EMMETT AND PARNELL CLIMB MAJOR GANGOTRI ROCK ROUTE

Posted on: November 7, 2006


A foreshortened view of the 2000-meter east face of Kedar Dome (6831m) (with Tim Emmett in the foreground), showing 1. the Southeast Ridge (VI 5.11c, 2000m, Emmett-Parnell, 2006). 2. Hungarian Route (VI 5.10c A2, 1300m, Ozsvath-Szendro, 1989, to 6200 meters). 3. Mani Stone (VI 5.11d A3+ WI4, 1500m, Fluder-Golab-Piecuch, 1999), which joined the Hungarian Attempt at the Yellow Tower (below 6100m). Both the Hungarian and the Polish attempts relied on extensive use of fixed rope; both climbed to the top of the wall, but were forced down by bad weather. The 2006 British Route was climbed on sight all free in an alpine-style push to the summit. [Photo] Ian Parnell

In early October Tim Emmett and Ian Parnell became the first to climb the enormous east face of Kedar Dome all the way to the 6831-meter summit. The relatively popular Kedar Dome is a subsidiary summit of 6940-meter Kederanth, a peak close to famous Shivling in the Indian Gangotri. Its normal route is the northwest face, a snow slope with sections up to ca. 50 degrees that has been skied on a number of occasions. Contrast this with the the east flank, which rises precipitously above the Ghanohim Glacier, is around 2000 meters high, and features an impressive rock wall that had only been climbed twice prior to 2006. In 1989 Hungarians, Attila Ozsvath and Szabolcs Szendro climbed the central pillar to the end of the rock difficulties at 6200 meters, but did not continue up the snowy arete of the northeast ridge to the summit. The vertical height of their route was 1300 meters and had difficulties of 5.10c and A2. Notably, it was the first major Hungarian new route to be completed in the Himalaya. Ten years later a powerful Polish team of Jacek Fluder, Janusz Golab and Stanislaw Piecuch climbed a second and more direct line up the big wall to the right, joining the Hungarian Route at the Yellow Tower (below 6100m), before bad weather forced them down. Their route, Mani Stone, was graded 5.11d A3+ WI 4. Both ascents made extensive use of fixed rope.

Emmett and Parnell wanted to attempt the southeast pillar, a route tried once before in 2004 by Mark Synnott and Kevin Thaw. In fact, Thaw was Parnell's original partner for the 2006 trip before circumstances forced him to drop out.

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The two British climbers first acclimatized by slogging up the Normal Route to 5500 meters, where they cached a tent and some fuel. Then, leaving Advanced Base on the evening of October 1, they set off for an alpine-style push, climbing through the night up a broad couloir toward a shoulder on the crest of the pillar. The couloir proved to be decidedly rotten, a full 800 meters high with sections of abysmal rock and nothing in the way of belays or protection. From the shoulder, the 900-meter pillar above looked extremely imposing, and the pair expected sections of aid with some fairly sketchy bivouac sites. Fortunately, the route unfolded in a surprising manner, with good tent sites and mostly sound granite that could be relatively well protected. On this section the climbing was mainly 5.7 to 5.9, with a couple of pitches of mid-5.10 before reaching the base of the quasi-vertical headwall. The latter gave five demanding pitches of 5.10 and 5.11 with an airy and somewhat stone-swept bivouac in the middle. On October 7 the pair crept though the final shale band at ca. 6300 meters to reach the crest of the northwest ridge, which they climbed delicately past large cornices and through a section of dodgy snow to reach the summit the same day. That night they were safely inside their previously-pitched tent on the "Voie Normale."

While Parnell is an old hand at this game and his many fine achievements need no introduction, Emmett, to put it tactfully, is a touch thin on expedition experience. Although known for his bold leads of UK E9s, Emmett was making his first trip to the Greater Ranges. Prior to this he had only ever climbed one Alpine route. Depressingly, the multi-talented Emmett took it all in stride, adapting well to both the altitude and somewhat hostile environment, then pulling out the big lead on the 5.11c crux pitch at 6150 meters, climbed on sight while wearing a rucksack.

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