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Asia, India, Eastern Garhwal, Siruanch Glacier, Shambhu Ka Qilla, First Ascent

Siruanch Glacier, Shambhu Ka Qilla, first ascent. On May 16 six members of a British expedition, Roland Arnison, Angela Benham, Chris Drinkwater, Titch Kavanagh, Andy Phillips, and myself (leader) made the first ascent of a previously unnamed peak approximately five kilometers north of Tirsuli on the eastern boundary of the Siruanch Glacier. In doing so we became the first mountaineers, and most probably the first humans, to visit the upper glacier regions below the north side of Tirsuli West. Despite full IMF permission, we were still forced to spend four days in Joshimath before the civil authorities there sanctioned an Inner Line Permit. Then, from the normal road head at Malari (ca 3000m) we spent over a week exploring a suitable route into the Siruanch Gad before eventually setting up base camp on May 2 quite low down in the valley at an area called Chilkuanch (ca 3600m). We were almost certainly the first non- Indian mountaineering group to enter this valley since the 1950 Scottish expedition.

Our expedition had a permit for the then-unclimbed Tirsuli West (7035m). The north side of this peak is a 2500-meter high very broad snow/ice face almost entirely composed of a jumble of seracs, hanging glaciers, and steep rock buttresses. These are capped by large cornices on the long summit ridge. It was soon concluded that an objectively safe line did not exist and we turned our attention to a side glacier to the north, which at its head held an attractive peak on the watershed ridge south of Uja Tirche.

After clearing permission for the climb with our liaison officer, a camp was established at ca 5400m in the upper glacier basin below the south face of the unnamed peak, and a potential line was identified linking a series of couloirs. Six climbers left at 9 p.m. on the 15th, and by dawn the following morning, after relatively straightforward climbing, we were grouped below the steep summit tower. The latter was climbed via a groove system in two pitches, the first being good Scottish 4. The descent went without incident until the last steep snow couloir leading down to the glacier. Here, Angela Benham slipped and fell 300 meters, hitting rocks and sustaining whip-lash injuries to neck and shoulder. We managed to get her back to camp that night and the following morning she was able to walk unladen down to Base. The ca 6160m peak was christened Shambhu Ka Qilla—the Fortress of Shiva—and the 700-meter route on the south face graded an Alpine D+. Photographs taken during the ascent seem to suggest that existing mapping does not accurately reflect the mountain topography in the area, especially with regard to the location of Chalab (6160m), attempted only once from the east (Girthi Ganga), in 1988.

Colin Knowles, United Kingdom