Manikaran Spires - an adventure in the Indian Himalaya
The view from the roof top of the Deep Forest Hotel.
But our gaze quickly turned to the ominously featured and horribly steep landscape below the Spires – "could this be why these mountains have no routes from this side" , I ask myself. We immediately knew we had to find a local guide to make it to the base of those peaks.
On the 16th of October we started up the amazingly steep hillside juxtaposed to the mighty Brahmganga Nala, after a few hrs of hiking I started to understand why our new friends thought we were kinda nuts for wanting to go up to where only the shepards dare – my legs started to ache.
7 days after leaving the village of Manikaran we where soaked to the bone!! We made upward progress for two days, then got pinned down by monsoon like rainfall at the top of a really amazing ridge that rose several thousands of feet above the Parvatti Valley floor. Every now and then from our perch we would get a glimpse of the snow that was accumulating in the high mountains above.
This time the four of us went light with no support from our friends. We carried only the essentials – one Kiva and one EV2 tents, two Sterling Nano’s, 2 sets of Camalots, a few sets of stoppers, enough Mountain House freeze dried’s to last five days, 40 Gu’s, a rickidy old Primus stove that was burning unleaded gas, three pairs of crampons, four ice axes, and our personal gear. We managed the approach in two days under sunny skies.
At 3:00 am, four days after leaving Manikaran we set out from our base camp at 12,500’ to climb the untrodden 3,000+ foot south face of Peak 5394. It looked to be mostly dry, although the storm that shut us down the week before left behind about three feet a fresh snow on the upper slopes – we knew the conditions were going to be trying at best. Unstable soft snow, wet rock and bad ice were certain! The four of us climbed as two teams for a full day.
The next day – another gorgeous morning – started with waist deep snow waddling for several hrs across the jagged ridge top, that led us to the final summit tower and the best rock pitch of the climb. After about 6 pitches (and a V.2 boulder problem) from our bivy we stood on top of Peak 5394, happy and content!! My watch read 17,675 about 8,240 vertical from the village. According to an older issue of the American Alpine Journal this peaks summit was unclimbed. Our new route we tentatively called "Indian Beauty Queen - V+ 5.9 (ish), A.0", is certainly testement to our four Manikaran friends first impression of our sanity – or lack of. But was nothing less than what we believe as an outstanding example of perseverance and seizing the moment, after all, the burden of happiness can only be relieved by the balm of suffering.
Freddie Wilkinson soaking up the summit views.
After a day in Kasol the four of us hitched a jeep ride back to Manali where Ben and I said our goodby's to Freddie and Janet. Fred has plans to climb in Nepal and Janet went to Dharamsala to practice yoga. Ben and I are going to the Chhota Shigri Glacier north east of Manali to do a little bouldering and hopefully find another wall to climb. The weather looks ok and from what we can tell the adventure potential is great!