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Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Gangotri, Meru Central, Northeast Face, Variation

Meru Central, northeast face, variation. Yasuhiro Hanatani, Hiroyoshi Manome, Yasushi Okada, and I planned to climb Meru Central (6,310m) by the oft-tried line of the Sharks Fin or northeast pillar. We had attempted the route in 2004 but retreated above 6,000m, when Hanatani took a fall and broke both legs.

Last year our team reached Tapovan base camp on September 1 and established an advanced base at 4,800m, from where we hoped to attempt the line in capsule style. We placed our first camp at 5,300m, close to the rock ridge that forms the left edge of the lower snowfield, but were pinned down for days by bad weather. Deciding that the Sharks Fin would be consequently out of condition, we instead opted to slant right across the lower snowfield. Starting on September 24, we took only three ropes and six ice screws, and climbed more or less in alpine style. We climbed onto the ridge taken by the original Babanov route on the face, Shangri La, via three difficult pitches of loose rock. From here we followed the Babanov line, bivouacking, without sleeping bags, at 5,800m, just under the cornice of the summit ridge at a little over 6,200m. On the morning of September 26, we pulled onto the northwest ridge and quickly reached the summit at 7:30 in a bitterly cold wind. This appears to be the third ascent of the peak, the second having been made by Australians earlier in the year. We returned to our 5,300m camp the same day, rappelling mainly from Abalakovs. We graded the route 5.10a M5 WI3 75°.

Makoto Kuroda, Japan