This fall Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden established a new line on seldom-climbed Shiva (6142m) in Himachal Pradesh, India. Their route traces the prominent northeast buttress they simply called the Prow of Shiva.
Shiva was first climbed in 1973 by a Rikkyo University Alpine Club expedition, led by Shigeru Suzuki. Noritoshi Kato, Toshiki Takeuchi and Manhyal Sherpa all reached the summit by the South Ridge. Two years later, a team consisting of Takaharu Suzuki, Yoshinori Yatsu, Yoshifumi Ogino, Koyo Kawasaki and Hiroaki Kaneda completed the second ascent by the Southwest Ridge on August 19. Most recently, Junko Tabei headed up a 13-member, all-female expedition from the Japanese Alpine Club in 1988. Seven of the climbers reached the summit by the West Ridge.
This October, Fowler and Ramsden travelled from Delhi to the Pangi district, which Ramsden described as “an arbitrary political district that cuts across geographical features.” Neither of the climbers had visited the area before.
In an effort to acclimatize, they spent four nights away from camp “sucking in as much thin air as possible” while climbing a 5500m peak on the ridge extending north, out from the Prow. This sub-peak gave them a “wonderful point for viewing [their] intended route.”
It took Fowler and Ramsden two days to approach the Prow. They navigated a complex glacier field that led to the base of the unclimbed northeast ridge where they bivied for the night.
The start of the route the next morning brought “challenging snow and ridge climbing [that] led to what looked as if it could be an impasse.” The granite buttress above them was covered in thin and spotty ice, too unreliable to safely climb. Out of other viable options, the duo was forced into an overhanging crack, blinded from the terrain above. They aided through the section and bivouacked on an “undercut rock balcony” above.
Ice-filled cracks with “generally good protection every now and then” were interspersed with sections of verglassed slab. At one point Mick had to “struggle up a blank, overhanging groove to gain a steep, wide, snow-choked crack.”
On their sixth day out from base camp, the team encountered mixed climbing up steep grooves to the final section of vertical rock. Though planning to reach the summit that night, the team faced an “impassable gap and afternoon bad weather” that stymied their summit bid. Out of options, Fowler and Ramsden bivied for the night.
Climbing through an icy chimney splitting the headwall brought the duo to the summit at 10 a.m. on October 11, their seventh day on the climb. In all, their ascent of the Prow “ranked alongside the best either of us have experienced in the Himalaya,” they reported.
Long-time climbing partners, Fowler and Ramsden roped up together on the northwest face of Siguniang (6250m) in Sichuan, the north ridge of Tibet’s Manamcho (6264m) and the north face of Sulamar (ca. 5400m) in Xinjiang, among other first ascents.