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India, Himachal Pradesh, Gangotri, Shivling (6,543m), North Face and Northwest Ridge

Shivling (6,543m), north face and northwest ridge. Well-acclimatized after their second ascent of Muztagh Ata’s southeast ridge, reported elsewhere in this Journal, Kazuya Hiraide (26) and Kei Taniguchi (33) arrived in Delhi on September 19 and by the 28th had established base camp at Tapovan. By then Polish and Czech parties attempting Shivling and a Korean team on Meru had given up, because of bad weather, and headed home.

The weather started to improve, and the Japanese pair spent from September 29 to October 7 reconnoitring their descent on the west ridge, looking at both the north and south sides of Shivling, and climbing the north side of Baby Shivling (5,500m) to complete their acclimatization. Their main objective was the unclimbed northwest ridge, which they planned to reach via the lower section of the north face.

On October 8 they left base camp with climbing gear, a tent, light bivouac bags, and food for five days. On a flat rock at the foot of the north face they made their first camp, at 4,750m. The following day they crossed a crevassed zone and front-pointed the initial snow and ice slope. They quickly reached the first rock barrier, which was to prove one of the key parts of the route. They were unable to dry-tool and had to resort to conventional rock climbing, cleaning snow from the rock as they went. They camped at 5,650m, in the lower section of the large funnel-shaped snowfield.

On the 10th the angle of the snow slope became steeper than anticipated, generally 50–70° but in some parts even steeper. The snow was hard and compact, and though they had feared this section might be avalanche-prone, there was actually very little danger. Small powder-snow avalanches sometimes occurred, but were harmless. Toward the top of the funnel-shaped snowfield the climbers stopped for the night, at 6,070m, and made a hanging bivouac.

On the 11th they tackled the second rock wall, which was another crux and led to the junction with the northwest ridge. Though the last part was difficult, they were able to exit above the big serac barrier. The ridge ahead was not so easy, and they had to remain roped. They set up their third camp at 6,200m.

On the 12th they ascended the upper part of the northwest ridge and, after surmounting a section of 60° snow/ice, reached the summit of Shivling at midday. Half an hour later they began the descent, stopping again at their top camp, so they could descend through the serac barrier in well-frozen conditions the following morning. From there they reached the Normal Route (west ridge), arriving at base camp the same day.

Tamotsu Nakamura from information provided by Kazuya Hiraide, Japanese Alpine Club