These summaries are extracted from information sent by Lindsay Griffin (AAJ Senior Editor) and the American Alpine Journal. You will find details of expeditions, not covered in the Expeditions and Explorations section. The footnotes are additional comments from Mr Griffin. We are grateful to AAJ for the details.
Kijai nala, Peak 6038 m (GPS), north ridge;
Arjuna, west face, ascent
Team - Polish - Slovenian
In the spring of 2017 a team of Ales Cesen, Marko Prezelj from Poland and Urban Novak from Slovenia decided to climb Arjuna’s west face. For acclimatization they decided to try Peak 6013 m, which offered a fine view of the west face of Arjuna.
They climbed via the glacier to the west of the base camp, south of the mountain, making the first bivouac at 5000 m and the second, at the top of the glacier, at 5500 m. From this point they ascended a dome-like side peak of 5700 m, from where they got a good look at a possible route to the summit of 6013 m. On 4 June they climbed up to a plateau on the west side of 6013 m, traversed under the summit - below the northwest face - to reach the north ridge. In variable snow they climbed this ridge to the top. From the top they had a clear view of the main objective and the line that really stood out was a gully to the right of the Polish central pillar.
On the face, they found good snow and ice conditions in the lower section of the gully and climbed most of this unroped. They then climbed six pitches of mixed, where occasional wet snow avalanches posed problems. They bivouacked below what they expected to be the crux of the route. Next day it took eight hours to climb three hard mixed pitches. Then they climbed a steep ice pitch followed by seven snow pitches, before bivouacking late at night about three rope lengths below the summit ridge. They reached the main summit of Arjuna around noon next day, the GPS device reading 6250 m. The same day they rappelled the ascent route. It was the second ascent of the summit and the first in alpine style – the team named the 1400 m route All or Nothing (ED+, M7+ WI5+ A0).
The Kijai nala is an exceptional playground for modern-style climbing in all disciplines of rock, mixed and snow/ice terrain and will get many more visits in the future as it is an ‘upgrade’ of the popular Charakusa valley in Pakistan.
Barnaj I, northeast buttress
Team - American
Barnaj I is a mountain that beckons to be climbed. By the end of 2016 this challenging mountain remained virgin and so Jarad Vilhauer, Seth Timpano and Sam Hennessey, planned to return the following year. Jarad dropped out but Sam and Seth established base camp at 4350 m above the west side of the Hagshu glacier. They attempted an unclimbed peak ‘The Castle’, 5760 m, snow free on its east and south aspects. On 19 September they climbed the southeast ridge and face.
The route required a few hundred metres of scrambling and eight pitches of roped climbing on moderate to poor rock (IV 5.8+). They also attempted P 6200 m, which was above the huge snowy basin west of base camp, but turned around 400 m short of the summit due to unstable snow conditions. After a few days of unsettled weather, they moved to advanced base near Barnaj I at 4700 m.
Sam and Seth left this camp on the morning of 1 October, and walked 30 minutes up glacier before starting to climb snow aprons at the base of the impressive north face of Barnaj I. They crossed the bergshund at 4920 m and climbed continuously on ice all the way to the summit.
The route contained very little snow, mixed climbing, or calf burning sheet ice; its calibre was reflected in pitch after pitch of quality ice climbing. After a bivouac at the same point as in 2014, and then a bit higher, they continued, starting out at 1:00 am and worked their way through a chimney in four long pitches of fairly sustained ice.
After 10 more rope lengths of ice averaging 75-80°, with a few vertical steps, Sam cut his way through the cornice and onto the summit ridge. A few minutes of easy snow climbing put them on the true summit, where the GPS read 6370 m. The 1450 m route had been WI5+ M4.
Lenak Nala, L8, east face and north ridge
Team - Japanese
In August a team of Japanese college students, Gakushi Eguchi, Satoru Miyachi, Yuu Nishida and Ryota Takanezawa, drove from Leh over the Shingo La to Darcha, and then trekked into the Lenak valley via Thangso village. They planned to climb the east ridge of L8 (6020 m, 33°09’27’’N, 77°02’08”E), one of the 104 peaks opened in Zanskar in 2010 by the Indian government. This peak lies immediately northeast of Skilma Kangri (5979 m), climbed in 2009. In a photo of virgin L8 the ridge looked particularly gentle and wide. On 28 August they established Camp 1 on the south side of the ridge at 5300 m, but found the crest to be full of loose rock and steep pinnacles. They changed plans and decided to cross the ridge, descend north into an unknown valley, and attempt the north ridge, a gentle snow crest.
