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Asia, India—Garhwal, Shivling North Face Ascent and West Ridge Tragedy

Shivling North Face Ascent and West Ridge Tragedy. Our joint expedition had 15 Czechoslovakian and three German climbers. From Gangotri we set out with 10 porters and 15 horses and got to Base Camp at Tapovan a day later. To acclimatize, we decided to climb Shivling by the normal west-ridge route, hoping to get all members up that route before attempting the unclimbed north face. To our sorrow, two of our group were too much in a hurry and used no camps or fixed ropes. Karel Jakeš and German Erik Henseleit reached the summit (6543 meters, 21,467 feet) on August 26. On the descent, Henseleit used an old fixed rope that was in place on the upper part of the rock buttress, which broke, and he fell to his death. The expedition was interrupted for some time. The other two Germans, Knut Burgdorf and Christian Dirjack, went back home. On September 4, the summit of Shivling was reached via the west ridge by Branislav Adamec, Tibor Jánoš, Robert Kukucka, Jirí Švejda and me and two days later, by Richard Kašták, Jirí Pelikán, Pavel Rajf, Josef Rybicka, Stanislav Šilhán and Jirí Vodrážka. Then we rested a couple of days, spending some time rock climbing on a nearby 80-meter-high rock wall. From September 12 to 16 the north face was successfully climbed. Branislav Adamec tells their story: “According to our information, the only virgin face of this beautiful mountain was the north face. Its fantastic shape attracted us strongly. We could see right off that there was very difficult ice, mixed and rock climbing there. Our first attempt had been stopped by bad weather. Švejda, Rajf and I set out again on September 12. The access to the wall led up an avalanche-threatened ice couloir. By noon we approached a small cave at the top of the first icefield, where we had cached equipment on the first try. We continued on for some time and returned to the cave for the night. The difficulty on this first day was 70° ice and UIAA IV + rock. On the 13th we ascended the ropes fixed the day before. Then the first problem on the wall awaited us: the ice couloir that led to the second icefield. There we found some pitons with runners left behind on previous attempts. There were parts of the couloir that were of 80°. Above, we had two pitches of 65° on the snowfield and one more on the buttress. Finally we could find a bivouac site. On September 14, after we climbed 65° to 70° ice in the icefield, we came to the next problem: a huge rock-and-ice step. We climbed this in an 85° water-ice groove. Darkness overtook us when we were still two rope-lengths from the summit chimney. We dug tiny platforms in the ice, placing our feet in rucksacks for the night. The route continued on for two lengths of water-ice of 75° to 80° and then a terrible rotten chimney encrusted with snow and ice, which took the lead climber three hours. During the next pitches, the rock got better. With the light of our headlamps, we got to a fine bivouac spot, but either chopping ice or cooking, we didn’t finish until midnight. On September 16, we first had a pitch of 80° water-ice, then mixed pitches of IV + and 70°. We finally climbed the ice slope below the summit and at 2:30 P.M. reached the summit. We spent one more cold bivouac on the descent. A day later we were back in Base Camp, drinking beer with our friends and celebrating our beautiful and difficult route.” The other members of the expedition were Arnošt Holub, Jan Krch and Jirí Slavík.

Tomás Kysilka, Czechoslovakia