Kishtwar only recently re-opened to foreigners after a 25 year hiatus, leaving much to be discovered.
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Crystal Davis-Robbins and I spent three weeks in Kishtwar, a region of the Indian Himalaya with a tumultuous past. It was only recently reopened to foreigners after a 25-year hiatus, leaving much to be discovered. After learning another team had a permit for our original objective, we went in to the Dharlang Valley, unsure about what we would find. We spent a few days of exploring and found a hidden cirque, with a striking pyramidal peak shooting 3,000 feet towards the sky. We had found our objective.
After establishing our basecamp, we shuttled loads and spent a few hours digging out a tent spot in the rocky moraine before heading back down to wait out some bad weather. It snowed 10 inches, covering our peak in a frosty white. We waited in base camp for the weather to clear and after 4 days, moved to high camp for the push. We meandered through steep grass, following a goat path until it gave way to rocky moraine and glacier. The glacier was relatively friendly, allowing us passage after navigating through a series of crevasses and up a final icy slope to the base. The weather above was clear but was calling for possible snow the following day. We intended to spend at least two days on route.
Climbing in the Himalaya is an incredible thing. The people, the culture, and the days and days of travel. So much planning and preparation goes into these expeditions allowing the whole experience to culminate into one incredible journey. To me, it’s about more than just the climbing. If you are lucky, you might reach the summit of one of those peaks. If not, you still have the experience to hold onto and learn from for next time.
Since our intended route was facing west, it received very little sun. We initially climbed on the northwest face up icy cracks, and often loose, snow-covered rock. After switching into our boots to climb an icy gully, we made it onto what we thought was going to be a ridge which led to them summit. We climbed for a few hundred meters op slabs and corners up to 5.10-. Unfortunately for us, the route ahead was a steep face with very few cracks and we only had 2 bolts and a handful of pins. The route was not conducive to fast and light travel and with the pending storm and difficult terrain, we made the decision to go down.
Crystal is one of the most psyched people to climb that I know. She is passionate about climbing in the mountains and loves adventuring into the unknown. This was our second trip to the Himalaya together and although our first resulted in two new routes, I think on this trip, we learned more about ourselves and about the value of partnership. More important than reaching the summit is coming home alive and as friends.
In the end, we left the mountains with smiles on our face. The storm didn't materialize but our time was out, and supplies low. The days grew colder and nights longer. Winter was coming to the Himalaya. We hiked the 40 miles back to town and began the long journey home. The vision of those mountains will forever be burned into my mind. I feel fortunate to have explored that beautiful place and have such an incredible adventure with a great friend.