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 EXPEDITION REPORTS

Full details of next year's planned adventures appear on our Himalayan Expeditions pages.

KAILASH EXPEDITION Little Kailash Photo Gallery

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LITTLE KAILASH EXPEDITION REPORT

Sept 19th-Oct 14th 2002

Introduction

The far eastern valleys and peaks of Kumaon Himalaya have been little visited by trekking or climbing parties since the Border area was closed following the Chinese incursions of 1962. A few Indian trekkers have explored the area, notably Harish Kapadia's group on 1982. Kapadia made a circular route going up the Darma valley and crossing the 5500m Shin La pass to gain the upper Kuthi Yankti valley at Jolingkong where there is a sacred lake and Hindu temple. Above Jolingkong rises a striking peak, well over 6000 metres in altitude, known to local people as Adi Kailash (half kailash) because of its distinct resemblance to Holy Mount Kailash which in fact lies 110km to the north in Tibet. Adi Kailash has become better known to Westerners as Little Kailash.

The circuit of the range approaching up the Darma, using the Shin La as the link and returning via the Kuthi Yankti valley to join the Tibetan pilgrim route down the Kali Ganga, has become known as the "Adi Kailash Yatra". The circuit is rarely completed because the Shin La is a high and serious snow pass. However, increasing numbers of Indian pilgrims trek up to Jolingkong via the Kali Ganga route, and with the gradual relaxation of access restrictions for foreigners in recent years, a few Western trekkers have visited.

However, to our knowledge no climbing had ever been attempted on any of the peaks between the Kuthi Yankti and Darma valleys, a range of six 6000 metre summits and over a dozen above 5500m. Prior to the closure of the area the only known visits by Western parties were those of geologists Heim and Glasser in the 1930's and the Scottish Himlayan Expedition of 1950 led by Tom Weir and Bill Murray and neither team ventured on to the peaks of this sector.

The aims of the expedition were twofold:-
- to complete the 'Yatra' route over the Shin La and explore a second pass, the Nama Pass, which links the two main valleys further south, and had no recorded crossing by a mountaineering party
- to find and attempt a practicable route up Little Kailash and other accessible summits in the group

The particular excitements of the trip were to trek valleys that have not yet experienced any influx of tourists and to explore an entirely virgin mountain range. The logistical challenge of accessing this restricted area and liasing with Army and Border Police added an extra spice to the venture. With just 21 days in the field to access remote objectives, much preparatory work and slick organisation were essential if the team was to achieve its goals.

Members
The team was diverse, including members from England, Scotland, Australia and India, varying in age between 25 and 60. Led by guides Martin Moran and John Allott and Indian tour operator C.S.Pandey our group contained a doctor, dentist, anaesthetist, pharmacist and pathologist so were covered for most medical eventualities!!

Martin Moran (47) Lochcarron Mountain Guide and British Leader
C.S. Pandey Delhi Tour Operator and Indian Leader
John Allott (47) Fort William Mountain Leader and Deputy Leader
Bhupendra Sharma Manali Pharmacist and Indian Liaison Officer
Naveen Chandra Delhi Cook and Indian Field Leader
Patrick Harborow (47) London GP and Team Doctor
Richard Ausden (53) Australia Financial Controller
Mike Freeman (60) Penzance Anaesthetist
James Gibb (32) Northwich Software Engineer
Alison Hull (27) Worcester Process Engineer
Bill Landells (52) Suffolk Pathologist
Tom Rankin (51) Glasgow Dentist
Lawrence Thomas (35) Worcester Engineer
Steve Ward (47) Warwickshire Youth Worker
Andrew Williams (24) Bristol Phd Student
Mangal Singh Uttarkashi Trek Guide and High level Porter
Hari Singh Wan " " " " "
Ujay Singh Uttarkashi " " " " "
Mohan Assistant Cook

Administration, Ground Arrangements and Support Agency

Restricted Area (Inner Line) Permits: The first stage in planning was to obtain central Government clearance for issue of Restricted Area Visas and Permits. This required a formal application plus bio-data forms and photos submitted for each participating member. Our Indian leader Mr Pandey pursued our application through each stage of verification by various Ministries and the Intelligence Bureau. Without his close supervision of the process it is highly improbable that we would have gained the necessary clearance.
The 'clearance' effectively consists of letters from the Home Ministry authorizing issue of special X entry visas for each foreign member and Restricted Area Permits (RAP's) from the District Magistrate in the local area. The RAP's were issued in Darchula upon submission of authorizing letters and X visas for foreign members. Local Army units are also notified of the planned expedition and it is essential to report to them before entry to the Border area. In our case the relevant unit was the Kumaon Scouts in Darchula.

Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), Benito Juarez Road, New Delhi 110021; Tel: (0091) 11 4671211 Fax: (0091) 11 6883412 E-mail: indmount@del2.vsnl.net.in Web-site: www.indmount.org The IMF handles administration of mountaineering expeditions and full details of open peaks, peak fees, list of rules and an application form can be obtained from their web-site. For peaks in any restricted border areas such as Little Kailash the fee is $4000, irrespective of the altitude. Further charges of $400 as a non-refundable environmental levy and $500 for liaison officer's equipment were made. The Mountaineering permits are needed in addition to RAPs for any climbing over 5500m.

'X' Mountaineering Visas: High Commission of India, India House, Aldwych, London WC2B 4NA; Tel: (0891) 44 45 44 (Info Line) (020) 7836 8484 (Switchboard) Web site: www.hcilondon.org
Consulate General of India 17, Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BB ; Tel: (0131)
229 2155
The special 'X' visas were obtained from the Edinburgh consulate 10 days before travelling to India. Authorisation for issue of 'X' visas to team members is communicated to the High Commission or Consulate by the Home Ministry and/or IMF when RAP/climbing applications have been approved. This usually happens less than one month before the expedition starts, leaving insufficient time to make postal application. A visit to the High Commission or Consulate is therefore necessary, and a copy of the authorisation letter must be taken along with passports, fees, photos and completed application form for each individual. The 'X' visa is endorsed with the name of the Expedition and places to be visited. Current visa fees are £30 per person. Application forms can be downloaded from the High Commission web-site. Without an 'X' visa no person is allowed to climb on listed peaks in India.

Air Travel: KLM For direct bookings Tel: (08705) 074 074 Web-site: www.klmuk.com
The expedition took daytime flights to Delhi with KLM via Amsterdam, using regional departures from Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester and Stansted. Bookings were made direct with the carrier. Though official baggage allowance with KLM is only 20kg no members had any problem in getting 25kg or so through check-in on outward flights, but limits were strictly applied at the Delhi check-in for the return. No baggage was lost and flight schedules went smoothly.
The team was able to get all essential tents and mountain food out to Delhi within the allowed baggage, so prior air freighting was not required.

Support Agency: Himalayan Run & Trek Pvt. Ltd (director: Mr C.S. Pandey), T-5, Manish Chamber, Plot No. 6, L.S.C. Block B, Mayur Vihar Phase 2, Delhi 110091
Tel: (0091) 11 2472700 Fax: (0091) 11 2472800 E-mail: cspandey@vsnl.com
HRT have provided ground services on all our expeditions since 1992; their staff are of a high quality. The main services utilised were:
- Liaison with Ministries/IMF for processing of applications and visa authorizations
- Provision of base camp staff (cooks and high altitude porters)
- Arrangements for low altitude porters and/or mules with local agencies
- Hotel and Train bookings; Private Bus transport from Delhi to the roadhead
- Purchase of expedition foodstuffs; hire or purchase of all mess equipment
With these services all requested in advance we needed to spend only one day in Delhi on the outward journey, so could maximise our time in the mountains.

Liaison Officer: Mr B.P. Sharma
The LO was assigned to the team by the IMF. We met Mr Sharma at a briefing meeting with the IMF Director, Mr Ravinder Nath, on our arrival in Delhi. He spoke excellent English. The IMF supply all equipment to the LO. Mr Sharma was an good communicator and was vital in all liaison with Army and Border Police.

Photography Restrictions Although we carried no specific camera permit, the authorities allowed photography with the strict exception of military posts, bridges and other strategic installations. Video photography is strictly banned, and the carrying of radios or GPS devices is not currently permitted in the Border zone.

