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Kamet (7756 m)
Kamet is India's third highest mountain, located in the Garhwal Himalaya close to the borders to Tibet and India. Unlike the spectacular and easily visible Nanda Devi (7816 m, in the southern Garhwal), Kamet can hardly be seen from the distance because it is hidden by other mountain ranges and it is located far at the end of the valleys. The distance to the Tibetan border (and the watershed) is only two kilometers.
Garhwal is situated in the state of Uttaranchal which had separated from Uttar Pradesh as a new state of the Indian Federation.
Garhwal is further north than the Nepalese Himalayan ranges, and it is hidden by several foothill ranges. This makes the monsoon less intense; precipitation becomes lower from south to north. In May and June, there is not much to see about monsoom which reaches the continent from the southwest. In this time of the year, the plains south of the Himalaya around Delhi are one of the hottest regions of the world, maximum temperatures around 45°C are frequent. Humidity is, however, also rather low (one of the reasons why the cars in Delhi look quite ok despite their age - they don't get rusty in the dry climate).
Beyond about 1500 m altitude the temperatures are more convenient, but there can be rainy days, too.
For climbing Kamet, an expedition permit is required which must be applied for at the Indian Mountaineering Federation.
The application procedure is usually very lengthy. A liaison officer accompanies the expedition until base camp.
For using the road beyond Malari, a special permit is needed. In order to enter the areas close to the border, a special "Inner Line Permit" is necessary. It is thoroughly checked at the border police station in Gamsali.
It is forbidden to take photographs of bridges, military installations and military personnel in the inner line area. Satellite telephones and GPS receivers are forbidden. In order to avoid unneccessary conflicts no photo cameras should be taken around border police stations.
In summary, for a democratic country the restrictions are extraordinarily strict and sometimes rather paranoid (considering that India considers itself world's largest democracy).
For India, a visa is necessary. For our expedition we had to apply for a special "X-mountaineering visa". The cost (for German nationals) was EUR 50 per person (as of 2005).
Travel to the mountain
The roadhead for a Kamet expedition is usually Gamsali (3350 m) at the end of the road that follows the Dhauli Ganga river upwards from Joshimath. This road is quite adventurous in the upper section, a bus trip takes a fair bit of nerves. The stages as we traveled to Gamsali:
Beyond Gamsali the journey continues on foot. The loads are carried up by porters.
- Delhi - Haridwar - Rishikesh - Srinagar (Garhwal)(1200m)
- Srinagar - Joshimath (1950m)
- (Acclimatization day in the skiing area Auli)
- Joshimath - Bampa (3350m) [- Gamsali]
The location for the base camp is close to the glacier lake Vasudhara Tal. The altitude 4795 m given in the map is either wrong or doesn't refer to the lake.
- Gamsali - Niti (3600 m)
- Niti - crossing of Dhauli Ganga river (3900 m)
- Dhauli Ganga - Raikana Kharak (4300 m)
- Raikana Kharak - base camp (4700 m)
Approach to the mountain
From the basecamp, the glacier is crossed. The route follows the right (southwest) rim of the glacier to about 5000 m (camp 1). Until here it is about 8 km distance, the glacier is rather level. The ups and downs on the moraine hills give another 200 height meters.
From camp 1 to camp 2 (5540 m) it is 6 km distance, follow the middle of the glacier through the narrows. Camp is pitched behing a distinct moraine wall in a small valley.
From ABC to the summit
45 minutes above camp 2, a small valley is coming down from the right side. One can enter it using a short steep slope (about 40°, snow).
It is not before here that one realizes that the valley can be left towards the upper left: The end of the valley is blocked by a glacier with seracs and steep rock ledges. At the right side (in the sense of the ascent) a couloir makes it possible to go around the steep zone and enter the top of the glacier where it is no too steep any more. The glacier traverse westwards leads to a high valley, where there is a good place for camp 3 on a kind of a moraine base at 6140 m. This area is avalanche safe.
(For the couloir one might need about 30 m fixed ropes.)
From camp 3 a rock wall must be climbed which blocks the access to the upper glacier system. The best route traverses the rocks from lower left to upper right in a complicated and exposed way, but it is not too difficult. About 400 m fixed ropes are a good idea here. Having climbed a steep snow slope above, one reaches the high plain (camp 4, 6600 m).
From camp 4 the route makes a wide bend along the right rim of the big hanging glacier towards Meade Col. A steep ice section of 50 m height is basically the only obstacle. Camp 5 at 7080 m is located directly below Meade Col.
The summit bid can be done either on the ridge from Meade Col or in the snow flanks east of the ridge. The ridge is often icy due to the western winds, while in the flanks there can be a lot of loose snow.
General travel information about India
India's Currency is the Rupee, the exchange rate in May 2005 was about 43 Rs. per US$ or 54 Rs. per Euro.
Foreign currency can be changed to rupees in hotels, banks or elsewhere, but changing back rupees to foreign currency is (following the information given by the hotel) possible only at the airport.
The food appeared to us very boring. The basic dish is rice with lentil sauce. In restaurants there are often different kinds of vegetable in different shapes, the food is usually very spicy. Many Indians are vegetarians, a major part of them apparently also avoids eggs. Most restaurants are vegetarian; in India, not the vegetarian but the non-vegetarian restaurants are the exception.
The only meat available is chicken.
At the stands along the roads one finds beverages (coke etc.) either in glas bottles for Rs. 10 (bottle shall be given back!) or PET bottles for Rs. 20. Potato chips and peanuts can be found everywhere.
The traffic is very chaotic, everybody driving on the left being the smallest problem. Compared to central Europe, people drive very recklessly and with no safe distance at all. By using his horn the driver calls the attention of the other road users to the fact that he wants to be the first to reach his destination and that he will brake or get out of the way only if otherwise it would come to collision.
Unlike all other of our visits in many countries, in India we saw at least three accident sites only a short time after the accident happened. Therefore, India's roads seem comparably dangerous.
© 2005 Hartmut Bielefeldt
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Last updated 24 October 2005 by Hartmut Bielefeldt