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In the dull glow of our LED headlamps, the approach didn’t seem that bad. Dawn, however, brought a severe reality check — we had inadvertently hopped the direct flight to choss-ville. Warm, above freezing temperatures had destabilized the lower slopes of the mountain — we found ourselves simul-climbing through forty-five degree gravel fields that were so loose we needed crampons for purchase.
With only a minor injury due to rock fall, we reached the col at the start of the West Ridge proper by 8 AM. Now, surely our circumstances would improve. But alas, the ridge turned out to be a low-angled pile. Still in simul mode, we found pitch after pitch of loose gullies and talus fields, punctuated by short, amusing steps of 5.8 rock. And those vaulted shimmering skies at midnight were now a flat grey. We reached the start of the steeper upper pitches just as the first snowflakes fell.
It took only fifteen minutes for the thick Himalayan sludge to blanket everything — the rock, our ropes, ourselves. There was still hope — snow squalls are par for the course in this area of the world, perhaps this storm would pass in an hour. We waited. The snow lessened — and maybe that faint light overhead was the sun? No such luck. After two hours of sitting still, we began our retreat.
The relatively low-angled nature of the terrain made the rappelling a slow, tedious affair. Darkness returned. Of course the ropes got stuck on the second-to-last rappel over a steep blank slab. Pat gallantly set off up the rope on prussiks; Dave and I were sleeping at the hanging belay when he returned an hour later.
We had opted to descend the other side of the ridge to avoid the rotten syphilitic death talus we had negotiated that morning. Well past the 24-hour mark, trying to onsight a new, unknown glacier in the dark, we finally ran out of gas. With no sleeping bags or pads our options were pretty limited: we just lay down on the terminal moraine and shivered until light. We staggered into basecamp at 10AM.
The summit of Peak 5960.Photos by Freddie Wilkinson
Four days later Dave and I returned to Peak 5960 to finish our line — this time from the other side, to avoid that ugly approach. Pat was down with a kidney infection, or maybe he just was smarter then us. We pitched the tent next to a beautiful alpine lake, had a brisk swim, and set the alarm for 1AM.
The next day luck was on our side and the weather held. We knew what we had to do and confidently simuled the lower ridge in the dark, and I actually enjoyed leading the six pitches of alpine 5.9 above our previous high point. By 9AM, we were kicking it on the summit.
Tens of summits hovered around us in the morning mist, but one in particular held my attention: Mount Mahindra, a three-headed alpine beast with a 800 meter wall that rose above the head of the glacier we were bivied on. “See if you can get a good photo of that one”, Dave said as he rigged up our first rappel.
Descending back to basecamp that evening, I stopped and looked up at Peak 5960. Maybe it was all that suffering, maybe I was just tired, but the mountain looked a little less perfect, a little less pure, now that I had stood on top of it. Stay tuned for the third and final installment of the 2007 Miyar expedition.
— Freddie Wilkinson
CLICK HERE TO LAUNCH a clip of Freddie and Dave on the vigin summit of Peak 5960(Once open, please feel free to continue navigating our site)