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Shingu Charpa, North Ridge

Spot the line: Shingu Charpa (5600m), with the North Ridge (VI 5.11d, 1550m) in profile. After an initial attempt that tackled the ridge directly ended in injury, Andrey Rodiontsev, Orest Verbitsky and Igor Chaplynsky descended via a third-class gully on the left side of the mountain. They later returned via the same gully to access the ridge a third of the way up, then continued to make the first ascent in a seven-day round-trip. In August, Americans Kelly Cordes and Josh Wharton attempted the same route in its entirety, reaching some 100 meters below the top before being turned back by mixed conditions and inadequate footwear. [Photo] Igor Chaplynsky

As a young boy I’d fallen in love with beautiful, remote peaks like Ushba and Ak-Su. Even though I’m now forty-seven, when I saw Shingu Charpa (5600m) for the first time on the Internet, its beauty filled me with the same adrenaline rush. The north ridge rose 1600 meters from a birch valley like the spine of a dinosaur.

All we had for beta was a picture from a website and some basic facts from an encyclopedia. From the village of Kande, we walked two days through the Nangma Valley to our base camp at 3900 meters in a birch and willow grove, with a lively creek. Numerous walls soared all around us, absolutely vertical and smooth, reaching up to 5000 meters in height. The snows of K6, the sheer sides of Amin Brakk and the rock ridges of Shingu Charpa created an overpowering sense of harmony.

After ten days of walking around Shingu Charpa from all possible sides, we concluded that there is no logical, smart or safe descent from this peak. Close up, the north ridge appeared like a series of turrets with huge inside corners and cracks of every size. At least three or four independent routes could probably be free climbed on the peak.

Andrey Rodiontsev, Orest Verbitsky and I began our alpine-style ascent on July 20. On the first 900 meters we found an average steepness of sixty-five degrees, with some sections up to 5.10d. After a sixty-meter corner at ca. 4600 meters, we traversed to the ridge, where we chopped a spacious ledge for our tent. Above us appeared a turret-like gendarme at 4850 meters. At first we were intimidated, but we discovered the rock was highly featured. (For future climbers I recommend the right-hand crack: 5.12b.)

The next steep rock step, at 5050 meters, was wet and about eighty degrees. We followed our line to the right of the snow ridge and bivied again.

The last day of the route, from 5350 to 5600 meters, was the most unexpected and dangerous: a lot of ice and mixed climbing, including snice mushrooms, which we traversed to the right, and menacing snow cornices.

A final difficult mixed section brought us to the top. We rappelled our route over two days, using natural anchors whenever possible, but eventually leaving all twenty-five of our pins. We had free climbed the entire 1550-meter route at 5.11d in a seven-day round-trip.

–Igor Chaplynsky, Kiev, Ukraine