beginning, a new route at Lalung valley, September 2017
September 2017, we joined our friends Tad McCrea & Jon Griffin both from
the United States, for an expedition to the remote Lalung valley at the head
waters of Suru River, in Jammu & Kashmir.
We started early in the morning
on the 8th from Manali and reached the village of Zoildok on the
evening of the10th, via Leh & Kargil, en route crossing some
famous high altitude passes.
Zoildok is a small village situated at an altitude of 3650 meters near Ringdom monastery, which falls on the way to Padam from Kargil. We stayed here for couple of days at Tundup’s home to organise our porters for the hike to base camp.
|Mt Nun (7135mt) & Kun (7077mt) seen from Zoildok|
On the morning of the 12th, we drove up for an hour towards Pensi La (4400 meters) and started our hike. On our way to base camp we had to cross the Lalung nala a few times. After 3 hours of hiking we reached a rather pleasant camping area with flat grassy ground and a flowing creek. We decided to set up our base camp (4150 meters) here, which would be our home for following three weeks.
camp @4150 meters|
For the first few days at the base camp our goal was to explore the upper Lalung glacier towards the Mummer Col (5400mt) and gain some acclimatization in the process. To do that we hiked up to 5000 meters with Tad & Jon, as they establish their High camp for an alpine style attempt on the east ridge of chiling 1 (6320mt)
|Chiling 1(6320mt) & Chiling 2 (6180mt)|
|On our way to High Camp|
After returning to our base camp from the high camp we took a day of rest to feel fresh and regain our strength. We then turned our attention towards a granite buttress rising 600 meters above our base camp. The steep north-west face of the buttress looked promising for providing a line with good quality rock that will lead to the north-west ridge of peak 5200mt, which was definitely the highest point we could see on the south-east direction from the base camp
On 20th September, at around 8’o clock in the morning, we left our base camp to try our intended route. An hour of hike through the steep and loose talus field got us to the base of our route. The line we chose was a groove system through the middle of the face and connected a series of slabs & dihedrals to the top of the buttress.
|MAHALAYA, IV 5.10b R 550 MT|
The climb started with a smooth and blank slab for about 15 meters and then eased out. Jibbi led the first part cautiously as the climbing was little delicate around 5.7 and completely run out. As soon as he was on the easy ground we decided to move faster. He put a micro traxion before he ran out of the rope and we started simul climbing. With the heavy pack the start was little challenging but otherwise the terrain was easy and offered spaced but good protection. We simul climbed the first 200 meters before it became steeper and a series of dihedrals blocked our way.
|The starting slab|
|Simul-climbing on the initial slabs|
After a little rest I decided to lead this block. The climbing was through steep corners. The first pitch of the block offered classic dihedral climbing with excellent stemming and bridging moves. The crack on the left side offered me the opportunity to place good protection, mostly blue & yellow camelots. The pitch was about 60 meters long and was probably 5.10 in difficulty.
|The dream dihedral 5.10|
The next pitch was also a hard one, with a strenuous laybacking section and a few moves on thin hands, but was well protected with purple to blue camelots. This was also a 60 meters pitch of around 5.10.
At the end of this steep dihedral section we decided to take some rest. It took us around three hours to reach up to this point; here we used our GU energy gels and Cliff Bars to refuel ourselves
|The thin hand section on the second pitch of the block|
|The strenuous laybacking on the second pitch (5.10) of my block|
Jibbi took over the lead for the next section, another smooth dihedral followed, which offered some really thin, delicate and run-out climbing. He did a great job of leading this demanding pitch; it was a time consuming and tenuous effort from his part. This pitch was also around 60 meters; we rated it at around 5.10b R. After this pitch we were again on comparatively easier terrain and here we felt the need to move faster.
The climbing ahead did not look that hard, so we decided to shortened the rope and jibbi started leading with tied off coils. There were couple of 25- 30 meter long 5.7& 5.8 pitches in this part and soon we reached easier terrain and started moving together. We reached the top of the buttress at around 3 pm, climbing 550 meters on the north-west face. We named our route MAHALAYA (IV, 5.10b R 550 meters).The name refers to the fact that it was Mahalaya back home on that day, which marks the beginning of the famous Durga Puja festival.
|Jibbi leading the demanding , run-out pitch, 5.10b R|
|Leading with tied off coils 5.8|
As we did not carry any bivy gear or food/fuel we decided to turn back at this point. The ridge in front of us was long and alpine in nature and would have taken a long time. We started our descent following the northwest ridge. For the most part we down scrambled and moved together on a shortened rope using terrain features as belay and protection. A couple of short rappels at the end got us down to the valley floor. The descent took around three hours and another couple of hours of hiking which included treacherous terminal moraine of Lalung glacier, got us back to our base camp.
|Moving together on a shortened rope to gain the ridge|
|Peak 5200mt seen from the top of the buttress|
After 12 hours of effort throughout the day we felt really tired. On reaching base camp our cook, Kishu, greeted us with hot tea & delicious pakodas. We settled in our kitchen tent and soon Kishu served us a delicious dinner of hot rice, dal and mixed veg. We went to bed with a very satisfying feeling that night, after our wonderful adventurous experience