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INDIA'S MIYAR VALLEY TRIP REPORT EXPANDED
Posted on: October 4, 2007
[Editor's Note: Alpinist posted this blog as a follow up to an October 1, 2007 NewsWire reporting the same trip.]
2007 American Miyar Nala Expedition
Pat Goodman, Dave Sharratt, Freddie Wilkinson
Looking south from the top of Sharratt and Wilkinson's route Ashoka's Pillar (V+ 5.11 R, 857m) on Mt. Mahindra. [Photo] Freddie Wilkinson
Trip Report: Freddie Wilkinson
Supported by a grant from Mountain Hardwear, Pat Goodman and Dave Sharratt and I left home on August 7th bound for the Miyar Nala in India's Himachael Pradesh. This broad, pastoral valley provides access to a series of glacier systems offering impressive rock walls and ridges to summits up to around 6,000 meters. In the last decade the area—particularly the Tawa Glacier, featuring Neverseen Tower and Castle Peak—has seen repeated attention from Italian, Spanish, and Slovenian expeditions. This spring, a secret dosier came across my desk describing the relatively unknown Jangpar Glacier, located approximately eight miles farther up valley past the Tawa. A British team had made an exploratory visit to the Jangpar, and returned with enticing photos of some spectacular alpine architecture. Save for one small peak, the British had kindly left the entire valley for future climbers.
After the requisite third world travel experiences, we established base-camp just below the terminal moraine of the Miyar Glacier, a mile or two up stream from the more popular Neverseen Tower and Castle Peak basecamp. It took us another day of talus-humping to establish our advanced camp on the Jangpar Glacier, below the appealing rock formation the Brits had dubbed "The Orange Tower". As a threesome, we warmed up by making the peak's first recorded ascent via a fun crack line that went in six pitches at 5.11.
Our next objective was the stunning looking West Ridge of Peak 5960. After a couple of days waiting for the weather and our lungs to feel good, we left camp at 1 AM. To access the ridge, we had to negotiate several miles of convoluted glacier, followed by approximately 500 meters of uniquely chossy terrain to reach the saddle where the ridge began. Luckily it was dark for the most part while we ran this gauntlet. From the col (circa 5300 meters) to the summit was 700 meters, though because of its traversing nature it probably equaled closer to 1000 meters of climbing. We found the lower two thirds of the ridge to be moderate (up to 5.8) terrain that we entirely simul-climbed for speed. We reached a hieght even with the top of the distinctive snowfield that is just right of the ridgeline by 1 AM. The final third of the route appeared to be more challenging, with steep, featured rock. Unfortunately, we were engulfed in an snowstorm that quickly deposited several inches of sticky Himalayan sludge. After waiting for an hour and half for conditions to improve, we began rappelling. Rather than descend back down to the Jangpar, we chose to walk out the Dali Glacier and thereby avoid the bottom 500 meters of choss-ineering. Unfortunately by the time we gained the Dali it was dark again and we were worked, necessitating a joyful improntu bivy on ice to wait for daylight to continue the glacier route-finding to descend back to basecamp
After resting for several days, we were determined to finish the route, though this time we decided to access the ridge from the Dali Glacier—and thereby avoid taking another lap on the loose, alpine diarriahia choss of the Jangpar. Pat was fighting a kidney infection and decided to sit this one out. Dave and I simulclimbed in the dark to reach our highpoint by sunrise. Above, the upper ridge yielded six pitches of alpine 5.9, with spectacular airy positions. By 9 AM we were on the summit for what we believe to be the first ascent of Peak 5960. Taking advantage of our previously installed rap anchors, we were able to descend all the way to basecamp by that evening.
Our final objective was the sexy looking West Face of Mount Mahindra. This fortress-like wall had seen several attempts by Slovenian and Italian teams, though its only completed route to date was a mixed gully climbed by Himalayan tough guy Dodo Kopland. Dave and I free climbed two pitches to gain a corner system on the middle pillar that some Italians had tried in 2003 (Pat's infection, aggravated by altitude, was getting worse). The climbing was engaging: overlaps and thin flakes connected by runout slabs. We fixed our two lines, rapped, and returned to climb the face in a day. We quickly gained the Italian's highpoint on the long ledge the divides the wall between into two tiers. Here we traversed right approximately 200 meters before launching up a wall of blank slabs. Three pitches of runout, complex slab climbing finally deposited us at the base of a phenomenal corner that led us to the summit ridge and the center summit of Mahindra. The route went all free at 5.11 R, with approximately 700 meters of climbing.
Upon returning to basecamp, we learned that Pat, unable to deal with another day waiting in the tent contemplating how it feels to pass a golf ball through your urethra, had soloed a 5.9 ridge above camp to the summit of peak 5300. Two days later we loaded our gear onto nine donkeys and began the journey home.
This trip was supported by the following companies—a hearty thanks to all of them for helping us.
Mountain Hardwear, Sterling Ropes, La Sportiva, Montrail
Summary of Activity:
First ascent of the Orange Tower (5300m), via Shepard Pie, 5.11, six pitches, Jangpar Glacier. Goodman, Sharratt, Wilkinson.
First ascent of Peak 5960, via The West Ridge, (5.9, 700m)—1000 meters climbing. First attempted from the Jangpar Glacier, subsequently completed to the summit from the Dali Glacier. Sharratt, Wilkinson.
First ascent of the Middle Summit of Mount Mahindra (6020 m), via The Ashoka Pillar, (5.11 R, 700m), Mount Mahindra. Sharratt, Wilkinson.
First ascent of the Southwest ridge of Peak 5300, via P.K.D. (5.9, 550m). Goodman.