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Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Spiti, Debsa Valley, Peak 6,135m (Ramabang)

Debsa Valley, Peak 6,135m (Ramabang). Paulie Mitchell, Darach O’Murchu, Craig Scarlett, and I, all from Ireland, traveled to India on our first Himalayan expedition to attempt the first ascent of the attractive Peak 6,135m (N 31°57'30", E77°53'10") in the East Upper Debsa Valley, near the Tibetan border. Although it is known to local shepherds, few others have explored or even know about the several tributaries of the Debsa. We arrived at our 4,250m base camp at Thwak Debsa, the confluence of two of these tributaries, after a three-day march from Sagnam village in Western Spiti. We first spent several days exploring the heads of both the West and East Upper Debsa, but poor weather repelled our attempt to cross a col linking the valleys. On June 18 we began ferrying loads and establishing an advanced base at 4,800m, at the top of a waterfall falling into the East Upper Debsa. Weather and mountain conditions were promising.

On the 21st we started up the peak via rust-red scree on the south flank of the southwest ridge. Each of us carried 18-20kgs, and it was tough going in the heat and loose terrain. Overall the rock quality in Spiti is poor—a mix of shattered slate and crumbing shale. We often pined for the familiar firm granite of our native Wicklow mountains. At 5,600m we reached the crux, a 100m tower, and camped on a saddle below it. Craig decided to wait at this camp, but at 3 a.m. the next day we others moved together with running belays across an intricate line to the right of the tower: crumbling ledges, snowy sections, and a chimney. After 140m we had passed the tower and regained the ridge, which we followed to the final hurdle, the 300m-high, 45-50° summit snowfield. The snow was reasonably firm, and at noon I set foot on the summit ridge and looked down the sweeping chasm of the northeast face.

A quick shimmy up a 7m rock stack ensured we were at its zenith. And what magnificent views: to the north the icy slopes of Kangla Tarbo (6,315m), first climbed in 2000 by Paddy O’Leary’s Irish Mountaineering Club team, and the leviathan form of Shigri Parbat (6,536m), first ascended in 1961 by Joss Lynam. And there were spectacular technical peaks to the south and west, most still awaiting a first ascent. We descended our route, spending another night at our camp below the tower. The difficulty of the route was Alpine AD.

We propose the name Ramabang for our mountain, the name meaning “place of Rama.” I have not been able to find any other mountain in the Indian Himalaya dedicated to Rama, one of the great characters of Hinduism and the hero of the sacred text The Ramayana. In the days after our ascent we three summiteers had more success explorating an adjoining valley, theBauli Khad. We made the first crossing (on July 3) of a 5,600m col to the Dibibokri Valley. Proceeding west we finally reached the Parvati Valley, thus creating a new route linking the Debsa and Parvati.

Gerry Galligan, Ireland