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Asia, India–Karakoram, Mamostong

Mamostong. Five climbers from Japan and eight from India left Leh by truck, crossed the Khardung La and arrived after a tough drive at the roadhead, Sasoma, in the Nubra valley. Instead of waiting for the ponies that were to carry our gear to Base Camp, I set out with 14 Gorkha porters up the Tulum Puti Topko. On the third day, August 15, we set up Base Camp at Skyangpoche North at 15,100 feet on the Mamostong Glacier. The entire team was gathered by August 18 and we moved to Advance Base at 16,075 feet near a tarn north of the Mamostong Glacier. Previous plans were to ascend the Chong Kumdan Glacier but we were too late for this; too much snow melt was in the glacial streams. We went on up the Mamostong Glacier, a gentle walk despite the occasional jumble of boulders where glaciers join it. Hidden at its head is Mamostong, whose name means “Many Devils’ Peak.” None of us had as much as seen a picture of the peak with its sheer rock faces, crumbling narrow rock ribs and masses of hanging glaciers. The mountain seemed unclimbable from the south and east. A 20,000-foot col east of the peak leads to the Thangman Glacier. We fixed some ten pitches down to and across the Thangman and camped at about 20,000 feet. We then headed for a saddle that separates the Thangman and Chong Kumdan Glaciers northeast of the peak. By August 30 we had made Camp III in the col and fixed 20 pitches along the ridge as it weaved up ice of uncertain stability. We then made a tactical error and went down to Base Camp for a rest in clear sunshine. On September 2 clouds and high winds filled the valleys. After restless days we went up to occupy higher camps and were beaten back. We could occupy Camps II and III only on September 12. Five climbers left Camp III at 4:30 A.M. on September 13 and reached the summit of Mamostong (7516 meters, 24,660 feet) about eleven A.M. The next morning’s attempt did not come off due to cloud and snow. On September 15 five more reached the summit in zero visibility. Two others and I had pulled out of the viewless climb and were rewarded on September 16 with a clear, windless morning. The wind discovered us and the clouds accompanied us up the last 150 feet. The weather had been fine from August 18 to September 2 but it was unsettled afterwards with high winds. At the beginning of the expedition our mail runner was drowned crossing a glacial stream. We used Indian food up to Base Camp and Japanese food thereafter.

Balwant Sandhu, Director, Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttar Kashi, India