Kulu Eiger, North-Northeast Face. Two days before departing for India, I received a fax from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation indicating that the Government of India had not granted clearance for our expedition to Kishtwar. After the numbness had worn off, we set about achieving the impossible in identifying and obtaining permission for an alternative objective and maintaining the impetus of the expedition.
I had ample opportunity to view the impressive peak of Kulu Eiger on an expedition to the Parvati Valley, Himachel Pradesh, in 1985, and we quickly firmed up on this as our alternative objective. At this stage we were uncertain as to whether it had already been climbed (subsequent research did not reveal any previous attempts on the peak). Sadly, as a result of this change, we no longer had the allocation of a Liaison Officer by the name of Miss Trupti Upadhya!
A wet but picturesque walk in took us to a delightful campsite at an altitude of 3740 meters directly under the peak. By Himalayan standards, Kulu Eiger, at 5646 meters, is of modest height, yet its north face, towering a vertical 1900 meters above us, looked a serious enough challenge. Our first attempt, after fixing 300 meters of rope on the First Band the day before, faltered, in the face of deteriorating weather, at an altitude of 4690 meters. Our second attempt, a few days later, during a period of superb weather, proved successful. On September 21, Scott Muir, Graham Little and Jim Lowther stood on the summit in windless conditions, under a near cloudless sky. The round trip from Base Camp, which was largely climbed alpine style, involved three bivouacs. The overall grade of the route on the north face/northeast face was Alpine ED (El, A1 and Scottish V) with nine pitches above the Central Icefield giving excellent Scottish-character winter climbing. We named our line The Mask after a small distinctive icefield high on the face. The summit team owes a debt of gratitude for the Base Camp support provided by John Finlay, Pasang Bodh and Prakash Bodh on what was a most harmonious and successful expedition.
Graham E. Little, United Kingdom