Himalaya: A Brief Review

The Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges extend from Namcha Barwa in the east to the borders of Afghanistan in the west. Political maps show them as parts of India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A very large section of the Himalaya and an eastern section of the Karakoram, are in India. Broadly the Indian Himalaya consists of Arunachal, Sikkim, Uttaranchal, Himachal, Jammu & Kashmir and Eastern Karakoram. Though there are no 8000 m peaks in India except the Kangchenjunga, there are several peaks which are above 7000 m and a few of them are still unclimbed. A large number of peaks between 6000 to 7000 m are challenging and still virgin. Mountaineers in India have plenty of scope for exploration and conquest.

Arunachal Himalaya
Also known as the Assam Himalaya, much about this area is not known. It streches from Gori Chen in the east to Namcha Barwa. Due to government restrictions not many mountaineers have been there. There are several high peaks like Gyala Peri (7150 m), Kangto (7090 m) and Nyegi Kangsang (7047 m), not many of which have been climbed from the Indian side. Some of them were approached from Tibet and climbed from the north. The only peak which has been regularly climbed from the Indian side is Gori Chen (6858 m). Its lower peak, Peak II, has also had some infrequent visitors. F.M. Bailey and H.T. Morshead were the first explorers here followed by F. Kindon-Ward in 1939. H.W. Tilman also visited this area and wrote his report Assam Himalaya Unvisited . The book by F.M. Bailey No Passport to Tibet is an excellent reference. These slopes witnessed the full fury of the war in 1962. The Chinese troops came down the 'Bailey Trail' almost till Sela pass, which is why the area was closed to civilians for many years.

Sikkim Himalaya
Sikkim shares a mountainous border with Nepal in the west and north and with China only in the north. All the early (pre-war) expeditions went through Sikkim to cross over to Tibet on their way to Everest. Francis Young husbands famous expedition to Tibet expedition also went through Sikkim. Doug Freshfield was one of the first mountaineers to visit this area. His book Round Kangchenjunga is a classic record of all the peaks in Sikkim. In west Sikkim, peaks like Kabru (7338 m) were climbed in 1935 by C.R. Cook. Others like Kokthang and Rathong were climbed much later. Even now, many have not been climbed from the Sikkim side, e.g.: Talung. Northern Sikkim consists of the Zemu glacier valley from which rises the third highest mountain of the world, Kangchenjunga. Paul Bauer and his German team repeatedly attempted to climb it via its western approaches before the Second World War. Ultimately the Indian Army team was successful in doing so, in 1977 and there have been several

subsequent repeats. There are many peaks around Kangchenjunga, like Simvu and Siniolchu, which are tempting, open invitation to climbers. Further north is Pyramid Peak, climbed by the Himalayan Association of Japan (HAJ) in 1993. In the vicinity are peaks like Jongsang and Chorten Nyima. Pauhunri with the pinnacle of Donkhya Ri upon it, is one of the chief attractions on the eastern side. There is a lot climbers can do in the Sikkim Himalaya.

Uttaranchal Himalaya
Kumaon consists of three different valleys. They lie to the west of Nepal. Kumaon is generally confused with Garhwal. In fact Garhwal was once a part of Kumaon till the British separated it and gave it a different name. The first valley, in the east, is the Darma Ganga valley. At its head are several peaks above 6000 m, technically difficult to climb. Peaks like Sangthang and Lalla We can be approached from here. The Central valley in the Kumaon is the valley of the Milam glacier. Beside its eastern branch is an excellent climbing area of Kalabaland glacier. The peak Chiring We (6559 m) rises from the Kalabaland glacier and was climbed only once in 1979 by the Indian team led by Harish Kapadia. To its south, is Suitilla (6373 m) a most formidable and difficult goal. At the head of the Milam glacier are the enciting peaks Hardeol (7151 m) and Tirsuli (7074 m). Nanda Devi East has been climbed from this valley. Panch Chuli is the south eastern valley of this section in the Kumaon. It has five different peaks which were conquered with great difficulty, both from the East and the West. The western valley of Kumaon is the Pindari valley, flanked by peaks like Panwali Dwar (6663 m) and Nanda Khat. This area is very popular with climbers. The Sunderdhunga valley branches off from the Pindari and leads to the southern foot of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.

The Garhwal is a tract in the center of the Indian Himalaya. For many years mountaineers have visited and climbed in this area. North Garhwal consists of peaks like Kamet (7756 m) and Mukut Parbat (7242 m). Many high peaks here have not been climbed. The famous Hindu temple of Badrinath attracts many Hindu pilgrims.

Western Garhwal

The valleys to the extreme west of the Garhwal region house some very easy, gentle peaks. Many students and early mountaineers have trained in these areas. The Swargarohini group can prove a bit troublesome though. Bandarpuch West and Bandarpuch (6316 m) have been climbed a couple of times. For a quick trip from Delhi this area is the most convenient.

Nanda Devi Sanctuary
The area from where the Rishi Ganga starts is the famous Nanda Devi Sanctuary, the centre piece of the Garhwal region. Until 1934 the gorge of the Rishi Ganga was the least known part of the Himalaya. The Nanda Devi range is a long one, about 75 miles in circumference, about 6000 m high, sheltering approximately 380 sq. km. of ice and snow. The Nanda Devi peak (7816 m) is the most beautiful peak in the Indian Himalaya. It was climbed in 1936 by Tilman and Odell and the shoulders of both its peaks were traversed by Japanese mountaineers in 1976. The other noteworthy peaks on the rim of the Sanctuary, are Changabang (6864 m), Rishi Pahar (6992 m), and Bethartoli Himal (6352 m) etc. The Northern Sanctuary of the Nanda Devi was visited by an expedition from Japan and they climbed several peaks being first in the area after 40 years. The northernmost peak of the inner Sanctuary, Changabang, was climbed in 1974 by the Indo-British team led by Chris Bonington. Four days later, Harish Kapadias team climbed Devtoli (6788m), the inner sanctuarys southernmost tip. In spite of many successful conquests, there are still several unclimbed peaks here, particularly the Northern part of the sanctuary. For preserving the fragile environment, this area is now closed to mountaineers. Only one army expedition was allowed to enter in the last 15 years. It is not known when and whether anyone will be permitted to climb here again.

Himachal Himalaya
The lovely dales of Kullu have been a major attraction area for those who prefer to climb difficult but low peaks. The south Parvati area has peaks like Dibibokari, Pyramid, Papsura and Peak 20,101 (6127 m). This area too, is open to all climbers with peaks like Mukarbeh and Indrasan (6221 m), and has a lot to offer hobbyists and serious climbers alike .

Kinnaur lies north of Shimla, in Himachal Pradesh. The National Highway leads through Kinnaur to Spiti. Recent changes in policy allow visitors entry to the area west of the road without official permission. Which means, high peaks like Jorkanden (6473 m), Manirang (6593 m) and several others are now easily accessible.

Above the eastern valleys of Baspa, Tirung and Leo Pargial (6791 m) rise many peaks above 6000 m. Kinnaurs architecture, its people and customs could each attract curious minds, interested travellers.

The area north of the famous Rohtang Pass road consists of the valleys of Lahaul. It has been open to mountaineers for many years now. Around the Bara Shigri glacier rise peaks like Kullu Pumori (6553 m) and Shigri Parbat (6626 m). Towards its north the Chandra Bhaga group (CB Group) has peaks like Minar (6172 m), Akela Killa (6005 m) besides others with different numbers, of around the same height. Phabrang (6172 m) and Mulkilla (6517 m) are the chief draws of the west side. Motorable roads lead to almost all the valleys here and the approached are easy and free of hassels.

