Nanda Devi. Mountain in Uttarakhand, India

Nanda Devi

Mountain in Uttarakhand, India

Nanda Devi Photo © Paul Hamilton

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Nanda Devi

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	Peak - Nanda Devi
Mountain Peak - Nanda Devi. Photo by Daniel Cooney
Located deep inside the Kumaon Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, Nanda Devi is the second highest Indian mountain after Mount K2 (Wikipedia Article) and is situated entirely within the Indian subcontinent.
Lying between the valley of Rishiganga on the west and the valley of Goriganga in the east, the Nanda Devi summit is considered to be the patron Goddess of Uttarakhand. Because of its religious importance and in order to maintain and protect the fragile Eco system of this area, the peak as well as its surrounding mountains were closed to both the climbers as well as the locals until 1988 when the area surrounding the mountain known as the Nanda Devi National Park was declared by UNESCO as another World Heritage Site.

Notable features of the Nanda Devi Summit

Nanda Devi consists of two peaks which are connected by a 2 km long ridge. The eastern summit of Nanda Devi mountain range is referred to as Nanda Devi East while the western summit of the Nanda Devi which is the main summit and is higher than the eastern one. Some of the highest mountains of the Indian Himalayas encompass the main Nanda Devi summit, some of which are even more than 6,400 meters in their altitude. The interior of this insuperable ring consists of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary which is now known as the Nanda Devi National Park.
The Nanda Devi East is also referred to as the Sunanda Devi. Sunanda Devi and Nanda Devi have both been mentioned in the holy ancient Hindu scriptures ‘Bhagavata Purana’ and these twin Goddesses are worshiped all over the Kumaon Himalayas as well as throughout the state of Uttarakhand.
Being the 23rd highest peak of the world, the Nanda Devi is exemplary for its steep elevation above the local terrain. One of the steepest peaks of the world, it has been compared with the topological features of the K2.
On the north of the Nanda Devi Mountains, lies the glacier of Uttari Nanda Devi which flows into the glacier of Uttari Rishi. While on its southwest lies the glacier of Dakkhini Nanda Devi (Wikipedia Article) which flows into the Dakkshini Rishi Glacier. On the east of the spectacular mountain range, one finds the glacier of Pachu (Wikipedia Article) and on the southeast of Nanda Devi lies the glaciers of Lawan and Nandaghunti.
In the southern side of Nanda Devi lies the Pindari Glacier and the pass of the Longstaff Col at an amazing altitude of 5,910 meter.
Also on the south of Nanda Devi East, lies some of the highest unnamed passes in this region.

Nanda Devi from Auli -
	Nanda Devi
Nanda Devi from Auli - Nanda Devi. Photo by Michael Scalet

History and Expeditions

The ascent of the main summit of the Nanda Devi took 50 years of exploration in quest of a passage which would lead to the sanctuary. Rishi Gorge which is a very steep and narrow canyon, is the outset to the Nanda Devi Sanctuary and being really difficult to traverse, as it forms the greatest hindrance in entering this sanctuary.

In the 1930s, three unsuccessful attempts to climb the summit was made by Hugh Ruttledge (Wikipedia Article), who wrote that entering the Sanctuary of the Nanda Devi is more difficult than setting foot on the North Pole.
Finally in the year 1934, the world famous mountaineer Eric Shipton and H.W. Tilman from Britain along with three Sherpa (Wikipedia Article)s managed to discover an entry point to the sanctuary via the Rishi Gorge.

In 1936, H.W. Tilman and Noel Odell successfully ascended the main summit from the southern ridge known as the Coxcomb Ridge, without using any fixed ropes and without any support from the Sherpas beyond 6,200 m.
In 1964, N. Kumar led an Indian team which successfully reached the summit via the same Coxcomb Ridge route.
In the initial phase of the Chinese Missile program, the CIA along with the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) attempted to place a telemetry relay listening device powered by nuclear energy, on the summit of the mountain in order to intercept the Chinese missile testing signals in the Xinjiang province. The expedition failed since they couldn't reach the summit because of bad weather, nevertheless, the relay listening device was installed somewhere near the summit. Because of this, the Nanda Devi Sanctuary remained closed to all climbers throughout the 60s and was reopened once again in 1974.

