from snout itself, as it was full of moraine-debris and broken ice. There was no bare and stable ice in that part of the glacier. So, we climbed about hundred feet through the moraine at our left and started negotiating towards the upper reaches of the Khatling glacier. Our movement was extremely slow and careful over loose boulders with ice underneath. We could see bare ice on the glacier ahead of us and planned to pitch our tent over there. Just above that loomed the dreadful icefall. Far ahead we could see the peak of Jaonli.

On the 21st morning we climbed down to the bare ice of the glacier. The tail end was undulating and flat so it was easy going. Reaching the icefall we found massive crevasses, solid ice-walls and seracs running everywhere. Negotiating these was quite daunting. Climbing for two hours, we were finally stopped by immense crevasses blocking our way. We looked in vain for other routes but had to finally retreat to the base of the icefall. At around 3 p.m. we reached the place where I had camped in 2001. The view from the tent was almost unchanged. Huge ice walls, and seracs were almost at handshaking distance. It snowed lightly in the evening.

The next morning was foggy and it snowed all day. At around 1:30 a.m. at night, snowfall stopped. Everything was white as we got up. We roped up and started climbing through the ice walls. Only undulations in the snow let us know the existence of crevasses. At left a glacier appeared between two ridges, to join Khatling. One ridge went up to a beautiful peak. We pitched our tent on snow after crossing over that junction zone. There was still no sign of the famous rabbit's ears, as described by J.B.Auden ('Two side by side rocky humps, looks like rabbit's ears. Auden's col is just to the right of that. Rabbit's ears are an indication of the col'). The night was windy but magical as the sky was clear and moon was on its full flow.


Route Map of Auden's Col

Next morning, when we started our plod, there was scorching sunlight everywhere. The rock wall to our right was getting lower as we were moving up through the glacier. Suddenly the rabbit's ears came into sight, far away, at the northwest end of the glacier. We were joyous. The icefall zone was over. But the weather started deteriorating, it started snowing. We managed a place to pitch our tent somehow.

25th morning was clear with a deep blue sky and scorching sunlight. At left two glaciers came down to meet Khatling. The near one was Sangli bamak, above which was Bhetiara-ka-Danda peak and the far one was Mecha bamak, above which Draupadi-ka-Danda was seen. It was a spectacular view. We turned right turn through the snowfield. After day of making route on snowfield we pitched our tent at the side of the ice all in front of Jaonli. Rabbit's ear was still far up the valley.


65. Jaonli above the Khatling glacier. (Sabyasachi Bose)


66. Jogin peaks from the Khatling glacier. (Sabyasachi Bose)

26th was again a clear day. The ground ahead of us was crevassed so we moved towards the ridge of Jogin. To get into the side valley of Rabbit's ear, we had to gain height and we had to be very cautious about the falling rocks and small avalanches hissing through our way. When we camped the Rabbit's ears seemed to be at stone throwing distance. We were excited.

27th morning started with clear sky. We were hurriedly on our way towards col. After an hour we were at the base of Rabbit's ear and could see the Auden's col to the right of it but with a continuous bergshrund running throughout the base. We took an ice bridge over the bergshrund nearest to the col's gully, with all safety measures possible. Thankfully, it was stable; and the climb through the gully was moderately difficult, but with the effect of altitude and heavy load, it seemed to us extremely tiring. After an hour's effort, we were on the great Auden's col (5480 m).

This was my third attempt in last four years. I was emotionally moved. The Rudugaira glacier seemed smooth with few crevasses and easy slopes. After half an hour, we set out to go down towards the Gangotri side through the Rudugaira glacier. From col to glacier bed - slope was a bit steep. But thick snow made it less difficult. At 4:30 p.m. we reached a camp site just before the central moraine ridge began.

The 28th started as a sunny day and we set off further down through Rudugaira glacier. We followed the left central moraine. It was confusing and as a porter had stomach pain we located a tiny sandy place among the moraines to pitch tent.

Next morning, we started at 9 and climbed the hefty moraine ridge to our left to find out where we were. Surprisingly we found the base camp of Rudugaira, right there with a clear path ahead. We rushed to Gangotri on clear trail.


67. Khatling glacier from Auden's Col. (Sabyasachi Bose)

We didn't conquer anything; we merely crossed a pass from a side where many don't dare go. The difficulty of the route was not less than a full-fledged expedition. On the night of the snowstorm, the Himalaya let us cross the col. After all this, all we could say is 'Mission accomplished and we survived.'


Crossing of Auden's col (5480 m) from Khatling to Gangotri, in 2004.

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13. Stairway to Heaven

Ascent of Bhagirathi III

Walter Hoelzler

The Bavarian extreme climber Walter Holzler from Oberstaufen in the Allgaeu made his old dream come true. It took three attempts to successfully carry out his adventurous plan at the 6454 m high Bhagirathi III (Goddess of the Heavenly Stream) in the Gangotri, Indian Himalaya. On 19 May after five nights of bivouac in the portaledge, Hoelzler together with his climbing partner Joerg Pflugmacher from Garmisch Partenkirchen arrived at the summit — the lifelong dream had come true.

'I can't really believe it yet', says Walter Hoelzler. Eight years ago from the opposite summit of the Shivling (6543 m) (Matterhorn of the Himalaya) Walter Hoelzler declared this 'Magic-Line' to be the biggest challenge in his life as a mountaineer and he thought he would be able to reach the summit at the first attempt. He wanted to climb — if possible free climb — the approximately 1500 m high pillar of the Bhagirathi III west face directly on its edge. Twice, in the years 2000 and 2001, the mountain made him surrender 'Nevertheless I had the feeling that somehow it would be feasible', Hoelzler remembers the time between doubts and hope.

After two years without any expedition, the third attempt would definitely be the last one on the Goddess of the Heavenly Stream, the symbolic name of the Bhagirathi where the river Ganga has its source.

This time he decided to stake everything on one chance. The fact that they were only the two of them, using the alpine style, meant that everything (weather, health, equipment, and partner) had to be perfect to have a real chance to be successful. Walter Hoelzler had found a good rope partner in Joerg Pflugmacher, like himself an experienced mountaineer and climber, with whom he had carefully prepared the project in winter. Facing more than 1.5 km of climbing distance, for the biggest part higher than the 6a grade up to the 7b grade (French scale), exceeds normal dimensions. And furthermore, all this at a height of between 5000 and 6500 m where the lack of oxygen already has a serious effect on the body. That's why you must be strong physically but you also have to mentally prepare yourself well for this extreme situation. Up there you are separated from the world. There are neither helicopters nor mountain rescue services.

The crucial point for the project was the weather. 'When we reached the base camp at 4200 m at the end of April we sank into deep snow', Hoelzler remembers. 'We literally had to pitch the tents on snow', which according to our LO was pretty unusual for this season. However, after a week, things changed: almost 20 days of beautiful weather was to follow. Of course none of the two knew this, yet.

After several days of preparation in the high camp and the first difficult pitches, the two climbers decided to carry out their only attempt in the alpine style. Hoelzler and Pflugmacher spent nine days on the face on their way to the summit, among them five without interruption in a portaledge. The descent took one and a half days along the same route. 30 pitches plus the crumbly summit structure, almost the whole edge in free climbing technique up to grade 7b.

Hoelzler lead the climb first whereas Pflugmacher's job as the second in the rope was to secure the team. 'Joerg was a competent and motivating partner. This was very important. The risk of two people climbing together is bigger; one breakdown and everything is over. However, a pair of climbers is more flexible and quicker. Due to the weather in the Himalaya, speed also means safety'. It was their aim to climb free (that is, without any technical aid when moving) as much as possible on the direct route on the southwest pillar. And they were successful. Hoelzler had to climb technical with 'friends' only for two pitches.

