Castle Peak as seen from James Point. The Sharp Knife of Tolerance terminated at the point indicated. [Photo] Igor Koller
Igor Koller, Ivan Stefansky, Dodo Kopold and I (all from Slovakia) spent six weeks in the Miyar Valley in Himachal Pradesh, a relatively unknown part of the Indian Himalaya. Our goal was to climb an unnamed peak with a 1000-meter south face in a small side valley at the head of the Miyar. We wanted to use horses to transport our gear to base camp, but two days of heavy snow made the horse owners decide to return to Tingrat, leaving us and our gear more than twenty kilometers from base camp. Instead of one day of horse transport, we spent seven days moving our gear and finally reached base camp on September 15.
The approach to our objective was very dangerous: the glacier was riddled with many deep crevasses and covered by close to a meter of fresh snow. We decided to change our objective to a peak with an easier approach in an adjacent valley.
Castle Peak (the name we gave this huge mountain composed of many towers) sits at about 6000 meters and has a very steep ca. 600-meter northwest face. We started up this face on September 21 in big-wall style. We climbed in two teams of two, Koller with Stefansky and me with Kopold. Over the first four days we climbed six pitches, established a portaledge camp and hauled all our gear. The next six days were spent climbing vertical to overhanging ground on perfect granite. We arrived at the top of the pillar on September 30 late in the evening.
During the ascent, the weather was unstable and cold (-15 derees C at night and -5 degrees C during the day with intermittent snow). We suffered from lack of food and water and constant cold, all of which led to our decision not to continue via the ridge to the top of Castle Peak. On October 1 we rappelled down and cleaned all our gear from the face. We named our route on the buttress Sharp Knife of Tolerance (VI 5.12a A3, 550m).
At the end of our stay in the Miyar Valley, Igor Koller and I summited a virgin peak via an easy ridge and christened the tower James Point. The Miyar Valley has great potential for climbing virgin 5000- and 6000-meter peaks with huge ice and rock faces. We plan to return to this area next year.
Editor’s Note: Alpinist’s guidelines on new routes and first ascents are as follows. When a climb connects to an established line, it may be considered a new route when it is longer than what remains from the connection point to the summit. When it is shorter, it is a variation to the existing line. If a peak is unclimbed, the summit must be attained in order to claim the first ascent.
— Vlado Linek, Slovakia