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Asia, India, Central Garhwal, Peak 6,175m, First Ascent, Medical Research, Map Errors, and Documentary

Peak 6,175m, first ascent, medical research, map errors, and documentary. The aims of our expedition were threefold: to complete a first assent; to carry out medical research into the prediction of altitude sickness; and to make a documentary of the climb with a local Northern Irish media company. Information and photographs of the Bhagirath Kharak valley were scarce. The valley lies immediately south of the Arwa valley, made famous by Mick Fowler’s ascent of the Arwa Tower (AAJ 2000). Our reference sources were Shipton’s 1934 expedition and Harish Kapadia’s 1997 crossing of the Shrak La (pass).

After setting up base camp and overcoming the usual logistical problems, we established an advance camp on the glacier and attempted to identify our peak. It became clear that there was an error in one of the accounts, in particular the published location of the Shrak La. Harish Kapadia identifies the Shrak La as lying between Pk 6,044m and Pk 6,175m. His published photograph (Himalayan Journal Vol.54) does not match this pass in any way. In fact, high vertical cliffs and a hanging glacier defend the col. It would be extremely difficult and foolish to cross here, especially as a much easier pass lies a short distance to the east, between Pk 6,038m and Pk 6,075m.

Shipton in 1934 used the Shrak La to cross into the Arwa valley. While there he ascended a peak from the pass, describing it as an “interesting ridge climb” that allowed him to get a “hang of the geography of the Arwa glaciers on to which we were about to descend.” It is not possible to definitively identify this peak, as his altimeter was not working correctly. It is likely he climbed either Pk 6,075m or Pk 6,038m, which border the col. Suffice to say that Pk 6,038m has what appears to be an interesting ridge and would provide excellent views of the Arwa glaciers. The col’s location is important, as the mountain to the right of it is called Shri Parvat. This means Pk 6,075m is Shri Parvat, and not Pk 6,175 as labeled in Kapadia’s texts.

Our own expedition established a camp at the foot of Pk 6,175m on April 11, and on the morning of the 13th used the southeast ridge to ascend over easy mixed ground and gain the right-hand side of its upper face. This was sustained Scottish III all the way. At 4 p.m. on April 13 Michael McCann, Gustau Catalan, Alan Manning, Sara Spencer, and I reached the summit. We set about a difficult abseil descent taking 14 hours (throughout the night), following a gully on the south face of the east ridge.

Data was gathered from all participants in relation to the medical research study. The film crew, Connor Kane, Alan Manning, and Angus Mitchel, also had a successful expedition achieving all their objectives. The Bhagirath Kharak glacier is a remote valley that has not seen much activity. It has many beautiful unclimbed and unnamed peaks. These are quite accessible and have many potential routes with a vast range of difficulties.

Roger McMorrow, Ireland