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Asia, India–Eastern Karakoram, Chong Kumdan and Other Peaks

Chong Kumdan and Other Peaks. Our expedition consisted of Indians Muslim H. Contractor, Bhupesh Ashar, Vijay Kothari, Dhiren Pania, Ajay Tambe and me as leader, Britons David Wilkinson as British leader, Paul Nunn, Lindsay Griffin, John Porter, Neil McAdie and Dr. William Church, liaison officer Captain Arun Pandey and six porters. After completing preparations and permissions, we left Leh on July 9 and started with 25 mules from Sasoma on the 12th. The approach to Base Camp was over the Saser La (5395 meters) and then north up the Shyok River. The Saser La was easy, but we crossed the Aq Tash and Thangman Nalas with some difficulty. Rock slabs below the Kumdam Plain were not fit for passage by loaded mules. We ferried loads and finally cajoled the mules up the Chong Kumdan Glacier moraine to within two-hours’ walk of our proposed Base Camp. This we established at 5100 meters on July 18 on the only green spot beside the glacier near the junction with the Chogam I Glacier. This was as scheduled, which was remarkable as other expeditions have been delayed by bureaucratic and terrain hurdles. From July 19 to 21, loads were ferried to Base Camp. The main glacier was reconnoitered and above the junction of the Chogam II Glacier, Polu Camp was set up at 5450 meters. Contractor and I explored the western head of the glacier towards Nup Col (6250 meters). Porter and McAdie went up the Chogam III Glacier and explored the northwestern approaches to Chong Kumdam I. The early climbs completed the necessary knowledge of the region. Camps I and II were placed at 5900 and 6300 meters. The following first ascents were made. Chong Kumdan V (c. 6520 meters, 21.391 feet): This peak lies on the southeast ridge of Chong Kumdan I and rose above Base Camp. Wilkinson, Church, Griffin, Nunn, Porter, McAdie, Tambe and Ashar reached the summit in a two-day push on July 21 and 22 via the southeast ridge on ice and mixed terrain. Chong Kumdan IV (c. 6520 meters, 21.391 feet): Wilkinson and Church traversed the Chogam I Glacier to the foot of the peak on the northeast ridge of Chong Kumdan I on steep ice and mixed ground. They reached the summit on July 26. Kichik Kumdan (c. 6640 meters, 21,785 feet): This dome-shaped peak had a surprise in store for us. The peak was of hard ice and the north side had a continuous cornice. Nunn and Griffin climbed the steep south face to the east ridge on July 30. Keeping a few meters below the cornice, they had to traverse on ice constantly. After reaching the summit, they continued to the west but the difficulties did not cease. After six hours of ice work they got to the west col and returned to their bivouac exhausted. A second attempt on August 4 failed. Chang Col (c. 6500 meters, 21,326 feet): Contractor, porters Pasang Bodh and Tikam Ram, and I reached this high col between Chong Kumdan I and Kichik Kumdam on August 2. Chong Kumdan I (7071 meters, 23,200 feet): Wilkinson, Church, Porter and McAdie climbed this prized peak on August 4. It had been reconnoitered from all angles and finally the four were established near the Chang Col bergschrund. They left at three A.M. to climb the west face with head-torches in extreme cold. After sustained difficulties on ice and hard snow, they turned north onto a ramp where they had to guard against loose stones. They reached the northwest ridge at 6800 meters and climbed the ridge unroped to get to the top at ten A.M. The peak was later attempted on August 14 by Griffin and Nunn, but sickness of the latter stopped them at 6640 meters. The North and Central Kumdam Glaciers are major branches of the main glacier and lead to the northeast and northwest respectively. There was no history of visitors until we entered from August 8 to 16. We were stopped by two days of bad weather at Camp I North. Finally, from Camp II North, Laknis (6235 meters, 20,456 feet) was climbed by the long southeast ridge. After many ups and downs and false summits, Wilkinson, Church, McAdie, Ashar, Contractor, Tambe, porter Pasang Bodh and I completed the ascent on the exposed ridge of rotten rock on August 12. Chong Ibex Col (c. 6000 meters, 19,685 feet): At the head of the Central Kumdan Glacier on the north ridge coming from Chong Kumdan II, it links the Kumdan Glacier system with the Terong Glacier, which we had explored in 1985. Ashar, Contractor and Pasang Bodh reached it on August 14 from Camp II North. Kumdan Terong (6456 meters, 21,182 feet): Situated on the watershed between the Central and North Kumdan Glaciers, it overlooks the Terong and Siachen Glacier peaks. Approaching from the south, Ashar, Contractor and Pasang Bodh reached the summit on August 15. Landay (6170 meters, 20,243 feet): On August 16, the last first ascent was made by McAdie and Church. They crossed the broken main glacier from Base Camp to a narrow valley to the southeast. The next day, they climbed the steep north ridge. Chong Kumdan III (6670 meters, 21,884 feet) was attempted unsuccessfully by Contractor, Pasang Bodh and Tikam Ram on August 3. From the col between the peak and Kichik Kumdan, they tried a route from the north first and then the northeast ridge. Loose powdery snow and two crevasses made the ascent too dangerous. Three second ascents were also made on the northern ridge of the Chogam I Glacier. All had been climbed by us in 1989. Chogam (6250 meters, 20,506 feet): August 4 by Kothari, Pania and porters Yog Raj Buruwa and Prakash Chand; August 7 by Captain Pandey, Tambe and Ashar; August 15 by Wilkinson, porters Tikam Ram Thakur, Tikam Ram and me; August 16 by Griffin. Stos (6005 meters, 19,702 feet): August 7 by Ashar: August 16 by Griffin. Skyang (5770 meters, 18,931 feet): August 17 by Wilkinson, Nunn, Griffin, porters Prakash Chand and Tikam Ram and me. By August 24, we were at Sasoma and were back at Leh on August 26. Excellent cooperation and friendship between all team members and porters made this the happiest international expedition in recent years.

Harish Kapadia, Himalayan Club