New Route on Stunning Arwa Tower

By Dougald MacDonald ,

The Northeast Face of 20,840-foot Arwa Tower in India. The new Swiss route zigzags up prominent grooves left of the central prow, crossing to the right side of the prow near the top.

A Swiss trio has made the first ascent of the striking Northeast Face of 20,840-foot Arwa Tower in India’s Garhwal Himalaya. Denis Burdet, Thomas Senf, and Stephan Siegrist climbed a route mostly to the left of the shallow prow splitting the 3,300-foot granite face. After a false start when they were driven down by a storm, the team completed the face in seven days, capsule-style (fixing ropes above three separate portaledge camps), plus two days to rappel the route. They called their route Lightning Strike (VI 5.9 A3 M5).

Much of the climbing involved hard aid on snow-covered rock. “The wall was almost completely without cracks, and when they were there they were offwidths and we found the terrain to be extremely demanding,” Siegrist wrote on his website. “Bird beaks became our most important piece of equipment. The rock is extremely weathered, and even with [hooks] there is little to hang onto the rounded features. This meant that we climbed like snails…and this was aggravated by the fact that the wall was covered with snow. We even had to search for features with a snow shovel.”

Arwa Tower was first climbed in 1999 by the British-American team of Mick Fowler and Steve Sustad, who ascended the Northwest Face in an eight-day round trip.

Not your average big wall: Snow-covered rock made for tedious aid climbing and cold camping on the face. Photo by Stephan Siegrist, courtesy of

Date of Ascent: May 11 to June 9, 2007; summit reached June 7, 2007., 2000 American Alpine Journal,

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Stephan Siegrist celebrates atop a summit that turned out to be just as pointy as it looked from base camp. Photo by Thomas Senf, courtesy of

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