American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Miyar Valley, Three Peaks Mountain (Mahindra), Southeast Summit, The Taming of the Shrew

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Three Peaks Mountain (Mahindra), southeast summit, The Taming of the Shrew. Our four-man Russian team, Eugene Korol, Alex Soshnikov, Dmitrii Vlaznev, and I, intended to climb a virgin mountain via a route of the highest grade of difficulty (6B in the Russian system). We chose Three Peaks Mountain because base camp can be reached easily in just two days with horses, and the southwest face is the biggest rock wall (700m) on one of the highest peaks (6,000+m) in the valley. Sharratt and Wilkinson climbed to the central summit in 2007, but the southeast summit remained unclimbed. We reached the valley on August 22, set up base camp, and began moving equipment up the Dali Glacier. The approach was hard: almost 1.5 km gain in altitude and 10km in distance. Halfway up we climbed a 400m rock wall, not so steep but still requiring us to fix two ropes. The right side of the southwest face features a long vertical crack attempted in 2003 by Slovaks Kopold and Stefansky. However, we thought we would climb it too fast, and as we wanted to prolong the pleasure, opted for the central and most difficult part of the face, directly below the southeast summit. This had the advantage of three big ledges splitting the wall into four almost equal parts. The ledges were large and had enough snow to allow us to avoid hauling a portaledge and water.

Then the weather got bad. We waited through more than a week of rain and snow before realizing that another long spell of fine weather might not materialize. We either had to opt for a route climbable in one or two days or attempt the wall in poor weather. We chose the latter.

We started the face on the first sunny day, September 3, reaching the first ledge after 14 hours of hard free and aid (up to A4). Over the next few days we managed no more than two pitches a day. The aid was often hard, and we had to make extensive use of the drill and skyhooks.The weather was harsh; it snowed every day and little avalanches hit us while we climbed. It was not what we’d expected; we only brought summer clothing to India (the locals told us that the weather during 2008 was the worst for 30 years in Lahaul and Spiti). Particularly unpleasant was our poor supply of gloves, and as we couldn’t climb in rock shoes, the maximum free climbing difficulty was limited to F5c. The aid proved to be the hardest of our lives, much harder than our 2007 route on Shipton Spire. When we reached the third ledge, the weather began to improve. However, Dmitrii caught a cold and had to remain in the tent. With time a consideration, we decided to avoid a direct line up the last section, instead moving left into a gully between the southeast and central summits. The terrain was much easier and we reached the col between the summits in little more than a day. From there we climbed a straightforward 100+m snow ridge to the southwest summit, arriving on the 12th. The top is a large snow plateau, where we stayed in perfect weather for half a day, taking photos and having fun. During the descent we experienced the disadvantages of good weather. The sun loosened rock on the ledges and one shot through the tent hitting Vlaznev on the head. By the time we got off the wall there were seven holes in the tent. His injuries, though, were not bad and once on the glacier the party was helped by a team of Koreans who had just arrived to attempt the wall, and, in base camp, by the doctor from the large Italian expedition. Our new route, the Taming of the Shrew, gave over 800m of climbing (22 pitches) and was graded Russian 6B. While we doubt it is free-climbable, it could be completed alpine style in good weather.

Finally, we want to speculate about the altitude of the summit. Using a barometric altimeter we measured the height of the southeast summit as 6,080m, making the central summit a little lower but still above 6,000m, and the northwest summit, still unclimbed, over 6,100m. These figures seem to be confirmed by photos taken from other high peaks in the area, and we feel the fore summit reached in 2003 by Kopold and Stefansky is higher than their quoted 5,845m.

Andrey Muryshev, Russia

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