It took two days to establish Camp 2 at 5400 m below the northeast face of L8, the descent to this spot involving crevasses and some rock fall. On the 31st they set out at 7:30 a.m., crossing two glacial streams and climbing mixed scree and snow to the col at the foot of the north ridge. Just before reaching the crest there was a steep, five-metre ice wall where they fixed a rope. They reached the summit via the easy snow crest at 12:25 p.m. (L8 has two tops, the north, which they reached, being the higher; the ridge between the two is narrow and loose). They regained base camp on 2 September.
Rucho, east face and south ridge
Team - Japanese
One of the 104 peaks opened in the Zanskar region is unnamed Pk 6000 m, located above the west bank of the north Hagshu nala. It is a little north of Lagan (5750 m), climbed in 2014 by the Slovenian team prior to their ascent of the north face of Hagshu. It is also the eastern summit of a higher unnamed peak.
Yasushi Yamanoi and Takaaki Furuhata flew to Leh on 19 July and drove via Kargil, over the Pensi la, to the village of Akshow. On the 23rd we walked south up the north Hagshu nala (a.k.a. Akshow valley) for three hours using Google Earth maps, until they spotted their peak on the right. They established base camp (4150 m) at the foot of a grassy slope, just above the lateral moraine on the west side of the Hagshu glacier.
The peak looked nothing like its image on Google Earth. It appeared much steeper and jagged. Two days later, they established advance base on the rocky moraine alongside the glacier, and inspected the east face of the peak, the proposed line of ascent. Furuhata and Yamanoi climbed onto the south ridge, further left than the planned ascent route up the east face, reaching 5500 m and depositing some food and gear. This south ridge would form the descent route.
At 1:30 a.m. on 1 August the two Japanese crossed the glacier in 45 minutes and began climbing the east face.
It was a clear cold night and progress was swift, the terrain consisting of mostly hard snow with occasional ice patches (70° maximum). By the time it was light, at 5:30 a.m., the two were on the south ridge. They had pinned their hopes on reaching this point that day, but now found themselves there at dawn with a whole day in front of them. A traverse right on exposed 70° snow led to a bottleneck, where the snow was thin and the rock loose. Above this obstacle six pitches of snow climbing led to a final 20 m of loose rock and the precarious table-sized slab of the summit. It was 9:11 a.m., seven and a half hours since they’d left advanced base. The GPS read 5970 m and the ascent was rated TD.
They continued down the south ridge. At 4:30 p.m. they arrived back at advanced base. The two have proposed naming the peak Rucho, which means horns in both local dialect and Ladakhi.
Tetleh Kangri, first ascent via northwest face
Team - Spanish
In September 2017, Juan Diego Amador and David Pérez made the first ascent of Tetleh Kangri (6025 m, 33°12’45”N, 76°51’20”E) toward the head of the Tetleh nala, one of the three main offshoots of the Raru valley. The peak had been identified, and named after consultation with locals, by the Slovenian team that visited the area in 2015. It is the highest peak on the southern rim of the Tetleh valley and designated R10, 6101 m, on Sakamoto’s sketch maps.
The Spanish expedition left the road head at Raru on August 27, and reached base camp below the glacier at 4800 m two days later. A reconnaissance took them to below their goal, which they had chosen previously using satellite imagery. The northeast face seemed exposed to stone fall, and while the north and northwest aspects were less exposed to sun, the north featured large and ominous serac barriers. They established a high camp close to the face and returned to base.
After waiting through two weeks of poor weather they left high camp at 3:00 a.m. on September 16, crossed the glacier and rimaye, and set foot on the northwest face, travelling light with no tent or stove. The first 450 m was a snow/ice slope of 55-75°, then came a difficult mixed section of 200 m, followed by a final 200 m section of snow/ice at 65-75° that led to the summit (east) ridge.