Spiti is the most barren Trans-Himalayan area. In the east, the highest peak is the defiant Gya (6794 m), still unclimbed. The controversial Shilla (6132 m) stands proudly above this valley. In the west, are the Ratang, Gyundi and Khamengar valleys. Khangla Tarbo is one of the better known peaks here. Here, too, no permits needed!

Jammu & Kashmir Himalaya
West of Lahaul along the Chandrabhaga river, which becomes the Chenab, is Kishtwar. Now due to the political troubles there, it is not easy to reach there and a thorough knowledge of prevalent conditions is a prerequisite. To climbers, it offers treats like Brammah I (6416 m), Brammah II (6425 m), Sickle Moon (6574 m) and Hagshu (6300 m). It is one of the most challenging and difficult areas if ones entry and exit is safe.

Ladakh is sometimes called 'Little Tibet'. It has a landscape and culture similar to that of Tibet. Caravans used to pass through Leh on the way to and from Central Asia. Almost all the valleys of Ladakh are now open to foreigners. The area of Panggong lake has Kakstet peak (6442 m) and the highest unnamed peak in the world (6725 m). In south east Ladakh, in the Rupshu valley there are peaks as high as 6600 m around the beautiful lake of Tso Morari. The highest amongst them is Lungser Kangri (6666 m) neighbouring, Chhamser Kangri (6622 m).


Entire barren valleys of Zanskar, south of Ladakh were once inaccessible. But now a road runs through its centre. Hundreds of trekkers cross over to Padam in Central Zanskar. This is rapidly becoming one of the world's most popular trails. For serious climbers there are high peaks like Nun (7135 m) and Kun (7087 m). For the others are peaks like Zanskar 1 (6181 m) and Zanskar 2 (6175 m). All these peaks arouse interest and excitement.

The valley of Kashmir was known for centuries for its beauty. Caravans passed through it. In recent times, trekkers and campers flocked to it. Early climbers attempted the small peaks in the south. For instance, Kolahoi (5425 m) and Haramukh (5143 m). A large area around Sonamarg was visited by British climbers. The Climbers Guide to Sonamarg published by the Himalayan Club is an excellent reference book.

Eastern Karakoram
The valleys in the extreme north of India are those of the Eastern Karakoram. These form a special group in the Great Karakoram Range. It has some very high mountains, many of them still unclimbed some climbed only in recent years. Records reveal that this area was visited in 1821. Dr. T.G. Longstaff went there in 1901. From 1914 to 1922 several Italian and European expeditions climbed here. Col J.O.M. Roberts undertook explorations in 1946. After this, the area was closed for many years. In the 1970s different Japanese teams crossed over from Bilafond la onto the Siachen glacier and climbed peaks like Teram Kangri I (7462 m) amongst others. The Japanese mountaineers were very active here, and climbed many difficult peaks. Then, once more, the area was closed to all for many years. In 1984 members of a Japenese expedition became the first foreign mountaineers to be allowed into this area from the Indian side. They climbed Mamostong Kangri I. The following year an Indo-British team climbed Rimo III and a few other peaks in the Terong Valley. Some peaks on the Siachen glacier were climbed by the Indian Army. There are still several enigmatic peaks in the Siachen Muztagh like Saltoro Kangri I and II. The second group of mountains in the Eastern Karakoram is that of the Saser Kangri. This particular peak was approached by Col. Roberts and finally climbed from the eastern side by an Indian team. A Japanese team made the first ascent of Saser Kangri II West (7518 m). The eastern peak of Saser Kagri II remains one of the highest virgin mountains in the area. The third group is that of Rimo Muztagh. The famous Central Asian trade-route over the Karakoram Pass, goes this way. Chong Kundan I (7071 m) was climbed in 1991 by an Indo-British team. Chong Kundan II (7004 m) is still unclimbed.

The valleys of Eastern Karakoram are open to joint ventures between Indian and foreign mountaineers. Permits for climbing are readily available for almost any peak here.

Shipton's Lost Valley
by Martin Moran -----------------------------Part I: Shipton's Lost Valley All of a sudden the fog rolled away from us and we found ourselves looking down into the immense depths of a cloud-filled valley at our feet. The glacier descended in a steep icefall for about a thousand feet, then flattened out into a fairly level stretch of ice before it heeled over for its final colossal plunge into the gloom of the gorge six thousand feet below us. Eric Shipton (Nanda Devi 1935). Ever since my first reading 15 years ago I had been enthralled by Shiptons account of his crossing of the Badrinath-Kedarnath watershed with Bill Tilman and three Sherpas in 1934. Their lightweight attempt to prove a direct link between these two great Hindu shrines over the mountains of the Chaukhamba range captured all I had ever regarded as romantic and daring in mountain exploration. The commitment to cross an unknown and heavily glaciated 18,000 ft pass in rank monsoon weather had an epic denouncement when they became trapped without food in dense bamboo forest on the far side. Their ensuring battle for survival, fording dangerously swollen torrents and competing with black bears for the supply of edible bamboo shoots was, to me, a model of courage and endeavor against the odds. Yet this adventure was overshadowed by the opening of the route into the Nanda Devi sanctuary, which was the central achievement of Shipton and Tilmans 1934 Garhwal Himalayan campaign. The lovely ice spire of Nilkanth apart, there are no compelling mountains along the route of the Badrinath watershed crossing. A personal dream to relive Shipton and Tilmans journey now seemed to have moved into the realms of the possible. The sense of history, the promise of genuine adventure and the chance to explore a pristine wilderness of exceptional ecological diversity; all these seemed, to me, irresistible lures. For where else in the Himalayan can you find a piece of country so untouched? Yet my search for a team took a while to bear fruit. Few mountaineers want to abandon summit goals for a thrash in a jungle Eventually I was joined by John Harvey, an exguiding client who loved the rough life of Himalayan travel, Welsh carving enthusiasts Pete Francis and Ben Lovett and mountain guide Brede Arkless. Then three months before departure came a bolt from the blue, a call from John Shipton, Erics son. He had heard we were going; could he come along and support us? After a teaching career in several countries, John had become a contented bulb grower in rural south-west Wales. But now the bug of mountain exploration had finally bitten him. In Johns words:

