By Daniela Teixeira.
The ashes of the Iceland volcano threatened our flight, but still we arrived in Delhi on the planned day, 11th May.
This was an expedition to a place far away from the climbing world, away from the dozens of climbers wandering around the mountain in gore-tex, away from crowded and confused base camps.
After a 2 days journey by car and 2 days of trekking, we found ourselves in a valley surrounded of 6000 m mountains, on which the last climbing expedition was reported in 1980.
We went with the aim to climb a 6257m virgin peak, Parvati Parvat, and something more if we had the time.
We had collected all the information we could until then, which was not much, a few pictures of some Indian trekkers we found in the internet, and the best map available 1:125 000. Our aim was to explore, to enjoy all the surprises we were sure we would have.
We sat base camp was at 4200m, and after one day of rest, we started moving. On our first approach to the mountain, we went to a place where we could have a clear view of the spur we decided to climb. We spotted a beautiful, very logic and aesthetic spur. The spur would lead to a plateau (at least that was what was on the map!), and after the plateau we thought we would reach the summit of Parvati Parvat. So we pitched the tent at 4750m, hoping to go up on the next day on an acclimatization climb. We had reports of bad weather coming, but we recognized on the approach trek and first day that, generally the mornings were good, and weather turned worst in the afternoon. We decided to take our chances thinking that on that place we were ok, no avalanche risk, so the worst that could happen would be some snow – wrong call! What we didn’t know was that at that latitude, huge thunderstorms are normal, so in the middle of the night, beside the big snowfall that caught us, the huge noise of the thunders kept us awake and thinking that we should not be in that place! At 2:30 am, the thunderstorm was right above us, so the decision was in fear, to dress as fast as we could, leave everything behind, and return to base camp. Again it was not the best decision because we could not see a thing in the thick fog and our footsteps were gone! Still, we kept walking trying to figure out the way down every time a lightning bolt would light up the mountains. After about one hour, we admitted we were lost! We decided to follow our trace back, and just on the point that the footsteps were gone with the wind, we found ourselves in known ground.
First surprise – don’t play with the weather here! It is different from the 8000m mountains we were in. It has a new element, huge thunderstorms!
With this, we were acclimatized.
After a one day rest, consumed by the anxiety of going for Parvati Parvat, we decided to try our luck using a small 2 days weather window. We decided to push hard to climb Parvati Parvat. According to the spur we saw before, combined with the info on the map, 2 very long days could be enough to summit and come back. So, on the first day (21 of May) we left base camp at around 3 a.m. and climbed the not so steep part of the long spur, to pitch our tent at 5450m in a col we called “Budi camp”. After 7 am, the snow became deep (very deep!) and slowed our progression, and the sun started to consume our energies. Some time later, easy rock scrambles and a 15m rappel put us very close to the col where we arrived around 12 pm, tired of the knee and waist deep snow. There we pitched our tent, and decided to call the place “Budi Col” (in nepali, “budi” means wife).
Next day, we started at 1 am, hoping to reach the summit around 10 am, maximum 12:00. What we did not know, was that in this part of the Himalayas, the climbing schedules are different!
We climbed the north spur that leads to a crest until 5 am, it becomes steeper and steeper with height. We climbed it protecting with snow stakes and some ice screws. Generally the snow was far from perfect, and even at night, we had to open trail in a snow that sometimes was knee deep. Reaching the crest, we recognized the plateau that should be right there according to the map, was more than 100m down, so we followed the slope close to the crest, on the direction of a triangular and prominent peak we saw from down, also not on the map! Not knowing how was the slope after it, but figuring out from its shape that on the other side it should be a wall, we kept on the slope, and traversed it about 30 meters below the peak’ s summit, until we reached a place where we confirmed that on the opposite side was a huge gap. It was a rock wall. A steep snow slope led us down to the plateau. After that, we went up again following the long and monotonous plateau that we thought it would lead us almost to the summit of Parvati. The snow was all the time…sh*tty…very sh*tty! According to the information we had from 2 previous attempts, it was said they reached the dome’s fore summit. Around 7:30 we reached a snow dome at about 6150m, the end of the plateau and to our surprise, between us and the summit there was another sharp peak! I guess my question to Paulo was “What is this f***ing mountain doing between us and Parvati?”. As we see it, the dome should not be considered a fore summit, can we use the expression fore-fore summit? :-)
At that point, we were at least 3 hours away from our objective, with a fore summit that was not on the map, and was not mentioned in previous attempts, and under the sun in a snow that was getting worst every second that passed! What to do?
