By Gerhard Schaar, Austria
Miyar Valley, various ascents. Thanks to good preparation, a few spells of good weather, and staying healthy throughout the expedition, Ines Peschel and I made seven ascents in the Miyar, which we visited from mid-August till the end of September.
As on previous expeditions, we were stunned by the beauty of the approach, and the dignity with which the local people lead their lives had a great impact on me. Be friendly and respect everyone, but make your point and fear no one. We took three days to reach base camp. When the horsemen stopped early in the afternoon to make camp for the night, we would climb the hillside above for 500-700m, to aid our acclimatization.
We continued our acclimatization with a new line on the south face of Toro Peak (ca 4,900m). We began with a nice slab at the low point in the center of the face. Higher we traversed two big gullies to reach the right side of the headwall above the large central alcove. On the final ridge our line merged with the 2007 Slovenian and 2008 Russian routes. The result was Best of Both Sides (350m, 5.9). [This route runs a little right of the 2008 Lopez-Pfaf Direttissima and in the upper section probably crosses the 2008 Fredell-Lampley route. See AAJ 2009]. From the summit we saw a peak, on the east side of the Chhudong Valley, that was the lower of two distinct unclimbed summits north of Castle Peak. A few days later we were camped below it.
Leaving the tent at 3 a.m., we spent the morning climbing easy terrain up the south rib, mostly 5.6 slabs with the occasional 5.8 section. At 10 a.m. we reached a forepeak. After downclimbing to a col on the far side to reach the west pillar, we faced a section of loose rock, which I led, slowly, at 5.9R. At 1 p.m. we reached the summit, naming it Gutzele Peak. Both our altimeters read 5,500m, but we think this was too high and the height more like 5,200-5,300m. To the north lay a higher peak [sometimes referred to as the Chhudong Matterhorn], but we were so out of breath we never considered continuing the remaining 200m to its summit. A few rappels, followed by down-climbing a gully, took us back to camp by 5 p.m.
We returned to base, leaving the tent beneath Premsingh Peak (ca 5,200m). After refueling, we came back up with a week’s food and climbed a nice east-facing rock ridge left of Pemsingh’s Trident Ridge. The 450m climb took us to a summit we named Gou Gou Peak (ca 5,100m), after a strange plant (a small ball with a lot of hair and dozens of blossoms on top). Our climb, Gou Gou Ridge, had much pleasant slab climbing at 5.5/5.6 and a section of 5.8/5.9 passing interesting towers. We returned next day to make the second ascent of Trident Ridge (500m, 6b+, Grmovsek-Grmovsek, 2007), which offers nice crack climbing to 5.9 in the first third, then beautiful 5.8 slabs and a nice ridge, and finally scrambling over loose rock, before climbing through strange towers (5.9R) to the summit. This last part might have been a variant of the original route.
We moved to the Chhudong Valley and tried an established line on Grandfather Enzo Peak, but the weather turned bad, and after several days we retreated to base camp.
Later we climbed a new line up the west ridge of David’s 62 Nose (ca 4,850m) on Castle Peak. It is an obvious line with distinctly different sections, and we were surprised to find it had not been climbed. We started with an easy section on the west shoulder, scrambling over 5.5 terrain. This was followed by steep 5.9 cracks, above which an easy traverse led over David’s 62 Nose. We then continued to Iris Peak (ca 5,200m) and soon reached a steep, loose 15m step. I climbed it on the right via a small tower of loose blocks. A long middle slabby section led to the final steep section, where two awesome 5.9 pitches up a wall led to the top of Iris Peak. We descended by scrambling north, then down big ledges to the south until we were below David’s 62 Nose, after which two rappels took us to the ground. We named the route Four Seasons in One Day (650m, 5.10d).
Two days later we were back in the Dali Valley, camping just below the glacier. Our goal was an unclimbed peak just north of Korklum Gou (5,618m GPS). A long rock ridge, dividing two small glaciers, falls directly southeast from the summit. Simul-climbing as much as possible, we made progress without appearing to gain much height. The sharp ridge between the two glaciers was longer and flatter than we had thought and so loose in places it seemed to fall apart. The ridge steepened, and a series of amazing towers had to be outflanked. After eight hours we saw the top of Korklum Gou to our left and realized we must be close to topping out. Loose gullies and small steps gave way to a snow field and, just before dark, the summit. We’d spotted to the south a rappel descent we could make in the dark, but it had many flakes and boulders, so I repeatedly lowered Ines, then climbed down, until we could safely make 30m rappels. Once into the snow gully, we made 60m rappels and after a moonlit descent of the glacier, arrived at the tent 18 hours after leaving. We named the route Never-Ending Story (1,100m, 5.8) and the summit Kurt Albert Peak, as a tribute to the recently deceased influential German climber and explorer of new territories.
After a day’s rest we moved downvalley to below the gully leading to the start of the south ridge (Shangrila Ridge, Grmovsek-Grmovsek, 2007) on Korklum Gou (Window Peak). This is one of the most prominent lines in the area, involves 500m of scrambling followed by 600m (5.10bR), and leads to a unique summit: a 50m rock tower with a hole through it. Local legend has it that the spirit of a great lama lives in the hole, contemplating the beauty of creation. The spirit descends to the meadows once a year to eat momos and visit its horse (a rock that looks like a saddle). Beginning at 4 a.m., we repeated the Grmovseks’ line (rather than taking the direct start of a 2006 Canadian attempt, which stopped short of the summit). We reached the forepeak at 1 p.m. and the summit a little after 3 p.m. We left prayer flags and began our rappel descent of the ridge. A snow storm hit us, and the rest of the way down proved a struggle. We left much gear and were lucky the rope didn’t get stuck. I was thankful I’d carried a hammer and seven pitons. Rapping through small waterfalls and downclimbing slabs with no idea where they would lead, we regained our tent 20 hours after leaving.
We always set out for a personal adventure, not to make history, having the experience as a couple, hoping we will have something to tell our grandchildren. Like the glaciers of the Miyar, which at first seem static, we flow steadily and continuously through life.