At 8:30 p.m., having battled through stormy weather, latterly in the dark, the two, realizing they were close to the top, found a small platform at 5985 m. With little water or food, and just the clothes they were wearing, they decided to stop for the night and continue in daylight the following morning. It was blowing, and the temperature -15°C, making it a night to remember. At 6:00 a.m. the warmth of the sun had begun to clear the clouds and they quickly ascended the final ridge to the summit, though the visibility was still far from perfect. Now they had to get off.
They tried several directions, even the opposite side of the mountain, but the amount of new snow made all these alternatives dangerous. In the end they opted for the rocky northeast face. By 12:00 noon it was snowing again. Using rock anchors until they reached ice, from where they descended from Abalakovs, the two rappelled the face and by 8:15 p.m. were back at high camp on the glacier. Next day insensitivity in various swollen fingers and toes made them give up any idea of further climbing on this trip, and they descended to base camp. They named their route Don’t Sleep (900 m, MD, 75° M3/4), and because Amador comes from the Canary Islands, dubbed the peak Pico Islas Canarias, a name that the Indian Mountaineering Foundation has apparently accepted.
(Additional help from Matic Jost for the report)
Lalung valley, unnamed buttress, Mahalaya
Team Indian - American
During September, Spandan Sanyal and Korak Sanyal joined friends Jon Griffin and Tad McCrea (USA) for an expedition to the Lalung valley. Base camp, 4150 m was established on a flat grassy spot and a flowing stream after a three-hour hike from the road over the Pensi la. Just southeast of base camp was a peak of around 5200 m, with a northwest-facing granite buttress rising from 4200 m to around 4800 m. The buttress finished on a ridge running northwest from Peak 5200 m, and offered promising lines on good quality granite.
On September 20 Spandan and Korak left base camp at 8:00 a.m. and after one hour up steep loose talus reached the base of a groove system that cut through the central section of the face. The climb began with a smooth blank slab of 15m (UIAA V/V+). This led to easier ground, where they continued by simul-climbing with spaced protection.
After 200 m the face steepened and Korak led an initial block up a series of dihedrals. Spandan took over and led a demanding 60 m pitch. Above, they shortened the rope, did a couple of 30 m-long pitches and then moved together, reaching the top of the buttress at 3:00 p.m. They named the 550 m route Mahalaya (VI+), as the 20th was Mahalaya day, marking the beginning of the Durga Puja festival.
Above, the ridge led up toward the summit. It was long and alpine, and would have taken considerable time. Without bivouac gear, they decided to descend along the ridge simultaneously, with a couple of short rappels near the base. Two hours over treacherous terminal moraine saw them back at camp, 12 hours after departing.
Karnak Valley, Hanuman Wall, Monkey Business
Team - Romanian
With a Grit&Rock Award, Christina Pogacean was due to attempt H17 in Zanskar, and Cosmin Andron, her husband came along on a solitary mission, and in support. However, shortly after arriving in Padam, Christina’s partner fell ill and had to return home.
Indian friends invited the couple to join them on the trip to the Karnak gorge, south of Kang Yatze in Ladakh. The Karnak gorge, an amazing limestone canyon at over 4000 m, is home to the 2007 Chabloz- Chardonners-Chevieux-Quirici-Scherrer route, Samsara is Nirvana (650 m), described as a bolted climb of 16 pitches on magnificent grey limestone. The Indians hoped to make the second ascent.
Spotting a line [the base at approximately 33.591351°N, 77.473961°E] they set out on the morning of 4 September, with Christina leading the first block, and both carrying 30-litre sacks with food, water, raingear, shoes and sleeping bags. Throughout the route they had to make difficult choices between the best available climbing (and there was lots of it) – largely on very compact rock, or more protectable options on mostly friable limestone.
