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India, Himachal Pradesh, Miyar Valley, "Lotos Peak," First Ascent

“Lotos Peak,”first ascent. Michal Krol, a young mountaineer from southern Poland, and I set off in late August for a climbing trip to the Miyar Valley. Relatively few expeditions have climbed in this region, one of the first being an Italian team led by Paolo Vitali, which in the early 1990s attempted to make the first ascent of Neverseen Tower. Since then, exploration of the outstanding rock walls in the valley and its tributaries has mainly been carried out by Italian and Slovak parties.

Many summits remain unclimbed; most don’t even have names. Large walls, similar in shape to but a bit smaller than Trango Tower in the Karakoram, shoot up from the glacier to almost 6,000m. The most interesting ones are located just above the Tawa and Spaghetti glaciers (the 2004 British expedition proposed ethnic names for these glaciers based on local research: Chhudong and Dali, respectively. See AAJ 2005 p. 367). Neighboring glaciers have rarely been visited.

The Miyar Valley is about 100km long. We hired horses to carry our equipment, about 250kg (including 60kg of food that had to last for a month). The three-day trek into the valley completely surprised us. We passed flowery meadows, wild horses, and yaks, as well as many streams and small rivers. Mountains rose smoothly above us to 5,000m.

Larger walls started to appear just before base camp, which was at 4,000m. Before reaching it we met a small Italian team, which included Massimo Marcheggianni, the first ascensionist of Neverseen Tower, and the Spanish couple Alberto Urtasun and Patricia Viscarret. We climbed separately, but the atmosphere between us was very friendly, and we had an excellent farewell dinner party.

It took four days to transport our equipment up the difficult and unstable Tawa Glacier to an advanced base at 5,000m. From here we attempted the unclimbed peak to the right of Neverseen Tower. We had come prepared for every eventuality, including big-wall climbing (we had haul bags and a portaledge) but attempted this route in a lighter style. As the lower section of the wall remained invisible, we made an initial reconnaissance, putting up 200m of fixed rope.

After a rest day, we awoke at 3 a.m. and began climbing by headlamp. The first section, a steep ice slope, took two hours, while the line above was generally mixed. For comfort we decided that I should climb the rock sections in light rock shoes, and Michal would lead the ice. Michal ran up his sections placing hardly any protection. Rock pitches mainly followed cracks. Sometimes these were chocked with ice, and I regretted not taking an axe and leaving my crampons at base camp. At other times the rock was perfect for free climbing.

By afternoon the sun had melted the snow from the summit dome, and a waterfall was coming down the overhang above us. We had to go under the waterfall and in no time were soaked, particularly Michal, who had to belay me while standing under a curtain of water. I was hit on the forearm by falling rocks, which caused me to lose feeling and worry that the arm was broken.

It was late when we reached the final section leading to the summit. Although we had expected to find only snow on this last section, there was a surprising crack pitch. Finally, at 9:45 p.m. on September 5, we stood on the summit.

After leaving a short “message in a bottle” by one of the boulders, we started our difficult rappel descent, which continued throughout the night. Next morning at 8 a.m. we finally stood on flat, safe ice. A second after sitting on rocks, we were both out cold. The walk to camp, which should have taken half an hour, was prolonged by our falling asleep every few steps. We returned to advanced base after an ascent and descent of 28 hours.

The following morning, after 10 days at or above 5,000m, we decided to retreat to the lower valley. The weather broke and we knew the porters and horses would not wait more than a day at base camp. We had no choice. We gathered our equipment and with 50kg rucksacks began our slow, self-destructive walk to base camp.

We named our mountain “Lotos Peak,” which according to my altimeter was 5,630m, not much lower than Neverseen Tower. Our route up the southwest face was 750m long, with difficulties of UIAA VII-M6, and ice to 80°.

This expedition was possible thanks to grants from the Polish Mountain Association, Alvika, and Tendon.

David Kaszlikowski, Poland