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Asia, India-Garhwal, Shivling Tragedy and Ascent of Soutwest Ridge

Shivling Tragedy and Ascent of Southwest Ridge. After a three-day walk Australians Graeme Hill, Jon Muir, my sister Belgian Véronique Koch and I got to Base Camp on April 24. There was a lot of snow after the heaviest winter snowfall in ten years. We established Advance Base by May 5. While Jon fixed rope on the first 250 meters of our new route, the rest of us started up the normal west-ridge route on May 10 but descended after a day because of headaches. Our liaison officer Dr. Mohmed Vahanvati, an eye surgeon, was climbing with us. On May 13, he and Hill went back up. On the only rope we had fixed on the way up to our previous bivouac, the doctor died while jümaring, apparently from exhaustion and panic. Graeme’s attempts to revive him were unfortunately unsuccessful. Graeme and I went down valley to report, a ten-day trip with bad weather and much new snow. A party of ten from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi followed in our steps and evacuated the body. We were back in Base Camp on May 24. We then spent three days fixing rope on mixed ground on the face up to the southwest ridge. It was hard to get to the bottom of the face. Wherever we went, we had to tunnel along in trenches of deep snow. My husband Jon Muir had to dig around for a few days to recover gear buried in a bergschrund under six meters of snow avalanched from the face. Once we had the face fixed, Jon, Hill and I got up its 650 meters to the previously unclimbed southwest ridge, where we established our first camp. This was the last unclimbed ridge leading to Shivling’s west summit. From there we fixed rope towards the buttress, spending three nights before moving up the ridge to spend another night on a small platform. A few pitches above Bivouac II, the climbing was only on rock. We climbed the shoulder to the very bottom of the prow. We then traversed one pitch to a snow ledge, where we spent four nights, cleaning the route behind us and fixing the prow to the summit ridge. The crux of the climb, led by Jon in eight hours over a period of two days, is the pitch above the ledge. Two more pitches took us to the summit ridge. There were six pitches along it. We got to the summit on June 15 and spent the night there. The next day we descended one pitch on the ridge before making seven abseils to the col between the two summits. From the col there were two more abseils down the sérac at the top of the west summit. We were back in Advance Base seven hours after leaving the summit.

Brigitte Muir, Australia