The first two pitches ascended a beautiful compact face, and the climbing continued to be good for the first half of the wall. Above, progressively poorer rock made for difficult route finding and careful handling so as to not drop blocks onto the belayer or rope. After 10 pitches it was dark the two that followed were loose and unenjoyable. Cosmin took the lead for pitches 13 and 14, the last two of the route, which continued being unpleasant. Part way they called it a day and rappelled to the first prayer of a ledge, where they excavated a perch in rubble and bivouacked for the night. A nice fire down in the valley made them wonder what they were looking for up there.
Next morning they regained the high point, from where Christina set out to finish the final pitch to the ridge. Two metres below the crest they decided to build an anchor and descend. Ten rappels, one cut/ stuck rope, and some scrambling saw them back at the river bed.
Advice for interested parties – “do not climb our last two pitches; avoid the final white wall on the left. It might also be possible from somewhere on the ridge to rappel the far (west) side. A few rappels and some scrambling should see you on the main trekking path”. The couple had the good karma that granted them two fine weather days, just perfect for some Monkey Business (14 pitches from ca 4200 – 4700 m, 6a+).
Kumar Gaurav and Madhu CR (India) reached the top of Samsara is Nirvana, at some point freeing all the pitches but not in a continuous ascent.
Kang Yatze III, east face, Desesperados
Team - Portuguese
On October 21 Paulo Roxo and Daniela Teixeira made the second known ascent of Kang Yatze III (6300 m) via a somewhat convoluted route on the east face. They named the climb Desesperados (600 m, AI2 M3). They descended the upper section of the northeast ridge, the route climbed in 2015, then cut down east to regain the upper glacier, which they traversed to join their approach to the east face. The pair also made attempts on two other mountains but were thwarted by conditions or weather.
Shivling, northeast and north faces, partial new route, Shiva’s Ice
Team - Italian
Simon Gietl and Vittorio Messini decided to attempt Shivling (6534 m). Since the first ascent in 1974 many different routes have been created on the ‘Matterhorn of the Himalaya’. However, it wasn’t until 2000 that the true finish to the north pillar, a direct line through the headwall, Shiva’s Line (UIAA VII and A4) was completed by Thomas Huber and Iwan Wolf. Although it featured only 400 m of new climbing, it would subsequently be awarded a Piolet d’Or. This impressive line was their goal.
Just before their arrival there was heavy snowfall that made access difficult but also created ephemeral snow and ice lines. Whilst the hard rock climbing on the northeast pillar would now be problematic, a newly-formed ice line appeared to the left. It looked steep and difficult to protect, certainly WI5. They climbed to ca 5900 m, fixing about 400 m of rope; four long pitches of steep ice were followed by 70° super styrofoam snow. They descended to base camp at 4300 m for two days of rest.
On 9 October they jumared the fixed ropes, picked up cached gear, and continued up less difficult, but hard-to-protect terrain, to reach the crest of the north pillar. One short pitch up the crest led to a bivouac site at 6000 m. Above lay the headwall and the prow of Shiva’s Line. They quickly realized it was far too cold to negotiate the A3/A4 climbing on the prow. Instead they opted for the perfect Styrofoam of the Japanese route, which follows a right-slanting ramp below the headwall to reach the summit snowfields.
They headed up right, taking a ‘short cut’ to reach the Japanese traverse. They reached the summit at midday, didn’t stay long, and then rappelled the route back to their tent, spending one more night there before continuing down their route to the base.
They named the partial new route Shiva’s Ice (ca 1100 m, WI5 M6). In terms of overall climbing it is certainly one of the most uniform routes on the mountain.
Peak 5620 m, east ridge
Team - Japanese
In September, Hiroyoshi Manome, Makoto Kuroda, and Yukio Ueda left Tos (Tosh) village in the Kullu valley and walked up the Tos nala to establish a base camp on the west side of the Tos glacier at about 4250 m (32° 9’56.28”N, 77°29’22.20”E). Unaware of the Korean ascent earlier in the year (and indeed the first ascent in September 1985) they had come to attempt the west face of Dharamsura (6420 m). However, that month the weather was very poor, so they changed objective to an unnamed rock tower at 32°11’23.52”N, 77°26’41.47”E (Google Earth), near the head of the glacier that rose west of base camp. On the ridge that runs from this point to the west and then northwest to Indrasan (6221 m) lie what are known as the Malana Towers.
