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Kedar Dome

Tim Emmett following a 5.10 pitch at 6200 meters on the first ascent of the Southeast Pillar (VI 5.11c, 2000m, Emmett-Parnell, 2006) of Kedar Dome (6830m), Garhwal Himalaya, India. The final rock headwall provided the hardest climbing of the route, with one 5.11 and several 5.10 pitches. The route was the first to tackle the east flank successfully, and the mountain’s first alpine-style new route. It was also Emmett’s second ever alpine route; he onsighted the 5.11c pitch, carrying a rucksack. [Photo] Ian Parnell

Kedar Dome, New Route. Standing under the 2000-meter sweep of Kedar Dome’s (6830m) great east face proved to be a severely humbling experience. Luckily, I’d hooked up with fellow Brit Tim Emmett, who had never been to the Himalaya before. In fact, he’d only climbed one alpine route in his life. As a result, where I saw blank granite, he saw free-climbing potential, and where I fretted about the steepness, Tim toyed with the possibility of adding a BASE-jump descent.

The east face had two existing routes: a Hungarian team climbed the central spur (VI 5.10c A2, 1300m, Ozsvath-Szedbo) in 1989, while a Polish one scaled the big wall (VI 5.11d A3+ WI4, 1500m, Fluder-Golab-Piecuch) to its right in 1999. While both previous teams used extensive fixed rope and abseiled from the top of the rock difficulties (ca. 6200m), we planned to climb the southeast pillar, alpine style, to the summit (6831m) and descend the other side.

We left on the evening of October 1 for the snow couloir that cuts into the left side of the face. Accessing it proved more entertaining than expected, over shale and scree that often had to be climbed without belays. This inauspicious start, however, involved the only loose rock we found on the route. After a couple of hours’ sleep, we finished off the couloir and managed to dig out another decent platform for our tent–something we’d be lucky enough to do on every night but one. Over the next four days, the accommodating granite and bright sunshine allowed us to onsight 800 meters, ranging from 5.6 to 5.7, with perhaps six pitches of 5.10 and one of 5.11. Tim led the latter, steep, blank corner; at 6150 meters, the crux called on all his 5.13+ cragging skills. We brought a couple of pegs with us, but rarely used them. Since we still wanted to drink in our local pub, we hadn’t brought a drill.

Our seventh day, we climbed the untrodden 500-meter corniced east ridge to the summit and descended the voie normale on the west face to a tent we’d left during acclimatization. We arrived in base camp on October 8, loaded down with all our gear that we’d removed from the mountain–except the two wires and two cams that had become fixed.

–Ian Parnell, Sheffield, England