Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tea Boss? - Trip Report from Pat Goodman

This Trip Report comes from an expedition that Backcountry.com sponsored. Their objective was to climb in India's Himachel Pradesh. You may remember them from the pre-trip story featured a couple of months ago. We're glad they are back, safe and sound...mostly.

Part 1
The sign does say an Inconvenience
“Tea Boss?” Spoken with a mixed accent of Nepali and English, was our wake up call while staying at base camp in India’s Miyar Valley. We had hired two Nepali cooks in Manali, the largest town closest to our current location, one days drive and three days of hiking away. Ramm and Pream had the good fortune of escorting and cooking for three smelly hyperactive Americans wanting to spend 31 days in the cold mountains climbing rocks. Along with Freddie Wilkinson and Dave Sharratt, I was climbing in and exploring a remote valley in northern India’s Himachel Pradesh.

The flight from the US to Delhi, India was long but not so bad, getting off the plane in 100 degree weather at midnight was awful. Not sleeping for 24+ hrs was no elixir to the raunchy stench and overly crowded streets outside the airport. We managed to get an overpriced taxi to agree to take usTrekking to India’s Miyar Valley to some hotel we pointed at in a Lonely Planet guidebook. En route to the hotel a man sitting juxtaposed to our driver played some Indian pop music from his cell phone and began his inquiry as to why three Americans were traveling with so many heavy bags.

After we attempted to explain our trip he asked if we would like to forgo the hotel stay and the bus ride the following day, buy renting his taxi for the 12hr drive to Manali. Hmmm, we all looked at each other with suspicious grins. He insisted we talk to the taxi company representatives in charge of booking such services. So, I’m still not sure if it was the best idea or we just did not have the energy to deal, but we left Delhi at 1:00am with some dude named “Happy” hopefully going to Manali. After a long drive (16hrs) we spent a day in Manali purchasing food, last minute supplies and with the help of a local travel agent also secuTrekking to India’s Miyar Valley includes some river crossingsred a Jeep ride over the Rothang Pass and into the Miyar Valley.

Another long drive led us to Tingrat – the end of the road and the beginning of 5 small villages accountable for miles of well kept farm lands. With 14 porters, mostly local high school kids, we hiked for days past fields of green peas and soon found ourselves camped in a spectacular spot known as Dali Got surrounded by some of the most visually stunning granite mountains I have seen.

Over the next week we acclimatized and made an ascent of a formation that had been dubbed “The Orange Tower” via a 1,000' crack route on the south face. We found the rock solid and featured, with a crux 5.11 pitch and a few awkward pitches, no falls were taken - our route was the first to summit the 5200m peak.
Next, we set our sights on another unclimbed peak - Peak 5960m.

Starting around 1:00am intent on a mixed route up the north face, that eventually lead to a super rad looking west facing ridge, we climbed a mix of snow, ice and bad rock for about 1,500' to the col on the ridge. After simul-climbing for a few thousand feet to a height of around 5700m, the sky turned grey and snow began toBase camp blues - bouldering fall. We waited for an hour or so but eventually had to descend. The many rappels down the ridge eventually landed us in a glacial valley quite foreign to us known as the Dali glacier that inevitably led to a cold bivy.

After some rest at base camp we moved our high camp kit beneath the west ridge on the Dali glacier. Waking early one morning we geared up for another go, but this time I was hampered by sharp pains in my lower back and unable to climb. Dave and Fred made quick work of the ridge (West Ridge - IV 5.9+) from our new location.

Another refresher at base camp fueled us up on dal, rice, alu pratha, roti’s and lots of tea. We decided the next obvious objective to be Mount Mahindra, 5900m. Mahindra’s south face juts upward from the Dali’s glacial ice exposing perfect grey and orange bullet-hard granite soaring for 2,500 feet, it’s three separate summits look like guard towers on a massive castle wall. All three summits were untrodden, although a few attempts over the years came close.

We restocked our high camp on the Dali and glassed a route that wandered up the middle of the face andMahindra looming above Base Camp ended on the middle tower. The first four or five pitches had previously been climbed by an Italian teem a few years prior. Before we could get off the ground the little demons in my back once again reared their ugly heads, my condition seemed to worsen as we gained altitude, and once again I was forced back to base camp. Dave and Fred blasted the route over the next few days, finding lots of wandering face and flake pitches with the occasional splitter corner crack. They named their route “Ashoka’s Pillar, V+ 5.11r”.

While Fred and Dave battled Mahindra, I was also at war. Sharp, jarring bursts of pain from my kidneys crippled me, not climbing was killing me; my mind was a mess, I needed to be up in the clouds, gripping granite, swinging ice tools, freeing stuck rap lines and absorbing the breathtaking summit views.....(to be continued)

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