On 2 October the three left base camp and ascended the glacier to the base of the tower, where they made advanced base at 5090 m. Next day they left early, climbed 200 m of mixed ground up to the east ridge of the tower, then along the crest on snow until a 30 m rappel put them at the base of an ice face, which they climbed for 200 m to the headwall, thus avoiding on the north flank the prominent gendarme on the ridge. It was midday. They then climbed a steep rocky section and mixed ground to a short section of ice leading to the summit boulder, which they surmounted. Their altimeter recorded 5620 m.
The three began descending at 4:30 p.m. and reached around 5300 m at 7:30 p.m., where they bivouacked. Next day they reversed the route and reached base camp by evening. The average age of the members was 47 and all three members are considered strong veteran alpine climbers in Japan. The 530 m (vertical interval) route was graded ED-.
Dharamsura, northwest face, second ascent; Papsura, south face direct
Team - Korean
After leading the first Korean Way project in 2016, which successfully climbed the south face of Gangapurna, Kim Chang-ho accompanied by An Chi-young (40) led an expedition of younger inexperienced Korean climbers Gu Gyo-jeong (25), Kim Ki-hyun (31) and Lee Jae- hun (24). They reached base camp at Kuta Thach (4260 m) after a four-day hike from Tos (Tosh) village in the Kullu valley to the southwest.
Dharamsura (6446 m) was first ascended in 1941 by a British party led by J. O. M. Roberts via the south-southeast ridge. It is not often climbed, though other routes have been added; the southwest ridge, and various variations from the east. The Koreans’ goal was its northwest face but they had failed to find a picture from either the internet or mountaineering publications in India1.
To look at the face more closely, they scrambled through the Sara Umga pass (5020 m) west of Dharamsura and Papsura (6451 m), returning down the east Tos glacier. The stunningly beautiful western aspect of Dharamsura resembled Jannu north face.
Lee and Kim, and An and Gu formed individual pairs, though they climbed together. With ropes, tents, sleeping bags, cams and nuts, six ice screws, four snow stakes, stoves and food, they began the ascent with 14 kg sacks each. We moved up the east Tos glacier to reach the first bivouac site at 5395 m. Over the next two days they climbed pitches of snow, ice and mixed terrain.
On the fourth day they negotiated a left-slanting ramp through the headwall, formed by a diagonal crack below an overhang on the vertical rock wall. It snowed, and visibility was poor. The 18th pitch was the most difficult, 20 m long with a 20 cm wide crack. After this section the weather turned better. They spent the night below a huge roof at 6250 m. Four more pitches next morning led them to the top, which we reached at 10:00 a.m. on 24 May. They descended the southwest ridge and arrived at base camp that evening. The five day, alpine-style ascent had 25 pitches and an overall grade of ED+.
The next goal was Papsura which was first ascended in 1967 by Bob Pettigrew’s British expedition via a couloir on the south face and the southeast ridge. Since then routes have been added up the southwest ridge, the west face, and the northwest ridge2.
Kim, Gu, and An started in the middle of the south face and over five days climbed more or less direct to the summit. The face is not steep up to 5900 m, but after that there is a complicated rocky section. They bivouacked below a serac at 6000 m. The sky was clear on 3 June when they reached the plateau-like top. After 15 rappels along the northwest ridge using rock anchors, snow bollards, and Abalakov threads, they safely reached the glacier3.
Toro Peak, south face, various routes; Neverseen Tower, second ascent of Horn Please
Team - New Zealand and American
In May 2017, Nick Craddock (NZ), David Shotwell (USA), Allison Swintz (USA), and Llewellyn Murdoch (NZ) travelled to the Miyar valley. They had the advantage of Nick Craddock’s vast experience. Although he had not been to the valley, Nick had been working out of Manali, which was the starting point. This gave them vital prior knowledge of weather, conditions, contacts, and just how India works - these were immensely valuable, given that the others had never been to India before.