The climber also experienced in a realistic way that a small carelessness can thwart the whole project. After eleven hours of climbing one of his heavy expedition boots got loose. He needed it for the last part of his way to the summit and later for his way back to the base camp. The tight free-climbing shoes can only be used for climbing the rocks. 'It was already late afternoon. I was standing at a small ledge, handling karabiners and other climbing equipment. Suddenly I saw one of my boots loosening from the fixed karabiner, falling over the edge of a 100 m wall, hitting the ground and again being flung through the air for another 100 m. After that there was a snow field, approx. 35 degrees steep, on which I lost sight of it'. There was only one quick decision: To go down by using all available ropes and to look for the boot in ice and scree. Just when he was about to give up hope Hoelzler discovered the missing boot in soft snow, only a couple of metres away from a further precipice. The project and his toes were saved. 'Something like that happens during every adventure'.

Things stayed exciting even on the day they were to reach the summit. For a short time it seemed as if the weather would change again. They already had to spend a stormy night with snowfall in the portaledge. After the last difficult pitches Hoelzler and Pflugmacher reached the 'crumbly wall' underneath the proper summit area at around 2 p.m. and decided to keep climbing for an hour and then turn back, no matter how far they had come. Background : The two needed a 'cushion' for their way back as they were not equipped well enough for a bivouac in the summit area!

After an hour of delay, Hoelzler and Pflugmacher reached the summit at 4 p.m. which was completely covered in fog. 'There was only time enough for a quick hand shake, a couple of photographs and video recordings for the movie before heading down again. 'You don't really feel happy until you are back in the base camp because only then you know that you really made it'.

And sure enough on their way back there was another kick : It was already dark when they were abseiling. Due to strong wind loose fixed ropes were caught in a one of the cracks of a steep pillar — and with Pflugmacher in the middle of it all, was caught in his own ropes. The knife to cut the rope could not be found. Hopelessly hanging in his climbing harness, getting more and more exhausted, his last chance was to cut the rope, which was caught in the rock, with the ice axe — but which rope to choose in the tangle? The night had already fallen. Holzler used a powerful Petzl-headlamp from the hanging bivouac 15 m further down and shines into the wall. Pflugmacher recognizes the correct rope and cuts it with strong blows. Being dead tired but relieved, the two climbers reach their bivouac at 10.30 p.m. 'Stairway to heaven' — that's how they call their route.

Hoelzler and Pflugmacher are very proud on their magic line. 'We didn't use many technical aids. There are already enough of these on routes in the Himalaya. At the end of the pitches and at points, which were strategically important for free climbing, we fixed bolts but we only used them for safety reasons. Our philosophy was to climb a beautiful and difficult route but it should not be extremely dangerous. We would be happy to see climbers trying our route again soon.'


The German mountain guide Walter Hoelzler and his partner Joerg Pflugmacher were the first team to successfully ascend the direct southwest pillar of the Bhagirathi III (6454 m) in the Garwhal Himalaya.

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14. Swachand — The Silent Valley

Colonel A. Abbey

In June 1997, on my way up with a team of instructors of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering to climb Chaukhamba, I crossed a valley in deep slumber to the northeast of the Gangotri glacier. It's silence touched me, but it's beauty and ruggedness drew me like a magnet! Soon, as we retraced our foot steps down the Gangotri glacier after recording the first ascent of Chaukhamba I 1 from the western flank, the first ascent of Chaukhamba II and Pt. 6736 metres, I crossed the same valley. Moving from southeast to northwest, as I looked in the direction of the valley, I saw a sickle moon shaped summit towering on the horizon with a precipitous face plunging into the head of the valley. This was the Swachand valley and the mountain was Satopanth (7075 m).

On 14 July 1997, I saw the Swachand valley from the summit of Satopanth, and this time again with a team of NIM Instructors. 2 The valley below lay in deep silence. But it was finally in July 2004, after our attempt on Chaukhamba III and IV, that I finally decided to break its long trance of silence and intrude into the valley, which had caught my fancy over the years. On 14 July, a team comprising of Colonel A Abbey, Rattan Singh, C Norbu, Jagmohan, Dashrath, Kushal Singh, SS Negi and Vijender Singh entered the Swachand valley to carry out a reconnaissance for some future climbing objectives for the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering.


  1. HJ Vol. 52.1996. p. 227.
  2. HJ Vol. 54. 1998. p. 61.

The Swachand glacier is a tributary of the Gangotri glacier and flows southwest. (The word Swachh means saaf, untouched or pure). The glacier, which is 8 kms long, varies from 500 to 800 m in width. 6 subsidiary glaciers feed the Swachand Bamak, which is surrounded by a rim of rugged peaks, ranging from 6172 m to 7075 m high Satopanth. As we entered the valley and walked on the glacier, its heavy glaciations in the form of mounds of high moraine debris was evident. The many colours of the glacier in patches, also reminded us of Chaturangi Bamak. In 1938, the climbers Toni Messner and Leo Spannraft as part of R. Schwarzgruber's Austrian expedition climbed Swachand Peak, approaching it from the Maiandi glacier on 23 September 1938. The west face of this mountain drops like an almost vertical wall of almost 1350 m into the Swachand valley, which is an interesting proposition.

Towering above the entrance to the Swachand valley from the south and standing as a sentinel on the Gangotri glacier, stands P. 6172 m. It is clearly visible as one approaches Chaukhamba from the western flank. The ridge from 6172 m moves in the northeasterly direction and then eastward to culminate at P. 6532 m. It is from P. 6532 m, that the Swachand valley and the lower Maiandi valleys divide into two branches saddling a glacier between them. From P. 6532 m, the north ridge moves over P.


Swachand Valley

6465 m and P. 6370 m to join Swachand Peak. P. 6465 m, a high point on this ridge, was climbed by a British expedition (Simon Wheeler) in September 1987. To the north of Swachand Peak lies P. 6702 m and P. 6684 m. The latter peak lies tucked away to the northeast of P. 6702 m and is therefore not immediately visible. The imposing unclimbed 1600 m west and southwest face of P. 6702 m, is very challenging and remains a formidable big wall climbing objective.

In the centre of the Swachand valley, and to the north of P. 6684 m and P. 6190 m, stands the horn-shaped P. 6666 m. The shapely peak, which is strategically located on the watershed and over looks the Swachand, Suralaya Bamak and the Bhagirath Kharak glaciers has also been referred to as the 'Junction peak'. Towering to the north west of P. 6666 m and connected to it stands the imposing south face of Satopanth. In June 1986, a Polish team comprising of Rysaard Kolakowski and Tomasz Kopys climbed this challenging south face of Satopanth, Alpine style. They subsequently traversed the mountain by descending down the Swiss route of the first ascent. In 1983, in a tragic climbing accident, a Hungarian climber fell to his death while attempting this face.

The ridge from the west summit of Satopanth drops steeply into a col and then rises to P. 6820 m. Further almost 7 kms of a serrated ridge line moves from east to west from P. 6820 m, over a series of unnamed heights such as P. 6625 m and P. 6561 m, before petering off on the floor of the Gangotri glacier.

The Swachand valley, though seldom frequented, is a climber's paradise offering every type of possible climbing. From big wall to mixed climbing, from steep ice faces to broken faces, the valley has it all! With the exception of very few attempts and even fewer ascents, many of the majestic mountains of the Swachand valley await a first ascent. The valley though not very easily accessible, is like a precious jewel, of enormous value and climbing potential of which is yet be ascertained. As I looked around, I felt dwarfed by these majestic and formidable heights. But here too, like the other Himalayan glaciers, accumulation of moraine debris is an indication of receding glaciers, a grave cause of concern to all mankind.

