Changuch (6322m), First Ascent

Asia, India, Central Garhwal, Kumaon
Climb Year: 2009. Publication Year: 2010.

On June 9, an Indo-British team made the first recorded ascent of Changuch, an elegant sharp-edged peak that was one of the last major virgin summits in the region. Changuch lies northwest of Nanda Kot on the divide between the Lawan and Pindar valleys, directly opposite the southeast face of Nanda Devi East. Three previous attempts from the Pindari side had failed, and in 2007 an ice avalanche in the Pindari icefall killed two Sherpas. The northern approach from the Lawan Valley is much easier, and our first ascent team found a line up snowy ramps and couloirs at 45–55° to gain the northwest ridge at a 5,850m col. From here the final ridge rises in several steps, mixed ground giving way to exposed snow/ ice slopes of 55–60°. The summit team of Paul Guest, Rob Jarvis, Luder Sain (Liaison Officer), Leon Winchester, and I left the col camp at 12:30 a.m. and summitted at 9 a.m. We descended by the same route. We graded the climb Alpine D.

We had earlier acclimatized by making an ascent of Nanda Lampak (5,782m) via the south ridge at AD (60°). The expedition then turned to its primary target, Nanda Devi East via the south ridge from Longstaff’s Col (5,910m). However, lacking resources and manpower for a prolonged attempt, we abandoned our attempt at 6,100m and switched our attention to Changuch. Indian Mountaineering Foundation rules allow a switch of objective in return for an additional 50% peak royalty. In the case of Changuch this was only $450. As the expedition Liaison Officer was also one of the summit climbers, we faced no bureaucratic hurdles in making the change.

A few days later we crossed Traill’s Pass (5,312m), between the Lawan and Pindar valleys. This famous glacier crossing was first made in 1830 in an attempt to forge a trade route direct from Almora to Tibet. The 2009 crossing was only the 6th known repeat and the first for 15 years. Glacial recession has rendered the crossing progressively more difficult, and we avoided the Pindari Glacier icefall altogether in favor of a mixed route down the west side of the valley (overall grade AD with snow/ice to 60°).

Martin Moran, Alpine Club