Name: CB 13 & 14 Expedition
Approx elevation: 18,300 ft
Starting Point: Batal
Day 0 : Rumsu Village
It all started with a plan of investing the last months of the season in an excursion that would really demand the physical stamina, mental endurance and the technical skills of mountaineering for which we had been training since the past 3 months. So we came up with an idea of climbing a few of the peaks of the Manali and Spiti valley that had been on our checklist for a long time. We came with an itinerary of around 20 days and planned to do CB 13, CB 14, Deo Tibba, Jagatsukh, Norbu, Hanuman Tibba and Friendship peak. Few of these were going to be difficult while the rest were going to moderate ones.
The idea was doing things in an alpine style, such that we remain light and fast leaving minimum impact. Mountains don’t give you much time to climb and things should be done fast to minimize the risk. We made a team of 3 members including myself, Biiju and Nanak. Nanak being a common friend for me and Bijju, became the best person to fit in the group. Nanak, also being more experienced in climbing than us, was going to play a significant role in the entire journey in terms of crucial decision making.
A week before, we started aggregating all the essentials required for the expedition in terms of dehydrated food, climbing equipment, personal accessories, stay gear, and rest others.
Bijju being an expert in driving on mountains and one of our off-road vehicles being free, we decided to reach Batal by ourselves. This was going to be advantageous while returning too as there was no connectivity to get the vehicle back to Batal.
Day 1: Rumsu village to Batal.
We started from Rumsu on 21st August at 7 AM for Batal. It took us around 6 hours to make it to Batal. Thanks to Chacha Chachi ka dhaba who were available at Batal even in Covid-19 times. The family has been helping tourists and even rescued many at times in past. Their warm hospitality is always appraising. We planned to stay the day at Batal to acclimatize with the altitude. Meanwhile at dhaba we met a shepherd who updated us that there has been a jhoola put by HIMANSH, 6 kms after Batal towards Chandrataal, which could be used to traverse Chandra river and would cut our trek duration by at least 3 hours. So the next day we plan to reach Jhoola by our vehicle, follow an hour trek to reach HIMANSH guesthouse, handover the keys of the vehicle to Tenzing(Uncle’s son) who was supposed to return the same day by 10 AM to Batal. The whole plan seemed quite good and reliable, and the only problem we were left with was the load ferry as it was a total weight of around 100 kgs among three of us. We hoped to make a single round with our load till HIMANSH from Jhoola and two rounds from HIMANSH to base camp. We spent the night at Batal. Stay and food was quite cheap and affordable at Batal.
Day 2: Batal to Base camp |Load ferry
We started the day early at 5AM, had tea and moved for Jhoola by 6 AM. The jhoola was easy to operate with some end efforts required in terms of pulling yourself while making to the other end. It took us 4 rounds to traverse the river with our loads. We started trekking and reached in an hour at HIMANSH guest house. The trek did not have any steep climb and ran almost plain on the right bank of Chandra river until we made it to the guest house. Each of us managed to carry two bags with ease till the guest house.
As we reached the guest house, to our surprise we found few of our trek matess stationed there for research related work. Both the friends had been to the glacier some 10 days back and updated us that the trek from the guest house to the base camp was about 2 hours with few steep climbs. We commenced the first round with the heavier bags and left the lighter one for the second round.
The tents got pitched finally at 2 PM at Base camp and we had our tea and some hot lunch. The base camp was just next to the stream coming out from the South Dakka Glacier. The trek was easy and making two rounds with a light backpack didn’t make us exert too much thereby helping in a better acclimatization. For the rest part of the day we just kept hydrating ourselves and acclimatized with a short hike.
The next day we planned to do the load ferry for Camp 1 which would be some 5 hours of trek on moraines and descend back to Base camp for overnight stay. We planned to carry the climbing equipment and rations of a total gross weight of 45 kg to Camp 1 and dump it there while we return back to Base Camp and advance with the rest of the equipment for Camp 1 the next day. We distributed the load equally among all 3 of us and packed our bags for the next day hike.
