MULUNG TOPKO: A MACC Fund Expedition
Alpine Club member and past VP Derek Buckle writes of the Montane Alpine Club Climbing Fund supported expedition to Mulung Tokpo with the aim of exploring and summiting unclimbed peaks of the Mulung Glacier in the Zanksar region of India
During the period between 30th August and 29th September 2018 six members of the Alpine Club flew to New Delhi prior to joining their Liaison Officer, Manu Verma, and continuing on to Leh in Ladakh at 3,500m. With such an altitude gain the team spent two days acclimatising in and around Leh before making the long drive via Kargil to the hamlet of Ating (3,640m) at the foot of the Mulung Tokpo, where they joined their support staff. From Ating the team commenced the two day trek via a camp site at Sampuk (4,000m) to the junction with the Nabil Tokpo, and close to the snout of the Mulung Glacier, where they established a Base Camp at 4,188m. From this camp exploratory forays identified a suitable site for an ABC on the true right lateral moraine at 4,525m. Although inclement weather limited advancement from this camp, the team eventually established a High Camp on the southern arm of the Mulung Glacier at 5,085m.
By this time a collective decision had been made to change the primary objective to one or more of a collection of attractive peaks on the cirque at the glacier head, a decision determined by the unconsolidated nature of the snow and the viability of establishing a suitable camp closer to the original objective, M15. Thus, on 19th September Derek, Drew, Mike and Adele were in a position to make a determined attempt on PK5631via its north face. Unfortunately, extreme cold and the unconsolidated nature of the newly precipitated snow terminated this attempt some 300m short of the corniced summit. The same day Gus and Tony had greater success in gaining the 5,480m col (called Aari Dont Col) leading to a prominent tooth-shaped peak. From this col Gus went on to make the first ascent of PK5557 (Aari Dont, PD) via its NW ridge. The next day Derek, Drew, Mike and Adele repeated the ascent before Derek and Mike climbed the short mixed NE ridge of the adjacent outcrop to make the first ascent of Point 5,537 (Chilh Point, AD). After two 25m abseils they regained the col. Both summits afforded outstanding panoramic views of the neighbouring peaks and valleys.
By the time that the team returned to BC, and the high camps were dismantled, a serious storm hit the region, depositing some 40-50cm of new snow and demolishing three of the BC tents. Since more bad weather was predicted, prudence necessitated an urgent abandonment of BC, with the team and support staff only able to take essential equipment with them. As it was, the 13-16h, 25km descent over awkward terrain to Ating was an exhausting trial. We later learned that a vast area was affected with many trekking parties requiring rescue and the main road communications between Manali and Kullu and between Padum and Kargil being blocked.