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HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION REPORT

SPITI MOUNTAIN VOYAGE 24th JULY - 16th AUG 2009

by Nick Carter

Friday 24th and Saturday 25th July: After a much delayed journey east Amy and I arrived in Delhi with enough time to race across Delhi and run across the Old Delhi Train Station to jump onto our train to Kalka with minutes to spare. As we ended up being 13hrs later arriving in Delhi than expected there was no time to check the gear from the store before we departed from Delhi. Fortunately everything was in order when we finally checked the gear and first aid boxes in Shimla.
The team of clients had been well looked after by Mansi, Mr. Pandey's niece. (After we rung Mr. Pandey from Mumbai on our delayed and re-routed journey he decided to enlist the help of his niece to accompany the clients in our absence and at the same time give her some experience of a trekking trip.) Mangal was also on the train.

Sunday 26th July: Good comfortable ride on the overnight Delhi-Kalka train. Changed to the early morning Shimla train and arrived in Shimla (2200m) at 10:30. Naveen had travelled overland with all the gear and arrived at 07:30 after a 6.5 hr journey. Checked into the Hotel Holiday Home and clients explored Shimla while Amy and I sorted gear and first aid. One first aid box contents was very wet, possibly from rain. We topped up with some extra medical supplies from a pharmacy in Shimla. Ate at the Willow Tree Hotel at the top of town.

Monday 27th July: Set off at 05:30 for Kalpa. Smooth journey in minibus with gear in separate jeep. Arrived at Rekong Peo (below Kalpa) at 15:00 and got the Rupshu permits sorted. Then drove up to Kalpa and stayed at Rolling Rang Hotel (at the top of the village at approx. 2800m) which didn't have a cook so we ate at another village guesthouse. I went exploring and found a route for an acclimatisation walk for the following day.

Tuesday 28th July: Trekked up behind the guesthouse passed a Hindi Monastery and through potato and bean fields to a spring high above the village and just above the tree line at 3500m. Mansi and all the clients did fine.

Wednesday 29th July: 8hr minibus ride to Mane Gongma with an additional 2hr wait for a landslide to be removed (by hand!) from the road. Arrived Mane Gongma (3590m) at 17:00 and slept in the village school while Naveen cooked in the mess tent in the yard outside.

Thursday 30th July: Naveen had reccied this section of the trek 3 weeks previously but the snow coverage had changed substantially making it very different. It took us 9hrs of hard trekking to get to a very small campsite at 4345m. The first part of the day was gentle but after lunch at a summer village encampment we entered a narrow gorge which entailed some scrambling, several river crossings, steep loose scree, steep hard scree involving step cutting with an ice axe for both clients and donkeys! There was some hard old snow covering the river at one point which 2 laden donkeys fell through, fortunately without injury. The clients all arrived at camp tired but happy and excited about the following day and getting to above 5000m. Mansi was suffering with the altitude and vomiting. Amy gave her some anti-sickness drug which helped.

Friday 31st July: After some initial old snow in a narrow gully the valley opened up into flat dry stony moraine. This continued up to the final steep snow slope (possibly grade 1) where we climbed up to the pass. The pass was at 5050m rather than the 5200m that the map said.) All the clients, Amy, Mansi, Mangal and Paldeen climbed to the pass. The way down on the other side was certainly impassable (very steep and loose.) On returning to camp after an 8hr day (5 up and 3 down) everyone was tired but happy and although most folk had sore heads no one was sick and everyone still had a good appetite. Sleeping for a second night at 4345m was a good idea for acclimatisation and there was no way anyone would have been able to continue down anyway.

Saturday 1st August: An early start of 5am meant that we could get down to Mane Gongma by 12:00. After a 1 ¼ hr fast uncomfortable jeep drive to Kaza (3650m) we got the Ladakh permits sorted. Stayed at the Phan Dhey Guesthouse on the edge of the Old Town. (New Town with the government buildings etc was on the North side of town)
We ate at the Dragon Restaurant which we recommend. Roger was suffering with stomach ache and vomited this evening.

Sunday 2nd August: Rest day in Kaza. I did some internet research into the peaks that we might possibly climb during the trek.

Monday 3rd August: Left Kaza at 06:30 for 1 hr jeep drive to Kibber (4100m). 14 mules are sorted for the trek. Met Tensing the guide who has been organised for Mansi and who also ended up carrying Dave's day-sack for the whole trek. After an initial drop of 200m we ascend to a small pass at 4700m (The map is entirely inaccurate) where we have lunch and rest before descending to camp at 4600m at Thalta. We were joined later by our 14 mules and 2 muleteers. This is a good flat grassy campsite with water but quite a lot of rubbish from other groups. Roger's stomach is still troubling him so Amy gives him a course of Cipro.

Tuesday 4th August: Leaving camp we drop 350m into a river gorge where we cross the river and climb 800m up to high camp before the pass at 5050m at place called Boroglen. Richard and I went ahead to 5225m to check the route for tomorrow. We went high enough to see the pass ahead. The campsite was more dirty and less grassy.

