Overview. Climbing activity in the Indian Himalaya has decreased. The number of both foreign and national expeditions was reduced. Fewer peaks are being attempted, especially the more challenging peaks and routes. One important deterrent is the unrealistic fee structure and regulations set by state governments. Activity was at an especially reduced level in Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal) and Sikkim.
In contrast, trekking in the Indian Himalaya has grown by leaps and bounds, and more Indians than ever are now enjoying the mountains. This increase has brought about concerns about environmental protection, though the impact of trekkers is negligible compared to the damage caused by pilgrims, security forces, and the local population. Locals have been introduced to modern packaging; paper wrapping has been replaced by aluminum foil. Together with global warming and glacial retreat, many aspects of human impact need to be examined by the government.
Thirty-seven foreign expeditions visited the Indian Himalaya during 2006, nearly all to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh. The majority were either commercially organized to easy routine peaks, or teams tackling popular high mountains. Six expeditions climbed Stok Kangri (officially, that is), two went for Dzo Jongo, and two for Kang Yissey. The Nun Kun massif was visited by four expeditions, while Shivling and Satopanth received three teams each. Difficult routes were attempted or climbed on Kedar Dome, Meru, and Changabang. Nineteen expeditions visited Uttarakhand, where the ever-popular Gangotri area attracted 13 groups and Kumaun the remaining six. Two teams visited Himachal Pradesh and one the East Karakoram. The low success rate can generally attributed to poor weather; the general unpredictability of the Himalayan weather is becoming a major concern in climbing circles.
Each year the number of Indian climbers visiting their own mountains is decreasing. The trend of attempting routine peaks such as Kalanag, Rudugaira, Hanuman Tibba, Deo Tibba, Chhamser, and Lungser Kangri has been replaced by an emphasis on altitude. Kamet, the third highest mountain on Indian soil, was attempted twice; Satopanth, the mighty 7,000er in the Gangotri, four times; and Nun once. However, some climbers did attempt difficult peaks. In addition to expeditions mentioned elsewhere in this report, Rajsekhar Ghoshs 12-member team from West Bengal made the third ascent of Nanda Khat (6,611m), and Debasis Biswas’s 10-member team, also from West Bengal, made the fourth ascent of neighboring Panwali Dwar (6,663m). In the Rupshu valley, J.S. Gulia and a 20-member school expedition claim a first ascent of an easy 6,000er (either 6,250m or 6,440m; details are lacking). Another West Bengal team, under Samir Sengupta, climbed Kullu Pumori (6,553m) on the Bara Shigri, while Kajal Dasgupta’s 12-member team (again from West Bengal) climbed Manirang (6,593m) on the Kinnaur-Spiti divide. Indian teams also attempted Purbi Dunagiri and Shivling. Twenty-six expeditions visited Himachal Pradesh, and, despite additional peak fees imposed by the state government, 20 expeditions visited Uttarakhand. Ladakh and its surroundings received six expeditions, but all to routine peaks.
Harish Kapadia, Honorary Editor, The Himalayan Journal