Asia, India, Garhwal, Thalay Sagar (6,904m), Northwest Ridge, Harvest Moom
Thalay Sagar (6,904m), northwest ridge, Harvest Moon. The northwest ridge attracted us because it was an evident line: the buttress looks like a wave from base camp, and the massive granite pillar at 6,400m provides a taste of challenge. We were also curious to see firsthand why nobody had climbed this route before. This turned out to be a perfect expedition for us. The culture mix was very fun: We were four who spoke German, one French, and one English: Stephan Siegrist, Ralph Weber, and me from Switzerland; Thomas Senf from Germany; cameramen Rob Frost from the U.K. who went till the pillar; and cameraman Zvonimir Pisonic from France who went till ABC. It was sometimes a bit confusing, but great team work. The crew (cook, help cook and liaison officer) were very helpful and gave a lot of flavor to the base camp life, especially Dava our cook. All we knew was that the itinerary had been attempted in 1987 by a Spanish Expedition (O. Cadiach, J.Camprubi und X-Pérez-Gil). When we built C2 we found an old belay station. This was the last sign of the Spanish team.
The difficulties were bigger than expected. The first buttress (“Shadow Buttress”) was already steep, and the ice thin or very snowy. The perpetual spindrift and the absolute absence of sun make this part pretty demanding. The crux was the “Purgatory Pillar,” which was massive with flakes and no obvious cracks. The pillar was very exposed to the west wind, and the temperatures were variable (from quite cold to extremely cold)—we always climbed with gloves. The use of hooks and beaks was obligatory, and the climb quite delicate at this elevation. Everything worked very well, and it is always a great reward to reach this summit, especially the first time by a new route and without injuries. It was a really great experience for all of us.
Summary: “Harvest Moon,” 1,400m, 6a WI5 M5+ A3; 11 days of climbing and two camps on the face. We fixed rope until C2 at the top of the pillar, and went for the summit in one day from C2. We reached the base camp (4,750m) on August 29 and did the portage to ABC (5,300m) on September 2. We reached camp 1 (5,750m) the 6th, and C2 (6,300m) the 18th. We reached the summit on the 27th, and the 1st of October we were back to Gangotri.
Denis Burdet, Switzerland