Back to the central Indian Himalaya. The Gangotri glacier is one valley
where a lot of trekking and climbing has been done. Satopanth, Chaukhamba,
Sudarshan Parvat, Shivling and Thalay Sagar are just a few of the peaks
that are the pride of this area. The mountaineering history of the area
can fill up an entire volume. Here I must mention a story. A group of four
sadhus, barely clad and with sparse food crossed the Kalindi Khal to go
from the shrine of Gangotri to Badrinath. At the same time, Andre Roch,
the famous Swiss mountaineer was climbing several peaks in the area. He
met the party, was impressed by this feat and presented them an altimeter.
This instrument was passed on, like a baton, to successive generations of
Indian mountaineers with the condition that when one stops climbing it
must be passed to the next active mountaineer. It reached me after a long
Another landmark in Garhwal is Kamet which stands tall over the Saraswati
valley. It was from this valley that early travellers like the Hindu guru
Shankracharya and the Spanish priest, Father Andrade, crossed to Tibet
over the Mana pass. The peak of Kamet was attempted several times and
finally in 1931 Frank Smythe and Eric Shipton reached the summit along
with some others. R.L. Holdsworth, who was with them, smoked a pipe
on the summit, which I believe still remains a height record for smokers.
( -except someone has had that pleasure on Everest! ) .
Moving towards north Garhwal first comes to the Jadh Ganga valley, which
was surveyed by J.B.Auden. I visited the valley in 1990 and we climbed
Trimukhi Parvat East, a shapely peak. Monesh, my young companion, wanted
to catch a leopard-cub and keep him warm in his sleeping bag-like Auden
had done. I was worried that the mother wouldn't like that-this was their
territory, Valley of Snow leopards. Luckily wiser counsel prevailed.
Western Garhwal can be called 'Gibson territory'-as a testimony to
his training of young Indian mountaineers. Here on the slopes of Kalanag,
Swargarohini Indians learned the sport of climbing. More importantly they
also learnt about the flowers of Har-ki-Dun, the birds in the Tons valley
and the culture of Garhwa1. Gibson was a firm believer in small and
friendly expeditions and I wish we Indians had remained firm followers of