Wednesday 5th August: Mansi and David left camp at 04:30 with Tensing while I left camp at 05:00 with the rest of the team. Crossing one small patch of snow we arrived at the Parang La (5500m) at 07:30. Ian, Rich, Tom, Roger and I climbed a 5600m peak next to the pass. Descended the glacier on the north side to its end and then turned East up the Pakshi Lamur valley to find a good base camp for our days of exploration. 3 hours up the valley we settle into a great campsite at 5050m on the south side of the valley. A long 11hr day. Everyone very tired.

After some research and also chatting to a French team at Kibber I decided that heading down to Galpa Buze for our exploration days was not a good idea because the BC would be too low and all the peaks around there were very technical.

Thursday 6th August: Rest and reccy day.
Cloudy in a.m. cleared up in p.m.. Each day this week it had been getting more cloudy in the morning but always clearing up in the afternoon when a strong wind begins.
David and Ian explored a side valley to the south west of the BC and just found steep scree. Richard and Roger explored the end of the valley to the east of BC as far as the foot of large glacier seen in the map above. From their description and discussions with the French team and their Ladakhi guide, it seems the French team climbed a peak at the far south east corner of that glacier. It was named Chanmataran (6100m) by the Ladakhi guide but no sign of it on the highly inaccurate map. Tom and I explored the side valley to the south east of the BC. We went to the top of the 3 pronged glacier (shown on the map above) and noted that 2 steep snowy peaks were beyond our team abilities but that the peak to the east of the glacier looked like a viable option.
Amy rested in BC along with Mansi, Naveen, Mangal, Tensing and the 2 muleteers.

Friday 7th August: Cloud down to 6000m which for the ascent of the peak was good to keep the sun off. Set off at 05:15 with Tom, Richard, Ian and Roger. Up and across the dry glacier to the base of the route in 3hrs from camp. Some glacial streams to cross making tricky route finding. Ascent of a rocky scree ridge to the summit at 5985m in 4hrs from the glacier. Roger turned back at 5500m and Ian at 5600m and made their way back to BC together. At the summit Richard and I saw another summit that looked slightly higher so we also climbed that one to discover it was exactly the same height. No sign of any other ascents. Built a wee cairn and returned to camp. After some snow flakes near the summit the cloud gradually cleared through the afternoon. 10 ½ hr day. Everyone tired but happy.

Saturday 8th August: After some discussion we decide to spilt the journey to Galpe Buze over 2 days so that we didn't have an 11 hr day.
Pleasant 5 hr trek today down to Chatang Yongma at 4850m. Today started very clear with no cloud unlike the last 5 days.

Sunday 9th August: 6 hr trek down the Parang Chu valley to camp at Galpe Buze at 4700m. Now back on the main trekking route the campsites are more littered and dirty. Enroute today we met our first team of the trek. An Israeli team with a sick girl who Amy checked over and decided she probably had HAPE and a possible chest infection. Treating her with Dex, Diamox and Anti-biotics we recommended that the group descend with her (they had been heading for the Parang La)

Monday 10th August: Weather started clear but clouded over and we had a few drops of rain in the afternoon. 6 ½ hr trek down the Parang Chu across the main river (thigh deep) and turned north away from the Parang River and into a less rugged landscape south of the Tso Moriri Lake. Camped at a lush campsite north of Norbu Sumdo (4565m). Saw a wild horse (Kiang) near the campsite.

Tuesday 11th August: Short 4hr day across the vast rocky plain south of Tso Moriri to a campsite on the south east corner of the lake, Kiangdom. Grassy campsite at 4610m with other teams also camped in the vicinity. Marmots and more wild horses seen today. Large rain clouds building in the afternoon and back in the mountains in looked quite unpleasant.

Wednesday 12th August: A very hot day trekking out to Karzok (4620m) Swam in the lake enroute. One large minibus for all people and kit to Chumathang (4150m). 3 ½ hr journey through beautiful desolate rolling hills. Stayed at the 'Hot Spring Hotel' which was a very basic guesthouse. Very small village with not many other guesthouses so it probably was the 'best' available! Great food and Godfather beer enjoyed by all.

Thursday 13th August: 4 hr bus ride to Leh (3500m) where we enjoyed the Luxuries of the Mandala Hotel.

Friday 14th August: Sightseeing in Leh including walks up to the Palace and the Castle at Tsemo 200m above the town. Naveen, Mangal, Mansi and all the gear left in a jeep to travel overland back to Delhi. They had a lot of gear in the bus with them.

Saturday 15th August: Indian Independence Day. Morning flight with Jet Airways to Delhi. Picked up by H.R.T. bus and taken to Hotel Janpath. Afternoon of relaxing and sightseeing with dinner in the United Coffee House with Mr Pandey, his wife and 2 boys.

Sunday 16th August and Monday 17th August: The team head on different flights back to the UK.


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