Day 3: Base camp to Camp 01 and back | Load ferry
We started the next day after our usual chores of tea and breakfast. The entire day’s trek was going to be on moraines on the South Daka Glacier. We took around 90 minutes to get the first view of the CB 13 peak from the glacier. The route takes a left turn towards the peak, next to a waterfall coming from CB 13 glacier on which we were supposed to camp(an extension of the South Daka glacier). We were however not sure about the route, so Bijju and Nanak took a lead from the waterfall without their bags with a 20 minutes hike for confirming the route while I waited, refilled water bottles and made some energy drinks for the team. Once Nanak and Bijju were back and confirmed the route we continued further. The trek next to the waterfall was a steep climb for an hour and then became gradual on the glacier. Once we were on top, CB14 stood on our left while to our front was the towering peak of CB13. Nanak had been to the route 10 years back, so we confirmed the locations of the peak, Camp 1 and Col as per the map and photographs we had. We dumped all the equipment at Camp 1, covered it with a tarp and headed back for the base camp. The descent took us around 2 hours and meanwhile we made markings for the best route on the moraines.
We were back to camp after a total of 10 kilometers trek(both ways), and made some hot lunch. Thanks to the EatEasy Team for delivering us the dehydrated food on time in Manali via courier. The food was quite convenient to cook and was delivering a worthy taste too in terms of filling up to our appetite.
We relaxed and had our own relaxation moments with some meditation, yoga and stretching. The reason I love this type of excursion is that it offers you a freedom of expression where you are on your own. The difficulties that the mountain offers become a type of challenge where you have to pass with all your required skill set and once you pass you get a sense of satisfaction which is again the most rewarding thing. You start giving significance to every small thing for each of them plays an important role.
Day 4: Base camp to Camp 01
We started the day at 7:00 AM with all the loads. It was light as we had already shifted most of our load to Camp 1. It took us around 4.5 hours to reach Camp 1. We planned to camp a little ahead on the glacier and shifted the other batch of load that we had dropped an hour behind on the last day. Once we had assembled all the load, it was required to make a flat space on the glacier for pitching up the tent. All 3 of us got together and collected some flat rocks to get a dry and plain surface for pitching up the tent. We then pitched the tent, had some tea and hot lunch. It’s at this point of time that you get to enjoy the ease of cooking dehydrated food where you are just required to boil the food and in 10 minutes the food is ready.
We then planned to advance for a route recci for the next day route. Usually members camp at Col which was on the right righe of the peak and then attempt the summit at 5 AM from the Col. Since we had already advanced a bit from the usual Camp 1 we planned to attempt the summit from Camp 1 itself the next day, thereby skipping the Col. The trek to Col was via a crevasses section and was not more than 3 hours from our camp. We decided for the best route via crevasses infested glacier for the next day morning through the recci. Once we were at camp we confirmed for the summit attempt the very next day itself. We distributed all the equipment and rope among all 3 of us, made dinner and water supply for the next day.
The summit push was going to start at 2 AM so we jumped into our sleeping bags in an attempt to take some sleep at 6 PM. Sleep was something that we were not going to have much for the anxiety that keeps your mind awake all the time. Besides, the daylight was still flashing on our tent. However the body got some rest after the tiring day.
Day 5: Summit Day | CB13
We got up at 1:00 AM, made some tea, packed some refreshment and started for the summit push at 2 AM as per the plan. It took us around 3 hours to reach Col. The recci of earlier route and the markings that we had put really helped us to stick on the correct route through the glacier. However we were all 3 roped up at all moments to minimize the risk of fall for any one in the crevasses.
The day light broke once we started from the Col for the summit. The col sits at 5500 m on the right ridge of the mountain and offers amazing views of the South Daka Glacier, CB 19, CB 20 and CB 12. There were few spots to camp on the ridge. However camping at Col can be a nightmare incase if the weather flips. We all 3 seemed to be in good energy and had to continue with another 5 hours of climb for the summit via the right ridge which was a mixture of snow, ice and rock. Some parts of the route had ropes of the previous year left which was quite helpful in terms of saving time. For the whole of traverse we followed the team arrest method by making anchors or using the old anchors wherever present.
The climb was getting tiring and we all were getting exhausted. We had to keep the pace too so as to remain on schedule. The long push for the summit which started at 2 AM was getting us slow. In moments like this the more difficult situation gets, the more sense of satisfaction you get once you overcome it successfully.
