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Exploration Of Peaks in Kinnaur & Spiti Valley of Indian Himalaya

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We went to Kinnaur and Spiti region in the summer of 2014 to explore the untrodden virgin peaks. Our expedition team consists of five members, Akira Taniguchi, Masahiro Fukumoto, Masayasu Murakami, Etsuko Kobayashi, and Kimikazu Sakamoto (Leader).

We are so much interested in the Spiti area, being impressed with the book “Spiti – Adventure in the Trans-Himalaya” written by Mr. Harish Kapadia. There seems to be still many veiled untrodden peaks in Spiti and Kinnaur. It was a big surprise to me that in Kinnaur region, only eight peaks were climbed according to the climbing record by Indian Mountaineering Foundation(IMF), the summitted peaks are:

  • Kinner Kailash of Kinnaur (6050m),
  • Jorkarden (6437m),
  • Phawarang (6349m),
  • Rangrik Rang (6553m),
  • Gangchhua (6228m),
  • Manerang (6593m),
  • Gangchuua (6030m),
  • Leo Pargil (6791).

Perhaps, climbing in Kinnaur has been restricted by Indian Govenment because of there are disputed regions on Indo- Tibet border claimed by both India and China.

We left Japan on June 13th and stayed one night at Karol Bagh of New Delhi. On June 14th, we drove to Shimla on two hired cars via Chandigarh and reached Shimla on June 15th. The main market street in Shimla was so crowded with many tourists as Indian summer vacation already started.

Day 1: Shimla – Sarahan

On June 16th, We drove down the very steep zig-zag road to Saltuji River and went to Sarahan. After checking in Hotel Srikhand at Sarahan, we visited the very unique Hindu Temple “Bimakali” constructed with wood.

Day 2: Sarahan – Sangla valley:

We moved to Sangla valley of Kinnaur from Sarahan and arrived in Sangla village around noon time. After lunch, we left Sangla to see the mountain peaks of Baspa Valley.

The first branch, Saro Garang, should have five big peaks like

  • P5983,
  • P5990,
  • P6240,
  • P6170,
  • P6080(Daboling) on Leomann Maps

But we could not see any peaks, because Saro Garang was high gorge and the mountain tops were covered with clouds. There should be P6080 (Daboling) and P6080 (Saro) on the top of the next branch, Gor Garang. But, unfortunately, we could not see any high peaks because of the prevailing clouds.

Other two branches, Mangna Nala and Sushang Nala were also not visible and did not show any peaks. However, we could see the attractive twin peak P5712 in Sushang Nala, the other side branch of Baspa River. We went back from Mastrang to Sangla village.

Day 3: Sangla village – Kalpa

We checked out of our in Sangla and drove to Chitkul village, where we arrived at around 9.15 am. Again, we could not see any high peaks because of the same weather conditions. The road ended at Chitkul village. But a new road was under construction up to Ranikanda, as ITBP (India Tibet Border Police) camp was recently set up there. The new road was opened up to the halfway to Ranikanda.

We expected to see P6465 and P6447 near the top of the Baspa River, but we could not see them because of the heavy cloud cover. We waited for about one hour on the hill near Ranikanda. The heavy cloud did not disappear, and P6465 and P6447 did not show up. We gave up seeing these mountains and went back to Chitkul village with disappointment.

After finishing lunch at a small restaurant in Chitkul, the cloud cover was clearing up. Finally, we could see P6465 and P6447 from the front of the restaurant. We were so excited to see the whole view of the attractive peak P6465 and the head of P6467 peeping from the left side shoulder of P6465.

Mountain peaks visible from Chitkul village
Peaks visible from Chitkul village

We were very happy to see these expected peaks. We moved to Kalpa by our hired cars and checked in Hotel Grand Shangrila in Kalpa at around 5:15 pm. But, we could not see any peaks from there, as the mountain massif of Kinner Kailash was covered with the heavy clouds.

