Together with Austrian David Lama, Swiss Stephan Siegrist and Denis Burdet successfully climbed Cerro Kishtwar (6155 m asl) in pure alpine style. Their new route named ‘Yoniverse’ stretches 1200m and travels through the North West wall to the the mountain’s highest point, the South summit.
To wrap up their expedition, Stephan and Denis left behind a hidden gem; the new route ‘la virée des contemporains’, a first ascent climbed by the two Alpinist’s on an previously unnamed peak (6 040 m asl) which they named ‘White Sapphire’.
Due to unrest and heated conflict in the disputed area that borders between India and Pakistan, India’s Kashmir region has lay silent in the mountaineering community for almost 2 decades. Locked within these Himalayan valleys are an esthetic and endless succession of summits, most unnamed and many unclimbed.
Eighteen years after the last document expedition in the region, Stephan Siegrist along with friends Denis Burdet and David Lama set their goal on Cerro Kishtwar: a mountain named after it’s uncanny similarities to Patagonia’s renowned Cerro Torre.
The expedition gets off to a tough start with delay and complication arising when the team realize they have to move their base camp closer to the mountain. Limited information and outdated maps of the region made accurate planning difficult, and once on site, improvised changes were needed if the team was going to commit to an alpine style ascent.
Once both Base Camp and ABC were well established, Stephan Siegrist, Denis Burdet, David Lama and American filmmaker/photographer Robert Frost didn’t loose time and were on the mountain negotiating their way up the wall.
On the second day they saw a logical line which had not been visible from below: a thin, hidden line of ice that curved 200 meters below the South ridge. After a rest day in Camp 1 and equipped with light packs carrying only the essentials, the team made a one-push alpine style attempt for the summit.
The first 6 pitches were of ice and ‘styrofoam’ snow as Stephan describes it: “These conditions allow for quick progress but are less than ideal for placing pro. Trying to use ice screws was pointless in the steep snow and soft ice! Long run-outs were characteristic of the route and we had to rely on finding the rare possibility of securing ourselves in the rock.”
The couloir steepened up to 85 degrees until it eventually flattened out. From this point the climbing was in vertical rock reaching up to Grade 6 in difficulty. The persistent spindrift showers complicated the ascent until finally reaching the ridge. David: “It is truly beautiful at minus 25° Celsius….” Arriving on the south ridge, the climbers are welcomed by the sun and can finally warm their feet. After a difficult climb over the main ridge, the route travels over a few easier rock sections on a snow covered ridge.
That afternoon at a quarter past one, in perfect weather, the team including filmer/photographer Robert Frost reached the south summit, while the second photographer/filmer Stefan Schlumpf followed the expedition below from ABC.
Stephan Siegrist: ‘On the South summit our altimeters read 6155 meters – not the 6200 meters which up until now is the recorded summit height. We looked to the North summit and thought it must be lower.’
Before beginning their descent, Denis, David and Steph traversed the saddle between the twin peaks and climbed the North summit. Their measurements read 6150 meters confirming the peak is lower than the main summit by a mere 5 meters. The climbers first abseiled 26 rappels down the face before finally reaching Camp 1 just before dark. The next morning the team completed their abseil down to ABC with all their equipment.
Successful and with a weeks time to spare until their planned departure, Stephan and Denis had a second summit they had their eyes on.
The two Swiss climbers arrived at the foot of the unknown, unnamed mountain on the first day and opted for a direct line up the North-North West face. At 3:30 the next morning they woke to their alarm clock.
“We were well acclimatized and a good team. Being only the two of us, we were also fast. We lead in turns following an ice channel, and after making an avalanche prone traverse, we found ourselves in another deep gully…” explains Stephan as he recounts the beginning of the route. “From this point on the climbing became more delicate: Chimney climbing ( like the ‘Exocet’ on ‘Cerro Standarth”), dry-tooling, ice up to 90° steep, a roof to get over and generally very tricky to protect. To top it off we arrived at the end of the route and found the mountain also had a double summit! So we left one backpack and climbed on horrible, loose rock on the North side of the ridge. After two pitches I saw a hole in the ridge, just big enough to slip through. The hole led to the South side of the mountain, and to our surprise the quality of the rock was much better. We climbed a couple more pitches and stood on the summit! It was amazing!”.
The GPS read 6040 meters above sea level. Denis and Stephan built a small cairn before starting their descent down the presumably easier South ridge. Only at the end of their descent were they able to cross over to the icy slope and after four abseils made it back to Camp at 7pm that evening.
Every rope, piton and piece of webbing was used up in the ascent and decent of the new route! The weather was perfect! A climber’s jackpot!
In the early 90‘s, Andy Perkins and Brendan Murphy made an incredible 15 day effort in the North West face of Cerro Kishtwar, finally having to turn around less than 100 meters below the summit. Thanks to Andy Perkins, who kindly helped us in preparing our expedition by shared his valuable knowledge and information about the area.
Later in 1993, Mike Fowler and Steve Sustad successfully made the first ascent of Cerro Kishtwar.
New route on Cerro Kishtwar:
Route: ‚Yoniverse’, 1200m, WI 5, 6a, Alpine style, no bolts
North-West face and South ridge to main (South-)summit (6’155 meters asl)
25. – 29. September 2011
Climbers: Stephan Siegrist (CH), Denis Burdet (CH), David Lama (AUT) and Rob Frost (USA)
In addition: Photographer / Filmer: Stefan Schlumpf (up to ABC)
First ascent White Sapphire:
Route: Ascent, ‘la virée des contemporains’, which loosely translated means ‘stroll of the contemporaries’,
850m, WI 5 (Crux: 2 rope lengths WI 6), M6, A2,
Descent on the South ridge, ‘Eagles Ridge’, Alpine style, no bolts Over the South West face to main (North) Summit (6’040 meters asl) 4th – 5 October 2011 Climbers: Stephan Siegrist (CH), Denis Burdet (CH)