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Asia, India, Banderpunch I (Black Peak), Garhwal

Banderpunch 1 (Black Peak), Garhwal. On June 7 three members of the Indian Army Regiment of Artillery’s team and one Sherpa stood on the summit of Banderpunch I (20,956 feet), commonly called the Black Peak. (First ascent, June 7, 1955 by J. T. M. Gibson and two Sherpas— Editor.) We were very fortunate with the weather, and the Mountain Gods were so kind that the feat was repeated again on June 8 by three other members and one Sherpa. Only one of us failed to reach the summit because of high altitude. The party consisted of Captains M. S. Joshi, K. N. Thadani and T. Ao, of Lieutenants Y. K. Yadav, O. P. Manchanda and B. L. Bhatt and of me. I selected two Sherpas, Thendup and Phurba Lobsang, both highly proficient and skilled technically besides being excellent companions on the mountain. Last year they had accompanied me to Cho Oyu. On June 3 we left Base Camp at 12,000 feet above the Tons River for Camp I (16,500 feet), which had been stocked with essential supplies for 12 days. First we traversed the steep hillside, occasionally crossing snow and ice in the gullies. Then we trudged along the lateral moraine until we reached our camp on the right bank of the Banderpunch Glacier, just short of the snowline. According to plan, Party B set out early to establish Camp II just below the final summit ridge. They returned in the evening wornout and with altitude headaches but optimistic about being able to make the climb from that camp to the summit. On the other hand, I knew by experience that heights and distances are very often misjudged in the Himalayas. June 3 dawned fine and Party A moved up. Five hours of grueling hard work, traversing up a very steep slope cut by snow and ice gulleys and then through soft snow and occasional patches of hard ice brought us to Camp II. I was not happy about its location as from this very site I had in 1955 attempted the mountain but had failed, completely worn-out by bad snow conditions 600 feet short of the summit. We therefore shouldered as much as 60 pounds each. After an hour and a half’s slow and careful climb along the ridge, which involved some step-cutting, we established Camp II at 19,000 feet, just below the summit ridge and 2000 feet below the top. June 7 dawned clear and fine. At 4 A.m. the stove was lit and an odd, revolting mixture of ovaltine and tsampa was swallowed. We cramponed and left Camp II at 5:30, roped in two pairs and wearing all available clothing. After two hours of steady, rhythmic climbing, we were on the final exposed and windy ridge. Blowing snow lashed us. We ascended one false summit after another, hoping that the next one would be the last. By now we were above the surrounding peaks. After a steep ascent we suddenly reached the summit, knife-edged and with a corniced face. On both days the Sherpas reached the actual summit first on my instructions to give credit to the work done by the Sherpas in the Himalayas. They serve well and faithfully. Offerings of food were made to the Mountain Gods, an old mountain custom. I took two quick photographs of the party and the Regiment of Artillery flag in colour and black and white. We spent 15 minutes on the summit. A rapid descent was made to get away from the gathering mountain fury indicated by ominous clouds. Care was taken at steep ice traverses and crevasses. On arrival at Camp II we were greeted, hugged and congratulated by Party B. We gulped mugs of lime juice and chocolate, rested and departed at a painfully slow pace for Camp I. Next day I could observe from Camp I four black figures on the final ridge, making slow but good progress. The first pair got to the summit at 10:30 a.m. and the second, two hours later.

Captain Jagjit Singh, Indian Army, Himalayan Club