OverviewNanda Devi in the highest peak in the Indian Garhwal Himalaya. The mountain has two summits, the main summit at 7816m (25,643ft) and Nanda Devi East at 7434m (24,389ft). The mountain itself in surrounded by a number of peaks over 21,000ft, making it an extremely difficult mountain to access. This circle of peaks forms what is known as the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.
The first successful ascent of the main summit was by Tilman and Odell in 1936 via the south ridge. With the successful ascent, Nanda Devi became the highest mountain climbed by man until 1950 when Annapurna was climbed. In 1976, Americans James States, Lou Reichardt and John Roskelley climbed the main summit by a new route, the North Ridge. This expedition ended in tragedy when Nanda Devi Unsoeld (Willie Unsoeld's daughter who was named after the mountain) died near the main summit. A fantastic account of this expedition can be read in the book by John Roskelley, "Nanda Devi, the Tragic Expedition".
In the mid 1960's, it is reported that the CIA during an expedition put a monitoring device on the main summit to monitor nuclear activity in Tibet/China. It was supposedly lost in an avalance. Article on this The mountain was closed by the government shortly after and then re-opened in 1974. In 1983 the area was closed for environmental reasons. The mountain remains closed to this day.
There are very few ascents of this beautiful mountain, and in time we may see the Sanctuary reopen and new attemps being made.
Ascent History of Nanda Devi
|1936||US/UK||1st Ascent |
|8-member joint British-American team led by T. Graham Brown (UK) and Charles Houston (USA) loses Kitar, a porter, early on at base camp. Tilman and N.E. Odell succeed at reaching summit.|
|1951||France||2nd Ascent |
|8-member French expedition. Roger Duplat, team leader, and Gilbert Vignes are lost on attempt on summit. Nanda Devi East summited by Louis Dubost and Tenzig Norgay while searching for Duplat and Vignes.|
|1964||India||3rd Ascent |
|8-member Indian expedition led by Major N Kumar.|
|4th Ascent |
Unknown - Classified
|American and Indian veterans of Everests involved in secret CIA-backed attempts to place a nuclear (plutonium)-powered listening device on summit of Nanda Devi to monitor Chinese missile tests. Device was lost in avalanche. Further expeditions to locate it prove unsuccessful, including 1966 solitary ascent of summit. Composition of teams remain secret and some may have succumbed to radiation poisoning. Leads to short-term closure of Nanda Devi.|
|1968-1974||N/A||Sanctuary Closed||Sanctuary Closed (See Above)|
|1975||France/India||5th Ascent |
Coudray, Renault, Sandhu, Chand
|13-member Indo-French expedition includes simultaneous climbs of Nanda Devi East.|
|1976||Japan||6th Ascent |
Kato, Teramoto, Hasegawa, Takami
|21-member Indo-Japanese team approaches south ridges of main peak and Nanda Devi East simultaneously. Yoshinori Hasegawa and Kazushige Takami traverse westwards to join Yazuo Kato and Masafume Teramoto at main peak.|
|1976||US/India||7th Ascent |
1st Northwest Face-North Buttress
Roskelley, States, Reichardt
|12-member Indo-American team – John Roskelley, Jim States, and Louis Reichardt succeed at forging a difficult new route. Ad Carter, member of the original 1936 team is joined as co-leader by legendary mountaineer Willi Unsoeld and his daughter Nanda Devi Unsoeld. Devi died of illness at camp IV.|
|1977||US/UK||8th Ascent |
Roberts, Harder, Smith, Jones
|12-member British-American team led by Eric Roberts.|
|1978||US||9th Ascent |
Hambly, McClung, Fryberger, Byers, Casebold, Brindiero
|8-member American team lose their liaison officer Capt. S.S. Dhilon from a fall.|
|1981||Czechoslovakia||10th Ascent |
North Face-Northeast Pillar
Srovnal, Kadlcik, Horka, Palecek, Karafa, Rakoncaj, Sulovsky
|13-member Czechoslovak team led by Vlastimil Smida opens up difficult new route (originally attempted in 1978 by members of British expedition, King and Lloyd).|
|1981||India||11th Ascent |
Sharma, Aitwal, Bisht, Singha, Lhatoo, Paljor, Purohit
|11-member Indian team puts first women on summit|
|1981||India||12th Ascent |
South Ridge-Southwest Ridge
Ram, Tsering, Kami
|Indian Army expedition attempts both main and Nanda Devi East peaks simultaneously. Southwest Ridge of East peak climbed for first time, but both Premjit Lal and Phu Dorjee are killed in the descent. Three others – Daya Chand, Ram Singh, and Lakha Singh – also fall to their deaths, leading to the highest ever number of casualties.|
|1982||Closed||Closed||Upon the recommendation of scientists and wildlife experts, the Nanda Devi Sanctuary is upgraded to a National Park. All further treks, expeditions, and grazing are banned in the core area, including mountaineering on the Nanda Devi main peak. Nanda Devi East remains open from the south side.|
|1993||India||13th Ascent |
Naik, Swaroop, Sharma, Singh, Bhatt
|An army-led Indian ecological expedition checks inner sanctuary recovery and removes over a ton of rubbish from the reserve left behind by previous mountaineering expeditions.|
Peaks of the Nanda Devi SanctuaryThe Nanda Devi Sanctuary has a "rim" of mountains around it and is known as the Sanctuary Wall. Inside this Sanctuary Wall is the Inner Sanctuary Ridge. The North Sanctuary Wall includes the peaks Latu Dhura (21,000ft), Rishi Pahar (22,900ft) Deo Damla (21,700ft), and Mangroan (21,500ft). On the west flank of the Sanctuary wall, you will find Kalanka (22,900ft) Changabang (22,500ft), and Dunagiri (23,000ft).
On the south side of the Sanctuary Wall rises Bethartoli Himal & South (20,800 & 20,700ft), Trisul (23,400ft). On the eastern edge of the Sanctuary stands the impressive Mrigthuni (22,500ft), Devtoli (22,300ft) and Maiktoli (22,300ft). Many of these peaks on the outer rim of the Sanctuary are still open to climbing.
Getting ThereThe Sanctuary is closed to all visitors, but the peaks on the outer rim of the Sanctuary can be climbed from outside the Sanctuary. This would allow for an attempt on the Nanda Devi East from the east or any of the other mountains forming the ring from the outside. The main summit is off limits currently because it falls inside the ring.
Red TapeThe mountain (Main Summit) is currently closed to all visitors. To climb any peaks in the Sanctuary, you must get permission from the Mountaineering Foundation in India. There are fees based on the height of the mountain you wish to climb, and a government liasion must be on your team. Additional fees will be assessed for environmental protection.
When To ClimbMay - June or September - October.
The Climb ...Nanda Devi is a full expedition style climb. Gear appropriate to this type of climbing is necessary.
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