Gyuindi Gorge Exploration and Crossover to Bara Sigri Glacier

Debasish Bardhan

Photographs: Sandeep Thakurta | Maps: Author
Category: Trekking, Exploration, Expedition
Date of Publication: July 18 , 2018


Gyuindi River is one of the major contributory rivers of Spiti River, flowing from west to east located in Spiti sub-division of Himachal Pradesh. Gyuindi river system, itself has two major contributories, i.e. South and North Gyuindi Nala-emerging from East and West Gyuindi Glacier respectively. There is another glacier named as Central Gyuindi Glacier located between West & East.

Gyuindi River Gorge, in full length was an unexplored area. Especially South Gyuindi Nala does not have any account of mountaineering venture. This is the first full exploration of the Gyuindi river which is done by us.

From Mountaineering chronology, no mountaineering team crossed over any watershed to Bara Sigri Glacier or to be said crossover from Spiti to Lahul sub div (Except through the Kunzum La-motorable way). So it is the first event of crossover to Bara Sigri Glacier.

Gyuindi Gorge

Green shaded area is Lahul Subdivision and Violet shaded area is Spiti Subdivision


Last year's experience of walking through RongTong Nala taught me a lot. I also mesmerized by observing a geographical puzzle in the conjunction of RongTong, Bara Sigri and Khamengar Glacier as Trevor Braham felt at 1955. I came to understand the character of the river gorge of western Spiti and the terrain as well.

I wondered about finding an accessible connector to Gyuindi gorge from RongTong gorge in my recce, near the snout of RongTong Glacier, much before accessing Khamengar Glacier and accessible connector to Upper Bara Sigri Glacier. This incident creates more interest in exploring Gyuindi gorge.

In 1955, Trevor Braham, Peter Holmes and team made a foray up to Gyuindi. They moved for two days inside the gorge and gave up their intention to probe into the gorge for the reason of difficulty.

In 1958, J.G.G. Stephenson, J.P. Lynam and team made an expedition and their prime object was "to fill in the gaps in P.F. Holmes's map and to clear up the discrepancies between his map, the Abinger expedition map, and Survey of India Sheet 52H." (Himalayan Journal, Vol-21) After climbing some peak, part of the team entered into Gyuindi gorge following by Subitha Lungpa/Tekcha Nala and crossing Losar col. They appeared by the Gyuindi Nala at its half of the path. They tried to cross Gyuindi watershed with Bara Sigri. Since they had shortage of food, compelled to back in Losar.

Gyuindi gorge got this amount of concentration from mountaineering ambience only. So my prolonged intention was to explore those gorge or valleys, where information is less. With my stipulated potential, tried to explore two major contributory rivers of Spiti river-Rongtong Nala in 2017 and Gyuindi Nala in 2018. At the same time, our motto was to open a connector with different watershed.

After our successful venture of RongTong exploration, Sri Kankan Kr. Roy and Sri Harish Kapadia inspired me to take a venture to probe into Gyuindi Nala gorge and to crossover to Bara Sigri Glacier because of its unfinished challenge

Expedition Report

Our six men team, Debasish Bardhan, Sandeep Thakurta, Subhadeep Mukherjee, Bhaskar Mukherjee, Ranadhir Roy and Sasthi Jana appeared near the bridge over Gyuindi Nala on the way to Hal village on 25th May, 2018. The opening of the gorge became easier now a days because local authority tried to make an irrigational drain from the interior of gorge.

Three of us followed the trail beside the drain and rest of members moved through Gyuindi Nala for Five and a half kilometers up to the junction of South Gyuindi and North Gyuindi Nala. South Gyuindi Nala is much forceful and flowing through a narrow chasm. Map marked this place as "FU".

Next day (26.05.18) we moved by South Gyuindi Nala. We choose this part, because we were eager to explore a new area where we have no account at all. Information about South Gyuindi Nala is scarce.

Moreover we were interested to explore East Glacier of Snow Cone and Gunther's peak to find out an easier access to these peaks.

Gyuindi Gorge

"Fu" - Opening of South Gyuindi Nala

Gyuindi Gorge

South Gyuindi Nala flows hidden under the rock

We entered into a deep chasm full of water in the end of the May, with several waterfalls. Big boulders and water smoothen granites cover both sides of the river. More than 20 times we had to cross turmoil flow and somewhere we had to walk through the river facing high water level. More or less walking through water was the technique we adopted for advancement. Both side of the river covered by high rock wall. After 1pm it was really hard to pursue this technique due to turmoil flow of the water. We're able to move 4km (approx.) on that day.

Gyuindi Gorge

Next day, we observed that river flowed here, by cutting the rock wall for 200 yards. It seems that the river is almost hidden beneath the rock. The almost inaccessible path for us. So we went 800ft up to the higher terrain and again climbed down by the rock and scree mixed terrain. Hardly two kilometers we're able to advance that day to establish our second camp. Everyday we had a task in the afternoon to make a recce for the forthcoming phase.

Gyuindi Gorge

Crossing high Spur in South Gyuindi Nala

So, late afternoon, we made a recce for the next phase and found that there is no accessible way for further movement. Hard rock wall continues for 500m, on both sides of the river where traverse by the rope is the only possible way. Rockfall from both sides was perpetual. But it is not feasible for porters and us. We'd a concept (concept emerged from Google Earth imagery) that if we can access that part up to the first contributory Nala from right we can advance few kilometers easily, but we can't ultimately.

So our exploratory search South Gyuindi Nala stops here. I realized that it is not possible to do much in this high water level. We came back at "Fu" next day, the confluence of South and North Gyuindi Nala.