As we continued further, there were strong winds leading up to scree chute from almost near the peak. These rocks, however small, carried enough momentum to injure any one of us. Climbing via the right ridge however minimized the chances of coming in the route of the scree chute. However there were 5-6 that almost reached to us. This kept happening at a frequency of half an hour almost.
Bijju, being a first timer and that too on a technical route started finding it difficult. He was a strong member and a local person and had trained hard for the climb. But an altitude of 6000 m can make things difficult for anyone however hard you train. Bijju decided to halt at almost 5900 meters at a safe ledge while me and Nanak planned to attempt.
In a situation where you have a small group of just 3 members dividing the group and continuing is not much advisable. But since he was going to be in sight all the time and we had walkie talkie to communicate we thought it safe to continue. The climb was getting tough and the scree chute kept happening. We covered three more pitches and reached an altitude of 6050 meters. The weather started turning bad and could have flipped at any moment.
Considering all the safety protocols we made our summit at 6050 meters, clicked a few photographs and started descending. We got up with Bijju midway and continued with the descent. The fixed ropes of last year were quite helpful to descend via the steep slope. We made it to the Col in just 2 hours. The weather started turning good and for the first time the sun was out. We took a break for 20 minutes, had some water and refreshments at Col. Just near to the Col we found two coils of rope kept from the last year expedition in an unused form. So Nanak came up with an idea of making a new route from the Col directly below to the flat glacier via crevasses using the two coils. We fixed the rope and just rappelled all the way down and got roped up again while traversing the crevasse patch. We were taking a new route than the morning so had to probe at a few locations for crevasses. Soon we joined the morning route and continued further for the camp. It took us around 12 hours in total to get back to the camp. Since it was only 2 PM we thought to have some lunch and shift the camp a little below(almost 200 meters), just below the CB 14 peak. After relaxing for an hour we packed all our load and descended in an hour to the planned camp.
Having accomplished the day in the best way without any injury or any member getting sick was a big achievement for all 3 of us. We plan the next day to do a route recci of CB 14 and if it turns up easy we would attempt it on the same day.
Rest was what we had been craving for the whole day. We had a good dinner and took a sound sleep.
Day 6: Summit Day | CB 14
We started the day at 6 AM for CB 14 peak. The weather seemed unpredictable with some drizzle in the early morning and few clouds were soaring up in the sky. We started with all the mandatory climbing equipment like rope and a few anchors. Nanak had not been to the route ever and being a walking peak, it was not very famous among climbers.
We predicted the route to be from the left ridge of the mountain. The entire mountain was exposed with loose scree with a couple of hour snow patch towards the end. There did not seem to be any prominent route through the scree and we traversed it just zig zag to minimize the gradient and scree chute. We reached the ridge but were not able to trace the route further. Meanwhile the weather also started turning bad and we made a decision to descend back to camp. It did not seem safe to attempt the summit under such weather conditions.
It took us a couple of hours to reach back to the camp. Since it was just 11 AM, we thought to have some hot lunch, pack the load and descend directly to HIMANSH guesthouse. Although we were totally exhausted but under the existing weather conditions, we decided to give a last push of the journey. The load got almost around 28-30 kg for each of them.As we continued our descent black clouds were raging at us from behind with few thunderstorms and light drizzles. It took us around 5 hours to reach HIMANSH guesthouse. Since none of the friends were available there we expected them to be at Batal. It was time to continue further till Jhoola and reach the road. It seemed that the day was not getting over.
Once we were on the road, Bijju decided to go to Batal(6 kms from there) and get the vehicle. Everyone just wanted to finish today. It took him an hour to come back with the vehicle. We loaded all our stuff and just moved to Batal.
By the time we made it to Batal, it started raining badly. We were lucky that we made use of each minute of the day and were safe. It was time to just relax now for the day. We had some hot dinner at the same dhaba and rested for the night.
Day 7: Back to Rumsu village.
We started at 6 AM from Batal for Manali. It was going to be a long ride of a minimum 8 hours and Bijju had to do it by himself as neither me nor Nanak know driving. Bijju seemed confident enough after the rest. It kept raining till Rohtang Pass and we were lucky not to find any Nala flowing high. Once the Rohtang weather started opening up. There was a minimum of traffic and we made it non stop to Rumsu.