American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Western Garhwal, Obra Valley, Pt. 5,760m Attempt; Pt. 5,165m

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2009

Obra Valley, Pt. 5,760m attempt; Pt. 5,165m. In the autumn a four-member team from the Alpine Club became the first climbers to explore the head of the little-known Obra Valley, an area of sub-6,000m peaks west of the Bandarpunch-Swargarohini group in far western Garhwal. After driving to the roadhead at Jakhol via Mussoorie, Derek Buckle, Toto Gronlund, Bill Thurston, and I made a three-day trek to a scenic, grassy base camp at 4,055m, arriving in early October. The middle reaches of the Obra are dominated by the splendid icy Ranglana (5,554m), which had previously been the main objective of the only other climbing team to visit this valley: the British pair Gerry and Louise Wilson, with guru Harish Kapadia and seven friends. Conditions were poor during this 2006 visit and only a lower summit, Dhodu Ka Gunchha (5,130m), was climbed. They did not attempt Ranglana nor the highest peaks, Pts. 5,849m and 5,760m, at the head of the valley above the Devkir Glacier.

In 2008 access to the upper Devkir proved lengthy and complex, consuming much time in reconnaissance and failed attempts, as did the daily weather pattern of afternoon snowfall. When we finally reached the 5,325m Devkyari Col, separating the two high peaks at the head of the glacier, we discovered the rocky southeast ridge of 5,849m to be steep, loose, and uninviting. Fortunately, the fine, corniced, snow arête forming the northwest ridge of lower 5,760m looked eminently climbable. Caching some gear, we descended to a lower camp, aiming to get established on the col the following day.

With the help of two Sherpas, we set up camp just below the pass early on October 14, but by afternoon snowfall was heavy. Next morning was no better, and after plowing through deep avalanche-prone snow for less than 100m above the col, we realized it wasn't going to happen. Zero visibility pinned us at camp until the morning of the 16th, when we were able to escape to base camp.

Two days later Buckle and Gronlund snatched a consolation prize, ascending the first valley north of base camp to a small col, then up the southwest ridge of Pt. 5,165m at PD. They suggest the name Lammergeyer Peak for this previously virgin summit, which provided a splendid viewpoint.

This area offers great potential for alpine climbing and further exploration. For instance, during 2006 Kapadia photographed impressive granite walls and towers northwest of the middle valley (but not visible from the valley floor), which he named the Jairai Rocks. And there is the attractive Ranglana, but it will not be an easy catch. Thanks to the Mount Everest Foundation for sponsorship and to Harish Kapadia for information on the Obra valley from the 2006 expedition.

Martin Scott, Alpine Club

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