As the heights of the Swachand valley beckon the climber, I am certain that the mountaineer will take on the gauntlet thrown by this challenging, pristine valley and with swift, coordinated strokes of his crampons, boots and ice axes break the crust and the long drawn silence of the silent valley.


Description of peaks of the Swachand valley, Gangotri area.

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15. Srikhand Mahadev

Avay Shukla

Piercing the clouds at 5227 m, Srikhand Mahadev peak is perhaps a difficult pilgrimage trek in the Himachal Pradesh. Located almost on the eastern boundary of Kullu with Shimla district, it is approachable by three routes. The most popular is the one from Baghipul, a village across the Satluj from Rampur Bushehar, four hours by road from Shimla. From Baghipul it is 35 kms on foot, usually done in two days: 90% of the five thousand or so pilgrims to the peak every year take this route. This difficult trek begins from Jeori, a small town 180 km from Shimla on the Hindustan - Tibet road to Kinnaur. At Jeori, one crosses the Satluj and proceeds up the Ghanvi khad on foot, past the tribal village of Phancha, meeting up with the track from Baghipul about 300 m below the peak. This is also done in two days, but the route is strenuous, risky at points where glaciers have to be crossed and sheer precipices to be negotiated; there is no proper camping site: it is best left to the locals. A third, relatively unknown route starts from the Banjar valley of Kullu, which is between the other two in degree of difficulties, and provides the solitude which the true trekker prefers. It was the route we took.

The roadhead is at a place called Bathad: one reaches it by crossing the Beas river at Aut, 25 km before Kullu on the national highway, entering the pristine Tirthan valley and proceeding past Sai Ropa, for 15 km from the confluence of the Tirthan and the Palchan khad, a tributary of the Tirthan, where Bathad is situated. It is advisable to spend the night at Sai Ropa (1220 m) a lovely place on the banks of the Tirthan, one of the few rivers in which trout still survive. Local pressure has also compelled an otherwise environmentally insensitive state government to ban any hydel projects on this river. Sai Ropa has a well appointed Information Centre and rest house of the Bio- Diversity Conservation Society of the Great Himalayan National Park, which is just a few kms away.

At Bathad one leaves the Tirthan and proceeds on foot into and up the Palchan khad, past Machiar village, 2600 m.- the last habitation. From here it is 18 kms to the camping site and most of it is through very dense undergrowth in the khad: part of the track is through the Tirthan Wild Life Sanctuary. After 10 kms the track emerges out of the khad, crosses to the left bank and gradually enters a splendid valley: the riverside vegetation gives way to bhojpatra (birch) and then to juniper and dwarf rhododendrons, and finally, at about 2750 m to verdant grasslands. The valley is aligned in an east-west direction and is completely enclosed from three sides, the Palchan stream exiting from the western end through which we entered. It's north and south flanks rise steeply for 300 m and then plateau out to pastures. The eastern end is blocked by a high rampart 3660 m high from which the Palchan emanates. The land-locked feature of the valley creates its own micro-climate, trapping the clouds and moisture, and probably explains why the tree line here finishes at 2750 m when usually it extends up to 3250 or 3350 m in this region. This was Plach, the first camping site.

On the second day we broke camp at six, because one had to cover 20 kms to Bhim Dwar, the next staging point. The climb up the eastern rampart to 3660 m was exhilarating: over gently inclining grasslands carpeted with alpine flowers, past a shepherd encampment guarded by two massive dogs. A unique breed, a pair of these dogs is more than a match for the brown bear or leopard which preys on the flocks. Now given recognition these splendid animals are officially known as the Himalayan Sheep Dog. The top of the rampart is known as Pattu Burji, 3950 m. The view from here of the Shimla and Kinnaur ranges is awe inspiring. But the descent on the other (eastern) side is an awful contrast to the west, just a goat track over precipitous ridges and crags, winding its way down 500 m to scree slopes and then scrub, meeting up with the track coming from Baghipul from the south at a point called Dunga Thua. From here the track veers northwards for 12 kms, bisected every few hundred metres by huge water-runnels coming down from the west, which have to be crossed carefully by walking over the dubious looking ice bridges spanning them! Bhimdwar was reached by 7 p.m. This is a valley half a kilometre wide with a stream flowing in its middle, fed by three spectacular waterfalls cascading down the surrounding, lush green slopes. It's a pleasant meadow, with good camping options: during the pilgrimage season [July to September] a Seva Samiti puts up tents and offers free food.

Day three is the most strenuous as one has to cover the steep eight- kilometre ascent to the peak and return to camp: camping beyond Bhimdwar is not advisable because of the high altitude and uncertain weather. The first four kms or so are over a thickly grassed meadow to a plateau 250 m high that blocks off the northern end of the valley. Then one climbs steadily along a water course for two kms till one suddenly enters a glaciated bowl with a fairly large lake in its middle. The astounding thing is that, even though the terrain here is all shale and scree, the lake is surrounded by hundreds of Brahmkamal flowers, huge two feet, lotus like white flowers - one of the rarest of high altitude flora. This place belongs to the goddess Parvati.

According to legend, Parvati was so enamoured of the God Shiva who was meditating on the Srikhand peak that she waited for him at this spot for 18,000 years! Even the forces of nature empathised with her, and all around the lake thousands of Brahmkamal flowers sprang up-they are the Goddess's favourite flowers - and even today this place is called Parvati ka Bagicha (garden of Parvati). At one point Parvati grew so despondent at the lack of response from Shiva that one tear fell from her eye onto the ground- this is the lake we see today, shaped like a woman's eye - appropriately called Nain Sarovar ('eye lake'). It's a beautiful and poignant myth, and adds a lot of colour to an otherwise barren area.

From Nain Sarovar the climb is unremitting, 600 m over huge boulders, one ridge after another. The track from Phancha joins this track about 350 m below the peak, and one look at it can convince anyone that it is best left alone! There is little wildlife at these altitudes, but we were lucky to spot a snow co*ck perched on a rock above us, disdainfully observing our progress. The peak is usually shrouded in mist, the weather is treacherous, and this last stretch is best done quickly. Two hundred metres below the peak we came upon huge rectangular tablets of rock strewn about, quite different from the rounded boulders which are the feature here. The tablets have strange hieroglyphic markings on them which appear to form a pattern and cannot be the effect of weathering. This place is called Bhim ki Bahi. Bahi means a register, and myth has it that, when the Pandavas were here during their exile, Bhim kept the accounts of their travels on these tablets. Sounds implausible? Nobody has come up with a more plausible explanation!

The last hundred metres or so to the peak is over a permanent ice field. The peak - Srikhand Mahadev- itself is a monolithic rock twenty metres high, black and grim, and does not appear to be an integral part of the mountain which is all fragmented and broken up: it appears to have been placed there by some primordial force! This is the Shivling and can be approached only on naked feet! Next to it is a smaller rock which is worshipped as the consort Parvati. From here one can also see, to the northeast the sister peak Kartikey (named after the son of Shiva) conical in shape, not as high as Srikhand, but technically more difficult to scale.

One should start the journey back by noon - we were late and reached Bhimdwar by six. Next day we returned via the Baghipul route, past Dunga Thua, over a steep ridge called Danda Dhar (3500 m), then down three kms to a place called Thachru, situated amidst a thick forest of kharsu oak where the Seva Samiti has built a few sheds and laid a water line. People coming from Baghipul usually spend their first night here. This is the southern aspect of the ridge line and is drained by a substantial stream — the Kurpen, a tributary of the mighty Satluj - which can be seen 600 m below as a tiny white ribbon. One has to descend to the Kurpen through dense forests of birch, kharsu, spruce and Taxas baccata - we heard a Monal pheasant calling- cross over to its right bank, and follow it down for about five kms to the tiny hamlet of Samatan which has a forest inspection hut and electricity! One covers more than 30 kms on this last day, and this makes an excellent spot to spend the night. The next day one can take it easy, because it is just a gentle walk of 8 kms to the roadhead at Baghipul, through lush cultivated fields and orchards. From here taxis and buses are available for Shimla.


