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Asia, India, Garhwal, Bhagirathi III (6,454m), Direct Southwest Pillar, Stairway to Heaven

Bhagirathi III (6,454m), direct southwest pillar, Stairway to Heaven. From the summit of Shivling in 1996 I saw the challenge: to find a direct route on the ridge of Bhagirathi III, because the southwest pillar route by the Scottish team of 1982 didn’t follow the actual ridgeline of the southwest pillar. I wanted to master the route with free climbing and in alpine style. I wanted the route to be difficult and challenging, but Jörg Pflugmacher and I, both from Bavaria, also wanted to exclude any unpredictable risks to our lives. This is why we used bolts at belay stations and at dangerous points in free climbing—the style was similar to Wolfgang Güllich’s on Nameless Tower in Pakistan.

On my 2001 expedition with Robert Jasper we started from the west face basin. The conditions were very bad: considerable snow and ice. The difficulty from the start to the pillar’s ridge (10 pitches) was M7+. In the 2004 expedition we started from the foot of the directsouthwest pillar and free-climbed more than 30 pitches of 5a to 7b (French scale), with the exception of two pitches that might be a real challenge to any climber who repeats our route. Due to a snowstorm in the upper region we couldn’t climb higher on the iced slabs and had to move to another crack system with the help of a pendulum traverse. More information can be found (in German) at www.expeditionsberg- steigen.de. Please see “Berichte” (reports) for photographs of the 2001 and 2004 expeditions. [Additional details also in Lindsay Griffin’s summary, below—Ed.]

Walter Hölzler, Germany