It takes eight days to reach
the base camp of Nanda Devi on the south side. The Rishi Ganga
River forces its way through two gorges. The first one, near
Lata village, cuts off any possibility of an easy approach,
and therefore a route over two intervening ridges -the Dharanshi
and Malathuni – was explored. Shipton and Tilman called
this the Curtain Ridge. Near the second gorge of the Rishi
Ganga a route was explored over precarious, rocky terrain.
The approach to the inner
sanctuary will always be difficult. The route is: Lata, Lata
Kharak, across Dharanshi Pass (4267m/14000ft) to Dharanshi
Alp, across Malathuni
Pass (4270m/14010ft) to Dibrugheta Alp, along the river to
Deodi, Ramni at the foot of the gorge, Bhujgara half way through
the gorge and Patalkhan across the main difficulties of the
gorge. 'The Slabs' are the first of the challenges, where
downward-sloping rocky slabs make for a precarious crossing.
A narrow staircase of stones ahead cuts across a huge wall.
Just one slip and you would plummet thousands of feet down
the gorge, aptly called the vaikunth seedi (the 'staircase
to heaven') by locals. If you climb up this, you will reach
the heaven of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, whereas if you fall,
you might reach heaven anyway. Patalkhan is the first halt
in the sanctuary. From Patalkhan, the route crosses the Rishi
Ganga to enter the north side of the sanctuary.