Nanda Devi trekking - Nanda
Nanda Devi trekking - Nanda Devi. Photo by Vernon Fowler
Subsequently, after the opening of the trekking route, in 1976 an Indian Japanese team successfully attempted to traverse the two peaks of Nanda Devi.

In the same year, another thirteen member team co-led by H. Adams Carter, Louis Reichardt, and Willi Unsoeld reached the summit during the latter half of 1976, following a challenging route from its northwestern side.
Nanda Devi Unsoeld, the daughter of Willi Unsoeld, who was named by her father after this mountain, died during the 1976 Nanda Devi expedition.

Chandraprabha Aitwal, Rekha Sharma, and Harshwanthi Bisht were the first women to scale the summit in 1981.
Another expedition in 1993, which was led by the Indian Army team erected a memorial in honor of Nanda Devi Unsoeld at the high altitude pasture lands of Sarson Patal (Wikipedia Article) in this sanctuary.
Later on, in 1993 another Indian Army team carried out an expedition with the aim of carrying out an ecological survey of Nanda Devi, and also to clear up the garbage left by other expedition teams in this region.
To note some other unfortunate events, Adam Karpinski, the Polish explorer led a four member expedition team and successfully climbed the Nanda Devi East on the 2nd of July, 1939. However, he along with Stefan Bernadzikiewicz were killed by an avalanche while attempting to scale the Tirsuli on the 19th of July in the same year. Two French climbers also died while attempting to traverse the ridge between the Nanda Devi East and the main summit in 1951.

When the globally famous Mount Everest climber Tenzing Norgay (Wikipedia
	Article) was asked in an interview what was his most difficult climb, very unexpectedly he answered- Nanda Devi East.

The Nanda Devi National Park

2009, Darjeeling - Nanda
2009, Darjeeling - Nanda Devi. Photo by xeeliz
Dominated by the imposing peaks of the Nanda Devi, the national park is famed to be one of the most spectacular wildernesses in the Indian Himalayas. This sanctuary, which covers an area of 630 sq km, is divided into two parts- the outer and the inner walls. The Inner Sanctuary in the east consists of two thirds of the total area of this heritage site and houses the main summit of the Nanda Devi with North Rishi Glacier and the South Rishi Glacier flanking the peaks. High ridges separates the Inner Sanctuary from the Outer Sanctuary in the west. The Rishi Ganga divides the Outer Sanctuary into two more parts. Within, the Ramani Glacier lies on the northern half while the Trisul Glacier lies on the south.

The Nanda Devi National Park is home to many wild and endangered animals like the Himalayan black bear, snow leopard, lingus, brown bears among others. This sanctuary is also a home to nearly 312 different variety of floral species. The main vegetation in this region consists of pine, fir, rhododendron, and junipers.

The Nanda Devi natural park remains open from 1st of May until 31st of October every year.

	- Nanda Devi
Sunrise - Nanda Devi. Photo by Michael Scalet

How to reach there

From the town of Rishikesh in northern India, one can take a bus to the small town in the Himalayas known as Joshimath and then take another 25 km bus or car ride to the village of Lata, which is more popularly known as the unofficial base camp for the Nanda Devi mountain climbing trail.
Rishikesh can be reached both by bus and car from New Delhi which harbors the closest international and domestic airport for the tourists, interested in travelling to this famous hill side city.

Similar Landmarks

Hardcore climbers would also love to visit the Panchchuli Mountains and the Trisul Mountain which lie both within the state of Uttarakhand.

Trekkers would also love to visit the famous Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, which is famous for the Bengal tigers, Indian elephants, and others.

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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Jan 04, 2015

Pictures of Nanda Devi

Glowing in the sun - Nanda Devi
Glowing in the sun - Nanda Devi. Photo by Parth Joshi


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