It was again at the Erna, the gas station at the Dobbiaco intersection, when we met for a quick coffee before climbing. In addition to the usual "How are you?", "Is it going on in the new tour", "have you done a lot?", This time also the topic "are you planning something next autumn?". The answer was "not really". But during our climb we came more and more into conversation and actually this thought went through my mind for a long time ... "it does not necessarily have to be something new, it just has to be a beautiful mountain, which is also feasible". When I suggested the Shivling to Simon Gietl, it took less than two seconds to see the sparkle in his eyes.
Ten months later we are sitting in a big jeep on the way from Delhi to Rishikesh. Our goal: Shivling. The Matterhorn of the Himalayas. One of the most beautiful mountain shapes of our planet. Since the first ascent in 1974 over the west side, more than 10 different routes have been opened to this mountain. In the year 2000, Thomas Huber, together with the Swiss Ivan Wolf, completed the magical line of the "Kammerlander - Hainz" pillar and finally received the highest award in mountain sports, the Piolet d'Or, for the "Shiva's Line". Too obvious and sublime, this steep granite pillar divides the sun from the shady side, too impressive the final headwall ... Reason enough for us this project, perhaps, to want to tackle in appropriate circumstances.
After two days of driving along the holy river Ganges, we reach the Hindu holy place "Gangotri", our starting point for the two-day approach march. With great help from Nepalese porters, who only want to be packed with double loads (40 kg!), We follow the Ganges the next day to its source, the "Gaumukh" (= cow's mouth), where a larger brook springs from a glacier gate, here we stay. Now it is not far to the base camp "Tapovan" and in half a day we reach the high plateau at the foot of Shivling. We cannot stop taking pictures when getting up. It has definitely been worthwhile to go here. The beauty of this mountain is overwhelming and even leaves the Bhagirathis, the mighty opposing granite walls, somewhat overshadowed. I think a nicer base camp cannot be imagined. Precisely, a lot of sun, next to a creek and with this view, the madness!
A few days ago it had snowed a lot and had rained in the base camp, which we can see at the "gullies" that the participants of the Amical Expedition have dug. The mountain is very white and we are a bit skeptical if anything will happen. But let's not rush and put a day off to acclimatize, because the base camp is at least 4300m.
The next day we start with light luggage for the first time towards the mountain. Immediately we realize that we left too late and the sun burns mercilessly down on us. The track work is also not a little, but nice and slow we reach a big stone at about 5000m. Others must have stayed here, we think, the backpacks are here. From "Camp 1" we walk for a few hundred meters to the large steep gully leading to the pier. The snow seems to be relatively hard in the channel and we have already seen enough for today. Good thing we go back to the base camp.
Since carrying a satellite phone is illegal in India, we have to secretly check the weather in front of our "Laison Officer" and it looks good for the entire coming week. The next day, we are back with a little more material at the beginning of the large channel and after a few hundred meters, we realize that the snow is not as hard as initially thought and we plague ourselves in the scorching sun. We are too late again, next time start sooner! After a few hours we reach the beginning of the pillar. It all looks pretty wintry up here and we are quite skeptical if that should go well with the pillar. However, to the left of an ice track moves down, like an icefall. It looks quite good from a distance and we want to try it next time. On an exposed ridge at 5500m we find the place where the Huberbuam could have bivouacked and deposit our material there. In the evening, we sit back in the basecamp and can comfortably stretch our feet, while Rangid, our Nepalese cook spoils us with a vegetarian delicacy.
Since the weather is always consistent even if a little colder reported, we plan exactly as we like it - a real luxury when compared with Patagonia or other regions. We would like to attach our fixed ropes at the top to get a good starting position for the summit attempt.
We spend the next day the first time at the big stone at 5000m to get better at the altitude you get used to. In the early morning, we start with backpacks weighing more than 15 kg to camp 2. It will be a real plague to trudge up the gully and you always have to take care not to stand too far during the breaks, otherwise you would easily lose your balance. Insanity how about the Sherpas to master the high camp of the 8000er! On the exposed ridge, we shovel the space for the small tent and prepare everything for the night. Then we climb up to the entry, because we cannot wait to get started on the mountain. Climbing from right to left we reach the ice line.
The snow is hard, with many ice inclusions, real polystyrene, as you know it from the good north wall conditions in the Alps. It could work. It's steep, certainly WI5 and cannot be well secured, but Simon does not show it and after four pitches of steep ice climbing we are already above the lip and can fix one of the two 200m Dyneema fixed ropes. Then we rappel and make ourselves comfortable in the small tent on the exposed ridge. The next day we follow the fixed rope and reach the yesterday's material depot. Now begins "Klassens Nordwandgelände". Instead of crossing to the pillar to the right, the super polystyrene snow seduces us to climb straight up to 70 °. In the sun, it is really nice to climb, but as soon as the shade comes, it does not take 5 minutes and you have to be armed with the thick down to avoid cooling down. We reach a height of 5900m, fix all the ropes we have and deposit all the climbing material. After a long descent, we find ourselves in the evening in the base camp again, where we now want to rest for a full two days.