They established base camp below the west face of Castle peak after a leisurely four-day trek with porters. After acclimatizing, they climbed a series of routes on the south face of Toro peak (ca 4970 m) above the Chhudong valley, which they named: Wind up Bird (eight pitches, 22, Murdoch-Swintz); Who Gives a Shit (five pitches, 17, Craddock- Shotwell); Comfortably Numb (seven pitches, 20, Murdoch-Swintz); Moving through Space (takes the start of No Mind, then continues direct for six pitches, 18, Murdoch-Shotwell). David and Nick also repeated the 2015 French route, No Mind (eight pitches, 6a+, Tournier-Zucchini) and equipped it for a rappel descent. They also climbed two parallel lines on the east ridge, which they named Sporli Memorial Spur Left, and Right (around 10 pitches, 17). These led to some exposed ridge climbing to reach the spectacular summit4.
After rest and bad weather they carried equipment to around 5000 m on the Chhudong glacier, below Neverseen Tower (5750 m). The goal was the second ascent of Horn Please (ca 700m, UIAA VII, Leone Di Vicenzo-Massimo Marcheggiani-Alberto Miele, 1992). All except Alison made this ascent in 25 pitches at grade 22, using fixed ropes and making several bivouacs. From the lower Takdung valley they also climbed a number of one-to-three-pitch routes below the south face of Castle peak, and made an attempt on Iris peak.
Team - French
In August 2017 Muriel Zucchini and Thibaut Tournier returned to the Miyar, this time with three young climbers from Nice, Thomas Auvaro, Florence Cotto, and Antoine Rolle. The main goal was the first ascent of the west top of Marikula Killa. In 2016 Ian Dring and Martin Moran made the first ascent of the main top (5755 m) via the north spur and upper northwest ridge above the Jangpar glacier. They wanted to climb the west buttress, which rises above a conspicuous pinnacle named Lammergeier Spire (ca 5300 m). Lammergeier Spire had been climbed in 2004 by Graham Little and Jim Lowther (UK) from the Miyar glacier via an introductory rock ridge, snow slopes and some mixed ground, and finally eight pitches of wonderful chicken-head granite (British Severe) up the west ridge.
After arriving at base camp Antoine was ill and needed many days to recover. Thomas and Florence acclimatized with a new route on Goya peak (5300 m) that they named Spherotoniose (300 m, 6b). Two days later Thomas, Florence, Muriel, and Thibaut left for the west buttress of Marikula Killa. They camped at the base, just above the glacier, then next day climbed the northwest-facing depression between Lammergeier Spire and another aiguille immediately left that they named Nissart Tower. After summiting Nissart Tower they rappelled the far side, leaving 20 m of rope fixed. They bivouacked in the gap beyond on snow. Next day, they continued up the west buttress to the summit on well featured granite. They named the route Spicy Night (1000 m, 600 m of climbing, 6a), and descended the same way, rappelling the route with a re-ascent of Nissart Tower. They named the summit Miyar Shivling.
Antoine was feeling better and joined Thomas and Florence for a partial new route on Toro peak, which they called Positive Vibes (300 m, 7a). After this the three attempted to free climb a line on the north-northwest flank of Castle peak, home to the big wall routes Sharp Knife of Tolerance (Slovakian, 2002) and 7 D’espases (Catalan, 2005). They had hoped to establish a free line but after a couple of pitches found the rock too poor. They returned to Toro Peak and on the 20th climbed Waiting for Whisky (300 m, 7a) on the wall left of Positive Vibes [right of the 2017 New Zealand route Who gives a Shit, which finishes after five pitches]. They also returned to Goya Peak, and on the 22nd climbed Crystal Palace (200 m, 7a) on the wall left of Spherotoniose. Both routes feature magnificent granite.
During this time Muriel and Thibaut walked two days up the Chhudong glacier and climbed a new summit, a fine pyramid that they named Chodong (Chhudong) Devling (5750 m). The peak lies on the true right bank of the glacier and they climbed the 700 m east face at 6b. They found pitons of a previous attempt up to the middle section of the route, where it became very steep, but above that nothing. Circumventing the steep section by climbing a hidden ice gully to the right (75°), they finished up a yellow pillar to the small snowy summit, reaching at dark. The far (Jangpar) side seemed snowy, so they rappelled the same route through the night and safely reached camp the following morning.
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