American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Shiva Shankar West, West Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2011

Shiva Shankar West, west face. The Pangi straddles the Himachal Pradesh–Jammu and Kashmir borders and is isolated for more than seven months of the year. The road into the area crosses 4,000m passes and is a difficult and adventurous journey even in summer. During winter the climate is arctic and the land blanketed with snow, making it impossible to enter or exit this region from November until May or June.

From mid-August to mid-September Lynn Iacobini De Fazio, Massimo Marcheggiani, and I, all instructors with the Italian Alpine Club, explored the Saichu Valley, the first of the Pangi’s sub-valleys right of the Chenab. After reaching Udaipur via the Rothang Pass, we had to deal with the devastating consequences of the huge storm that days before had hit southern Asia and produced tragic flooding in Leh. The 65km road to Pangi, built in the 1990s along a narrow terrace suspended above the swirling Chenab River, had become a series of dangerous fords caused by an almost unbroken succession of landslides. Two of these forced us early into trekking mode, ferrying our loads from jeep to horses. We eventually reached the lush Saichu Valley, inhabited by hospitable Pangwali and Tibetan Buddhists. Two days’ trekking took us to the narrow entrance to the Tarundi Valley, leading to the east side of Shiva (6,142). Horses were unable to go beyond this point, so we established base camp (3,535m), much lower than we wanted. Several days’ bad weather intervened before we could establish advanced base at 3,830m (33°05'57.8" N, 76°36'59.8" E).

Taking advantage of a good weather window, we continued north up-valley, camping at 4,165m, 4,600m, and 5,080m, the last 20m above a col overlooking Sural Valley and dominated to the west by Peak 5,860m. Visible to the southwest was the huge northeast face and magic east pillar of Shiva. On September 1 we started up the face immediately east of the col, first climbing a 200m wall of very crumbly shale in huge unstable blocks, with difficulties up to UIAA V. Some of this was verglassed, and we had to climb in crampons. We then climbed a steep ice slope, followed by a snow shoulder that led to the 5,510m rounded dome of Shiva Shankar West (33°09'19.5" N, 76°36'48.9" E). This summit was first reached in 2005 by Italian Diego Stefani, who named it Zero Point. Continuing east would lead to the summit of Shiva Shankar (6,011m)—the Horn of Shiva. All information suggests that the two Italian expeditions are the only ones to have climbed from the Tarundi Valley. Two days of exhausting descent took us to base camp.

Bruno Moretti, CAI, Italy

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