I only began to study my fathers journeys in earnest in the last two years, having studiously steered my own path. But one story has always remained fixed in my memory as an image of his special form of mountaineering, gleaned not from reading his books which until recently I had managed to avoid doing, but from memories of his conversations over dinner during childhood. The climbing of a difficult col, and seeing very for below what appeared to be a paradisiacal valley, which appeared to offer rest and a gentle route back to civilisation but which turned out to be a hopelessly difficult and impenetrable jungle has become a sort of personal legend. Part 2: Rawan and the Rishi Work is worship, said the Rawal, if you are determined you will reach your goal.. Our team of ten sat cross-legged in an annex of the Badrinath temple early on 24 May receiving the high priests blessing. The four Indian members, Pandey, Heera Singh, Naveen Chandra and Sobat Singh Rana, hung spellbound on his every word. To have this private audience with a man revered by the many thousands with a man revered by the many thousands who come from all over India each year to worship of Badrinath was a special privilege and conferred symbolic significance upon our venture. Outside, in the chill clear air hundreds of pilgrims were taking their ritual bath from the hot water springs, by which a temple has been sited for at least 1200 years. Drum rolls, murmured chants and a cacophony of bells mingled with the roar of the Alaknanda river and some 10,000 ft above the temple, the snow cap and veils of Nilkanth glowed in the first flush of down. Even we British sensed the charge in the atmosphere and our western masks of cynicism slipped away. We asked the Rawal about the story of the high priest of long ago who held services at both Badrinath and Kedarnath on the same day. It was this legend which provided some of the inspiration for Shipton and Tilmans venture in 1934. The present priest suggested somewhat improbably, that there might once have existed a tunnel through the mountains which enabled this feat to be performed. Ramarkably, the direct distance between the two is just 24 miles (38 km) but we expected to walk three times that distance in order to make the overland crossing. 3 km north of Badrinath lies Mana village, the last outpost of civilisation before the great glaciers of the Kamet, Chaukhamba and Gangotri ranges and access point to the land beyond the Inner Line. We had finally gained permission to attempt the route as a joint Indo-British team. Our path crossed the Arwa gorge and swung west into the Alaknanda nala after 5 km we left the trail and crossed to the south bank of the river by a huge snow bridge formed from the winters avalanches debris. Some 3 km further on we camped on an old lake bed in the lee of a lateral moraine, directly opposite the free standing falls of Vasudhara. Our valley was hemmed by granite walls which were cleaved by snowy side gorges. Having got out of a bus at 3100m in Badrinath and with a height gain of some 2300m from there to the col, we needed to take the approach trek slowly in order to acclimatise. We had 19 porters with us to ferry two weeks food to the base of the col Our second day took us through meadows bedecked with primroses and bergenia to the snout of the Satopanth glacier.

No Garhwal glacier is complete without its hermits and holy men and here we met a haramukh of the Rishi sect who we had seen leaving the Badrinath temple on horseback the previous morning. This man told us that he was sickened of the crowds and pollution down in Badrinath and was going to the mountains to be alone. It was just his bad luck that the first western expedition to the Satopanth for half a century should arrive on the day he began his retreat! Part 3: On the Satopanth On breasting the lateral moraine of the Satopanth, we gained our first glimpse of the col we had come so far to cross. Sheltered close under the massive 7138m hulk of Chaukhamba, the pass looked hazily distant and insignificant in scale, but even from 13 km away we could decipher a considerable ice fall guarding its approaches. To our west, the line curved off far into the Gangotri massif and to our not an array of unclimbed peaks and faces beckoned, some attractively accessible via snow couloirs, others close approaching big wall status in the height and steepness of their granite walls; all of them so far saved from the predations of western climbers. We now battled through dwarf willow scrub along the lateral moranie for 5 km passing directly under the north wall seracs of Nilkanth. The summer grazing alp of Majna at 4200m offered the ideal camp ground, save that spring snow completely covered the flats, forcing us to pitch camp on the sloping moraine. Thereafter, a near continuous snow cover on the main glacier allowed us to link further remnants of moraine without recourse to hopping and sliding over ice and boulders. With an early morning start we could enjoy simple travel on solid neve. This, combined with continuously clear and fine weather, had already justified our choice to go in the pre-monsoon season. At the holy lake of Satopanth Tal, we met another holy man who told us that he was living on sun and air, a diet which we quickly supplemented by surplus nuts and raisins. The last thin strips of grazing ground at Sunkunni and Surajkunni were smothered in deep snowfields and just beyond we made our decisive camp some 2 km from the base of the col at a height of 4650m. The porters returned from here with Pandey and we were left to contemplate our first real commitment of the enterprise, the gaining of the col. Part 4: The Leaning Tower or Pisa The center of the icefall looked as though it had recently emerged from an underground nuclear test, its center being caved in and ruptured from the flanks Neither flank appealed; the left side was several fractured and sported a slim leaning tower some 60 m high that looked ripe for collapse whilst the right side would be menaced by any avalanches that might choose to drop from Chaukhambas 1600m south face. So we opted to explore the centre and on 29 May all of us, bar John Harvey and Pete, set out with 15km loads. This crucial reconnoitre coincided with our first day of bad weather. Towering cumulo-nimbus clouds that had gathered daily on the Kedarnath side of the range now spilled over the col and enveloped us in mist and light snowfall.

We dumped our loads at around 5150m and while Brede, John Shipton, Ben and Naveen returned to camp, Heera, Sobat and I continued up into the jaws of the icefall. The 1934 party had made a camp hereabouts and enjoyed a tense night which fell in Shiptons words to the accompaniment of an almost continuous roar of ice avalanches from the great cliffs of Chaukhamba above us. Several times during the night I was brought to a sitting position, trembling, as some particularly large avalanche fell close at hand. I was similarly afflicted by the creeping dread of objectives danger and in spite of the bad weather and lassitude became almost desperate to prove the feasibility of this route to the col Some 60m higher we entered the labyrinth via a tenuous snow bridge which spanned the huge chasm behind the leaning tower. Our way was then barred by misted ice walls. Knowing that Shipton and Tilman had found a vertical jumble of broken ice blocks in place of the rocky gully a simple snow couloir lay just 40m away, but I could see no safe way to reach its sanctuary. Suddenly, I wanted to be out of this ice fall for good. We turned tail, repacked seven persons load into three sacks and, with burdens of 30km each, ploughed back down the glacier. When positioned well within the potential crash site of the leaning tower, an ominous crack enchoed from its base and a shard of ice broke off. For a second I stared at the tower, riveted with fear and convinced that the whole edifice was quivering. Run, screamed to the others and we staggered wildly across the slopes until we collapsed from exhaustion to the realisation that the tower had stayed in place. But I returned to camp with my conviction clear the we should not return to the ice fall. In its place we espied a line on the face of Pt. 5758, the peak left of the col A series of snow ramps and gullies led to a ridge which rose to the level of the col, thus avoiding the icefall and all its risks. Without a healthy cover of spring snow this option may not have been available, but its steepness was sufficient to persuade John Shipton to go back. Had he only had some recent experience of snow and ice climbing, I would have had no qualms whatsoever about his continuing, for he was as fit as any of us. With his jutting temples and troubled brows he was the image of his father and he bore the genetic stamp of the mountain explorer, revelling in the discomfort of the trip, glorying in the mountains and his beloved flowers, becoming suitably more scorched and shrivelled by the day. How he would have loved to tread in the bamboo valley, but safety came first. Pete Francis was troubled by the altitude and a weak knee and decided to join John in returning to Badrinath together with Naveen and Heera. They planned to take jeeps and buses a hundred miles round to the Kedarnath side of the range and then trek from Kalimath along the ridges bounding the far side of the fabled valley. We were thus streamlined to a team of five, which in honesty was an ideal number to enable sharing of equipment and trail-breaking effort, yet minimise joint risk exposure on a route where one sprained ankle could jeopardise everyones life.

