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Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Kinnaur, Naufragi

Kinnaur, Naufragi. From August 15 to September 8 I soloed a big wall south of the Kinnaur-Kailash Range. The wall lies roughly northeast of Sangla in the Baspa Valley, on the southern flanks of Raldang (5,499m). Before I left for India, the only information I had was a picture of the wall, which had appeared on John Middendorf's big-wall web page, and its Google Earth coordinates.

I had no idea how to start the approach, but once in the valley I showed the picture to locals. I hired porters, and we set off in heavy rain. In thick mist, they left my haul bags at 3,800m and returned to the valley. I made this spot my base camp. As usual, I took neither phone, internet, GPS, nor other communication device.

Last summer the monsoon was strong, and in the seven days I spent at base camp I never saw the whole wall. In fact, it took two days to find the foot of the wall, in almost zero visibility. Access was like trying to climb a river ravine, complicated and slippery. I had to fix several ropes and employ three porters to help carry for part of the approach.

My advanced base at the foot of the wall was a portaledge hanging from a boulder at 4,300m, because there was no flat place for a tent above base camp. I fixed the first three pitches (150m) and then spent 25 days alone on the face in horrible weather. (A local newspaper reported that last summer this area received 156% more rain than normal.) There was rain and mist every day, and once, while jumaring, I lost consciousness due to hypothermia. I had only taken 18 days food and water and more than once thought about abandoning the climb. However, my motivation and desire to stay up there were stronger.

Against my principles, above the 10th pitch, 14 days into the route, I resorted to drilling bathooks to overcome monolithic sections where there was no natural line, even for extreme aid. I didn’t have enough bolts. At one point, deciding that I should retreat, I downclimbed part of a pitch but then realized I didn’t want to give up; I’d made such a big effort already that, despite the constant bad weather, my motivation carried me upward. Eventually, I reached the top of the wall at ca 5,250m. The summit of the mountain was still far away—I never saw it. I had climbed 1,050m at A4+ and 6a+, and had tried not to use bathooks to increase the grade; the sections of A4 and A4+ are natural. I’ve named the route Naufragi, which means Shipwreck in Catalan.

Sílvia Vidal, Catalonia