American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Kumaon, Adi Kailash Range, First Ascents and an Attempt on Adi Kailash

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Adi Kailash Range, first ascents and an attempt on Adi Kailash. A joint Indo-British expedition led by Martin Moran explored the Adi Kailash mountain range of Eastern Kumaon in Sept-Oct. No previous climbing had been recorded in this area, which lies between the Darma Ganga and Kuthi Yankti valleys east of Panch Chuli, and within the Inner Line security zone adjacent to the Tibetan border. The range was found to possess six 20,000' peaks and dozens of challenging 5,000m summits. The main objective was Adi Kailash (6,191m: a.k.a Little Kailash), a peak with distinct resemblance to Holy Mount Kailash some 110km to the north in Tibet.

The team obtained Inner Line permits and a climbing permit for Little Kailash and its surrounding tops. Since Adi Kailash is itself regarded as a holy peak, the team undertook not to tread the final 10m of the mountain. Approaching via the Darma valley, the party reconnoitred the western approaches to the range and found that access to Little Kailash is blocked by a higher peak of ca 6,300m. They therefore crossed to Jolingkong in the Kuthi Yankti via the Shin La (5,500m), which is advertised as a trekkers’ pass but has a tricky and potentially dangerous western wall of PD+ standard. Adi Kailash rises directly above Jolingkong, where there is a sacred lake and small temple.

An attractive 5,950m snow peak north of the Shin La was ascended at PD+ by a team of six (Richard Ausden, Martin Moran, Tom Rankin, Mangal Singh, Steve Ward and Andrew Williams). They wish to christen this The Maiden. Two smaller 5,000m peaks were climbed close to Jolingkong lake at grades F and AD respectively. Mike Freeman, James Gibb, Pat Harborow and Moran then attempted the north face of Adi Kailash, following the left-hand of three prominent glacier tongues. Having found a way through the crux rock band at Scottish III/IV, they were stopped by a combination of 55° powder snow lying over loose shale 200m from the summit. On the return journey John Allott, Freeman, Moran and Hari Singh crossed the 5,200m Nama Pass (PD), which links the two valleys between Kuthi and Sela. Long-known as a traditional route for local people, this glacier pass is now rarely traversed but gives access to several of the other peaks in the range.

The nomenclature and altitudes of many peaks could not be accurately ascertained. The team was not allowed to take a GPS device nor given sight of any recent military maps. Instead they had to rely on a dated 1:200,000 Survey of India extract. The Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel were otherwise helpful and co-operative throughout the visit.

This remarkable area was entirely unspoilt save for Border Police check posts. Many highly challenging peaks were discovered, most particularly 5,950m Yungtangto, the five-toothed ridge of Pandav Parvat, and 6,321m Nikurch Rama, which has an nightmarish north east face.

In recent years a gradual relaxation of restrictions to joint and foreign expeditions has enabled climbers to penetrate many exciting border ranges in India for the first time in 40 years. Official Climbing and Inner Line permits must be obtained and fees are currently $4,900 for all border peaks.

Martin Moran, U.K.

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