Asia, India—Eastern Karakoram, Saser Kangri I, West Ridge, and Saser IV

Publication Year: 1988.

Saser Kangri I, West Ridge, and Saser IV. In 1973, an Indo-Tibetan Border Police team climbed Saser Kangri from the eastern or Shyok River approach. Four unsuccessful attempts were later made from the west. Saser II and III were also climbed by Indo-Japanese and Indo-Tibetan Border Police teams in 1985 and 1986 respectively. Saser IV alone remained unclimbed. A joint Indo-British Army expedition under my leadership composed of 36 Indians and 19 British reached Leh on April 7. The British leader was Colonel Ivar Hellberg. The joint team acclimatized in the Zanskar region south of Leh. We established Base Camp at 4950 meters at the snout of the Phukpoche Glacier, a day’s trek from Panamik in the Nubra valley. We made a two-pronged attempt on Saser Kangri I, via the northwest ridge along the North Phukpoche Glacier and the west ridge along the South Phukpoche Glacier, the latter being the main effort. Seven Indians and four British climbed P 6640 (21,785 feet) on the northwest ridge during May and June. In the meantime, the team on the west ridge fixed twenty rope-lengths, made excellent progress and climbed virgin Saser IV (7410 meters, 24,310 feet) in two parties. The first, consisting of Martin Bazire, Dave Howie, Thakur Dass, Devi Singh and Lalit Negi, reached the summit at two P.M. on June 6. The British pair climbed a snow gully on the west face and took nearly eight hours from Camp III, while the three Indians first carried out six hours of route fixing on the summit ridge of Saser Kangri I; they then astonished everyone by making it to the summit of Saser IV in one-and-a-half hours on their return journey, following the south ridge from the col. A second party, Jodh Dhillon, Dave Orange and Dave Torrington, reached the summit at nine A.M. on June 7. After the success on Saser IV, the weather suddenly deteriorated. Indians got to the western foresummit of Saser Kangri I on June 7 and 8. No further progress was made for a fortnight thereafter. We withdrew to Base Camp. The weather improved slightly on June 24. Two teams were poised at Camp II (Advance Base) at 5800 meters and at Camp III at 6500 meters. On June 25, Lopsang, Tshering, Umed Singh, Devi, Somnath, Anchuk and Sandop left Camp III at nine A.M. and were on the summit at noon. In a most remarkable feat, ND Sherpa, Sonam and Magan Bissa climbed to the top of Saser Kangri I from Advance Base. They climbed 6000 feet in nine hours and descended to Camp I at 5450 meters that same evening. Two days later the team was at the roadhead at Panamik.

D.K. Khullar, Brigadier, Indian Army