Part 5: Across the Col At midnight on 30 May our watch alarms sounded the assault on the col We had been left in isolation to share one four-person tent and an estimated eight days worth of food rations. Our equipment included static rope for abseils and river crossing, a volcano stove which could run on twigs and bark down in the forests, and a gigantic kukri knife procured from some unsuspecting villager down in Mana. With this mighty blade we might cut our way through the densest jungle or fell trees to span torrents. Not suprisingly our loads that night must have been all of 25km. The torch lit climb of the 700m face was a torture of effort and a tense game of memory to follow the only unbroken line of snow ramps. A brilliant dawn caught us just two-birds of the way up and we fought progressive enervation and fast-softening snow to gain the final snow ridge where we were amazed and delighted to be looking down on the icefall. We could trace our probings of two days earlier and felt much reliveved to be beyond its clutch. At around 9 am Bredge and Sobat led a short traverse from the ridge on to the crest of the col, a broad snowfield a kilometre in extent at an altitude we reckoned to be 5420m. Beyond its further edge we could see nought save a deep blue sky and a line of haze which hung above the foothills, as if in emphasis of four reaching our goal. Beyond was a great nothingness, and within I felt strangely empty of emotion. However, high we aim, one must at some stage reach the limit and contemplate the infinite. Such thoughts made me long at once for the warm caress of the bamboo forest and the comforting scent of its flowers. The col was menaced by huge seracs 1000m higher on Chaukhambas south face, so we moved 300m down easy snow slopes on the for side and made camp at 5100m where we could at last see the delineation of the great valley below. The bounding ridges, although some 4500m high, looked tame and inviting by contrast to the glacial wilderness behind us, whilst the valley itself cut a straight line westward from the glacier snout into deepening layers of forest. However, 1000m of unsighted icefall still lay between ourselves and that security. Part 6: Shipton's Peak But first Brede and I wanted to go back up and climb the shapely summit, Pt 5758, which lay immediately to the south-east of the col, from where we could properly ascertain the lie of the land. So on the following morning while Ben, John Harvey, and Sobat moved camp down to the very brink of the icefall and inspected the options for its descent, we took a chance which we knew we might later regret if the going got tough and food or strength ran out down in the jungle. We climbed a steep snow slope to gain the south ridge of the peak from where we could look across the ice plateau of the upper Panpatia glacier. With its surrounding peaks looking like Arctic nunataks we could imagine ourselves on Spitzbergen or the Norwegian ice-caps rather than the Himalaya. According to our knowledge every one of the assemblage of 5500m peaks was unclimbed, and despite an attempt the previous year the upper glacier had never been reached.

Our ridge was largely composed of piled blocks, one of which shifted its position under the weight of my arms and trapped me in a little chimney. Unable to shift the offending store by my own strength, I required Bredes assistance to escape the prospect of permanent impalement on the mountain. Wher3e the rock strata steepened and smoothed near the top we traversed out to steep snow runnels and gained the summit ridge at a fortuitous break, on an ice cornice. As expected, the summit bore no signs of previous visitors and the name Shiptons Peak was immediately assigned to our conquest. We descended down the north face back to the col on 50 degree slopes of neve mind the high Himalaya. The tables of fortune quickly turned. After our stolen morning, thick clouds boiled up on the glacier and we tasted something of the conditions encountered by the 1934 party in groping our way down through the fog to join the others, their line of marker wands giving invaluable guidance. Once reunited, an air of tension took hold of our party. How could we get down the icefall which Eric Shipton had described in souch repellant language... "We gazed down upon the head of a second and very formidable icefall. It was appallingly steep and for a long time we could not see any way of tackling it which offered the slightest hope of success." Part 7: Down the Ganharpongi Gad Pondering the likelihood that glacier retreat in the last 64 year could not have made the undertaking any easier, we retreated into the tent during a brief but intense snowstorm. As soon as visibility improved Ben and I went out to probe the options. Ben had already inspected the long gully which dropped down the left side of the ice. This was undoubtely the gully into which Shipton and Tilman escaped when their blind descent of the glacier ended in impossible seracs, but we could see that any ice avalanche breaking from a hanging glacier up above would be channelled straight down this chute. A long detour to a rock rognon bounding the ridge edge of the icefall brought an emphatic rebuff. The third option was to cross the head of the gully on the left, traverse close under the hanging seracs and then abseil some rock steps to gain snow slopes well left of the risk zone. It was this route which finally gained our favour. To our good fortune the sky at dawn was once more clear. After packing with the more than usual urgency we commenced the traverse while the splintered ice cliff above was still in the shade. Remarkably, a sizeable stream had burst forth from the base of the seracs since the previous afternoon as if to confirm the transience of the mass that hung above. Knowing that a slip would be disastrous, we skated nervously across the icy terrace and gained the reassurance of a rock spur. Here a large block offered the perfect anchor for a long abseil down to the snowfields below. At 10.45 a.m. we stopped at the lower glacier and made a celebratory brew of tea from fresh meltwater. The icefall was over and the great forest beckoned. Straight as a die, the valley, which is named on the Garhwal West map as the Gandharpongi Gad, dropped below us into Shiptons optimism at so pleasant a sight after the tribulations of the col, and even spotted his

patches of light green on the far side of the valley which gave false promise of grazing and shepherds huts within a two-day walk. Dry ice and boulder fields led us quickly down to the glacier snout at around 3650m where we floundered straight into dense birch wood, much of which has been bent or flattened by avalanches. There was no transitional belt of open meadow of grasslands. We made the bound from high mountain untamed forest in a single step. Camp that night was a clearing beside a running brook quilted with yellow corydalis and wild rhubarb. Great scrolls of white bark hung from aged birch trunks, fuelling Johns volcano stove which brewed a constant supply of drinks. Lammergeiers swept imperiously up and down the valley between its soaring walls of vegetated granite. We spread out in the open and breathed that happiness with life that thinks not of the trials to come but only of the wonder of the moment. Part 8: Point 2685 A mile downstream from our camp, the upper valley terminated in a pronounced downfall. In Shiptons words: The river disappeared under-ground for a short distance above the bank of the precipice and issued forth in a great waterspout to crash down into the depths below. Standing on the jammed blocks spanning the river at the brink, we peered down into a dense mantle of giant oak trees which fell away for 800m to the junction with the side river from Mandani Parbat which the map marks as 2685m. If the crossing of the col was our initial objective, the attainment of this obscure confluence deep in the jungle was our greater goal. Not only was this the lowest point of our planned route but the crossing of this sidestream was also the pivotal passage of the 1934 venture, the place where Sherpa Pasang was nearly killed by a falling boulder and two rainy days were spent in finding a fording point. One of the questions which had aroused our keenest conjecture was the likelihood of human traces in the valley. Already this had been answered. Up above we had found a rudimentary wire animal trap, and several cut branches on trees, proving that local hunters must, from time to time, penetrate this for up the gorge. We wondered how they managed to negotiate the vetgetated slabs which ring the area, we hitched our ropes round juniper roots and gladly trusting to their dubious strength, abseiled the steepest bluff; all expect Sobat whose solo display of downclimbing on vertical grass tufts at this step would doubtless have impressed Mick Fowler! By cautions route-finding and retracing our steps at each impasse we descended steep aakwood and rock slabs without further recourse to the rope. Distinctive clawmarks on tree branches and large piles of droppings showed that black bears still roamed the forest. We could however be confident that our incessant noise, crashing through the undergrowth and snapping off tree branches, would keep them at a safe distance. Where a canopy of old trees shielded the sunlight, the forest floor was open and the going was relatively easy. But a dense scrub of dwarf pines and thorn bushes was fighting for space in every clearing, forcing us down on hands and knees. The twisting branches snagged our