A trek to Srikhand Mahadev, a pilgrimage to a temple at high altitude in Himachal Pradesh.

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16. Phawararang, 2004

Charang Valley Expedition

Hemant Thete

Phawararang (6349 m) is situated in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh at the head of Tirung gad, a tributary of Satluj. This area does not receive many expeditions and as such we were short of information prior to planning and start of our expedition. The peak was first climbed in 1977 by Indian Army expedition (Col. Balwant Sandhu), followed by IIT, Powai ( J. Kulkarni) in 1984 and then by a Japanese expedition in 1997.

We reached Rekong Peo, the administrative headquarter of Kinnaur on 20 August. Media reports about the impending mega-flood of the Satluj due to bursting of a natural dam in Tibet made us quite anxious and we were doubtful about even reaching Peo. But as it turned out, it was a mega-flood of rumours. It was smooth and joyful ride through one of the most beautiful valleys, from Dehradun to Uttarkashi to Rampur via Tiuni, Rohru and onwards to Rekong Peo.

On 22 August, we left Peo in two vehicles, to Thangi, which is about 35 km from Peo. Taking advantage of extended road we managed to drive about 2 km beyond the village. We trekked beyond the Lambar village ( 9 km) to establish our first transit camp on the right bank of the Tirung nala. It was cloudy weather accompanied by light drizzle throughout the day.

Next halt (23 August) was Shurtingting (3445 m), at the junction of Lalanti nala (from south) coming from Lalanti Dogri, and Tirung gad flowing from the east, from Charang village. Route from Lambar to Shurtingting is a continuous but gradual ascent on the right bank of the Tirung most of the time. The route is sometimes alongside the stream and clings to the left side ridge which is a mix of loose soil and rocks at some patches. Before Shurtingting, a narrow stream joins the Tirung from left and we had to cross it over a single-log bridge.

We reached Lalanti Dogri (4270 m), the site of our proposed base camp on 24 August late in the afternoon, after trekking almost for about 8 hours. We crossed the nala near Shurtingting in the morning and continued the trek, which went continuously upwards gradually with steep bursts. Weather continued to be cloudy and rainy. It was in near white out and wet conditions that we reached base camp. We wanted to set up the BC much earlier at Zoni Dogri (as was in the case of 1997 Japanese expedition) but the white-out conditions and light drizzle made some of our porters move faster and they took rest only on reaching Lalanti site. So, we had to establish BC there. Two shepherds occupied a nearby stone hut and some 100-odd goats, cows, buffaloes etc occupied the complete area. Base camp was filled with dung and mud. We occupied the tin-shelter built by the Army almost forcibly evacuating the animals staying there. Despite the discomforts, the valley had something pleasant about it. Gusts of winds, openness and the sound of the water streams of Lalanti nala added a unique flavour to the surroundings. The stream was about 200 m away from our shelter and clung mostly to the base of facing ridge, which ran continuously from south to north. The southeast portion of the ridge ran continuously upwards-forming razor sharp ridgeline with a beautiful snow-line textures adding to the beauty of the peak.

Weather, though cloudy and with light rain, had not stopped us till this point. So, we decided to continue the recce and acclimatisation next day. Taking the ridge at the right bank of Jabgayagrang nala, we reached the base of boulder-hillock descending diagonally towards our right. We crossed the nala and climbed the steep slope which connected us to the mid-shoulder ridge formed by the other nala, Lankshadawak. The soil was loose, held together by small bunches of grass and shrubs. We continued upwards on the ridge from one bump to another towards north to reach base of a steep rocky bump. Instead of climbing straight up we took the right turn at the base and then climbed to reach over the bump. Whole area was strewn with loose scree, slab rocks and boulders and it was hard to find the campsite. After finding a somewhat flat portion on the ridge we decided to call it a day. This would be our Camp 1. The other nala (Lankshadawak) was visible from this place about 100 m downwards and it ran from west to east near the campsite. (As we discovered later, we were not far from the earlier campsite, which lay near the stream i.e. about 70 m down towards north.) Upto base camp we had hired 8 porters out of whom we had retained one cook and two porters as helpers for our stay at BC.

Taking advantage of the improved weather, we continued our movement to camp 1 and followed the route on the ridge till it meets the north ridge of the peak and established further two higher camps one by one. Camp 2 (5335 m) and Camp 3 (5790 m) were almost in straight line with Camp 1, one above another Camp 3, established on 30 August, was to be the summit camp but the route continued over loose boulders, scree in mostly east to west direction.

Earlier reports had a common mention about a 80 m rock wall, which needed fixing of ropes, but we did not require them. May be we followed the route on the ridge itself and earlier expeditions followed the moraine route which lay probably on our right (northern direction). But the rocks and loose boulders were a tough proposition. At least two rocky sections were quite precarious and needed very cautious approach. Meanwhile, Nitin was a bit slow in acclimatisation and he decided to opt out and stay at base camp with Dilip, the senior member of our team. Others continued their approach towards summit. Drinking water was a problem as our approach route lay on the ridge continuously. Fresh snow was available at Camp 3 only but that too was in pockets. From the summit camp the peak lay towards northwest and directly opposite to the peak was Rangrik Rang and other peaks in the group. Towards southwest were two peaks apparently connected by a ridge, which extended from Phawararang.

On 31 August, two members Dhananjay and Sachin, guide Manoj and one porter, Deepak left at about 5.30 in the morning for the summit. From the summit camp, route turned right almost in 90 degrees on a ridge, which ran upto the base of the northern ridge of the peak. From the summit camp it was clear that the horizontal summit ridge extending to our left had a forked summit with a deep gully visible between the two points. As we had read in earlier reports, the summit ridge was corniced towards north. So, we had cautioned our climbers about the same. Walkie-talkie communication was kept open constantly and Hemant and Sachin described the terrain looking through binoculars. Fortunately, weather was clear in that area and the climbers continued their ascent first from the northern ridge then zigzagged up bypassing the southeast face over a ledge onto the eastern end of the summit ridge. Then they turned left and negotiated three bumps to enter a longish snowfield on the summit ridge.


68. The north ridge of Phawararang (centre) from Camp 3. The forked summit is on left.

Further, the route was relatively flat and they roped together and stayed away from the northern face, which was indeed corniced. The face went straight down onto the glaciated surface of Damana. Finally, after a climb of about six hours, Dhananjay stood on the far tip of the horizontal ridge signaling the successful climb of the Phawararang. Manoj and Deepak followed closely duly belaying and roped up. The trio spent about thirty minutes on the summit. The northern side was clouded but the peaks on other directions provided majestic view of the snow clad peaks most of which we could not identify. They returned to the summit camp by 3 p.m. utterly exhausted. Resting for about 2 hours, the summit camp was wound up, and the team left downwards for Camp 2 for an overnight rest.

Next day, (1 September), they wound up Camp 2, and Camp 1 and reached the base camp by evening. Everybody was quite happy about the way the summit was achieved. We returned via the Charang pass, a popular pass for trekkers. It was at the foot of Kinnaur Kailash, local diety, to whom we were grateful for our success.

Members: Dhananjay Bhagat (leader/ summiteer), Sachin Agrawal, Dilip Kolhatkar, Nitin Thutheja, Manoj (guide / summiteer) and Hemant Thete (Project Co-ordinator).


Ascent of Phawararang (6349 m) in Kinnaur on 31 August 2004.

