Mahindra, middle summit, Ashoka’s Pillar; Peak 5,960m; Orange Tower. After long and crazy travel days, including a ride from a fellow named Happy, Freddie Wilkinson, Pat Goodman, and I thankfully found the end of the road in the small Himalayan village of Tingrit. In preparation for the months when the sturdy stone houses will be buried in meters of snow, bushels of straw lay stacked upon the flat roofs. Sweet peas, for which this valley is known, were starting to ripen. From Tingrit we hiked for three days to our base camp below Castle Peak, passing through open grasslands and fields of wildflowers, fields populated by sheep and shepherds, horses, cattle, and small villages. After traveling through Delhi’s chaos and lack of infrastructure, I reflected on India’s many contradictions as we passed well-maintained schools in each tiny community. There is even a helicopter pad in Tingrit, so that medicine and supplies can be flown in to help the people endure austere winters. With base camp established, we headed up the Jangpar Glacier with our sights set on the pyramid-shaped Peak 5,960m. To get our groove on and acclimatize, we first climbed the Orange Tower. This previously unclimbed peak does resemble a tower from one vantage point, but is really more of an elongated fin, and hosts much potential for short multipitch cragging on generally solid and well-featured rock. We climbed the Tower by a six-pitch route, featuring a memorable pitch of overhanging climbing on wind-sculpted pinches. After some bad-weather tent time we set out on Peak 5,960m via the west ridge. To gain the ridge, we climbed 500m of low-angle alpine ice and a few pitches of choss-aneering. We climbed the ridge to the base of a steep 350m buttress that led to the summit, but retreated as snow flurries turned to an all-out slush storm. As the gods continued to puke mashed potatoes on us, we rappeled through the night onto the Dali Glacier. Having not previously explored the Dali Glacier, we found ourselves cliffed-out and hunkered down on the ice for a short
shivery sleep. At first light we made our way down to base camp. A few days later Freddie and I returned to summit Peak 5,960m, while Pat endured severe stomach pain in base camp. The ridge was moderate, with generally solid rock on its crest, and the final buttress had fun 5.9 climbing. From the ridge to the summit is about 700m vertical, or about 1,000m of climbing.
Lured by entrancing views of Mt. Mahindra’s clean walls at the head of the Dali, we decided to keep a camp on the Dali Glacier. We scouted our route with binoculars in the late morning and climbed the first two pitches of our envisioned line. Pitch one was steep, technical, and tricky-to-protect 5.11. It shared the belay with a route that Italians had established to a broad ledge about halfway up the peak. Our route shared pitch two with the Italian route. We rapped and left ropes fixed for our next climbing day, when we climbed to the broad ledge where the Italian route ends, sharing a pitch or two of it, but generally staying to its right. The climbing was sustained 5.11 and great; we got to the ledge early and traversed 150m right to the base of Mt. Mahindra’s middle summit. Freddie deftly led the way through discontinuous cracks and pods—the kind of run-out face climbing where you don’t know if you are going to get more pro. He got it done, and I took the final few pitches to the summit, feeling guilty for getting a clean, steep, well-protected 5.10 glory corner, with a fun roof to cap it, just below the middle summit. We named the route Ashoka’s Pillar (700m, 5.11R). To the best of our knowledge ours was the first ascent of Mt. Mahindra’s middle summit. During this ascent Pat got a break from his stomach malaise and free-soloed a new 5.9 route to the top of Peak 5,300m. We climbed all routes free and onsight without bolts or pins. The trip was supported by a grant from Mountain Hardwear.
David Sharratt, AAC