rucksacks constantly, forcing us to push forward head first until they gave way and we went crashing forward, propelled by the weight of the loads. We had all but forgotten about the mornings evidence of human visitation in the forest when sobat spotted a wood-framed shelter at a clearing on a spur. Outside was a makeshift shrine and outside we found goat skins and muslin bogs filled with crushed roots and herbs. We surmised that these must have considerable medicinal value making it worth the while for locals from Kalimath to penetrate the gorge. Had these visits commenced since or even as a result of the 1934 journey, or had Shipton and Tilman simply failed to spot the evidence in the vegetational explosion of the monsoon. The great sidestream could now be heard pounding its path down a gorge to our right. Having found the hut we were duped into searching for trails in the forest. The only track we found led us past a spring to the brink of the gorge, which was quite impassable upstream for as far as we could see. So with mounting concern we hurried back down the spur to the confluence with the main Gandharpongi river at Pt 2685. A terrifying roar located the meeting of the two great streams. Ben and I left our loads on a leafy terrace and scrambled to the edge of a slimy crag overhanging the side river. There below we spied a makeshift bridge of three wooden spars between raised boulders at precisely the where Shipton and Tilman must have crossed in 1934. If our passage was thus assured, then perhaps it was offered at too cheap a price, for I suppose we had really wanted the challenge of bridging the stream ourselves. Nevertheless, a relaxed and happy team made open camp and fire beside the crossing that night. Neither the rapid depletion of our rations nor even the exhaustion of our meagre stock of teabags made much dent in our pleasure to be couched by the crux of the route. Part 9: Breaking Out From Pt 2685 Shipton and Tilman had fought their way downvalley for five more days, eventually reaching Kalimath, which is some 20km south of Kedarnath. However, our aim was to make a direct link between the two temples, but to do so we should have to break out of the gorge and make some hefty climbs across a series of three 4500m ridges. A thunderstrom broke early next morning just as we were abseiling down to the river. We crossed the bridge with a rope handrail for safety, then ploughed up into dense dripping undergrowth. Thick stands of bamboo now made their appearance, but the canes were dry and old and were easily brushed aside. The main growing season of new shoots awaited the monsoon. Our patience with the jungle was quickly exhausted and we struck directly uphill on a relentless climb of 50 or even 55 degrees. Fortunately the rain petered out and a watery sun appeared to dry the slopes. Otherwise we should have had a dangerously greasy climb on mud and ground litter. Even so the exposure was such that we would have tumbled many hundreds of feet had we slipped on open ground. We thus came to see the occasional stands of gnarled rhododendron as pillars of security. Higher up we re-entered

bamboo forest and the pitiless climb continued through the early afternoon, our minds relieved only by the constant birdsong from the tree tops. When we finally emerged from the forest at 3600m, the ground was everywhere too sloping to provide a good campsite. A heavy storm began just as we were clearing a level patch and soon we were cooped up in the tent again like five chickens in a roost while the rain lashed down. The fine weather now deserted us and the next storm arrived early the following afternoon just as we were traversing long snow slopes towards a gap in the Dobra Khal Dhar ridge. The grueling physical effort, biting shoulder straps, and dwindling energy stores were growing at our confidence and patience. Having thought ourselves home and dry once beyond Pt 2685, we were now seeing each new hill as a mountain. The Mandani valley lay over the ridge, and with a trail and a temple marked on the map, we were certain we would meet someone there; maybe there would even be a tea shop! We crossed the ridge at 4400m in a blizzard but the sun reappeared as we descended a grade 1 gully on the far side. We rushed down open snowfields and across carpets of yellow globe flowers, infused by the rich evening light and the prospect of a path. Then simultaneously as the sun slipped behind our next ridge, we hit steep slopes of rhododendron. Scanning the shadowed Mandani Valley we could decipher stone buildings, but there were no signs either of smoke, light or animals. Our hearts sank. They we saw traces of a path traversing 80m above us. With the last vestiges of will, we climbed back up to it but we didnt have the strength to keep with it and camped up on a shelf 300m above the valley floor. Morale was at a low that night. Kedarnath was still two ridges away. Sobat had long since despaired of our definition fog a high mountain trek. Each day our diet shrank whilst our consumption of body fats increased. I even considered dumping all our technical climbing gear at Mandani to reduce our loads. No sooner were we fed than we slumped into an exhausted sleep. Part 10: Kali's Wrath Deserted and peaceful, Mandani might have been the most exquisite spot on earth that next morning. Grassy moraine shelves led up from a tiny stone temple to long glacier slopes and then the shapely twin summits of the 6193m Mandani Parbat. Nobody is going to make a big name for themselves climbing in such remote places, yet this is how Himalayan climbing once was and can still be for those who shun the glory-seeking. We brightened considerably to discover a note from John Shipton at the temple door. The others had passed this way just the previous day. Then, as a gift to the temple I offered the trusty kukri, carried so far by Sobat but never used in anger. Perhaps, I thought, the shepherds would make good use of it when they came up in the summer. What I didnt realise was that this temple was dedicated to the avenging goddess Kali. Who knows what curses the goddess might bring down on our team for such an impudent offering.

An hour after leaving Mandani all traces of a path had disappeared and we became enmeshed in jungle so thick that we wished we still had the accursed knife. Dwarf oaks, trailing brambles and giant juniper provided new challenges to our bush skills. Traversing along the supposed line of the path only took up across an endless succession of steep nalas. The only escape was to go straight up and out of the forest. Once more we became committed to a 900m climb up endless grass slopes to the Simtoli Dhar ridge. When we gained a snowy crest at 4300m we saw a yet higher ridge beyond, and within minutes a storm descended and a lighting bolt struck the ridge just meters above us. We huddled on a rock ledge to await its passing. Kali must indeed have been angry. Part 11: The Final Glissade

On the Siachen Glacier, 1998
by Harish Kapadia

Part 1: Siachen Glacier
How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind. - Bob Dylan The Siachen glacier, 72 km, in the East Karakoram is one of the longest glaciers in the Himalaya and Karakoram. It has number of peaks, side valleys and at its head lies the Indira Col, the divide between South and Central Asia. The Nubra river drains the glacier and ultimately joins the Shyok river near Khalsar. On the west lies the West Karakoram (now under Pakistani control) and towards the east is the Shyok basin, forming the border with China. The northern slopes of the Indira Ridge leads to the Shaksgam valley. The Siachen glacier was not much visited by the mountaineers in the recent years due to the on going conflict on its heights between India and Pakistan. In the 1970s and early eighties Pakistan permitted several mountaineering expeditions to climb high peaks on this glacier. This was to reinforce their claim on the area as these expeditions arrived on the glacier with a permit obtained from the Government of Pakistan. In many cases an liaison officer from the Pakistan army accompanied the team. Mountaineers by their climbing activities here, thus played a different role in history of the glacier. In 1984, when the Indian army positioned itself on the heights of the Siachen glacier, the Government of India as a policy decided to encourage mountaineering expeditions to this glacier from the Indian territory to counter the Pakistani policies of the past. Expeditions consisting of Indian mountaineers or joint expeditions with foreign mountaineers were to be allowed to climb on the Siachen glacier. However after 1988 no expeditions visited the upper glacier. We came to the glacier in 1996 but were turned back suddenly.