Expedition Diary by Andrew Williams

Thursday and Friday 19th-20th September 2002: Travel to Delhi
For the British team, the journey began very early on Thursday 19th September with short flights from various UK airports converging on Schipol airport, Amsterdam. The onward flight landed at Indira Ghandi Airport, Delhi well after darkness. On emerging into the heat of the Delhi evening we were enthusiastically assisted with our luggage by local men, in return for a handsome reward. Once aboard our bus we joined the extreme congestion and noisy chaos of the city roads, arriving at the Ashok Hotel for a comfortable nights rest.
Friday was spent in Delhi. It was an opportunity to venture out onto the streets to buy water, snacks, headscarves and the like. It was hot, sunny and humid. In the afternoon the leaders plus members went to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation for final briefings, while others were taken on an organised tour. The tour afforded an opportunity to appreciate the sighs and sounds of Old Delhi. Highlights included the spectacular Jama Masjid mosque, an exposed cycle-rickshaw around Old Delhi and a lengthy visit to a Kashmir carpet retailer.

Saturday 21st September: Delhi to Chaukori
Our night was to be spent on a train. In Delhi's bustling railway station, late in the evening, we boarded one of the reserved sleeper coaches, which made its way slowly north and east to Kathgodam. At that point the railway terminates and just a few miles north, India rises steeply into mountainous terrain, which we were to traverse by bus for two long days. In the early morning at Kathgodam we ate bananas for breakfast and met our bus that had carried equipment and luggage by road from Delhi. The drive into the hills, reaching 5500ft at one point, was on narrow and steeply winding roads, with long steep drops to one side of us. The views were good, but the character of the terrain fairly consistent for the duration of the journey. Lunch was taken at the hill station of Almora where as we arrived we witnessed the first distant glimpses of the snow-covered Himalaya. Our marathon then continued until 7.30pm when we reached Chaukori, another hill station. Here we were rewarded with unhindered moonlit views across intervening foothills to distant giants of the Indian Himalaya. Included in this panorama were the high peaks within the Nanda Devi sanctuary; to the east were the five peaks of the Panchchuli, and behind them, the Little Kailash region, and our ultimate destination.

Sunday 22nd September: Chaukori to Darchula
A six-hour drive through more mountainous terrain brought us to Darchula, the last town in our journey. Being Sunday the town was quiet. We settled into our rest house and in between frequent power cuts, took advantage of our last opportunity to make telephone calls to family. The town was at around 900m altitude, on a hillside which swept down to the mighty Kali-Ganga - a fast flowing mountain river which drained the entirety of the Little Kailash region and which served to marked the border with neighbouring Nepal.
Our leaders spent a number of hours with the local magistrate and Army officers, obtaining Restricted Area Permits for everybody in the team. This included a period when the magistrate decided to have a sleep, meaning that proceedings could not be finalised until he awoke! Although the Indian government had granted us clearance to enter the area it was also essential that permission be sought at local level to ensure the cooperation of the local military and border police.

Monday 23rd September: Darchula to Sobale
Bed tea arrived at 7am, and we were soon aboard jeeps that took us further up the Kali Ganga to Tawaghat then 10km up the lower Darma Ganga valley past extensive workings for a large new hydro-electric project until a point where the road had been swept away by landslides. This marked the beginning of the trek.
There was a school some distance beyond the landslide and small children were circumnavigating the gaping hole in their neatly pressed uniforms to begin their lessons. We soon came upon the school, seeing outdoor classes in progress. Its small buildings, merely feeble constructions were remarkably located on rocks with the river flowing noisily to either side. There was, perhaps not surprisingly, clear evidence of river damage to some of the corrugated metal walls.
We passed a number of isolated dwellings during the short and reasonably flat trek up a jeep road to Sobale. Our presence drew stares from the local people who were perhaps not accustomed to seeing Westerners in their midst, but who seemed suddenly at ease once we greeted them in their own language, and exchanged a friendly smile. A camp was established in the village. Sobale itself was essentially two or three rows of dwellings and stalls extending for perhaps 200 yards, squeezed between the riverbank and the steep hillside. It is not located as marked on the American AMS Map, but is positioned at the point marked as "Nyu".

