We left Switzerland at the start of September and were greeted in Kashmir by late and heavy monsoon rains. With a lot of luck and determination we reached our first base camp on September 13, despite the mass flooding and terrible road conditions. Eager to make up for lost time, we climbed a line up the South face of the previously unclimbed Shiepra, bivying at 5100m. We reached the 5885m high summit on September 16 and graded the route as follows: difficulties up to WI3, IV, 75° ice.
Our descent took us over the exposed West ridge, via a series of abseils followed by a 50° ice slope. The new route is called Maaji, which in Hindi means mother. The honor of naming the peak was left to our Liaisons Officer Ran Jan, who named the mountain Shiepra after the Hindi God Shiva’s wife.
The weather at this point was ideal and conditions looked promising, so we set off to make an attempt on another unclimbed peak nearby. Below the ridge leading to the peak is a very visible rock structure which looks like the renowned ‘playboy bunny’. Coming up with a good name for the peak was pretty easy, we named it Kharagosa, which in Hindi means rabbit. Thomas, Dres and I bivied at 4800m below the North East face, we continued across the glacier to the base of the East face and then ascended 1000m over tricky, mixed terrain.
Three demanding UIAA grade V pitches led to the South East face, bringing us over much easier ground and to the 5840m high summit which we reached on September 21. The new route, Pinky, is named after the most beautiful woman in the nearby village of Sumcham.
After our ascent on Kharagosa we still had time so we packed up and moved our base camp to the base of Kishtwar Shivling which we reached on September 29.
The North face of the technical and impressive mountain was first climbed in 1983 by Britain’s Stephen Venables and Dick Renshaw over a stretch of seven days. Political tension between Pakistan and India has resulted in this area being more or less off-limits for almost two decades. Foreign alpinists have only recently begun to return and explore the area.
Intent on making the second ascent of this magnificent peak we climbed a line up the East pillar, the target of previous expeditions, and made a first bivy on the glacier at 4700m before following a 50° ramp to the saddle at 5400m. We set our second bivy up at this point, and then climbed 10 demanding pitches past 90° WI5 ice, through a hidden couloir, bringing back memories of the famous Super Canaleta on Patagonia’s Fitz Roy, then past tricky mixed terrain which led to the foot of the enormous summit cornices.
On October 1, the gods were smiling upon us: Dres, Tomas and I were unbelievably lucky to stumble across a hole in the cornice which was big enough to climb through, leading us to the 5895m East summit. 14 abseils later we arrived back on the saddle where our tents we waiting for us. The following morning we made our descent back down to base camp. The new route is called Challo, which means let’s go in Hindi.
A successful ascent on a complex and beautiful mountain like Kistwar Shivling was a real reward for me. Kashmir is a place I am free to climb for the pure joy of the mountain and a region I cherish with deep appreciation and respect. Having all come home safely, with our backpacks full of great memories, unforgettable climbs and a lot of laughs together, has only strengthened my bond to this unbelievable and breathtaking region.
Report by Stephan Siegrist; Photos by Thomas Senf | visualimpact.ch