Name of the Peak: Losar, Height: 6040m,
Area: Spiti valley Dist: Kullu & Manali, State : HP, Country: India
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Team: Rajan Rikame (Leader), Bholaram Thakur (Deputy), Kaivalya Varma, Ravi Bangera, Prashant Sawant, Suhas Shirke, Amit Patil
Agency: Shikhar Par,
Guide : Mahendra, Pyarelal, Cook: Tejram
Duration: 20 th July 2012 to 9th August 2012
Sponser : Bhramanti Mountaineers , Mumbai
This expedition was witnessed with a mountaineering gap of 4 years from my last expedition Nya Kangri in July 2008 but for Bhramanti it was after 2 years of gap.
Preparation started around six months prior the actual date. The expedition proposal & team selection (total 8 members) was initiated by Kaivalya and finally officially supported by me and the club based on their regular trekking/climbing practice since past one year. Two members backed off due to personal reasons. Hence the number reduced to six. The expedition meeting location was our usual destination (Milind's garage office).The expedition gear packing location was decided as Kaivalya's home where major equipment was already stored. Though I missed all home made dinner while late hour packing at his place, but thanks to his mom for the food during that period.
Kishore, Ravi & Mukesh took the major initial task of
registering the club with IMF while Milind (Bhramanti Treasurer & founder member) took charge of official audit formalities for the IMF registration. This was must do task since the team had decided to go as IMF approved expedition 1st time ever under 10-year history of Bhramanti. Prashant & Suhas took charge of coordinating with agency for all support work to help us out in the expedition. Amit helped Kaivalya & Ravi for preparing/collecting list of necessary common technical gear requirement and food planning. Suhas was given additional responsibility of photography since he was trained in it. And I was helping everyone to purchase their personal gears from all online sources in US. Thanks to my office (The Northern Trust, Chicago) for granting me to one month vacation. We ordered three custom-made tents for this expedition purchased by Milind/Kishore/myself. Thanks to Kishore and Milind for this generosity. Thanks to Bhushan (Allied-Petzl) for lending some of the technical gear and high altitude clothing on time.
We traveled on 20th July from Borivali(Mumbai) to
Chandhigadh by train
and further by road to Manali by private vehicle. It was one of the exciting journey for me in terms of knowing all the members on the go and was delighted to see the enthusiasm of the team.
We spent 2 days in Manali for acclimatization and the grocery purchase. Also completed the so called official formalities reporting the institute and police head quarter about our expedition plan. Little sad since unable to get a single apple from the apple farm where our stay was since it was little early. It was nice weather and we walked in the surrounding areas within lush green Solang valley in an attempt to get acclimatized all 2 days during our stay.
We left Manali on 24th July via Rohatang/Chhatru/Kunzum
route to Losar (4000m), a 6 hrs drive through rough road holding the sidebar of the 4 wheel drive vehicle and breath while eyes were witnessing the Nature with those commanding mountains, river (Spiti), water falls and the CB (Chandra Bhaga) range of mountains. After looking at every snow cladded mountains, as a natural instinct most of us must had some thought of probable climbing route or atleast tried to find a probable climbing route. Kunzum la or the Kunzum Pass (altitude 4,551 m; 14,931 ft) is the entrance pass to the Spiti Valley from Lahaul. It is 21 km from Chandra Tal. This district is connected to Manali through the Rohtang Pass. To the south, Spiti ends 24 km from Tabo
We had route information of Losar Valley from earlier 1994 expedition of Climber’s Club, but over the period of time, the road ahead from Losar to Camp-1 was wiped off due to rain, snow and landslide. So we had to make route using Ice Axe and other available equipments.
We spent days 2 in Losar camp for acclimatization at this height while our support staff tried to open the washed out route. They did a half way load ferry the 2nd day. Day 3 (26-Jul) we trekked for 6 hrs to reach Base Camp at 4500m height with our personal gear while the porters ferried the additional luggage. In mountaineering term these ports are called Low Altitude Porters (LAP). We hired them for 3 days and 10 in numbers. Now we had 6 members support team with us till we return.
Spent 2 days in BC. Same way the support team spent 2 days to open the entire route to Advance Base Camp (ABC). This was more difficult than Losar to BC. Day 6 (29-Jul) we ferried our personal gear to ABC which is at 5000m height. We found lot of fossile marks hardcoded on the rocks between BC to ABC approach. We had our tent pitched on the slope. We tried flattening the ground by arranging rocks to provide a flat base for the tent. It took 2 hrs and finally the surface was little better and comfortable, worth the effort. Our expedition treasurer Ravi was showing some altitude signals all the time while ascent and it was not getting better as we moved higher. Hence next day Ravi had to be sent back to BC due to altitude sickness while Prashant agreed to accompany and take care of him at BC along with 2 support staff (Aakash, Viru). As per natural habitat is concern we saw once Ibex (mountain goat) on the scree and many times brown coloured rats (without tail) near our kitchen area.