We spent about 30 minutes there to decide. We were happy to open a new route (at the time we had doubts to consider a new route because we didn’t reach the main summit, but since we reached a high point, we thought it would still be fair), the first Portuguese route in the Himalayas, and sad with the reality of not reaching the summit we aimed for.
We had to be realistic, it was too dangerous to go on another 3 hours and then still come back, because the snow was already very bad and getting worst with the sun, so it would become dangerous to do a part of the route coming back, specially a steep slope, where there was no place to protect (nothing worked in such a bad snow). And it was only 8 am!
Second and third surprises - different climbing schedule from the Himalayas we were used to, and surprising morphology, not coincident with the map, or the rest of our previous info!
But, when we turned back, we immediately looked at the prominent triangular peak that we passed middle slope, and immediately had the same idea “Probably it is still unclimbed, lets go for it!”. So with a renewed happiness, we went down the plateau, directly climbed the slope following our steps and did the last few meters to the snow summit. At that point, all the doubts were gone; a new route was opened! Only in base camp reading a book about some climbs in the region we found its name, Ekdant, 6100m, and only in Delhi we found out that it was already climbed. 2 indians reportedly climbed it in 1980. Anyway, we explored a new route, and in our opinion, the mountain offered us a very aesthetic and logical line.
Still, it was not over! As we already expected, it was an epic descend! Because we just brought a 50 m rope we had to live with a lot of 25 m rappel, mainly from “Abalakovs”!
The next day we reached base camp also after a long descend, on which we ridiculously buried ourselves sometimes until the chest (literally!). Honestly? We never ever saw such a bad snow!
After a few days of bad weather, we tried Parvati again, following another route on the north face, but the bad snow conditions and the huge avalanche danger, turned us back at the altitude of 5100m. It would be impossible to go and come back from the summit in a 2 days good weather window (only 2 days again!), considering the snow conditions. It was not a bad decision, as a little while after we turned back, a huge avalanche crossed an area where we could be, if we would go on!
We then decided to use the last day of good weather to climb Kartik, 5115m, as we found it possible to climb in one day. We could see this peak from base camp, a beautiful triangular sharp peak! This was a great literally light style ascent, in every way. We took only the essential climbing gear, a back-pack with water and some chocolates, 2 snow-stakes, 3 ice-screws and 4 rock pitons. Again, we were caught by the sun, and the snow got very bad after 8am. Anyway the summit was fun, as the crux was the last 7m we had to rock climb (grade IV). We reached it at 10:00a.m., and we were very happy to climb the first Portuguese summit on the Himalayas! We named the route “Directa Lusitana” (Lusitanian Direct), and we named the peak “Kartik”, to maintain the Hinduism spirit of the place, as the mountains on that area have names of Hindu gods.
Kartik, is the small warrior son of Lord Shiva (also known as Neelkant) and Parvati (Shiva’ s wife), and the brother of Ekdant. Indeed it stays close to the mountains Neelkant and Parvati Parvat, as Ekdant also does, being Kartik (5115m) smaller than Ekdant (6100m)!
Coming down was again a question of patience and time, on a very sh*tty and dangerous snow!
After that day, the weather turned bad, with a huge snow storm, and gave us no other chance to do something more.
Still today, we look back remembering with a huge smile our real exploring expedition, with a FREE SPIRIT.
See images here http://www.rab-blog.com/expedition-free-spirit-gallery/ or by clicking the link to the right of the page.