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Asia, India—Himachal Pradesh, Lingti and Shilla Valleys, Spiti

Lingti and Shilla Valleys, Spiti. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Mountaineers of Bombay, Zerksis Boga, Arun Samant, Muslim Contractor, Bhupesh Ashar, Shekhar Jaywant, Gaurang Bhatia and I explored the unvisited Lingti valley and Shilla valley in eastern Spiti. We climbed five peaks, attempted three others, reconnoitered two major peaks and traversed two difficult river gorges. As there is no pass at the head of the Lingti, locals rarely penetrate its deep gorges. Shilla valley has had only about four expeditions. Peak Shilla (6111 meters, 20,050 feet) was made famous by an ascent in 1860 by an unnamed survey khalasi and by the wrong height assigned to it. Chau Chau Kang Nilda (Guan Nelda; 6303 meters, 20,680 feet) was climbed by Jimmy Roberts in 1939. The latest map shows Gyah (6794 meters, 22,290 feet), adjoining Shilla, as the highest in Spiti and all Himachal Pradesh. With our “inner-line” permits, we started the 412-kilometer journey from Simla to Kaza. We reached the barren, windy, cold Lingti roadhead at midnight on July 25. We trekked on July 27 with 10 porters and 12 donkeys to Lalung village (12,000 feet). The next day we proceeded in heavy rain to Zingu (14,200 feet). On July 29 we climbed to a pass at Zingu-top (14,000 feet) and started to cross the Shijbang gorge, but we could complete the traverse to Shijbang-top (15,800) only the next day. We camped at Shijbang (14,900 feet). On August 1 we crossed the Shijbang Nala to Sanesa, traversed above Sibu and finally crossed the Sheru Nala to camp at upper Sheru (14,600 feet). The next day our yaks deposited us at Detto Numa (16,000 feet), our Lingti Base Camp. On August 3 we sited Advance Base at 17,600 feet almost at the junction of the Sheru, Tangmor and Giu Nalas. To the northeast were two peaks. One, Sibu (5700 meters, 18,701 feet), had been climbed by our advance party of K. Kutty and M. Shagwat in June. On August 5 Samant, Contractor, Ashar, Jaywant, Bhatia and I climbed Lagma (5761 meters, 18,900 feet) up a gentle snow slope. For the next three days Contractor and I with porter Sher Singh headed up the Tangmor gorge, hoping it would give access to the upper Lingti and Gyah. We descended 2500 feet to the river basin, which was full of boulders and ice bridges. In six kilometers the gorge narrowed considerably. We had to climb each intervening scree slope and rappel on the other side. On August 7 we tried unsuccessfully to make an exit to the southwest and returned to Advance Base. On August 8 we all attempted Tangmor Peak (5880 meters, 19,292 feet) and failed because of a huge, unstable cornice. We withdrew from the Lingti valley and reached Kaza on August 11. We feel that Gyah and the upper Lingti cannot be approached from Tangmor. The route may lie across the river to Lashitang and over the Chaksachan La. We left Kaza for Langja (14,200 feet) on August 14. Samant and Contractor were established at the base of Chau Chau Kang Nilda on the 15th. They pushed camp farther up and reached 19,000 feet, but constant bad weather forced them to retreat after six days on August 20. Ashar, Bhatia and I reconnoitered the route to Shilla. There is no approach over Shilla gorge in the west and one has to cross Shilla-jot (18,500 feet) and descend almost over Lashitanga in the Lingti valley. This may also give easy access to Gyah. With two camps we reached the base of an 18,000-foot pass on August 17. On the 18th we climbed scree and steep ice to an 18,600-foot col and traversed west along a corniced ridge to reach the summit of Zumto (c. 5800 meters, 19,029 feet). Bhatia returned to the col and rappelled back to camp. In inclement weather Ashar and I climbed steep rock and traversed to reach Tserip (c. 5980 meters, 19,620 feet). We descended to the north and traversed to climb Kawu (c. 5910 meters, 19,390 feet). We descended and traversed east to Shilla-jot and down to camp. We had climbed three peaks on this semi-circular basin. On August 21 we started to travel back from Kaza.

Harish Kapadia, Himalayan Club