We moved further to Camp 1 (5000m) with just 2 tents, one for 4 members
(Amit, Suhas, Kaivalya
and Myself) and other one for 4 support members (Bholaram, Pyarelal, Tejram, Mahendra) on 30th Jul by climbing 4 hrs above ABC towards east. The further route was opened by support team (Pyarelal and Mahendra) untill 5600m. The last 440m height gain was supposed to be from left ridge of east face. The slope ridge was supposed to be mixed route of rock and snow/ice as per our information . In reality the ridge was entirely covered with hard ice with gradient 65 to 70 degree. 31st July we were supposed to attempt the east face as much as we can starting at 1am. But till 2am the entire valley was covered with clouds hence cancelled the attempt that day. Mahendra had been asked to return with additional high altitude food from BC, hence he left at 6am. Morning 9am Pyarelal and Tejram went further to rekie the summit route ahead of last point they reached. During that time Myself, Amit, Suhas followed untill 5200m height towards east face while Bholaram and Kaivalya rested at Camp-1. This time Pyarelal and Tejram came up with broken heart mentioning not worth attempting since no route exists except lot of artificial climb. Mahendra returned back in the afternoon with bag of extra food.
Evening Bholaram decided to return back next day to BC since he got hit by altitude sickness from past few days.
We were mentally unprepared of the east face ice climbing challenge which has 3 crevises due to mainly time and equipment. Hence we( Pyarelal and Mahendra) explored the east face route which is from rocky steep terrain and after considerable thought based our their views decided to attempt the west face route.
While Support team went on rekie the west face route on 3rd day (1st Aug) of camp 1, we practiced height gain of 200m on the new route following the glacier and lateral morraine from Camp1. That day was worst for Amit and he was showing rapid altitude sickness syndromes. We decided to sent him back with Suhas leaving only two of us to move further. But later Kaivalya suggested to accompany them in case Amit had to be evacuated to BC the same night. At 6:30pm of they left Camp1 along with 1 support team. They were supposed to continue with me for summit attempt. That evening I got SOS signal from someone (it was Kaivalya, later identified on Walkie Talkie) from lower height while I was watching them descending. Immediately I told the 2 support members to go down to help them or check what was going on. Amit's condition was worsening hence it was signaled. Our support members returned after confirming everything was ok. Still we were alert in case required the 2 were ready to go down to ABC in the night to help Amit descend further down to BC immediately. Later after Kaivalya's confirmation that everything was fine. Hence we (Pyarelal, Mahindra and myself) rested same night. We had planned to attempt the summit next day 2nd August at 2am from west face.
2nd August we (Mahendra, Pyarelal, Rajan) started the approach at 3am. It was dark and covered with low clouds with not much movement. Still we moved 1 hr from C1 towards summit attempt gained 200m but no improvement in weather hence returned back to C1. Had a thought of going down to other proposed peak Lagbhor Che and Tarimo base but that too was all together new venture starting from scratch. Hence along with HAP and Guide and BC team (Kaivalya, Bhola on walki talki) we decided to attempt one more time the same route of Losar. As I was alone at Camp 1 tent, the breaking of glacier sound was bit scary since we camped on glacier and it was more during the day time.
3rd August 2012 started at 3am with only climbing member ‘Rajan Rikame’ and 2 Support Team members (Mahendra and Pyarelal).
Weather was clear till 8am. We climbed 3 rock patches one with water ways. After 8am weather started controling our movments, it was worsened with rain and later snow fall.
We reached 5735m on the left shoulder of the peak at 9:00am. We waited for 20 minute hoping for clear weather. Meanwhile took all sourrounding pictures as much as I can saving my lens from snow. Also took the photos including my company (The northern Trust) banner. Finally we decided to return
back due to bad weather. At 1:00pm we reached Camp1.
Next day we returned to BC. While the BC support team
did one load ferry the same afternoon.
Next day they return back to BC for remaining load from BC to the road ahead (Losar bridge) on 5th of Aug. We celebrated our attempt at Manali (Bhola's house) on 6th Aug. On the 7th we cleared all formalities with the agency, sorted all luggage and got ready for transportation. On 8th evening we travelled from Manali to Delhi. I parted the team at Delhi since had a scheduled flight to Mumbai while rest of the them travelled by train on 10th afternoon.
We recollected all our effort and best moments during the expedition in brief to mark an end as “we do mountaineering to enjoy the adventure in the mountains & if one summits then it is a bonus". This will provide a hope for our future new team for a good summit achievement.
Congratulation to all members for safe and sound return, and reaching ABC-5000m (Ravi, Prashant), Camp1-5200m (Amit, Suhas, Kaivalya) and maximum height gain(5740m) by Rajan.
Special Thanks to Kaivalya for the tremendous work before expedition. Thanks to Milind/Kishore/Ravi/Mukesh help for the club registration with IMF. Thanks to Prashant/Suhas for coordination with Bholaram. Thanks to Bholaram and specially Mahendra and Pyarelal for major route opening. Thanks to Bhushan (Allied Petzl) for providing the technical gear and clothing support. Thanks to Gita Samant and team providing useful information about 1994 expedition by way of slide show. And finally thanks to Bhramanti Mountaineers and core team without whom we could not have done anything.
Written by: Rajan Rikame