Part 2: The Rose Expedition
We, mountaineers from Bombay, applied to climb on this glacier in 1998. After due consideration for six months permits were granted. Finally on the 22nd June 1998 the entire team of six Indian mountaineers was in Leh. We spent two days in Leh to acclimatise and arrange the final clearance from the army. Travelling to the Nubra valley the team stayed four days at Tigur village for acclimatisation. The Brigade headquarters at Partapur was visited twice to tie up all the final details. On the 30th June we moved to the army base camp. Our liaison officer, Capt. Ashish Suhag with our member Divyesh Muni joined us here completing the team. No local porters were available as most of the Ladakhi population had gone to Changthang to hear the sermon of the Dalai Lama, who was visiting the area. So we decided to ferry the loads between camps with our available strength. The army was most helpful and agreed to shift rations and kerosene to middle of the glacier by helicopters and agreed to provide food at intermediate camps. By 3rd July we were ready to move up the glacier with 8 Sherpas as support, having arranged about our food and equipment. We were treading on the historical ground . It was a great feeling moving up the glacier once again. Soon we passed the entrance to the Terong valley in the east. We were familiar with this valley, having explored it thoroughly in 1985 and again in 1996. Many memories were recalled. We stayed at the northerly turn of glacier. Several peaks rose in the south and east while in the west we saw the Gyong la valley which led to the famous pass of the same name. Many expeditions had come up to the Siachen by this pass from Gyong valley in the west. Next 7 days we slowly built up the supplies moving our equipment and specialised food up the glacier over 3 camps. These camps were on the moraines as the snow had melted by now. We were camping on rocky grounds everywhere. After the third day several groups of peaks rose in the northeast. We saw the massive Singhi Kangri (7751 m), justifying its name (Singhi = difficult). In the same group was Afraj (6815 m) (one who rises others, Khan Sahib Afraj Gul was an Indian Surveyor who visited the area in 1935 with the Visser expedition and had named several peaks in the area. We decided to name this central peak of the glacier after him). From the middle of the glacier the view as stupendous. In one sweep we could see the upper Siachen glacier leading to India Saddle and Indira Col (name Indira Col was given by Bullock-Workman in 1912 after Goddess Laxmi. It has no connection with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who was Prime Minister of India when the Indian army started action on the glacier). In the east rose the gentle Teram Shehr glacier with Junction peak rising from the only green meadow on the edge of the glacier. On our immediate east rose the peaks at the edge of the Teram Shehr Plateau. BullockWorkman had named one of the peaks as Laxmi (wife of Vishnu and goddess of wealth). As Lord Vishnu is God of preservation we chose to give names of Vishnu to some of the peaks on the Teram Shehr Plateau, like Padmanabh (7030 m) to the highest peak on the plateau. This plateau, Teram Shehr, means a destroyed city (based on a Balti legend). It is hoped that Vishnu will protect and prevent any further destruction. A team was to reach Col Italia on the head of the Teram Shehr glacier. But the prevailing situation of the war did not make it feasible to cross to the Teram Shehr glacier. Throughout our stay we were always aware that this is a war-zone. There were daily artillery firings across and above our route, helicopters were flying and we met soldiers on their way down, tired and haggard. It is a very different playground for the mountaineers.

Part 3: To Indira Col

The glacier ahead was completely snow-bound even during peak of the summer months. Almost 30 to 40 ft of snow covers the entire glacier in winter and cold intensifies to below 40 degrees C. We were visiting the glacier during best time of the year and to the easiest part of the glacier. Still the cold and difficulties were evident. The glacier flattens out ahead of the centre of the glacier. Soon we passed a side-entrant leading to Bilafond la (butterfly shaped glacier) in the west. This was the Lolofond glacier (named after Dr Tom Longstaff). It was small and flat and joined the Siachen after a small expanse . The historic peak of Tawiz (6400 m) was dominating the sky. To the northwest another historic peak rose its head, Hawk (6754 m). This peak was to remain as a flag pole with us throughout now onwards on the glacier. The great site of Saltoro Kangri peaks (7742 and 7705 m) rising on the Peak 36 glacier was unforgettable. Sheer size and difficulties of rock walls on its slopes makes it a great objective. Today Saltoro Kangri II (7705 m) is one of the highest unclimbed peaks in the world. After further four camps we were nearing the head of the glacier. There were not many difficulties, except for few crevasses. We walked short marches in excellent weather. Soon we passed another valley in the west leading to Sia La and Convey Saddle, both historic places. The Siachen glacier was still very broad and on its eastern edge rose two shapely pinnacles (Staghar Towers I and II), There was a deep notch to its south. This was Staghar Pass through which the Japanese expedition had crossed to the east to make the first ascent of Singhi Kangri. Soon we were nearing our goals.

Sia Kangri I (7422 m) and II (7092 m) (formerly known as Hardinge) were near. Their stupendous walls were threatening avalanches and all camps were placed carefully away from them. Our last camp on the glacier was little above the Ridge Camp of Bullock-Workman in 1912. First we decided to reach Turkestan La (East) (5810 m). It lay on the head of an eastern valley. On 20th July 1998 four of us with LO and a Sherpa left by 6.30 a.m. Winding a way through crevasse and going up a gentle valley, we were at the la in 2 hours, overlooking the Staghar glacier. The eastern slopes gently led down to the glacier and ice-penitents of the Staghar glacier were clearly seen. The view in the south included several peaks around the Singhi Kangri ridge, with Staghar Pass clearly visible. One could admire the tenacity of the Japanese team in 1976 to have crossed Bilafond la and Staghar Pass to ultimately climb the steep and sharp ridge of Singhi Kangri. The ridge, on which we were standing, rose gently towards north and a deep notch was seen on it. This was the Turkestan La (North) which was reached by Col. Francis Younghusband (later Sir) in 1889. It is sometimes fondly called Colonels Col. Discussing the locations with the army, we found that there was much confusion about names, heights and location of the passes and cols on the Indira ridge. This is a long ridge leading from foot of Sia Kangri to Colonels Col and turning south to Turkestan La (East). This is the northernmost ridge of India at present and it forms a major divide between South and Central Asia. It is essential to clearly note the exact locations of cols on this ridge.

Part 4: The Indira Col






1. The main Indira Col (west) is located at the foot of the eastern ridge descending from Sia Kangri. It is here, exactly, the heads of the Siachen and Urdok glaciers meet. This col was recorded to have been reached by Col. N. Kumars team in 1981 and again by the Americans in 1986. The northern sections from this Col are overhanging and it is not possible to descend in the north from here or from India Saddle. 2. On the same ridge a point of 6000 m is erroneously marked on the present map as Indira Col. It is a steep saddle and by no imagination can be called a col (Col is the lowest point on a ridge). It is not known how and when this point came to be associated as Indira col and who reached it first. But at present all the teams from the army and others reach this Saddle. We propose to call this point as India Saddle. It is the northernmost point of India at present (being few "seconds" further north of the true Indira Col (West). 3. On the ridge further east lies the Indira Col (East) which was reached by Bullock-Workman expedition in 1912. This col is located on the head of a minor valley rising from the Siachen glacier. It is possible to descend to the north from this col into a side valley of the Urdok glacier.

4. The easternmost pass on this ridge is Turkestan La (North). It is an easy pass on both the sides and this was reached in 1889 by Col. Younghusband. 5. The ridge turns south from here. Little to the south Turkestan La (East) is located.

