Overview. Forty-six foreign and 47 Indian expeditions climbed in the Indian Himalaya during 2005. These numbers were lower than normal. Among the foreign expeditions, more that half climbed on such standard objectives as Nun, Kun, and Kedar Dome. Many expeditions faced bad weather in mid-September, and some had to give up because of poor snow and ice conditions in early October. Expeditions also complained of problems in Uttaranchal State, where the government has imposed a stiff new fee structure. Apart from additional fees, there is confusion regarding approach routes (only designated approach routes are allowed), various permits (from the forest department, government of Uttaranchal, and the Indian Mountaineering Foundation) and permit procedures involving various authorities at Dehra Dun, Delhi, and locally). All this confusion dampened the enthusiasm of many parties.
There were two successful ascents of Kamet. The American team of Sue Nott and John Varco made an excellent alpine-style ascent in quick time. In his report Varco writes, “For some time only Indian teams were allowed to climb on this mountain, and there is much evidence of the high impact of large Indian expeditions, which travel with way too much gear and leave tons of trash in camps and on trails. This aspect needs to be looked into. It is a sad statement of outdated style. However, this year s Army expedition did a good job of removing the trash and was very friendly and helpful.” Nott and Varco are of the opinion that only small-sized expeditions should attempt this popular high mountain.
An Indo-American expedition, jointly led by Divyesh Muni and Donald Goodman, enjoyed themselves climbing several unnamed peaks in the East Karakoram. It was a successful expedition, which climbed many virgin peaks and demonstrated how a mixed team can climb fine, safe routes and come back happy.
There was plenty of activity, but it was marred by tragedies and the fact that most attempts were directed toward easier peaks rather than challenging ones. Of the 47 Indian expeditions, many were to routine peaks. There were ascents of peaks in Spiti and Lahaul, like Khangla Tarbo II, Yunam , and Sanakdank, and also ascents of more difficult peaks, like Papsura in the Kullu. However, several notable Indian mountaineers died on different peaks. Dr. P. M. Das, with Inder Kumar, Nari Dhami, and two Sherpas, all experienced mountaineers, lost their lives on Chomoyummo in an avalanche. Inder Kumar and Nari Dhami had climbed Everest. Five army men, from the Air Defence Regiment of the Indian Army, died in an avalanche on Chaukhamba I. A ladies expedition, organized by the IMF and comprising various climbers from all over India, climbed Papsura (6,451m) at head of the Tos Nala. Seven women reached the summit but after a long day’s climbing, Malabi Das from Kolkata became very tired. She barely managed to reach the highest camp and finally died of exhaustion—anexample of human loss due to summit ambitions. She was an experienced and enthusiastic mountaineer, having climbed Sudarshan Parvat and Chhamaser Kangri—peaks higher then Papsura. Two porters died on the Gangotri glacier, bringing the number of Indian deaths in the Indian Himalaya to 13, a disproportionately high number for one year.
In a seminar toward the end of the year, suggestions were made to instigate organized rescue facilities and accident insurance. There was also talk of allowing satellite phones and GPS devices and revamping the fee structure. No one, though, knows when this will be done.
The I.M.F. elected a new President, H. P. S. Ahluwalia, in November. Major Ahluwalia, who climbed Everest in 1965, is an experienced mountaineer and organizer, and he leads a newly elected Governing Council.
Harish Kapadia, Honorary Editor, The Himalayan Journal