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17. Neverseen Tower

Silvia Vidal and Eloi Callado


69. Route of ascent on Neverseen Tower.

Last September-October, we (Eloi Callado and Silvia Vidal) went to the Lahaul and Pangi area (Indian Himalaya). We got some information from the 'Servei General d'Informacio de Muntanya-Sabadell'. We climbed the Neverseen Tower (c. 5700 m), a big wall in the Miyar valley.

We arrived there at the beginning of September and after setting up base camp (4800 m) at moraine of the glacier, we started to carry loads to the base of the wall (5050 m). To reach the base, we would have to cross the glacier and climb a 400 m snow ramp (35° - 40°).

We put up a new route called 'Mai Blau' (in Catalan means 'Never Blue') on the west face. It is a natural line that combines cracks and slabs. The name of the route comes from the fact, that there is always bad weather; you never see blue sky at the Neverseen Tower. This summer, the monsoon had been bad and the post-monsoon, not much better. So, we sometimes had clear weather in the morning but clouds and snow in the afternoon.

We climbed in 'capsule style', setting up two camps on the wall (second and fifth belays). We spent 13 days living on the wall (12 bivis) to climb 13 pitches, some of them longer than 70 m, graded A3+/6b/70° (We climbed 890 m, not counting the snow ramp). The day that we decided to try to get to the top, we climbed in alpine style on the last 4 pitches and the final snow ridge, using crampons and ice axes. But before the final attempt to summit, we rested two days on the portaledge, because of the weather.

We rappled down the route (there are only bolts on belays), from the summit to second camp and next day until the base of the wall. At this point, a snowstorm began that was to last for three days. So we were stuck for the next two weeks at the base camp glacier after the climb without any chance of walking down to the main valley.

This is a lesser known area and it is difficult to find porters, so we took them from an agency in Manali (the most important town in the area). It is important to know that to return back to Manali you have to cross the Rohtang pass which, sometimes when the weather is bad, closes down. We were afraid that this would be a problem for us but fortunately, with a four wheel drive vehicle, it was no problem at all.

The Torre Mai Vista (Neverseen Tower) was attempted twice, in September 1999 and 2001 by Fidel Casablancas and Xavi Llongueras (Servei General d'Informacio de Muntanya). See AAJ 2002, p. 380-381

For Italian Expeditions see AAJ 1997, p. 274-276


An ascent of Neverseen Tower (c. 5700 m), Miyar valley, Lahaul.

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18. Expedition to West Tibet, 2004

First Ascent of Two Peaks in the Far away Borderland

Tamotsu Ohnishi

The Kansai Section of the Japanese Alpine Club (JAC) sent an academic and mountaineering expedition to West Tibet in 2004 in celebration of the JAC's 100th anniversary in 2005. The objectives of the expedition were to scale unclimbed peaks in Tatungsakhu Himal of West Tibet, to retrace footsteps of a Japanese monk, Ekai Kawaguchi, who reached Lhasa a century ago ahead of Sven Hedin, and so exploreunvisited regions in the headwaters of the Satluj, Indus, Yarlung Tsangpo and Mt. Kailas. Following is a brief climbing record, whilst an article on Ekai Kawaguchi and exploration will be published in a separate volume of the centennial issue of the Japanese Alpine News 2006.

Mountains with no records

A dominant rock peak, Gang Dzong Kang, was projected upon the screen in front of climbers in Osaka. The photograph had been taken by a party of Osaka Alpine Club that I led in 2003. This rock peak soars south of a highway connecting Lhasa and Kailas in a vast and arid Tibetan high plateau. As it is in view from the road, presumably many travellers would have been charmed by the peak. An early explorer, Sven Hedin, who had entered a region of 'Blank on Map' in the vicinity, painted and left a sketch of the mountain. However, no one tried any access to it.vThe photograph, which was taken from the Nepalese side beyond a ridge, shows a rock face, but does not cover the whole profile in detail. Comparison with the surrounding peaks gave a hint on the altitude of the peak, estimated to 6080 m, but GPS indicated 6123 m. The height of the challenging rock wall appeared to be about 800 m.


Changtang/Dolpo Borderland

In 2004, I was again nominated as the expedition leader. The expedition party departed from Kathmandu on 13 August and entered Tibet by road after having spent two weeks in the Khumbu area for acclimatisation. Then the climbing leader, Satoshi Kimoto, and I headed for the first objective, Pachyung Ham with two Sherpas after having seen a younger group off to the Kung la (pass), where they tried to follow the route taken by a Japanese monk, Ekai Kawaguchi, who had a hundred years ago, crossed the Himalaya and hurried to reach Lhasa in disguise in order to obtain copies of Tibetan scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. His narrative is given in his book Three Years in Tibet. The base of the mountain near the China - Nepal border looks gently sloping down to pasture, and a moraine filled the valley. But inside the valley widely opened pasture appears. Base camp was established at 4607 m on 20 August, advance base camp was built at 5216 m between a current glacier and pasture in the upper part of a typical V- shape valley on 26 August.


Pachyung Ham 6529m north ridge

Ascent of Pachyung Ham

A climbing route to Pachyung Ham follows the north ridge via a 6167 m peak. Shortly before a younger team of six members arrived, an elder party of four members left the camp for reconnaissance, route opening and carrying up the loads half day earlier than they came. They climbed a slope behind ABC, reached a 5900 m peak on the main ridge. After recovering supplies from a temporary deposit camp at 5880 m that had been built several days before, Kimoto and two Sherpas further went up to a place for C1 and returned to ABC. The ridge became narrower as they climbed higher and both sides were more precipitous, and finally changed to a slab with a gentle angle.


70. The north ridge of Pachyung Ham (6529 m). (Satoshi Kimoto)

On the following day, 2 September, the younger party joined Kimoto at the deposit camp and set up C1 at 5510 m on a wide snow cap of 6167 m. Kimoto and three Sherpas went to a col between snow- clad Pachyung Ham and the 6167 m peak for route making. Right after C1 they first rappelled and then climbed a knife-edged layered rock slates, which continued to a col with the summit. The ridge had a sheer drop on both sides and required greater care. If rocks had not been exposed, climbing would have been more dangerous. They followed the ridge either on the right side or left side, or straight and rappelled before getting to the col. Ropes were fixed at two points on the steep rock faces.

On 3 September, we departed from C1 toward the summit early morning. An unstable ridge partially covered with snow ended at snow wall. A snow ridge after the snow wall led all the members to the untrodden summit.

Ascent of the Southeast Face of the Towering Gang Dzong Kang

Reconnaissance from ABC, which was set up at 5161 m on 11 September, changed our idea of the towering peak. To our disappointment, the wall to climb looked smaller than expected. I dare to say, however, that it rather suited our team members, whose ability was not too high except for two experts.


71. The soul: foce of 'Rock Peaks of Couple'. 'Husband' Gyang Dzong Kang (6123 m) and on left 'Wife' Genggo. (Satoshi Kimoto)

A few days after the success with Pachyung Ham, we returned to ABC for attacking Gang Dzong Kang. We examined a viable climbing line on the wall and reached the conclusion that we must choose the southeast face as had already been decided. The route opening work was conducted by two parties alternately. Senda's party took the lead.

The lower part of the southeast face had precipitous reverse strata. Senda's party climbed a couloir filled with scree and then tackled a small ridge on the right. Their progress was slow, but in two days they gained four pitches that took them to a contact point with a wall on the ridge, which was very steep toward the upper large band.

Instead of returning to ABC, they managed to set up C1, a temporary tent, at 5720 m at the foot of the southeast face on 15 September. It was already noon when they again ascended to the place they reached on the previous day. The weather was getting bad. As the place was shaded and got colder in the afternoon, they wanted to move to the face on the left side, which received sunshine all the day. They resumed climbing toward a flake on the right of dented rock. From a terrace they climbed the reverse layered face, traversed a band and entered a crack to the upper left. They gained only one pitch of a full length of 60 m rope on this day. The blowing wind and showering snow were almost freezing them, and they hurriedly descended. On the morning of the following day the face was found totally white with fresh snow. As it was obviously not a condition to climb, they returned to ABC.