Tuesday 24th September: Sobale to Sela
After eating pancakes and cornflakes with hot milk for breakfast we began the day's trek at 7.30am. A stiff ascent followed up to the next village, Dar, where we stopped at a tea hut. The village seemed relatively substantial, extending some considerable distance up the steep hillside. We then moved on, around a sharp bend in the valley and along a narrow path high above the roaring river. The route onwards towards Sela was undulating, sometimes passing magnificent waterfalls, and sometimes along narrow walkways formed in the side of otherwise near-vertical cliffs. For many, the 17km day seemed long.
Our gloomy rest house was situated across the river from the main village area. After our late lunch we crossed the river and visited the village. At this height the buildings were different. Before we'd seen roofs of grass; now they had incredibly heavy roofs of slate. It was noticeably cooler too. There were women weaving, men spinning wool into yarn, and others just looked intrigued to see us. Children clamoured excitedly to look through Bill's binoculars. The Shiva temple was visited where Mike excelled himself in lifting a 100kg+ boulder. Local wine was sampled and stocks purchased. Our order was delivered in a rather grim looking plastic can that had probably contained kerosene or some such chemical. As darkness fell we returned to the rest house for food. Rains began, and thunder was heard.

Wednesday 25th September: Sela to Duktu
The team left the guesthouse at 7.30am and began the 19km trek up to the village of Duktu at around 3100m. We had to reconstruct a short section of footpath along our route, which had fallen away in a landslip to allow our mules to pass. We moved onwards stopping at Nagling and Baling to rest and drink tea. The terrain was mixed with forest, open hillside, and completely flat cultivated fields. There were fewer undulations than before. New views opened up with glimpses of snow-covered ridges as we looked into side valleys. Large groups of monkeys were seen on the wooded slopes beside the path, although frustratingly they were camera-shy.
As we approached Duktu we were able to appreciate the spectacular view of Yungtangto, until dark clouds began to roll in and the temperature plummeted. From Duktu we had a glimpse into tomorrow's valley, and in the distance, a vast glacier on the side of the Panchchuli's could be seen disappearing high into the darkening cloud base. It became very cold as evening approached. We camped for the night, with tents scattered around the terraced hillside near to the school building.

Thursday 26th September: Duktu to Bidang
The last day of trekking, to reach the site of our planned base camp, was expected to be easy. In fact our destination, Bidang, was somewhat higher than expected. Cumulative ascent for the day was estimated by altimeter to be around 1300m and distance about 14km. The team was rewarded with fantastic scenery. At times the paths were high up on mountainsides offering unhindered views of the high summits close by. In other places the track took us right next to the beautiful river, with steeply wooded hillsides appearing as a patchwork of bright autumnal colour. Some members of the group began to notice the altitude as the day progressed, and were grateful to arrive at the Bidang Indo-Tibetan Border Police post. Our porters and mules arrived close behind as an area was selected to locate our base camp. It was some distance uphill and out of sight of the ITBP post, next to the wide and shallow river, on undulating ground. Estimates varied as to the altitude of the camp, but 4000m seemed reasonable. The camp comprised a kitchen tent, mess tent, toilet tent and team member's tents scattered on flat patches in the vicinity.
Ahead of us were high snowy peaks, and slightly to the left, the Shin La, a pass at around 5500m, leading to Jolingkong in the Kuthi Yankti valley. The Shin La is also the highest and most difficult section of the Adi Kailash Pilgrimage route. It was to be one of our goals, sooner or later, to traverse the Shin La. Mr Pandey, our Indian leader, planned an immediate assault in training shoes starting early the following morning, before he was due to return to Delhi.

Friday 27th September: Bidang
For some the first night at Bidang was uncomfortable, with sleep perhaps hampered by the effects of altitude, and the cold. The plan for the day was to have a gentle walk up the valley to around 4500m, to the foot of the Shin La climb. This would facilitate acclimatisation and afford an opportunity to view the summits and ridges of the upper valley at close quarters, in search of Little Kailash, our mountain that had so far remained elusive. The ascent took us past a moraine-dammed lake, and onwards onto snow. The ascent was perhaps less than 500m but induced headache in several members. We soon discovered that Mr Pandey's assault on the pass had been unsuccessful. He was spotted in descent along with a porter during our climb.
With all surrounding peaks very fierce of aspect and no sign of Little Kailash a decision was made to cross the Shin La with the hope of finding easier ascent routes on the Jolingkong side. This would mean leaving the relative comfort of the base camp, with the plentiful, tasty food, expertly prepared by Naveen and Mohan with the aid of a little Indian Radio. It would mean the end of bed-tea, brought every morning to each tent, and the leaving of all non-essential items, which could not be carried over such a high pass. The sunny afternoon was spent making up bags of food, some for the hill, and others to serve team members at future high camps.

