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Asia, India—Garhwal, Shivling Attempt

Shivling Attempt. Our expedition was composed of geologists and climbers: Tony Rex, Mike Norry, Paul Metcalf, Nick Groves, Alan Newby, Jill Peacegood, Jon Tinker, Mark Miller, Simon Nathan and me, United Kingdom; Maryrose Fowlie, New Zealand; Patrick LeFort, Arnaud Pecher, and Jacques Dardel, France; and Bruno Scaillet, Belgium. We spent from April 1 to May 28 around the Gangotri Glacier and side valleys with two objectives: to conduct a regional geological survey involving mapping, sample collecting for geochemistry, mineral chemistry, radiometric dating and fission track geochronology and to climb new routes on Shivling and Bhagirathi I. Base Camp was established at Tapovan on April 4. We spent a week exploring the Chaturangi Glacier and the northwestern flanks of the Bhagirathi group. Without skis and snowshoes, movement would have been impossible the whole time we were in the Gangotri region. Four big snowstorms each deposited about two meters of snow and there was more snow when we left than when we arrived. Local climbers said it was the heaviest snowfall and the worst pre-monsoon season in 30 years. We made three attempts to climb two new routes on Shivling: the northwest face, about 200 meters left of the original Indo-Tibetan Border Police route, and the north face. The first two attempts failed when avalanches buried lower camps and bad weather set in. A second try on the north face from May 16 to 20 by Tinker and Miller reached 5800 meters at the funnel below the upper icefield. Newby, Rex and I reached 6250 meters on the northwest face after a tremendously exposed bivouac clipped into ice screws on a 70° face. The final summit ridge would have been in a frightening unstable condition. We were also suffering from mild frostbite. On May 19 we abseiled ten rope-lengths down the mixed ridge bounding the right side of the north face.

Michael Searle, Leicester University, England