Autumn 2014 | First Ascents and New Routes in Indian Himalayas

Post monsoon is the season when quite a few alpinists head towards Himalayas to attempt virgin peaks and fresh routes on lower peaks. Separate teams of Slovenian, Swiss and British climbers have achieved first ascents and opened some new routes in a less-climbed region of Indian Himalayas, this autumn.

New Routes on Hagshu

Hagshu (6451m) is located near the division of Zanskar and Kishtwar regions. The peak was first climbed in 1989; by Polish climbers without permit and a British team with official permission. No further summits are reported on the mountain (until this year), majorly because of climbing ban from 1993 to 2012 due to political unrest.

This season Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) issued multiple Hagshu permits, due to some bureaucratic blunder, though. This resulted in serious inconvenience for climbing parties. Nonetheless, the ending has been quite smooth for everyone.

Hagshu (6,515m), Kishtwar, Himalaya
Hagshu (6451m); Photo: Mick Fowler;  Source

British Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden have been regular climbing partners and are known for several first ascents in China, Tibet and India; the recent one being first ascent of Kishtwar Kailash (6451m) in autumn 2013. This year, along with Steve Burns and Ian Cartwright, the duo intended to open a new route on North Face of Hagshu.

Three Slovenian climbers Ales Cesen, Luka Lindic and Marko Prezelj were planning to attempt Rimo III, but they were instructed (by IMF) to find another objective. Their agency proposed Hagshu. During the trek to BC, the Slovenians met a three-member American team who also had a permit to climb the Hagshu.

However, at the end, the Americans abandoned the climb because of health issue with one member (the remaining two members attempted Barnaj), the Brits switched to Northeast Face, whereas Slovenians climbed the North Face.

North Face

The Slovenians set up BC at 4400m on west side of Hagshu Glacier. They started the acclimatization by climbing Lagan (5750m), a peak with decent altitude and difficulty, in two days. After a couple of rest days, they established ABC at 4660m. During second rotation, the team summited a 6300m peak named Hana's Men.

After acclimatization and three days of rest, the summit push on Hagshu North Face began on Sept 29th. They left ABC at around 3am.

“We headed towards the wall with a small tent, two sleeping bags and food for two bivouacs. After a little more than two hours of access, we waded into deep powder snow, drifted from the north face by winds and powder snow avalanches. After almost an hour of wading, the conditions began to allow for rapid advancement again. We climbed up a snow cone to the central part of the north face.

We climbed unroped and quickly reached the steepest part of the wall with steep icy passages. Then followed a very steep ice, which surprised us with its hardness. The ice was polished completely smooth from minor powder avalanches and brittle as glass because of the cold. These conditions made the upper part of the wall surprisingly difficult, and slowed us down.”

Ales Cesen on North face of Hagshu. (Photo by Marko Prezelj)

The trio climbed for 23 hours that day, before bivouacking on a narrow ridge at 6320m.  Next day, they resumed the climb, late in the morning. The weather remained nice and the team reached the top at around 5PM. “The late hour and nice weather persuaded us into bivouacking just a few meters below the summit.” The entire climb was graded as ED, 70°-90°, III.

Instead of descending the line of ascent, the Slovenians decided to come down via Polish route on Southeast ridge. “During steep rappelling we all agreed that the Poles had done an excellent job in 1989,” the climbers concluded.

Slovenian Hagshu North Face route; Source

Northeast Face

Precise details about Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden’s climb aren’t available, yet. However, the Slovenians mention that, “They (Fowler and Ramsden) climbed the pronounced couloir in the left-most part of the northern wall, and on the third day of climbing at an altitude of 6320m they joined to the route that had been outlined by us, at the location of our first bivouac. They continued in our trail for the remainder of their ascent and the entire descent.”

Paul Ramsden and Mick Fowler on the summit of Hagshu (6,515m) after having made the first ascent of the NE Face, Kishtwar, Himalaya
Paul Ramsden and Mick Fowler on the summit of Hagshu (6,515m) 

Other two members of British team, Ian and Steve, didn’t participate in Hagshu NE Face climb. They attempted a less-demanding six-thousander near Base Camp. The American team made two unsuccessful attempts on Barnaj from Northeast and South side. They were very close to the top during latter attempt.

Swis First Ascents of Unnamed Peaks, New line to Kishtwar Shivling's east summit

After remaining devoid of any mountaineering activity for almost two decades, the climbers are returning to the playground of Kishtwar region. Apart from the teams around Hagshu BC, three Swiss climbers scaled two unnamed peaks and opened a new route to Kishtwar Shivling's east summit.

Just before mid-September, Andreas Abegglen, Thomas Senf and Stephan Siegrist established the Base Camp near a 5885m peak, which they later named Shiepra. The climbers reached the summit on September 16th, from South side, after bivouacking a night at 5100m. They graded the route as IV WI3 75 degrees.

Stephan Siegrist climbing Shiepra; Source

Next, they moved to a peak, 40m lower than Shiepra. It was named as Kharagosa (5840m). Team started the climb from east face to approach southeast face and go further to the summit. “We were into the second rope length on the pillar when we arrived at a steep and very beautiful section of rock with great friction," Siegrist told, "It was such a bummer we had our alpine boots on and no soft climbing shoes with us!" The route was marked as 6a [5.10] M4, 1000m.

Kharagosa; Source

Next, the Swiss alpinists headed to Kishtwar Shivling, a 6000m peak first climbed by Dick Renshaw and Stephen Venables in 1983. “It was a superb face climb of very difficult, varied climbing: snow aretes, a vertical sérac barrier, difficult mixed climbing, granite pitches and a very steep fluted summit icefield, reminiscent of the Andes.” Stephen Venables wrote in his expedition report to AAJ. He further noted that “like its Garhwal namesake, this Shivling has no obvious easy routes. The same is true for most of the Kishtwar peaks. There is an enormous scope for demanding technical climbing at comparatively low altitude.”

The Swiss climbers approached Kishtwar Shivling via a 50 degree slope. From 5400m onwards, ten pitches of WI5 led them through a hidden couloir which, in his interview to, Siegrist compared to the famous Supercanaleta on Fitz Roy. The team’s progress was halted by a dead-ended at 5895m.

Kishtwar Shivling; Source

Telthop First Ascent

At 6185m, Telthop is amongst the highest peaks in the north of Leh, the largest town of Ladakh. Because of political tensions between India and Pakistan, the area is not well explored and permits are hard to come by. British Matt Barnsley, Roland Chuter, Chris Horobin and Bob Shiels, American Chuck Boyd, Indians Dawa Narbu Sherpa, Tashi Phunchok Zangola, and Virender Singh, and Nepalese Phujung Bhote made the first ascent of the mountain, this autumn.

The group reached the summit via northwest face and southwest ridge. The route involved sections of hard ice at 70°. “Given the sustained nature of the climbing, an overall grade of D was felt appropriate,” wrote Lindsay Griffin for theBMC.

Hagshu NE Face: new Kishtwar climb by Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden
Slovenian alpine climbers Česen, Lindič and Prezelj first to climb the north face of Hagshu
Swiss Trio Finds FAs in India's Kishtwar
British climbers make first ascent of a prominent 6,000m peak in Ladakh

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