In the early afternoon of the ninth of October, we start in the direction of camp 2 and reach it in the shady afternoon light after about 4 hours march. We put up the little tent again and get in. We are both fit, the weather is nice, but one has become a bit colder than the days before. Packed with all the bivouac material we start the next day and jumbled over the fixed ropes ripe. It is very exhausting because the first piece is very steep. Then the terrain settles back and as we reach our material depot, the sun shines and warms us up a bit. Simon takes the lead. The terrain is not too heavy, the polystyrene snow perfect, but the climbing cannot be well secured, so it is always careful. We pull on a Haublag and I carry a big backpack on my back. After a few pitches, we finally reach the Kammerlander - Hainz pillar, we then, after another short pitch a little downhill cookies, directly on the ridge on about 6000m can clear. The sun has long gone and we quickly set up our tent to get into the warm sleeping bags. We melt snow, cook, drink, the same habitual ritual. Just before the sun goes down, she lets herself be seen again, but at this time the sun's rays are too weak to generate heat. In the last sunlight, we look up at the headwall, which looks like a smooth but protective roof over our heads. We see the crack system where the Shiva's Line of Thomas and I wan rises. We have everything on, even the thick down jacket in the sleeping bag and the mittens. As we discuss the "how and when" for tomorrow, both of us immediately realize that it's just too cold to be able to climb up ropes in the A3-A4 range and also choose the Japanese route because of the perfect polystyrene snow, which reaches the summit ice field via a sloping ramp to the right, to try as an exit.
The night is very cold, long, uncomfortable and brings little sleep. We are finally really happy when we are allowed to get up. In twilight, we set up our material together. We will leave a lot here in the tent, because our intention is to reach the summit on the same day and rappel back to the tent. A small climbing backpack we take as a tour home in the Alps, only the bare minimum. The first two pitches below the headwall are not difficult, but the ice axes with the mittens cannot be attacked so well; The watch does not show anything, but it is between -15 ° and -20 ° C. Now the climbing becomes more interesting, the wall rises and a ramp moves to the top right. The next pitches are all very similar and would fall in at home, 2000m deeper, in the area "enjoy mixed climbing". But up here on 6000m is everything else, 2-3 puffs, then the pulse is back to 200 ... The old fixed ropes of the Japanese can still be seen well, probably they have tried to avoid the ice passages, because the hooks they have left, partly stuck high up in the smooth wall. When we reach the corner at the end of the ramp, we know that it will not be very far now. A look into the north wall, which rises here and we suddenly recognize the lifeless snowed body of a Pole, or last year here is an accident. Quickly we try to concentrate on ourselves again, because mistakes are not allowed at any of us in the height now. But during the next two beautiful rock lengths, my gaze keeps coming down to him and his tragic story does not come out of my head so fast - in the first place when his colleague wanted to get help, reached Basecamp and finally died of exhaustion there.
Step, move, carry on and concentrate, now we really do not have much time left. Two long pitches in the 60 ° snowfield with deep furrows, remind us both of the Königsspitz north face and now let a bit of rhythm in the climbing come. The snow is still perfect - not bare, but not deep, and the sun that has allowed us to visit recently makes the sky appear deep blue. The walls at the end of the snowfield we overcome from left to right and is not a big problem dar. The last meters and then we have done it! Shivling! And for the most part about a new tour - we could hardly have dreamed this at the snowy sight of the first days! Although the summit or the summit plateau is rather unspectacular in itself (the Venice summit is exposed!), We are not only overwhelmed by the mountain, especially by the surrounding scenery! From the Bhagirathis to the Kadernath, to the pointed Southwest Summit, past Thalay Sargar, to the Meru's and Shark's Finn - India really impresses with a multitude of high, very challenging and few visiting peaks!
A few photos and a short video, then we have to make ourselves on the way back, because almost all belays are still set up and the sloping ramp back rappelling is not an easy task. But everything goes as it should and we are lucky, then the rope will never hang! Just at the last rays of the sun we reach our tent, where we can hardly wait to imagine. We laugh and are really happy to be down again. "Take good care of yourself tomorrow while rappelling, then nothing can go wrong!". After the past, almost sleepless night, we would sleep like a stone, but the night will be sleepless again, long and very cold.
When the first rays of the sun give us the signal to get up in the morning, we are ironed over three times and I also have very bad headaches. Now it really means to pull together and come down well. Similar to our tent, we are starting the first descent and as it stopped yesterday, it is now on the move. I am roping off Simon, he sets up a stand with slings, peckers, hooks, wedges or even friends and I come with a big backpack, the whole countless times, until we reach Camp 2. As we now want to pull off the fixed ropes, an end is hanging somewhere above. We try hard to pull on it several times, but it just does not want to. We are too tired and too unfocused to climb up there again and decide to do the cutting. We do not want to risk anything anymore, because the boarding ladder, which is up to 50 ° steep and 500 meters high, still has to be climbed with the heavy rucksacks. It will be a long one and a half hours, because the coloir has been getting harder and harder since the first time and today we really have to cut in the pimples and iron so we can descend safely. At some point, we are down and eventually we reach the stone from Camp 1, where we leave most of the material. We will then pick the day after tomorrow ... Cozy walk we then over the blocks and meadows down to the base camp, where we from our crew, the cook, the assistant cook, the officers, Narenda and the German colleagues, a few days earlier on the Westgrat could reach the summit, were warmly received!
Great, both expeditions were at the summit and are now well again in the base camp. When we went to sleep, we could hardly believe it, we could realize our dream to climb for us the most beautiful mountain in the world!
Article and pictures by Vittorio Messini, October 2017.
Vittorio "Vitto" Messini, born in 1988 in Florence (Italy) and based in East Tyrol (Austria), is in the Grivel team since 2016. Mountain guide since 2011, he is also instructor of the Mountain Rescue Tyrol and instructor of the Austrian mountain guides.
Favorite Grivel product: G20 Plus crampons.