American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

India, Himachal Pradesh, Kullu, Kullu Eiger, Second Ascent, New Route, West Face to South Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Kullu Eiger, second ascent, new route, west face to south face. In the autumn Oscar Pérez and I went to the Kullu Eiger, because our agent in India showed us a picture of the north face and an article written by the Scottish expedition that reached the top in 1996. This was our only information on what appeared to be a beautiful and spectacular peak. [The first ascent of Kullu Eiger was made on September 21,1996, by Graham Little, Jim Lowther, and Scott Muir, after three bivouacs on the north-northeast face. Their route avoided the steep upper part of the Eiger’s face by traversing out left to the northeast face. However, the route still presented difficulties of British El 5b A1 and Scottish V. This team made a base camp below the wall at 3,740m and measured a summit altitude of 5,646m, making the face 1,900m high—Ed.]

After a few days trek up the alpine Parvati Valley, we established base camp at 3,820m, where the Glacier II valley joins the main Parvati Valley, directly below the Eiger’s north face. This was in the same flat meadow as the Scottish base camp but on the opposite side of the Glacier II river.

The weather throughout the expedition was not good. It was always windy and cold at base camp, and each day there was snowfall by noon. We finally decided to avoid the terrible rockfall on the north face by attempting the west face in alpine style.

On September 29 we left base camp. We wanted to climb the first section of the wall in the afternoon, because it was in the sun, but we arrived too late and it started to snow, so we spent our first night at the base of the wall (4,300m).

Next morning we left early. It was cold, and the rock was icy. There was both grass and verglas in the cracks, so progress was slow and difficult. We front-pointed some sections of frozen grass with axes and crampons.

In the afternoon we reached the start of the west spur. Above, the way appeared to be blocked by a large tower. We decided to outflank this obstacle, only later realizing it was a shoulder on the ridge and not a tower. Our deviation was long and took us onto the south face. By nightfall we had reached 4,950m and by the time we got the tent up, it was again snowing.

On October 1 we started climbing late because it was so cold in the morning, but the day was perfect, sunny and windless. We climbed in rock shoes and made fast progress. The rock was perfect and the route a wonderful natural line. We reached the top of the wall at 2 p.m., and from there to the summit was only 15 minutes. Although we had decided that the north face was not 1,900m high (we think it more like 1,500m), it was still a bit of a surprise when we recorded 5,330m for the summit altitude. We can’t be certain that our readings are accurate, but we are sure that both the heights of the north face and the mountain are ca. 300m less than those quoted by the Scottish team.

From the summit we rappeled to our top bivouac, where we spent another night before descending to base camp the following day. Our descent is fully equipped with pitons and bolts for rappels, though subsequent parties may find it less than straightforward to follow the route. We named our 1,000m line Baral Karasta, and belayed 18 pitches (generally sustained at 4 and 5), up to 6a+ and A0.

Pepín Valdivia, Spain

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