Nanda Devi Sanctuary


The centrepiece of the Garhwal-Kumaun region is, without doubt, the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, remarkable for its unique wild grandeur.

Until 1934 the gorge of the Rishi Ganga and the immediate area around Nanda Devi was the least known and most inaccessible part of the Himalaya. The mountain stands in a vast amphitheatre, enclosed by a ring of mountains, 110km (70 miles) in circumference, and about 6000m (19686ft) high.

There is no point in the ring lower than 5200m (17601ft), except in the west where the Rishi Ganga, draining some 380 sq.km. (240 sq. miles) of ice and snow, carves out for itself one of the world's most formidable gorges. The twin peaks of Nanda Devi (7816m/25792ft) and Nanda East (7434m/24391ft) stand majestically in the centre. The Nanda Devi peaks are beautiful from any angle, particularly when the first and the last rays of the sun are reflected on the summits.

The centrepiece of the Garhwal-Kumaun region is, without doubt, the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, remarkable for its unique wild grandeur.

Surrounding Peaks

The centrepiece of the Garhwal-Kumaun region is, without doubt, the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, remarkable for its unique wild grandeur.


There are several famous peaks on the rim of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. From the east wall of the north sanctuary are Latu Dhura (6392m/20972ft), Deo Damla (6620m/21720ft), Mangraon (6568m/21550ft) and Rishi Pahar (6992m/22941ft) peaks. The sanctuary wall turns west from this junction and leads to Kalanka (6991m/22937ft) and Changabang (6864m/22521ft). It ends at Dunagiri (7066m/23184ft).

Even more remarkable is the veneration that the Nanda Devi peaks hold in Hinduism, the folk-lore behind it and the tributes it has received from some of the finest writers of mountaineering literature. The sanctuary and the high peaks of Nanda Devi are the major barriers between the cold Tibetan winds and the plains of the River Ganges.

Without the sanctuary to absorb the main thrust of the icy winds, the plains of the River Ganges, the granary of India, would be stripped barren. It is hardly surprising, then, that the peaks are worshipped as a goddess with some impressive folk-lore built around them. The name Nanda Devi itself means 'the bliss-giving goddess'.

The centrepiece of the Garhwal-Kumaun region is, without doubt, the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, remarkable for its unique wild grandeur.

Exploration of the Sanctuary


The main peak of Nanda Devi was climbed in 1936 and over the years several ascents by many routes followed. The ridge between the twin peaks, nowhere less than 6700m (21983ft) and almost 2km (1¼ miles) long, was crossed by an Indo-Japanese expedition in 1976. Many peaks on the sanctuary wall have been climbed by expeditions of different nationalities since the sanctuary was opened to foreign mountaineers in 1974.

Unfortunately, too many expeditions in a short span put pressure on the sanctuary's fragile ecology. Logs were cut to make bridges, junipers burnt to keep porters warm and there was talk of building a footpath to the inner sanctuary for tourists. Local shepherds forged an alternative route into the inner sanctuary which allowed their herds to be taken into the main sanctuary for the first time.

This was a fine piece of exploration but it led to much destruction of flora and the sanctuary had to be closed to mountaineers and locals alike. As of now beyond Dibrugheta, the sanctuary remains closed, depriving a generation of mountaineers from enjoying the bliss of the goddess Nanda.

There is a lot to look forward to when the sanctuary reopens to mountaineers, such as the awe inspiring west face of Nanda Devi. Many other peaks and routes are yet to be climbed. For whatever reason, the abode of the rishis (sages) will always be regarded as one of the world's natural wonders, the most prized mountain wilderness in the world.