Saturday 28th September: Bidang
Another cold, impressively starry night followed. The team ascended to the foot of the Shin La again, carrying essential equipment and supplies. Further inspection by binoculars up the Shin La route revealed the presence of a herd of wild Bharal sheep who climbed nonchalantly up the steep ramps and gullies leading to the Shin La - quite unexpected given there was nothing for them to eat on such terrain, but most heartening for those who doubted the feasibility of crossing the col with big loads.

Sunday 29th September : Bidang to Advance camp for Shin La attempt
For most of the team this was the last day at Bidang. Non-essential belongings were left behind and the team climbed again to 4500m. Ali and Lawrence remained at Bidang for one last night to give Lawrence one extra day to try to recover from illness that had confined him to base camp for two days.
A camp was set up on the snow in a spectacular location. The late afternoon was spent sorting out equipment and food supplies, and melting snow for soups and drinks. We were scheduled for a 1am wake-up to begin the ascent to the top of the pass. It was a difficult and uncomfortable night for the team, with many people squeezed into just a handful of tents. The combined effects of viral infection and altitude were working against Bill's chances making the climb, with his symptoms worsening.

Monday 30th September : Crossing of the Shin La to Jolingkong.
At 1am our day began, and soon we began the ascent in four roped teams. It seemed hard work for many, with heavy loads being carried to allow survival for 10 days on the other side of the pass. Unfortunately Bill was forced to retreat from the climb, to try again another day after further recovery. The route was on steep and often crusted snow, with crags all around which made the route finding less than obvious. Dawn brought some far-reaching views, with the sun first hitting the upper slopes of the Panchchuli giants. Pushing onwards and bearing generally right we slowly traversed more crusted snow slopes of average angle to finally reach the pass.
At this point the team split: Martin, John, James, Ajay and Mangal were to descend back to our camp, to carry more supplies up the following day. The food and equipment deposited at the top was to be carried down the other side of the Shin La by the remaining members.
The route northeast was far less steep, with a rolling snow covered glacier twisting and turning until dropping out of sight. The late morning sun seemed very strong as Andrew, Mike, Pat, Richard and Sharma began their descent, marking the way with bamboo canes for those who would follow. Progress was slow. Sharma was suffering from a fever, and other members became more exhausted with time. Several limbs had to be dug out of the softening snow during the descent, and everyone was relieved to find a way safely onto the desolate valley beyond.
Up the valley was a distinctive mountain: we had finally located Little Kailash, revealed as a subsidiary of the larger peak above Bidang but impressive nonetheless; it's altitude more likely to be 6191m, the lower of two estimates we had seen on sketch maps of the area. A camp was established next to a large rock that protruded from an otherwise flat expanse at around 4200m. To one side was a steep moraine bank some several hundred metres high. To the other side was a very wide streambed, with its small trickle adequate for our needs.

Tuesday 1st October : Jolingkong
Martin, James, Lawrence, Ali, Ajay and Mangal joined us mid-morning. John had remained behind to accompany Bill on his second attempt at the pass the following day. Several figures approached from the distance - border police arriving to meet us and to check our documents. Otherwise the day was largely spent resting.