Part 5: Reaching the Northern Points









On 22nd July 1998 we started at 6.30 a.m. and walked northwards on crisp snow and gently rising glacier. After turning the peak Faiz (6150 m) (one who is at the top) a wide bowl opened in front of us. We were faced with the Indira Ridge and a vast panorama. To north was the Indira Col (West) (the main Indira Col). I decided to reach this Col with Sherpa Pemba Tsering. After a walk of about 2 hours we were at the pass. At the pass we made a safe anchor and walked on the northern cornices to safely look down the Urdok glacier. This beautiful flat glacier led northwards to join the Shaksgam river which was visible. Several peaks were visible but unfortunately Gasherbrum I was in clouds. On the north was Chinese Turkestan where trekkers in recent years had roamed freely. Apart from the political divide we were standing on a major geographic divide too. The waters from this col drained in the south to the Siachen glacier, Nubra, Shyok and Indus rivers to merge with the warm waters of Arabian Sea. Waters to the north drained into the Urdok glacier, Shaksgam river, Yarkand river, Tarim and Qyurug rivers to merge with the Lop Nor lake. Another part of our team, Vijay Kothari, Kaivan Mistry, Vineeta Muni and Capt. Suhag climbed towards the India Saddle. After a steep slope, where they had to use crampons, they stood on the northern-most point of India and enjoyed similar historic moments. We all gathered at the camp by afternoon.

It had taken us walk of 98 kilometres and actual walking for 12 days to reach the Indira Col (it had taken us 20 days in all, including days for ferrying loads and resting). The glacier rose from 3550 m to 5840 m in the mean rise of 1 to 26, in a distance of 72 km (the geographical length of the glacier). Our party returned to the base in 8 days. The climbing team had already left for Leh. We all could meet back only in Bombay.

Part 6: First Ascent of Bhujang (6560 m) on the Teram Shehr Plateau
Divyesh Muni narrates... The main team left for the Indira Col and we descended to Camp 3 to attempt the peak. From 10th to 14th July we built up a base camp across the main Siachen glacier, on its eastern bank. 15 July: Climbing steeply over loose scree and mud slopes.we reached the steep ridge coming down from Bhujang (6560 m). At about 5570 m we reached to a suitable site for a camp. It was a sheltered spot with a grand view of the peaks and glaciers around. 20 July: From 15th to 19th July we had to wait as weather was poor. Sherpas ferried loads one day and on the 18th we two also moved up. But again a day of poor weather intervened. We decided to retrieve the ropes and equipment left at about 6000 m on the mountain. We were within reach of peak 6560 and it would be a pity to go down without giving it an try. We started early and moved fast, up the mountain. Cyrus and myself front-pointed up the initial 500 m of climb to the point where the ropes and equipment were left. The Sherpas moved up the rock route along the ridge. From this point we studied the route ahead and found a safe passage to traverse onto the col. The route from the col to the top was an easy angled climb over snow with a few patches of ice in-between. We were at the summit by 11.30 a.m. We started down by 12.15 p.m. On the return, we took a long time carefully making our way down the loose rocky ridge back to the summit camp. We reached the camp by 4 p.m. with all our ropes and equipment. Two lengths of fixed ropes had to be left behind on the mountain. This was the first peak climbed on the Teram Shehr plateau. As this peak rose like a serpent we decided to christen it Bhujang, the legendary serpent associated with Lord Vishnu. We moved down the mountain quickly now on and reached the foot of the Siachen glacier by 24th July and travelled to Leh. Waiting for others to return we climbed the ever popular Stok Kangri on 29th July 1998.

Part 7: History of Siachen Glacier First Explorers
For explorers the existence, length and location of the Siachen glacier was a matter of discussions. In 1821, W. Moorcroft passed near its snout and first acknowledged its existence. In 1835 G.T. Vigne approached it from the west trying to reach the Bilafond la, but he never guessed the

existence of such a large glacier across the divide. In 1848 Henry Starchy was the first to discover the existence of the Saichar glacier and ascended it for two miles from the snout in the Nubra valley. In the same year, Dr. Thomas Thompson also reached the glacier followed by F. Drew in 1849-50. E.C. Ryall of the Survey of India sketched the lower part in 1861. But he ascribed to it a length of only sixteen miles. During his famous second Karakoram journey in 1889, Sir Francis Younghusband (then Colonel) approached the area over the Urdok valley. He was exploring the area to locate a crossing into the Indian Sub-continent. Following a side valley of the Urdok glacier, he reached Turkestan la (North). Looking down to the Siachen glacier from the north he felt that this was the main axis of the Karakoram. His explorers instincts were correct but, in absence of maps, he was not sure where he was standing. His belief was finally confirmed by Dr. T.G. Longstaff in 1909. In fact, it was Dr. Longstaff with Dr. Arthur Nv and Lt Slingsby who were the first real explorers to traverse this great glacier. At first, they crossed over the Bilafond la (or, Saltoro pass, as Dr. Longstaff would have preferred to call it) and named the glacier in the east as Teram Shehr (destroyed city) and peaks as Teram Kangri group. After retreating by the same route, he went down the valley and approached the Siachen via the Nubra valley. Dr. Longstaff climbed up from the Siachen snout in the south and observed the same peaks, as he had identified them from Bilafond la. Thus, he conclusively proved the length of Siachen glacier and the actual location of the Turkestan la (North). This was an important discovery as it now established the true boundaries of the Karakoram. What he wrote is quoted often: Younghusband was a true prophet. Col Burrand of the Survey had suspected the truth. The avalanche-swept pass, whose foot Younghusband had reached 20 years before, was on the main axis of the Karakoram range which thus lay miles farther north than had been believed. We had stolen some 500 sq miles from the Yarkand river systems of Chinese Turkestan, and joined it to the waters of the Indus and the Kingdom of Kashmir.

The Workman Expeditions, 1911 and 1912
The next most important explorers to the Siachen glacier were the famous Workman couple, in 1911-12. Fanny Bullock-Workman and William Hunter Workman were Americans who had special interest in the exploration of the Karakorams. They focused their attention on the exploration of the Siachen glacier. They entered the glacier crossing over the Bilafond la and camped on the glacier with a large entourage of porters and two Alpine guides. They climbed many peaks and visited almost all the corners of the upper Siachen. Grant Peterkin was a surveyor attached to this expedition. He surveyed the glacier thoroughly and named a few peaks, particularly Teram Kangri, Apsarasas and Ghent. This expedition spent more than two months on the glacier and they visited almost all the major side valleys. Names like Sia la, Junction Peak, Hawk, Tawiz and few others were given by this expedition. They also visited and named Indira Col, after Goddess Laxmi.

Europeans on the Glacier

Upper Siachen Glacier (43 kb) In 1929 Dr. Ph.C. Visser of the Netherlands was on his fourth trip to the Karakoram. They explored the two Terong glaciers and the Shelkar Chorten glacier which were unknown till then. Dr. Rudolf Wyss and surveyor Khan Sahib Afraz Gul stayed in the Terong valley and mapped the area. Thus they completed surveying the lower part of this great glacier. At the same time, in 1929, the Duke of Spoleto expedition (Italian) crossed the Karakoram by Muztagh pass and reached Turkestan La from north. They descended from Turkestan la (East) after discovering Staghar and Singhi glaciers. In 1930 Professor Giotto Dainelli completed the survey and exploration of the Siachen Glacier. He reached the glacier from the southern approaches, from the Nubra valley. He established himself at the Teram Shehr glacier junction in early June. He wrote : . . . . thus reaching the Siachen tongue with all my baggage, a caravan of seventy coolies and six and a half tons of food for the men, carried by an additional caravan of ponies and supplementary coolies. On the 9th of June--exactly two months after my departure from Florence--I was heading for my first depot up the glacier. I hope my English colleagues will appreciate this rapidity of execution, which I consider a record! Compare this with the present timings. One can reach the snout in 3 days from Delhi without taking a step on foot ! Dainelli, with his only companion Miss Kalau, stayed at the Teram Shehr junction and carried out various geological surveys. Due to the flooding of the Nubra valley in the lower reaches, he could not return by the same route and hence crossed a 6200 m pass to Rimo glaciers in the east. He named this Col Italia (Italy Col). With this, the survey and exploration of the Siachen in major respects was over.

