Guest post by Kyle Bates of Himalaya Alpine
Along a dusty and winding road, precipitous with steep river valleys and rock decaying with time, we journeyed to a remote range in the western Himalaya; supposedly rife with climbing, adventure, and the chance to aim towards greater heights.This in-lieu of a denied Karakoram permit and last minute schedule change, brought our group of guests and guides together towards a common goal. Armed with enough fixed line and gear to satisfy even Shipton himself, the group decided on a 6181m peak named Z-1. This peak, Z-1, is a heavily glaciated and rarely climbed giant at the head of the Shafat Valley, deep in the Great Himalaya range of northern India.
Never heard of it? Well, truth be told, after having operated in this region for 10 years, we had heard little of it as well. So the interminable draw. Rumor had it that Johnny Copp and Micah Dash had climbed a route called the ‘Shafat Fortress’ on the valley’s southern flank, and we knew that commercial climbing groups visited the region annually to climb the tick-list 7000m Kun Peak. With a likeness of Yosemite or Patagonia, the routes are over a 1000 meters in climbing length and consist of splitter clean granite. Ours however, was a goal to climb ice and snow in more classic mountaineering fashion. We saw our goal on the second day. The first thought that came to my head – ‘Leviathan’. She was big. Really big. Large enough in fact to spark numerous comments by Luke and myself, “Man, I hope it looks smaller from basecamp,” for example. A true classic. Relaxing in camp that night, dining tent lit by our Goal Zero Light-A-Life Lantern, we discussed our options. At best we were armed with Spartan maps and local information of substantial rock fall and avalanches on our intended route. Not a great way to start a trip. Two Sherpa 50 Power Packs, and a gallon of green tea, kept our plans going late into the night. In the very near future, fixed lines were going in somewhere . . .
My mind drifted for a moment – “How did the weather decide to become so, perfect?” Standing atop rock and ice, careful not to move too far to the right, the entire valley was spread before us like an Ansel Adams photo. Except, this was vibrantly more rich, and full of color. It was so bright as to be blinding. The summit of our consolation prize, sister peak Z-2, lay beneath our feet. I laughed, if it weren’t for that Sherpa 50 and the last minute camera charge, none of this would have happened. I mean, my memory never could have captured it so brightly and with such clarity. Cheers for technology. 4000’ below lay a tiny basecamp (for ants!?) and our way home. Throughout the cold and the altitude Goal Zero kept us going and lit our way. Even when the way wasn’t especially clear. We head into the Lahaul Himalaya next for an attempt on steep and iceclad Gangsthang. Stay tuned!
To learn more about Kyle and Luke visit Himalaya-Alpine.com. Photos: Luke Smithwick