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Asia, India-Garhwal, Bhagirathi III, Southwest Buttress

Bhagirathi III, Southwest Buttress. Bob Barton and I established Base Camp on the meadows at Tapovan at 14,750 feet on September 11 after a day-and-a-half walk-in from the roadhead at Gangotri. In three days more we stocked and occupied Advanced Base across the Gangotri Glacier and below the southwest buttress of Bhagirathi III (6454 meters, 21,175 feet). Above this an unpleasant slope of shale scree and loose rock led to a bivouac at the Brown Tower, below the route proper. The first section of the route was on immaculate granite (5.8, A2) with some soloing on the more broken ground. Once we had fixed our seven ropes, we retired to Base to rest and restock. Our return was delayed by heavy snowfall, but on September 27 we were again at the Brown Tower. We worked our way up the granite in a self-contained manner, fixing rope between the rare bivy ledges. Hauling was tiring and so we usually did two trips instead on the lower part. In general the climbing was excellent, up fine cracks, although ice was a problem particularly on the obvious flake-pillar, which didn’t get the sun till noon. Evening snowfall on most days called for more aid, but did alleviate the water shortage. At the top of the granite we jettisoned all excess gear and climbed the upper third alpine style. This started with very rotten shale but soon changed to hard black ice covered by a foot of fresh powder. We reached the summit on October 8 and descended the north ridge in a minor storm, with poor snow and a lack of protection. After the col, we found the east face even worse with awful rock, poor anchors, difficult route-finding and abseils that were either nearly horizontal or overhanging. We reached the glacier on the evening of the 9th and Base the day after. The 4500-foot-high route had 30 pitches on granite, 2 on shale and 12 on ice. The main problems were lack of good ledges, snow cover on the granite and poor belays higher up. Rockfall was minimal and mainly to our right. This was a superb route which offered something of everything.

Allen Fyffe, Scottish Mountaineering Club