Day 4: Kalpa(Chini) – Nako village

On June 19th, We got up around 4:30 am to see the high peaks of Kinner Kailash massif from the hotel terrace. But, the mountains were still covered with dark clouds. After waiting for about one hour, finally, the sky cleared up and the mountain range of Kinner Kailash started to appear with the sun peeking out from behind the Kailash massif. We enjoyed the nice view of high peaks.

Panorama of Peaks on Kinner Kailash massif of Kinnaur
Kinner Kaliash mountain range panorama. Photo courtesy: Souvik Maitra

On Kinner Kailash massif, P6240, P5990, and P5983 on the west of Jorkanden are still untrodden according to the IMF site.

After breakfast, we moved to Nako. We stopped for awhile at Kinnaur district administrative HQ, Reckong Peo which is located at a lower elevation(2290m).

After about one hour drive, we reached Akpa where we could have the view of the exciting rocky peaks in the east of Tirung Gad River :

  • P6120 (Bisa Rang),
  • P6248 (Saser Rang),
  • P6120 (Beshrang)
  • and P6209 (Shagchang Rang).
Peaks of Tirung valley of Kinnaur aka Tidong valley

The Circuit or Parikrama of Kinner Kailash trek of Kinnaur starts from Charang village of the Tidong valley.

Raacho Trekkers

IMF confirmed to us that these peaks are still unclimbed according to their climbing record book. But, we wonder why these attractive mountains near the main traffic road have not been climbed yet and why the mountain names were already given to these unclimbed peaks.

From Ka village, we could have a view of

  • P6030 (Gangchuua),
  • P5935 and
  • P5965 in the branch called Tiang Lungpa.

In Pooh village, we met one Japanese trekker. He said that the main traffic road from Kunzum La (4551m) to Chandra River was damaged by landsliding and closed, and so he was obliged to turn back from Kaza. Anyhow, we decided to proceed to Kaza as per our original schedule, expecting the traffic road would be repaired by then and re-opened before we arrive in Kaza town.

We drove up on east side mountain road from Pooh and reached Nako which was the very beautiful hill side village at 3660m by a lovely lake.

We took a walk in the Nako village. From Nako Gompa, we could see P6791 (Leo Pargial) which is the rocky pinnacle standing on the border ridge between India and Tibet. We could not see the untrodden peak P6816 in the south of Leo Pargial from Nako village.

From the garden of Kinner Camps Nako, we could have the panormic views of west mountains range on the other side of Hangrang Valley.

P6000 (Singekang), P6031, P5800 (Talanrang), and P5610 (Harman Chhang) are standing on the top of the Lipak Lungpa branch. These peaks are still untrodden virgin peaks, according to the IMF website.

Peaks in Hangrang valley

Day 5: Nako village – Tabo monastery

On June 20th, We left Nako at 7:40 am and reached Tabo village at 2:00 pm after showing our passport and Inner Line Permit(ILP) at Sumdo Check Post. Just before Tabo, we saw the mountain range with P6000, P5901 (Tongmor), P5761 (Lungma), P5700 (Sibu), and P5843 (Shijabang) in the north of Tabo village.

We visited Tabo monastery Gompa, which was the small temple but had a lot of wonderful Buddist statues and the wall paintings in Kashmiri style like the arts of Alchi Gompa in Ladakh. We were so impressed with the exquisite Buddist arts.

Day 6: Tabo – Pin valley

On June 21st, We left Tabo and visited Dhankar Gompa and Lalung Gompa as a day tour. Dhankar Gompa was a small temple and most of the Buddist wall paintings were unfortunately damaged. After Dhankar, we visited Lalung Gompa, which was also a small temple but had very beautiful Buddhist wall paintings. Near Lalung Gompa, we could see the rocky mountain P5902 in the southwest of Lalung Gompa.

We paid a visit to Kungri Gompa which had a new main building under the support of Dalai Lama 14th. Kungri is Spiti valley‘s second oldest monastery after Tabo. It was built around 1330 AD.

