Dedicated to the daring Poles who made the first ascent of Nanda Devi East in 1939
In June-July, 2014, a small, lightweight and semi-alpine style expedition succeeded in climbing Nanda Devi East (7434m) in the Kumaun Himalaya, India. Summit was reached on 3 July, 2014. This is the 12th ascent of the peak out of 28 expeditions in the past 75 years.
|Polish alpinist reaching summit of Nanda Devi East in 1939. Nanda Devi main summit partly behind clouds in the background. Photo Courtesy: Polish Mountaineering Association|
In May 2013 , I had attempted to climb Nanda Devi East with a group of fellow Indian climbers. 4 days of non-stop snowfall resulted in limited climbing days and that in turn caused shortage of food and fuel. In spite of these limiting factors, we had made good progress on the mountain and even could manage one summit attempt from a camp at around 6600m. But during the summit attempt, extremely high wind above 6900m and poor gear conditions of the team added to the agony. I decided to turn back from below the summit pyramid, from near the first step, putting safety of the team as first priority. This retreat of 2013 always fueled my desire to come back to Nanda Devi East and the 2014 expedition was born when I exchanged my thoughts and ideas with mountaineer-historian-altitude illness expert Dr.George Rodway. George and I have been on an expedition together back in 2009 in remote North Sikkim and I felt privileged to have him on board again this time.
(You can read about our 2013 expedition to Nanda Devi East here: http://nanda-devi-east.blogspot.in/)
We left Delhi on 10 June and used overnight public bus services to reach Kathgodam. From Kathgodam we hired a jeep to reach Munsiyari on 11 June, the road head. On 12 June, we were kept busy in organizing low altitude porters and procuring local permits from the Sub- Divisional Magistrate’s Office and the Indo-Tibet Border Police at Munsiyari. On 13 June, we started our trek to Base Camp and after spending 5 nights in the approach march we established Base Camp at Bidalgwar (4250m) on 17 June. We had hired help of 12 low altitude porters from Munsiyari to carry their food and gear up to BC.
|Position of our camps in 2014 expedition|
The Nanda Devi Khal (Longstaff’s Col) - South ridge route of Nanda Devi East in Kumaun Himalaya was climbed from the Lawan valley.
Nanda Devi Khal was first climbed by Dr. T. G. Longstaff (along with two Swiss guides) in 1905 and the South ridge route was first climbed by the Polish team in 1939. Interestingly, there has been no other route established on this mountain since then. Thus, the Polish route remains classic and unique on Nanda Devi East to this date. Only the approach has been restricted to Lawan side due to the closure of the Nanda Devi sanctuary since the early eighties.
Beyond BC, the team ferried load for a few days to the foot of Longstaff’s col and established an Advanced Base Camp (4750m). Above ABC, another camp (Intermediate Camp 5000m) was established on a rock step on the lower slopes of the Longstaff’s Col. This Intermediate Camp (5000m) was established in an aim to shorten the 1100m plus climb from ABC to Nanda Devi Khal and the idea proved to be very helpful. From the Intermediate Camp (5000m), Longstaff’s Col (5910m) was climbed in only 5 hours and Camp I was made.
|A glimpse of Nanda Devi Main 7816m from the summit of Nanda Devi East 7434m|
|Team on the summit with engulfing clouds on 3 July at around 12.30 pm|
Beyond Longstaff’s Col, 3 more camps were established respectively in altitudes 6100m (Camp II), 6400m (Camp III) and 6800m (Camp IV). In total we had put 4 camps on the south ridge.
|On the ridge between Camp II and Camp III|
Compared to our attempt in 2013, we found the entire south ridge almost devoid of snow this year. We were stuck in our Camp III (6400m) for 2 extra nights due to bad weather and this in turn resulted in a lot new powder snow on the summit pyramid, making our summit day a slow and struggling affair.
Style of Climb
Being a small team and a very low budget expedition, we carried a limited amount of static rope to fix. We fixed our ropes en route Longstaff’s Col from Intermediate Camp and on the Pinnacles. Above and beyond the pinnacles, we re-fixed old rope that we found on the mountain itself, in sections. We did load ferries of hardware and food up to Camp II and ascended the rest of the ridge in ‘carry, camp and climb’ style.
|Tackling one of the numerous rock steps on the south ridge|
We found huge garbage including food and gear left by an Indian Army expedition (2007- Kumaun Regiment Expedition with 5 dead) on the Nanda Devi Khal. We brought down as much as it was possible to carry down the treacherous route by a small team like ours.
|Cleaning the Longstaff's Col|
George Rodway (USA), Thendup Sherpa (India), Anindya Mukherjee (India), Temba Sherpa (High altitude supporter), Dup Tsering (High altitude supporter), Lhakpa Sherpa (Base Camp Cook) and Himanshu Pandey (Liaison Officer)
We are grateful to all our friends for their invaluable support and help. I would like to mention the names of Arindam Mukherjee, Alberto Peruffo, A Jake Preston, Alan Tees, Andrew Tees, Bill Goers, Pascal Dogneux, Bryan Hylenski, Karan Singh and Dr. Kallol Das in particular.