They discussed tactics to attack the summit, decided to extend the climbing period by three days. Senda's party reached the upper large band with further three pitches in two days. On the third day, 19 September, they continued ascent. Two pitches on a wide crack and a half pitch on the final ridge led to the summit. They stood atop the unclimbed peak at 12:40.

On 20 September, Kimoto's party left ABC in the mist. The weather was deteriorating. But fortunately the snow of the previous day did not disturb climbing very much. Though snow and water on the wide crack bothered them, they could reach the summit at 13:40. Both of the two parties succeeded in achieving their target.


Ascents of Pachyung Ham and the southeast face of Gang Dzong Kang (6123 m) by a Japanese party in Western Tibet.


General leader: Kazuyuki Abe (75)
Leader: Tamotsu Ohnishi (62)
Climbing party: Climbing leader Satoshi Kimoto (48) and five members Academic party: leader Toyoji Wada (58) and one member.

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19. Highest Peak in Kara Kunlun

Tokai University's West Kunlun Expedition, 2004

Yosh*tsugu Deriha

In the summer of 2004, the student mountaineering party of Tokai University Alpine Club was the first to reach the summit of an unexplored peak of the Kara Kunlun mountains (6355 m), at the westernmost end of the Xinjiang Kunlun in China.

The Kara Kunlun mountains are located about 15 km southeast of Mustagh Ata peak, which is located at 75°11' 18" E and 38°11' 29" N. People could never see the summit of it from the foot of the mountains, so it was little known until our party succeeded in reaching the summit.

Our party consisted of climbing leader Yuka Komatsu, expedition leader Yosh*tsugu Deriha, coach Kazuya Hiraide, Dr. Gen Sasao as our party doctor and seven students. After the low-pressure aptitude test at the Tokai University Medical School hospital and the low-pressure training at our laboratory of Sport Medicine Science, meticulous preparations were finished, and the party left Japan for the Kara Kunlun mountains on 30 July.

On 2 August, we arrived in a village, Takuman, which was at the foot of the mountains. The following day, our party went out to check the base camp site; then we started to carry all our loads to the base camp from the village. On 4 August, our party finished setting up our base camp at the end of the Cocoshir glacier at 4500 m. We set up the first camp on the glacier at 4900 m on 7 August, where the sharp peak of the triangular pyramid of the summit of Kara Kunlun (6355 m) suddenly came into view. Nobody had seen it before.


Kara Kunlun Mountains

We started our climbing of the mountain from this camp. We went up from the moraine on the glacier toward the snowy plateau leading to the summit of Kara Kunlun. Our party built the C2 on the snowy field at 5600 m on 12 August. The route to the summit was extremely difficult. We struggled long and hard climbing the ice wall of a steep couloir and an ice wall to get to the ridgeline. On 14 August we fixed rope (600 m) as far as the ridgeline.

At 6:30 a.m. on 15 August three climbers, namely, Yuka Komatsu, who was a senior student, Tatsuya Aoki, and Kazuya Hiraide, started to climb the peak as the first attempt team. They succeeded in fixing the rope (800 m) up to the top ridge leading to the summit. At 1:10 p.m., they were able to get to the summit after a long and arduous climb.

On 16 August as the second ascent team, Yosh*tsugu Deriha, Taku Kojima and Hidetaka Saruhashi started climbing at 7:00 a.m. and succeeded in reaching the summit at 2:04 p.m. although we were worried about the weather which was changing for the worse. As a result, we chose to be satisfied with having six climbers in our party gain the top of the peak.

Yuka, our climbing leader, was the first girl to lead a student mountaineering party of Tokai University since it was founded. She led the entire route. It was an impressive and praiseworthy achievement for a student mountaineering party of a single university to attempt to climb and succeed in reaching the unexplored summit of a peak in the greater ranges of Asia.

The main peak of Kara Kunlun mountains remained nameless, so we named it 'Dolkun Muztag' (Wave of Mountains), which derives from Uighur words Dolkun (wave) and Muztag (mountain).

Members: Yosh*tsugu Deriha, (leader), Yuka Komatsu (climbing leader), Taku Kojima (deputy leader), Kazuya Hiraide (coach), Tatsuya Aoki, Seitaro Ageta, Yusuke Hirano, Hidetaka Saruhashi, and Satoshi Nomura.


The first ascent of Dolkun Muztag (6355 m) in Kara Dunlin range by Japanese mountaineers in 2004.

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20. A Journey to the Little Pamir

Exploration of the Ruins of Tibetan Post of Lien-Yun

Go Hirai

In the summer of 2001 I first stepped into the Afghan Pamir, which I visited again during the following summers. The Japanese Alpine News Vol. 2, April 2002, contains a short account of these visits. Last summer, in 2004, I made another round trip between Kabul and the Little Pamir. During this trip, I made a few new discoveries on the lives of Kirghizi and explored my last remaining route from the west side of Lake Victoria to the Oxus river. I was also able to collect a few specimens of fish from Lake Chaqumak-tin and its creeks. At the little Pamir, I collected some butterflies, and at the Wakhan corridor, I took water samples from five different local hot springs. I explored the ruins of the Tibetan outpost of Lien-Yun that General Kao Hsien-chih and his troops captured during T'ang Dynasty in 747 A.D. Some of the local words have been explained with their English equivalents in parentheses, in this report.

Members and Itinerary

During this journey, between Kabul and Bozai Gumbaz, I joined a group of members of NGO SORA (Support Organisation for Refugees of Afghan; Director: Mrs. T. Tokunaga). Later, I visited the Pamir completing the round trip independently. After visiting Faizabad, I had a Badakhani cook and a policeman with me while making the round trip between Ishkasem and the Little Pamir.

On 3 July, three members (Mrs. T. Tokunaga,. T. Hori and E. Yoneyama) of SORA and I flew from Kabul to Faizabad. On the next day, five members including the cook arrived at Ishkasem by three four- wheel drive vehicles. We drove toward eastern Sarhad along the Oxus river bank at 2400 m and arrived at Khandudu. On the 6th, we drove through Qula-i-Panja and arrived at Sarhad, 3200 m, which is at the eastern end of Wakhan. According to the Afghans, 'Wakhan' ends at Sarhad and they call the eastern part, 'Pamir'.

On the 7th, we started our caravan. Four Japanese members rode on horses with 11 local people and horses and donkeys carrying our loads. We arrived at an Irak (summer grazing) in Maidan (broad field) after going through Dalez (space outside of) Uween (pass) over 4000 m. We went through Baharak at 3300 m. We arrived at Spot-Kish (name of edible grass), and camped beside a Jurab (valley). On the 9th, we crossed the Grundeh (many huge rocks) Bil (pass), camped at an upper area of a Jilga (valley). Next day, we traversed Ak Belius (plateau with plenty of grass) Bil at 4410 m. We arrived and camped at Kirghizi's Qurtshin (name of a small shrub) grazing. From there onward, it was Kirghizi's territory in the Little Pamir.

On the 11th, at Bozai Gumbaz (tomb of a man Bozai) 3899 m., I left the SORA group and took my independent course with four local people. We passed through a salty hot spring and spent a night in a yurt, on a grazing in Uts (three) Jilga at southern shore of Chaqumak-tin Kul. Next day, we went through the spring grazing which once belonged to Rahman Kul, a millionaire of the Afghan Pamir who had defected to Turkey after the Communist Revolution in 1978. We reached a grazing area on the Qara (black) Jilga at 4000 m., spent one night at a yurt owned by a local chief Abdulah Seed Khan. Next day we crossed the Ak Su (white river), went to Eeas Boloq (hot spring) at Dasnaresh at 3920 m and returned to the yurt in a snowstorm.