After a short drive from Kungri Gompa, we arrived in Sagnam village at 11:30 am. We could see the attractive snow peaks P5903 and P5870 in Kuoki River, the branch of Pin River, from the entrance of Sagnam village.

Peaks in Pin river valley. Photo taken from Sagnam village.

After lunch at the local private house where we stayed, we had a short excursion to Mud village, the last village of Pin valley.

With its snow laden unexplored higher reaches and slopes, Pin Valley National Park forms a natural habitat for a number of endangered animals including the Snow Leopards and Siberian ibex.

Wiki

We reached Mud after about an hour’s drive and took short hiking on the left branch of Pin River. We turned back to Sagnam after one hour walk, as the rain started suddenly.

Day 7: Sagnam village: Exploring Debsa Nala

On June 23rd, We went to explore the right branch of Pin River. We drove to Kaa and started walking along the Parahio stream, a tributary of the Pin river to explore Debsa Nala. We went down the steep narrow path from the village to Kidul Chu, the branch of the Parahio stream, and crossed this small stream and traversed on the other side, by climbing up and down.

At the head of Debsa Nala lies the Ratiruni Col which leads to the Dibibokri Nala – Spiti: Adventures in the Trans-Himalaya by Harish Kapadia

Finally, we went down to the flat Parahio River, spending more than one hour. Just before Thidim, we could see many challenging peaks in Debsa Nala, P5975, P6126, P6507, P6410, P6130, P6222, P6202, and P6243. Referring to the information from the IMF, we suppose that all these high peaks are still untrodden and virgin peaks. We were overwhelmed with this marvelous mountain view.

Though we wished to peep into Khamengar Valley, we did not have enough time left.

After lunch, we decided to go back and came back to the parking place at Kaa around 4:00 pm. We were very happy to have a nice view of the 6000m peaks in Debsa Nala. But it was a great regret that we could not see any mountains in Khamengar Valley. It was my mistake that we did not plan to spend two or three days exploring both Debsa Nala and Khamengar Valley with enough food supply and tents.

Day 8: Sagnam – Mud village

On June 24th, We went to the left branch of Pin River again. The left branch of the Pin River is the very wide and open pastures. There are several grazing huts. We could enjoy the wonderful view of the Pin River. P5650 was sitting with the big bottom like a mother on the top of this branch. At the junction with the path coming down from Lalung La, we had lunch and left for Mud at 11:45 am. It was a very pleasant walk.

Day 9: Mud – Kaza

On June 25th, We left Sagnam at 7:40 am and arrived in Kaza at 9:20 am by the chartered cars. The master of the Hotel Spiti Sarai at Rangrik where we stayed told us that the main connecting road is still closed between Kunzum La and Chandra River. As nobody knew when the main road would be opened again, we gave up going back to Shimla via Rohtang Pass and Manali and decided to return to Shimla via the same way via Tabo, Nako, and Kalpa.

After taking lunch at the hotel, we visited Key Gompa on the top of the hill. Then, we went to Langza which is a very beautiful pasture with several local houses. We saw the white snow peak “Chau Chau (6303)”, which was first climbed by a British party in 1993. On the other side of Spiti River, we could see Ratang Tower (6170m) which was first climbed by Indian Party (Leader: Haris Kapadia) in 1993 and the untrodden peak P6060 in the branch Ratang stream. On the left side of the Ratang, we could see P5877 which looked like Mt. Alberta in Canadian Rocky.

Kaza – Shimla – Delhi return journey

After we had one rest day on June 26th, we left Rangrik of Kaza and drove back to Shimla, via Nako, Kalpa, and Rampur, spending three days. On June 30th, we enjoyed sightseeing in Shimla. And on July 1st, we went back to Delhi by train. After two nights stay in Delhi, we came back to Japan on July 4th.

We were very happy to see many attractive unknown mountains in Kinnaur and Spiti. These areas are very vast. I regret that I made a plan to explore these big areas in a very short time. We should try again to have a more detailed exploration of one or two limited places next time.