Wednesday 2nd October : Jolingkong
Only after the warmth of the sun hit our tents did anyone emerge. The group went for a walk to explore the nearby Jolingkong lakes and surroundings. A stiff ascent up the moraine band brought us to the first lake: very small and shallow, but reflecting the nearby Little Kailash beautifully. A short distance further revealed a second, more substantial lake, with a temple beside it. Up from the lake was a previously hidden valley, sporting an impressive array of mountains on all its sides: mountains that were not explicitly depicted on our maps but were represented as gradually ascending and featureless spurs.
Several members visited the temple. To enter we had to remove our plastic boots and socks and wash our feet in the lake. Martin put up little resistance when they encouraged us to fully submerge ourselves in the waters of the icy lake before entering. While he looked understandably refreshed by the experience, the rest of us decided that an icy dip wasn't our cup of tea, and proceeded with our washed feet into the small temple.
Having received a smear of orange paint on our foreheads we headed back to camp where a planning meeting was held to discuss future options. Some had their sights firmly on Little Kailash, while others preferred to look, at least initially towards less severe alternatives. The meeting came to a rapid end because a volleyball match was scheduled, an away game fixture at the local ITBP post, some 20 minutes walk away. After pre-match tea we were led to their pitch, painstakingly dug out of steeply rolling terrain to form an amphitheatre. Playing at 4500m in heavy plastic boots against a team who practices every day was always going to be something of a challenge, but we put up a spirited performance, that was enjoyed by all. After more tea and a goodbye snack we were invited back for a re-match. But that would have to wait. Tomorrow a party would attempt the ascent of a peak at the head of the neighbouring valley.

Thursday 3rd October : Ascent of "The Maiden"
After a 2am alarm the climbing group of Martin, Andrew, Steve, Mangal, Richard and Tom were soon on their way. Ascending over the moraines, around the Jolingkong lakes and up the neighbouring valley took us to an uneven glacier that was gradually climbed as dawn arrived. Ultimately we arrived at the steep valley headwall, a snow slope that would lead to the summit. The ascent was tiring, with the leader sinking through the snow with every step. At an intermediate rest point it looked as if the top must be near, but the scale of the terrain was hard to appreciate, and with our pace slowing dramatically with increasing altitude, it was to take several more hours. Near the top Tom took up the lead. Frustratingly there were 3 false summits, each one only appearing as you thought you were just a few paces from the top. The effort to keep moving seemed immense, yet finally we were rewarded with the true summit, and the chance to rest and appreciate the awesome all-round views. A steep drop from the summit led down into the Bidang valley. Down to the southeast we could see the Shin La. Almost at our height was the summit pyramid of Little Kailash, with even larger peaks behind it. The views extended into Nepal, and around into Tibet. Distant Tibetan mountain ranges were visible, with the sacred Mount Kailash easily identifiable some 70 miles away. Yungtangto, the Panchchulis and Nanda Devi were all visible across a cloudless sky. This was the first recorded ascent of this mountain, which was provisionally named The Maiden (after Tom's final Scottish Munro A'Mhaighdean), with an approximate height of 5950m (19,520ft).

Friday 4th October : Jolingkong
For those who had climbed The Maiden it was a rest day. John and Lawrence meanwhile ascended a snow peak of c.5350m north of Jolingkong lake. Being the first in a linked trio of summits this was named Jolingkong III. For Martin, James, Mike and Patrick, the Little Kailash team, it was also a day of preparations, with Mike spending any spare moment exploring the area in search of fossilised remains, of which there were plenty, mainly ammonites.

Saturday-Sunday 5th - 6th October: Little Kailash Attempt, Ascents of Jolingkong III and Trident III
Siege of Little Kailash (by Mike Freeman): "02.30 Ritual tea and muesli; folded the tent and divided it among us; set off at 03.22. We started almost below the summit on the NE Face. The snow was unconsolidated, like granulated sugar with a thin crust which always gave way. Progress was slow. We ascended a very steep tongue of glacier which for 60m turned into an ice climb necessitating ice screws and belays. Soon we were back on snow, floundering up slopes of varying steepness. After 9 hours of struggle we found a campsite in a snow hollow which probably filled a crevasse; altitude c.5600m.
Sunday 02.30 Tea and muesli; 04.20 off; snow better up here; by 07.00 we were at the dreaded rock band (c.5900m); belayed and Martin led round the corner exclaiming "Scottish grade III", his slow progress denoting problems and marked by showers of snow and rocks which fell over our heads. 2 ¼ hours later he returned with news that having climbed the rock band he had pulled on to steep slopes of totally loose powder snow overlying rotten shale. With no obvious belays above the risk of continuing was unacceptable. Having been in shadow we were delighted to move down into the sunshine. Straightforward descent with one abseil on the ice tongue to be met by Mangal, Hari and Ajay who carried our loads back to camp."