Middle Years and Politics
The Second World War put an end to all climbing activities in this area for a few decades. This was followed by the turmoil of the Indian Independence and the glacier was left alone for a long time. With the India-China War of 1962 in the east of the Siachen glacier, the entire area was now restricted, even for the Indian mountaineers and no record of any visits exists. It is known that some parties from the Indian security agencies visited Bilafond la. In the 1971 war Indian troops defeated the Pakistani forces. The Shyok valley in Ladakh was also scene of action. After the war, talks were held in Shimla to sign an agreement about the demarcation of borders. In this "Shimla Agreement", the Line of Control was demarcated till the Shyok river, to what is known as Border Stone NJ 9842. For the areas to the north of this point, it was agreed that the Line of Control shall follow the lines of the glaciers. It was not specified which glacier line will be the border. This ambiguity about exact definition of the border is the reason for todays conflict. The conflict in the Siachen glacier may not have taken place at all if Mrs. Indira Gandhi has pressurised Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan to sign an agreement demarcating the borders along the Siachen glacier, as it is now. She was advised to do so by the Secretaries. A besieged Bhutto pleaded with Mrs.Gandhi that his word be trusted to do this at a later date, as did not want to come under attack from his military generals. Aap muz par bharosa kijiye , he said. (You must trust me). The ambiguity about the borders was left. But soon maps appeared encompassing the Siachen under Pakistan territory. To support their claim, from 1972 to 1983, Pakistan promoted and permitted many expeditions on the Siachen glacier. These expeditions generally crossed over either Gyong la, Bilafond la or Sia la to enter the glacier. These expeditions of foreign nationalities were accompanied by Pakistani liaison officers. They climbed many peaks on the glacier. Singhi Kangri, Teram Kangri, Apsarasas, Ghent and Saltoro Kangri I were climbed. Thus mountaineers became political pawns and their climbs, originating from Pakistan created a precedent of its de facto control over the glacier. During this period, three expeditions from the Indian Army climbed on the glacier. The first expedition was in 1978, when a team led by Col. N. Kumar arrived on the glacier and climbed Teram Kangri II. Col. Kumar returned to the glacier in 1981 to climb Saltoro Kangri I with many other peaks. He reached the true Indira Col (west) at the head of the glacier. In between these climbs an army team had climbed Apsarasas.

India takes Control

Snowscooter in Siachen (23 kb) By now maps were published in Europe which showed the extended Line of Control to join the Karakoram Pass in the east, thus surreptitiously supporting the Pakistan claim line to the east of the glacier. This would encompass the entire Siachen glacier, conceding it on maps to Pakistan, forming a long common border between Pakistan and China. Pakistan gave permission to a Japanese expedition to attempt Rimo peak in 1984. This peak is located in the side valley, east of Siachen. It overlooks the eastern areas of the Aksai Chin. Such an expedition would have firmly linked the western routes with the eastern routes, the trade route leading to Karakoram Pass and China. The Indian army decided to take action and to prevent such an expedition from proceeding. The first group of the Indian army landed on the glacier on 14th April 1984 to defend the territory and the war on the glacier began, which is still raging today. Soon the first expedition arrived from India to counter the policy adopted by Pakistan in the past. Next year, in 1985, an Indo-British expedition (led by Harish Kapadia with Dave Wilkinson) was given permission to climb Rimo peak, approaching it from the Nubra valley in India. It became the first civilian expedition to climb on the glacier after starting of the Siachen war, countering any precedents created by climbs initiated from Pakistan. Their successful climb and the international publicity it generated created an awareness of it as an Indian territory. An American team followed in 1986 reaching the Indira Col (West). Since then though a Japanese and British expeditions were allowed to climb in the Terong valley no team entered the main glacier.

After a gap of a decade, in 1996, an Indian team from Bombay, led by Harish Kapadia, arrived on the glacier with all the clearance from the Government of India. At first they climbed in the Terong valley but as they were about to enter the upper glacier they were stopped from proceeding. Someone in the army hierarchy had decided not to allow the team to proceed ahead. They had to return. This reflected rather poorly on the Indian army. However after protests and a critical report, within a year the situation was rectified with change of Commanders. It was decided to allow the Indian mountaineers on the glacier. Thus in 1997 an Indian ladies team (led by Ms. Bachendri Pal) traversed the glacier and stood on India Saddle. The Bombay team, again led by Harish Kapadia, returned to the glacier in 1998 to complete their unfinished venture. They reached Indira Col (West), India Saddle, Turkestan La (East) and climbed the first peak on the Teram Shehr Plateau : Bhujang (6560 m). Indian mountaineers have arrived on the glacier for good.

Map: The Indian Siachen Expedition ROSS 1998 (104 kb) Contrary to the popular belief, the Siachen glacier has been visited by many since more than a Century. The glacier, originally known as Saicher Gharni was place of interest and several Baltis from the western valleys visited the glacier. Many decades ago it is believed that a small Yarkandi village existed at the entrance of the Teram Shehr glacier. (Bullock-Workman found the walls of such a settlement in 1912). Here on the glacier Yarkandis met the Baltis and traded with them. Once some of the Yarkandis descended the Ghyari nala and took away a Balti woman with them to their glacier village. To take revenge, Baltis contacted an important mullah, who gave them a tawiz (amulet) which was to be placed on the Bilafond la. Mullah instructed them to return via the Nubra valley. However the Baltis, after placing the tawiz on the pass returned the way they had come. Soon afterwards a great storm visited the Siachen glacier and destroyed the settlements and only the rocky desolation remained. The priests say that the calamity would have been greater had they followed the directions fully. Because of this lapse in following the instructions wild roses were not destroyed by the storm. Today roses grow in plenty near the snout and in the lower valleys. The glacier is called Siachen (Sia-rose, chen-place of) - the place of roses

Part 8: Summary

The Siachen glacier, East Karakoram.

Harish Kapadia (leader), Vijay Kothari, Cyrus Shroff, Divyesh Muni, Vineeta Muni, and Kaivan Mistry with Captain Ashish Suhag (liaison officer).

From 20th June to 3rd August 1998
An expedition by

The Mountaineers, Bombay

The expedition approached the Siachen Glacier from its snout. One party reached the Indira Col West, India Saddle and Turkestan La East. Another party made the first ascent of Bhujang (6560 m) on the edge of the Teram Shehr Plateau.

Part 9: Summary
Name Long. (East) Lat. (North) 1. Turkestan La (East) 76 o 51 30" (5810 m) Traditional pass 2. Indira Col (West) (5840 m) 3. India Saddle (6000 m) 4. Bhujang Peak (6560 m) First Ascent 76 o 48 10" 35 o 39 40" 76 o 48 20" 35 o 39 50" 77 o 12 00" 35 o 24 00" 22nd July 1998 Kaivan Mistry, Vijay Kothari, Vineeta Muni and Captain Ashish Suhag. 20th July 1998 Divyesh Muni, Cyrus Shroff, Kusang Dorjee, Samgyal, Pasang and Pema Sherpa 22nd July 1998 Harish Kapadia and Pemba Tsering 35 o 39 00" 20th July 1998 Harish Kapadia, Kaivan Mistry, Vijay Kothari, Vineeta Muni, Captain Ashish Suhag and Pemba Tsering Date Reached Members of the Rose expedition 1998, who reached the pass/peak.

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