Asia, India Punjab, Hanuman Tibba or Bruce's Solang Weisshorn

Publication Year: 1967.

Hanuman Tibba or Bruce’s Solang Weisshorn. In his book Kulu and Lahoul Brigadier General C. G. Bruce describes the first ascent of the mountain he named “Solang Weisshorn” (19,450 feet) on the Kulu-Bara Bangahal divide, a few miles northwest of Manali. This was made on June 23, 1912 by the Swiss guide Heinrich Fuhrer and a Gurkha soldier. The second ascent of this peak, known to the paharis (hillmen) as Hanuman Tibba, which is likely to become the official name, was made 54 years later on June 3 by an Indo-British party organized by the Bombay Climbers’ Club. The party consisted of J. Nanavati, V. Nadkarni, E. G. Warhurst and myself as leader with the Sherpas Pasang Lakhpa and Ang Nima and the Ladakhis Rinzing and Chering Namgyal. We approached Hanuman Tibba from the southeast via the precipitous gorges of the Manalsu River, held by local hunters to be impassable, which I had attempted unsuccessfully on three previous occasions. The eventual route took seven days to cover nine miles and to gain 5300 feet. We fixed 520 feet of rope on the cliff sections as security for the seven Tibetan porters who, though progressively more reluctant to rock-climb with 65-pound loads, saw the caravan through to Base Camp at 11,500 feet. This was established on May 27 in the upper Manalsu valley, three miles south of Seri, beneath a spectacular 3000-foot rock wall and close to a spur inhabited by a herd of splendid ibex. Camp I was northwards at 14,500 feet. Beyond, the route soon climbed out of the upper Manalsu, over its west containing wall, and across the Kulu-Bara Bangahal by easy but exhausting névés to the foot of the south face of Hanuman Tibba. Camp II was established at 16,500 feet on June 2. Two ropes—Pasang and I, and Ang Nima and Rinzing — set off at dawn of the 3rd to make a summit bid by a route which weaved through the tripletiered ice cliffs of the south face. Progress was encouragingly swift as far as the upper tier, some 600 feet below the summit cone. With a loud report, a quarter-mile-wide windslab avalanche split off at the exact level of the upper rope and swept all four helplessly down the slope for 500 feet to discard us on the narrow terrace above the second tier. Later examination of the debris showed that the avalanche had continued on a further 1500 feet and had come close to obliterating Camp II before it stopped. Uninjured but bereft of ice axes, we traversed eastwards to gain the crest of the corniced east ridge. Climbing steeply past small outcrops of vivid yellow rock, we reached the summit at 11:30. An hour later, after depositing a thermos flask containing names on the highest outcrop, we began an uneventful descent to Camp II, reentered at 3:30 P.M. Two virgin peaks of 17,400 and 16,524 feet were also climbed by the expedition, which returned to Manali by a high-level route on June 7.

Robert Pettigrew, Alpine Club