Ali, Steve and Tom also made an early start on Saturday to make an ascent of Jolingkong III. John, Andrew and Lawrence planned a further climb on a three-summitted ridge on the north side of Shin La, gaining access to one of its tops from the north via a gully climb. After a 2am start on Sunday, they climbed the long gully, filled with unconsolidated snow on top of rock, which made for an awkward ascent. Steepening slopes were climbed through deep loose snow until close to the top. The summit ridge ascended gradually for perhaps 100m, with vertical drops on the western side, and steep slopes dropping down from the eastern side. Progress along this ridge was necessarily delicate and slow to safely reach the summit - a snow dome, some 2 metres wide and 2 metres higher than the ridge. This was the first known ascent of this peak, which was named Trident III, being the lowest of the trio. The central peak of the trident was seen at close quarters, with its precipitous slopes and the intervening void blocking any hope of an ascent from this side. Descent involved a continuous wade through deep loose. As if the weather knew that our trip was ending, clouds rolled in with a mood that we had not seen previously during our trip, which evolved into snowfall while dinner was being prepared. Tomorrow we would head down valley to Kuthi village.

Monday 7th October: Jolingkong to Kuthi.
Our camp awoke early to discover our world covered in snow. Everything had to be packed up for our descent. We stopped briefly at Jolingkong ITBP post for tea and to say our goodbyes before progressing down the valley. There were spectacular views to other major summits in the Little Kailash range during the walk, but visibility deteriorated later with the arrival of snow and rain. At our rest house we enjoyed food and drink inside a gloomy downstairs shop before rooms were opened upstairs for us to sleep. Martin, John, Hari and Mike made preparations for an attempt to cross the 5200m Nama Pass, while the rest of us opted to trek out to Darchula via the pilgrim route down the Kali Ganga.

Tuesday-Thursday 8th - 10th October
Kuthi to Gunji ; Gunji - Lmari, Lmari-Mangti and Darchula
Bed tea arrived at 6.30am, although a cockerel woke many much earlier. It was an 18km walk, with fresh snow on the ground as we left the village. Snow-dusted peaks were visible on both sides of the valley during the day. Some members remarked that the river valley had a character reminiscent of the Canadian Rockies. The villages we passed became progressively more interesting, colourful and technologically advanced. We arrived at our destination, Gunji, and settled into a comfortable rest house.
The route from Gunji began by crossing the main river. For several hours the paths undulated, but did not seem to lose much height. We followed the river as it turned right, into the Kali Valley, while the path continued to ascend until we were high above the river. For the first time in our descent we were seeing lizards, birds and forests. Beautiful trees were silhouetted against the sky on steep hillsides ahead of us. On reaching the police check post at Budhi our ascent was over. Immediately beyond was a drop of 700 m in continuous zigzags down wooded slopes. The night was spent in tents in a small enclosure in the tiny hamlet of Lmari.
On our last day of trekking the valley became very narrow. Even as midday approached there was little sunlight reaching down to the bottom of the valley. The slopes on the Nepalese side were incredibly steep, yet a precipitous path was nevertheless visible. We reached the jeep road end quite suddenly high up the hillside. There was much activity transferring goods between mule and jeep. Hairpin zigzags and precipitous drops guaranteed an exciting roller-coaster ride. An Indian boy was on the roof of another jeep with both arms aloft holding the corners of a long purple cloth, flowing magically in the wind as the jeep lurched along, barely clinging to the track. After 33 km we reached a bustling Darchula, and everyone who had been squeezed on board could at last unfold their limbs from the cramped vehicles.
We were able to have a cold shower, and change into clean clothes. Many of the group sampled the skill and steady hand of the local barber to make them look human again, before congregating for dinner at 8pm.