On the 14th, I attended the engagement ceremony, of Abdulah Seed Khan's son. Because of the snowstorm, we had had to stay one more day. The next day, we stayed at a yurt in the Iluga Ilu grazing. On the 17th, we went across a rising point of the Ak Su at the eastern end of Lake Chaqumak-tin, moved forward on the northern lakeside, reached Birgit Uya (name of a big bird). We stayed at a yurt belonging to Apandi Boi (Apandi the wealthy) who is thought to be the heaviest opium smoker in the Afghan Pamir. Next day, we stayed at a yurt in the Quartshin grazing. After visiting the stone-walled tomb named Carwan Balaci (one child in the caravan), we camped at the mouth of the Grundeh valley. We passed three grazing in the valley and the fork leading to the Ak Balins pass. This means I explored all the routes between the west of Lake Victoria in the Great Pamir and the Oxus river bank.

On the 20th, we traversed the Grundeh pass covered with new snow and camped at eastern foot of the Qara pass. On the 21st we descended south along the Spat-Kish valley, reached Baharak, and camped at Sahiknk (grass field without trees) at the eastern foot of the Dalez pass. On the 22nd we arrived at Sarhad. On the way, I met an American couple heading for the Little Pamir. I camped in the garden of Kachi Beck, who had accompanied me when I made a round trip of the Afghan Pamir in 2001. He told me that although he was not familiar with 'the mountain' where the ruins of Lien-Yun post lie, he would guide me to an Irak of Korkot on the western side of 'the mountain' where the Baroghil valley on the opposite bank begins. On the 23rd I explored the ruins of Lien-Yun fort with him and two days later, returned to Sarhad. On the following day, we drove back to Faizabad and two days later, I flew back to Kabul.

Research Results

  1. I learned that in the Afghan Pamir, fathers decide the marriage of their children. The engagement ceremony takes place at the yurt of the groom's father, who invites the bride's father. After arrangements are discussed, the engagement is announced to neighbours and relatives who come from afar — men only — who have gathered to hear the news. Then, the men line up in a circle to receive sweets . Then they form groups to enjoy the Buz Kashi sport (a game of pulling a goat without the head) all day long. Meanwhile, the bride's father and her family take home one camel, 12 yaks and 32 sheep or goats as betrothal gift. Ten days later the wedding ceremony is held at the bride's father's yurt. The groom stays at the bride's yurt for one or two days, then go home. Within 10 days or even a year after the wedding, the bride moves into the groom's house with some household items. Besides what I watched, I learnt about these rituals from the local people. I also heard that the numbers of animals given as engagement gifts is considered to be normal for people of the Boi. No wonder one must be very prudent when it comes to marriage.
  2. Since the spring of 2004, television sets had begun to be introduced among the Bois in the Little Pamir. I saw them in July in two different yurts. For want of receiving antennas, they only watched recorded programs. They acquired the TV sets in exchange for their cattle at Gunji Bai on the border of Tadzhikistan, taking a route made during the Russian invasion. Gunji Bai is within easy reach of their grazing, taking them one and half days at most. Other than the TV sets, I found no changes in their lives since my visit five years ago and realized they still led a nomadic life. The Great Pamir still remains the same and continues to be a secluded region.
  3. I was able to track all routes in the Grundeh valley. In 1894, Earl C. N. Curson suggested that a possible route connecting the Great Pamir and the Oxus river might be found by way of the Grundeh valley mouth to the pass. I was also able to track all the routes going south from the west side of Lake Victoria.
  4. Six fish specimens collected in Lake Chaqumak-tin and its creeks have been sent to the National Scientific Museum in Tokyo to be identified. Ten butterfly specimens collected between the Grundeh valley and Sarhad have been sent to a specialist for study.
  5. Samples of hot spring water taken at five locations, all of them fit for bathing, will be analysed at Hiroshima City Institute of Public Health.
  6. I was able to visit the ruins of a Tibetan outpost of Lien-Yun. Previously, I had no information about the ruins in Sarhad.

On 23 July, with Kachi Beck as guide, we headed toward the Oxus river on horseback. We ascended south in the Baroghil valley for about 1.5 km and reached the western bank. We scrambled up a 50° slope of shingles and small rocks westwards for about 400 m. After one hour's hard climbing farther to the north, we saw a rocky mountain ridge approximately 50 m high, having about 10 m intervals which formed series of saddles. We looked down from an open space and saw a basin 50 m below. We also saw light brown rocks connected to the wall and rising above the trapezoid-shaped terrace that stretches 200 m wide and 100 m high. The east end has been cut off like a deep precipice against the opening of the Baroghil valley. Its west end led to a gentle slope, yet it looked like ruins of defence towers. On the north end of the open space, about 150 m across, there was a 45° gravely slope without much grass and on the upper part, about 40 m high, there was a bastion made of steep rock walls, slightly projecting. In the intervals there was a 60° shingled slope 10 m wide, possibly used either as an entrance to the fort or as a breakthrough route made by the T'ang troops. The site of the bastion had an irregular oval shape, 200 m long and 50 m wide maximum.

Its northern wall was very similar to the eastern one, precipitated and rising against the Oxus river. Only the southwest side was a slightly gentle slope. The altitude was 3700 m. Between the defence walls there were rough stones closely packed in multiple layers. The defence wall was made of layers of sun-dried bricks, each measuring 20 cm by 13 cm and 10 cm thick, neatly stacked up in many layers to heights ranging from 1 m to 1.5 m. Between them, layers of brushwood pieces were systematically arranged horizontally and vertically. The inside of the bastion was uniformly flat and no ruins were found. It seemed this little fort had been constructed against enemy attacks from south and southwest. In T'ang Shu, it is said that there once were about 1000 soldiers stationed in the naturally formed defence areas. There also were Iraks providing plenty of space nearby and a clear mountain creek. So I was able to imagine how the 1000 soldiers lived in the fort standing on such precipitous and rugged mountain ridges. We camped at the Irak of Korkot three km away from the ruins on the same day. Next day, we rode on horseback, descended about 500 m along a zigzag trail on the river Oxus, and returned to Sarhad.


A visit to Little Pamir in 2004.

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21. Sarat Chandra Das

Profile of a scholar

Kankan K. Ray

The Himalaya was explored by many travellers from the west. There were a few Indians who in the eighteenth century dared to explore the Himalaya. In his book The Indian Pundits in the Land of Snow, Sarat Chandra Das, gives an insight into vast explorations carried out by the Indians of the Survey of India, whose pioneering work deserves its rightful place in history. These early Indian explorers came to be referred to as 'Pundit explorers' or simply 'The Pundits'. The Pundits endangered their lives through some of the most treacherous and remote areas of the Himalaya. Their pioneering efforts furnished the Survey with base data and information of these areas. From Sarat Chandra's book we become more familiar with the names and exploits of Pundit Kishen Singh, Nain Singh, Lala Hariram, Kinthup, Molla Ataur Rahman and others. Between them they explored the uplands of Tibet, Mongolia and Central Asia under severe and trying conditions and reopened in the process the geographical and spiritual Shangrila by going back to the fascinating silk routes between the west, south and east Asia, once trod by Marco Polo and early Jesuits.