Coordinate of the last occupancy in South Gyuindi Nala was 32*17'39.65"N/ 77*51'38.33"E.

Gyuindi Gorge

Movement in North Gyuindi Nala

Gyuindi Gorge

Deep Chasam of North Gyuindi Nala was our pathway

Gyuindi Gorge

One of the rocky traverse

Gyuindi Gorge

Boulder climbing was regular phenomena

Gyuindi Gorge

Crossing High rocky spur

Gyuindi Gorge

Rock Climbing was better option to avoid turmoil flow

Gyuindi Gorge

One of the river crossing in North Gyuindi Nala

Gyuindi Gorge

Gyuindi Nala from an Water Falls under the boulder

Gyuindi Gorge

Rocky boulder Zone of the Nala connecting to Losar Col

From 29th May we start to move along North Gyuindi Nala. Numerous river crossing, a lot of ups and downs in rocky terrain continues to make our trail. We compelled to camp beside the Nala in an awkward place because we could not cross the Nala in mid-noon. North Gyuindi Nala formed a pond here.

Gyuindi Gorge

Camp beside the pond

Since it was very hard to cross Nala after mid-noon, our movement was restricted or compelled to finish around 3 o'clock after finding a place for camping. After that, we did recce for next phase as usual without a load in shoulder.

By our fifth camp, on 2nd June we arrived at the junction of a rivulet coming from the north which leads to Losar Col from which Lynam came here from Losar. We went up to higher terrain keeping that Nala aside and able to walk for long distance. On 3rd June we crossed Central Gyuindi Glacier snout and camped on West Gyuindi Glacier (Length 5.96km).

(West Gyuindi Glacier, somewhere it is mentioned as Ridang Glacier-from which North Gyuindi Nala emerged. Should we call as North Gyuindi Glacier? Because both the contributory Nala is demarked and differentiated by North & South. ** See the book: Spiti by Harish Kapadia) (Survey of India map does not differentiate or marked anything!!)

Cenral Gyuindi Glacier is smaller than West or East part. But average height of the wall of the watershed between Bara Sigri is 6000m or above and difficult too. By the map study, we observed that gradient of the opposite side (Bara Sigri side) of the wall is too tough to access. So we discard this glacier for further planning to cross.

Gyuindi Gorge

The Rivulet comes from the North. Losar Col connector with Losar

Gyuindi Gorge
Gyuindi Gorge

Portion of Survey of India Map - 52-H

Gyuindi Gorge

Central Gyuindi Glacier at left and North Gyuindi Glacier snout at right

Gyuindi Gorge

Walking in Gyuindi Glacier and Gyuindi water divider in front

On 4th June we appeared in front of the wall of Gyuindi-Bara Sigri watershed. I assumed from the map that there is narrow gully by which this wall could be accessed but this sheer wall is with overhang and avalanche prone. So we moved by to fifth or last contributing glacier (2.8km) to the north-west to find an accessible route to cross the ridge (There are five contributory glaciers of West Gyuindi Glacier coming from the north. Which ends at water divider with Central Glacier). At 2pm we were blocked by the surrounding wall of the glacier. The glacier is full of crevasses and covered with soft melted snow. So we are bound to camp over glacier (our Seventh camp in North Guindi Nala).

There are two option to cross the Ridge from here - a 300m Ice wall which has an ice-cornice in the top of the wall and the second is to cross a rock-ice mixed wall of 200m Opposing everyone. I choose the rock wall to access though perpetual rock fall from various side is a tremendous hazard in this route – just because of insufficiency of rope.

Gyuindi Gorge

Opening of fifth contributing glacier to Gyuindi Glacier

Gyuindi Gorge

Gyuindi Col - our accessed route on left marked point

Gyuindi Gorge

Accessing Gyuindi wall

Gyuindi Gorge

Members atop Gyuindi Col Peaks of Bara Sigri Glacier behind

Gyuindi Gorge

Descend from the Gyuindi Col

In 5th June, four hours labor brought us atop of the Gyuindi ridge with all load and jummering inexperienced porters at the height of 18.921ft. About 650ft rope we had to fix in the wall, mixed with ice and rock gradient about to eighty degree on average. Ranadhir and Debiram, (our guide/cook) were a bit injured by falling rock. From the top of the Col in the South–East ridge an absolute rocky peak of 19206ft and in the North, a peak of 19057ft stands.

Co ordinates of Gyuindi Col. – 32*12’54.03” N /  77*42’9.35” E

Length of North Gyuindi Nala: 32km (Snout point to confluence of Spiti River)
Length of West Gyuindi Glacier: 7.8km

View of Bara Sigri Glacier peaks Kulu Pumori, Kulu Makalu, Cathedral and Concordia is in the west and in the south-east CCKN is visible. Visibility of Central Peak is blocked by the ridge of neighbor peak 19057. Peak 6080 in the watershed wall of Central Glacier and Gyuindi Glacier is visible in the east. Pk. Sigri is visible in the south.

Descended through comfortable snow packed zone from the Gyuindi Col and camped near Upper Bara Sigri Glacier at evening. Water is scarce here. Next day (06.06.18) we camped at Concordia over Bara Sigri Glacier.

Gyuindi Gorge

Peak Kulu Pimori, Peak Jaldi. Peak Cathedral from Bara Sigri Glacier

Gyuindi Gorge

Crossing Karcha Nala

On 8th June, members are compelled to bevoke on the Bara Sigri Glacier because porters were away from the team and on 9th June, evening we reached at Batal crossing Karcha Nala.

Special Thanks To

Ashish Chanda
Pompa Bardhan
Jyotirmay Chakraborty
Arun Chakraborty (Arete Mountaineering Foundation)

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