Lossar Valley Expedition 2018
And in the beginning, there were enough people interested to plan two expeditions, the first to Spiti with Raja for three weeks (the original objective being the unclimbed Lynam peak 4700m) and the second to Langtang, with a trekking option. Those with the time and energy could travel from India and do both. A variety of reasons let to many cry-offs, and the Nepal one was deferred until 2019, but we had 5 for Spiti, visas arranged, flights booked etc.
Alas, three days before take off, we were down to two, with Raja in a panic, having paid deposits, contracted porters etc.
Just Jack and I at Dublin airport then, and a couple of days later we were in Manali, sitting in Johnston’s Hotel drinking beer, and looking out at a thunder storm. The crossing of the 4000m Rotang La, and 4500m Kussum La, were completed without too many problems, and we stopped at the Shambala Guest house, Lossar village, at the base of our valley. The next day was a tough acclimatisation exercise, doing a carry up the steep sided valley to base camp, 4000m to 4500m.
Our 3 porters arrived after an 8 hours bus ride from Manali, to carry food and gear to BC, which they did the next day. We had a rest day, and went to see Ki Monastry, climbing back up to BC the following morning.
The plan was to explore and climb in two subsidiaries of the main Lossar valley, doing a second ascent of peak 6015m in the first, and hopefully a first ascent of one of the 3 unclimbed summits at the back of the second valley. Two days later, we were sitting on top of 6015m, having also bagged Larimo 5800m, en route. The plan was going perfectly. Back to BC, move house to ABC, at the entrance to the second subsidiary valley, and then up to our second high camp on a glacier.
The problem was that we would have needed to establish a further camp to climb any of the peaks at the back of the valley, and we were short of porter power having only Lackpa and Pasang. Mighty men they are, Pasang having summitted Everest 3 times (including escaping from camp 6 in 1996- see ‘Into Thin air’) Kanchenjunga, Cho oyu, etc etc, but due to the reduced numbers, Raja had not enough funds to hire more Sherpas without making the cost prohibitive for Jack and myself.
The two more accessible 6000m peaks had both been climbed, (Dom Rimo and Lossar Peak), but we decided to give one of them a go, and come down a day or two early, and perhaps enjoy a day and a half in Manali to shop and relax, before going home. The plan was to climb to the col in between, the two peaks, and decide which to tackle when we got there.
We barely did! A huge steep hillside of sliding stones drained our legs, lungs and ultimately, willpower. Lakpa and Raja went a bit further but turned back. We returned to base camp and sunbathed, looking forward to another rest the following day, before the porters arrived from Manali.
About 6.00AM it started to snow, and this continued all day, all night and the following day. It became clear that things were serious, and this was not just a snow shower as we had originally thought. We had to get out, and whilst we were fortunate to be back at BC, and not at a higher camp (that might easily have been the case), to traverse across the steep valley loaded with 3-4 feet of fresh snow on a bed of shale, with god knows how many thousands of feet of it above, was not for the faint hearted. We left carrying what we could, the rest packed up into the last standing tent. I left with less than half my stuff, Jack travelled even lighter.
Also, we had no idea whether this weather was local, or whether the porters would have been able to get over the passes from Manali, or indeed our jeep would arrive at Lossar.
We got out safely, thanks mainly to the brilliant route finding of Lakpa, to find the village also under a couple of feet of snow and, (as it never rains in Spiti), the stick and mud flat roofs in the houses were no match for such weather, and were leaking copiously. Still, we were safe! Safe and trapped, as both passes were closed towards Manali, and the connecting road to Shimla closed due to land slides.
We learned that we were fortunate, as about 50 tourists were trapped in vehicles at lake Chandra above 4000m, and many others caught between the two passes, including possibly our porters and our jeep driver. There were local army in our village, but they appeared to be happy drinking tea and awaiting orders, rather than trying to rescue anybody. And still it continued to snow!
Now the concern was whether we could get out to Delhi in time for our flight. With no sign of the passes opening in the near future, Raja turned his attention to the long way out, and made use of his numerous contacts to learn that the landslides near Poh (the base for our last expedition) were being cleared. We moved to the local capital Kaza, and waited for news. We were there in the queue, when it opened at 6.30 on Wednesday night. Got to Pio at 1.30AM, bus left at 6.15AM and 21 hours of continuous bus and taxi travel later, we were in bed in Delhi at 3.00Am. Up at 5.30 for the flight home.
I have to say that, as usual, without the help of Lakpa and Pasang, and particularly the spectacularly resourceful and positive Raja, we would have little to show for this trip, other than a crash course in weight loss (Jack and I lost 8Kg between us in three weeks). ,