Crossing of the Nama Pass (by Mike Freeman): "Kuthi is a delightful village, a Shangri-la with a bit of sheep-shit thrown in. We spoke to the villagers about the Nama and were told of serious dangers of falling rocks and crevasses. Martin explained that it would be dangerous in flip-flops! We set off at 8.45am, dropped to cross the Kuthi Yankti river and headed into the Nama valley. Cattle and meadows gave way screes and a rather unpleasant river crossing with rounded boulders and a murderous flow of water (about Scottish grade 0.5!). The glacier above was large and its lateral moraines huge. We camped at 15.00 in the north lateral moraine valley at c.4650m as the weather deteriorated.
At 04.00 on the 9th we set off up the glacier; snow a bit varied with soft patches. It took 3 ½ hours to reach the col whose identity became ever-more apparent as we approached. We noticed a hanging glacier up on our left which looked benign, but as we reached the col a serac crashed down, its debris cloud covering our trail laid 10 minutes before.
A steep initial descent on hard snow was followed by a marathon struggle over scree-covered moraines then down sheep tracks on the left bank of the Mandab Nadi. Crossing the river at Basu meadows a better path dropped a further 700 metres and we reached Sela at 16.00 after a 12 hour walk, meeting friends from our visit a fortnight previously. Sweet tea, local wine and boiled local potatoes revived us that evening.
On the 10th we hurried 3km down the valley to meet Naveen, Mohan and Bill who had trekked out from Bidang with 10 mules carrying all the spare food and kit. A pleasant 4 hour walk took us back to Sobale and with the road now repaired we were able to reach Darchula in a single 2 hour jeep ride, arriving an hour before the rest of the team."

Friday 11th October : Darchula
After a humid night we enjoyed a large breakfast including chilli-omelettes, toast and cornflakes with hot milk. The team sorted out equipment, dried tents and so on before taking an opportunity to go shopping. The town was very busy, with an outdoor political meeting starting up in the late afternoon, accompanied by armed motorcade. Their activities were to be thwarted by the arrival of threatening black clouds that rapidly evolved into a tropical storm. Thunder and lightening began as the downpour battered the town. The corridor of the rest house was soon flooded and water was even entering our rooms. An early night was in order, since we were due to leave by coach at 4am tomorrow morning.

Saturday 12th October : Darchula to Kathgodam.
Soon after 4am we departed. The inward journey from Kathgodam to Darchula had taken 2 days, but in return it was to be squeezed into one. The journey was not an enjoyable experience for most, with brief stops for food and twice due to blockages on the road. On the latter occasion it appeared a lorry's brakes had failed causing it to roll backwards into a bank on a zigzag. Lacking enough engine power to move off, hundreds of bricks had to be offloaded by hand before it lurched out of the way, and was secured with rocks thrown beneath its wheels.
Finally we reached Kathgodam where we welcomed the opportunity to eat at a Chinese restaurant. Then we moved on to the railway station to await our night train to Delhi, where a group of confident Indian teenagers enquired whether Andrew was a member of the English cricket team, and asserted that that Tom looked like Jon Bon Jovi. Finally, our train departed at around 8.45pm.

Sunday 13th October : Delhi
We arrived at 4.30am and moved into a dormitory at the YWCA for a few hours extra sleep. The rest of the day was spent shopping and sightseeing before the team reassembled for a celebration meal at the United Coffee House. We said our goodbyes to Sharma, Naveen, Mohan, Ajay, Mangal and Hari and caught our flights home.

_______________________________________

Conclusions and Future Objectives

The expedition was broadly successful and a very enjoyable experience. The weather was excellent until the final days of the trip. Main achievements were:
1) Completion of the Adi Kailash Yatra including the crossing of the Shin La
2) First recorded crossing of the Nama Pass by a trekking or climbing party
3) First ascent of The Maiden (c.5950m), a significant peak on the watershed north of the Shin La
4) Attempt on Little Kailash North Face to 6000m and proof of a feasible route through the rock band
5) Ascents of two other 5000m peaks, Trident III and Jolingkong III
6) Reconnoitre of access to and feasibility of other peaks in the range

However, certain conflicts arose from combining trekking and climbing objectives. For example, the approach up the Darma greatly enhanced the trek and allowed the Shin La to be climbed by its steepest flank. However, the party had to leave the main base camp equipment behind at Bidang. Bill was unable to cross due to ill-health preventing his rejoining the rest of the team until the end of the trip. The extra days of trekking also reduced the time available for climbing.
A future climbing expedition would be better advised to trek direct to Jolingkong - the new roadhead in the Kali Ganga at Mangti Nala would allow the inward trek to be made in 4 or 5 days.

Full reports on all our trips are available from us on enquiry and gives a good insight to beginners into Himalayan expeditioning.

 

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