American Women Bag Three Peaks in India

Emilie Drinkwater on Pumo Kangri, with Stegosauraus in the background. Photo by Kirsten Kremer

Emilie Drinkwater on Pumo Kangri, with Stegosauraus in the background. Photo by Kirsten Kremer

8/31/11 - In early August, Janet Bergman, Emilie Drinkwater, and Kirstin Kremer completed three first ascents of peaks in the Eastern Karakoram in India. The three women were sharing a basecamp and acclimatizing with Mark Richey, Steve Swenson, and Freddie Wilkinson, who did the first ascent of Saser Kangri II later in the month. Below is Bergman's account of the expedition.

"Kirsten Kremer, Emilie Drinkwater and I, supported by a Polartec Challenge Grant, traveled to the Eastern Indian Karakoram in July and August of this year (2011). Our objective was an unclimbed 6,135 meter peak that alpinist Mark Richey had shared a photo of. The south facing aspect with several beautiful looking rock buttresses appealed to us for alpine rock climbing.

The three of us met in Delhi on July 3, along with Mark Richey, Steve Swenson and my husband Freddie Wilkinson, who were attempting a first ascent of nearby Saser Kangri II, and with whom we shared base camp and climbing permits. The six of us flew from Delhi to Leh, Ladakh, and drove over the Khardung La, the “highest motorable pass in the world”, to the Nubra Valley where we commenced the three day trek to base camp, a lovely grassy meadow at 5,000 meters. From there the two teams split up, with our advanced camps and objective peaks on separate glaciers.

Janet Bergman on Saser Linga. Photo by Freddie Wilkinson

Janet Bergman on Saser Linga. Photo by Freddie Wilkinson

Kirsten, Emilie and I made two attempts on ‘6135’ (one with a chilly open bivy). The walls were good quality crack climbing, but the melted-out ledges and the entire summit ridgeline were constantly bombarding us with rock and ice from all directions whenever the sun was out. We made the decision that the conditions were too dangerous to attempt it again.

Fortunately, the area around Saser Kangri II where the guys had their advanced camp had several promising looking unclimbed peaks so, with the help our Indian Sherpa staff, we were able to clean out our advanced camp at ‘6135’ and move over to the Saser Kangri II camp for the remainder of our time.

As seems to often be the case, all of our activity happened in the final week of the trip. On August 5-6, Kirsten and Emilie (I was in the throes of a violent 24-hour stomach bug) climbed Pumo Kangri, PD/ AD 6440 meters, a striking ice and snow peak just outside of camp, soloing all but the final pitches, and rappelling through the night with a single rope (they’d anticipated more snow than ice and got just the opposite!). Freddie and I high-fived with them on their final rappels the next morning as we climbed the same initial ice slope to approach Saser Linga, IV 5.9+ ~6,200 meters, a beautiful 7 pitch rock pinnacle. Finally, on August 8-9, the four of us plus Mark Richey skied across the glacier to a high bivy and simul-climbed Stegosaurus, PD/AD 6,640 meters, a dinosaur-esque peak with a 150 meter corniced ridge traverse to the summit.

Our most sincere thanks to the Polartec Challenge Grant program, Mountain Hardwear, Outdoor Research, Sterling Rope Company, Petzl, and La Sportiva for support of this expedition."

Dates of ascents: August 2011

Source: Janet Bergman