Sarat Chandra Das was one of the Pundit explorers who travelled through regions of Sikkim and Nepal and became the first to traverse around Kangchenjunga and reach the Tibetan plateau in July 1879. He penetrated and surveyed the difficult terrain of Central Tibet. He was a scholar of Tibetan literature and culture and that made his guise as a Tibetan monk during his travels more readily acceptable. Born in 1849 in a small village of Alampur of the Chatrasal area under Chittagong district of the present day Bangladesh, he hailed from an orthodox Hindu family, though since childhood he developed a close affinity for Buddhism, its religion and culture. Perhaps this was a result of the majority of the inhabitants of Alampur village being Buddhist and the atmosphere of the village influenced him. As a child he heard the exciting story of Atish Dipankar, a scholar from Bengal, how he dared to cross the Himalaya and reached the forbidden land of Tibet. The story had a great influence on young Sarat Chandra and created a strong desire within him to visit Tibet where, in abundance of snow mountains, saint like lamas lived and worked. There he would meet them and discuss the various aspects of Buddhism and its culture. At the same time he yearned of recovering the valuable Sanskrit puthis (scripts) that had been taken away from India long back. Sarat Chandra passed the matriculation examination with distinction from the Chittagong High School and admitted himself later in Civil Engineering at the Presidency College, Calcutta. Here he learnt the Tibetan language through Anthropological Department of the Indian Museum. His interest in the Tibetan language and its literature soon drew attention of the British educationist, Sir Alfred Croft, the then Director of Education, Government of Bengal. In later years Sir Alfred encouraged him in many ways including arranging his passage to Tibet. He was certainly the most educated among the Pundits.

In 1874, Sarat Chandra was appointed as the Headmaster of the Tibetan Boarding School at Darjeeling. Here he had the opportunity to devote his time to study Tibetan literature. In 1875, he visited Sikkim for the first time, the then Mecca of Buddhist culture, art and literature. There he met and was acquainted with the Chogyal, his ministers and the distinguished lamas. Between 1875 and 1878, Sarat Chandra visited Sikkim thrice. These visits to the land of Buddhism spurred his desire to visit the forbidden land of Tibet. In his book Sarat Chandra writes, 'I was standing then in front of the mighty mountains and viewing the sun kissed high snow capped ranges; their imposing heights, grandeur and serene beauty moved me deeply and my mind was filled with joy. When I glanced at the blue sky over the peaks of Mt. Everest, Kangchenjunga and Gourishankar my heart and my mind became more determined to travel to Tibet where the Lamas lived and worked.'

In 1878, Ugen Gyatso, a lama from Pemianchi monastery joined the Tibetan Boarding School at Darjeeling as assistant teacher. In later years Ugen Gyatso, referred to as 'UG' as his name appears in the reference books of Survey of India, was sent by the lamas of Pemianchi to Tashilunpho monastery of Tibet as part of a delegation. The close association with UG in Darjeeling ignited once again Sarat Chandra's desire to visit Tibet. At that time the British Government was also contemplating sending a survey team to Tibet for a reconnaissance of the region and Sarat Chandra availed the opportunity to become a part of it. The problem was one of entry and through UG he sent a prayer to the Tibetan authorities for a permit. UG met with little encouragement from the authorities in Lhasa, but at Tashilunpho, the Spiritual Prime Minister of the Tashi lama was persuaded, and with the permission of the latter, the Indian Pundit received an invitation to visit Tashilunpho, where his name had been inserted as a student in the Grand Monastery, offering him choice of routes and commanding all Jongpons (district chiefs) or other persons to whom the letter might be shown, to help the entry and passage of Sarat Chandra 'with all his baggage' without hindrance. On receiving the letter an ecstatic Sarat Chandra rushed to Calcutta to enlist with the Survey of India for a rigorous course in survey training, which lasted three months under the direct tutelage of Col H.C.B. Tanner.

And so began a remarkable personal journey of exploration and research into the very heart and soul of Tibet that was the legacy of what Sarat Chandra left behind for posterity. The journey began from Bakkim in Sikkim on 17 June 1879. He reached Tashilunpho on 7 July 1879, his first entry into the forbidden land. The journey, described by Lt. Col H W Tobbin (editor) in the Himalayan Journal Vol. II reads : 'It was in 1879 that SCD (well known by then in SOI circles as SCD) crossed the Rathong or Kangla, whence he travelled up the vale to Kangbachen to the Jongsong or Chathang la and over the Chorten Nima la to Tashi Lunpo'.

In 1881, SCD revisited Tibet, traversing the Lango la, north of Kangbachen and proceeded from there to Lhasa. On the way to Lhasa he surveyed the Palti lake in the Eastern Tibet. Before him only two Indians had reached Lhasa- Pundit Nain Singh in 1876 and Pundit Kishen Singh in 1880. From Lhasa SCD went to Yalung, the valley from where the first civilization of the Tibetan culture was initiated. On this occasion he spent 14 months in Tibet. The reports of his journeys make enthralling reading. These reports had, however, been treated then as classified and were kept suppressed till 1890 by the Government. In 1891 the reports were published by the Government in the form of two booklets-Narrative of a Journey to Lhasa and Narrative of a Journey Round Palti Lake (Yamdok), and in Lhoka, Yalung & Satya.

In the later years, Sarat Chandra's writings on Tibetan anthropology, language, literature and culture were published in two famous English journals Contemporary Review and Nineteenth Century England. His two subsequent ventures in Tibet, traversing Kangchenjunga crossing of Jongsong la, Chorten Nyima la, Nangpo la and many other high snow passes were remarkable. In Tashilunpho he was enchanted on seeing the large collection of puthis held there, many of which he brought back to India. The reports on these later journeys were published in the Journal of Buddhist Text & Anthropological Society Vol. II. Palti Lake was his discovery as it were, as no one before him could find it. As a mark of high regard and gratitude he named it 'Croft Yamdo' after Sir Alfred Croft- (Yamdo meaning lake in Tibetan). In addition to Palti he surveyed Lobruk and the adjoining areas of Manasarovar.

In 1885, the Government of India decided to send a delegation to Tibet headed by Col Colman Macaulay. For preliminary discussions they selected SCD to accompany Col Macaulay to Peking.

Though the full mission did not materialise, their visit led to better understanding between the two neighbouring countries. In Peking, SCD became known as 'Kanchi Lama' or was referred to as the 'Kashmiri Pundit' for his deep knowledge of Tibetology. Col. Macaulay became a great admirer and paid a tribute to SCD through his poem Lay of the Lachen.

Sarat Chandra Das, hardy son
of soft Bengal, who's wondrous store
of Buddhist & Tibetan lore
A place in fame's bright page has won!
Friend of Tashi Lama's line,
Who's eyes have seen, the gleaming shrine,
Of holy Lhasa, came to show,
The wonders of the land of snow.

After his visit to China, Sarat Chandra devoted most of his time to dissemination of Tibetan literature and culture. He wrote several books on Tibetan language. The dictionary of Tibetan to English compiled by him remains to this day an authentic work of reference.

Ekai Kawaguchi, one of the great explorers from Japan entered Tibet from Dolpo in Nepal in 1900 in the disguise of a Tibetan monk and is considered the first Japanese to reach the forbidden city of Lhasa. Kawaguchi spent a year prior to that in Darjeeling for intense study about the language and culture of Tibet and Sarat Chandra helped him a lot.

Sarat Chandra spent his last days in Darjeeling and died at the age of 81. He was honoured by the Government of India with the title of Rai Bahadur and awarded the CIE. Many were the honours bestowed upon him, but none greater than those of his own remarkable achievements and the acknowledgements of his great contemporaries in the SOI and those of his fellow Pundits.


The Indian Pundits in the Land of Snow, by Sarat Chandra Das.
The Journal of Buddhist Text & Anthrpology Vol. II
Himalaya Abhijan (1941) by Jogen Gupta
Himalayan Journal Vol. II
Japanese Alpine News Vol. 5


Life-sketch of Sarat Chandra Das.

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