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Asia, India—Himachal Pradesh, Manirang, Saponang and Ghunsarang, Spiti

Manirang, Saponang and Ghunsarang, Spiti. The second phase of the Indo-British expedition was equally successful, with the third ascent of Manirang, the first ascents of Saponang and Ghunsarang and the crossing of the Manirang Pass. After four days of rest, Britons Paul Nunn, Jim Curran, Indians Muslim Contractor, Kaivan Mistry, Divyesh Muni and I traveled by jeep to Spiti, reaching Sichling on June 30. On July l, we crossed the Spiti River to get to Mane village at 3600 meters. Baggage was transported by donkeys to Base Camp at 4840 meters above Saponang village. Manirang was first climbed in 1952 by South Africans Dr. and Mrs. J. de V. Graaf. An unsuccessful attempt by Bombay climbers in June, 1988, was followed that September by the second ascent by the Parachute Regiment expedition of the Indian Army led by Colonel Balwant Sandhu. On July 6, Contractor, Muni and I found a site for Camp I at 5700 meters, where earlier teams had camped. We decided to establish Camp II. On July 7, we moved to Camp I and on the 8th, Nunn, Contractor, Muni, Curran and I set up Camp II at 6050 meters on a fantastic portion of the southwest ridge, overlooking the west face. On July 9, we set out early on a summit attempt. A 35-meter slope of bare ice thwarted our efforts as the ridge was deceptively difficult. More equipment was required. To facilitate a compact ascent the next day, Contractor, Curran and I went down to Advance Base. Throughout the afternoon and night, there were thunder, lightning and storm. However, June 10 dawned clear. Leaving at 4:30 A.M. with all the available equipment (7 ice pitons and 5 rock pitons), Nunn and Muni found that the ice slope had retained a thin layer of snow, allowing fast progress by eight o’clock to the rock bands below the summit. The rock bands were mixed ground and the rock was disappointingly loose. It gave insecure and dangerous climbing for the five rope-lengths to the top, which they reached at 9:45 A.M. The reward was a magnificent panorama. The descent took longer than the ascent. By 2:15, they had reached the top of the icefield, down which they rappelled to easier ground. They were at camp at 4:15 P.M. After supporting the effort on Manirang, Mistry with porters Suratram and Khubram climbed two lovely peaks west of Advance Base. On July 9, they ascended shapely Saponang (5836 meters, 19,148 feet) via the col and north ridge. The next day they climbed Ghunsarang (5800 meters, 19,029 feet) by its east ridge. This snow-dome peak is above the side valley to the southwest. The baggage and the other climbers traveled to Mane village, but Contractor, Muni and I returned via the 5550-meter Manirang Pass to the Ropa valley in Kinnaur directly. This traditional trade route is no longer used and broken. We crossed the pass easily to Rankali on the afternoon of July 11. Traversing on highly exposed scree in the gorge, we camped at Liti Thach. The next camping ground at Sumdo was beautiful, but the gorge ahead, about 500 meters higher, was exposed and horrible on disused scree; there was no water for eight kilometers. After a long, hard day, we descended to Ropa and Giabong. A final taxi ride with a drunken driver almost killed us. We were finally reassembled at Kalpa on July 13.

Harish Kapadia, Editor, Himalayan Journal