British First Ascents in Miyar Valley: Report

© Dave Sharpe

We recently reported on Dave Sharpe and John Crook's expedition to the Miyar Valley area of the Indian Himalaya. The pair were fortunate enough to make two first ascents on the trip including ‘Transcendence’ (1200m, Scottish 6, ED2) to make the first ascent of Raja Peak, along with ‘Last Chance Saloon’ (1300m, Scottish 4 TD-) during the first ascent of ‘James Peak’ lower down the Miyar Valley. The duo are now back in the UK and more details have emerged about the climbs.

Raja Peak summit shot  © Dave Sharpe
Raja Peak summit shot
© Dave Sharpe

‘With John Crook and me both being Aspirant Guides, we have been fortunate enough to meet and work alongside Martin Moran the last couple of years. Martin has done numerous trips to the Himalayas in both a personal and guiding capacity over the last few decades and as such knows the area very well. One day Martin let us know about a trip he was trying to put together to the Miyar valley area and asked us would we like to go’.

Transcendence topo - bivi spot at the blue dot  © David Sharpe
Transcendence topo - bivi spot at the blue dot
© David Sharpe

Dave and John asked Martin about possible objectives in the area and received the following reply:

‘I have attached pictures of the N Face of Pk 6294m. The face height is 1200m. The mountain is so far unclimbed as far as I know. It’s the pivotal peak of the area geographically. The easy route will be from the top of the Miyar Glacier up the south-east face – looks about AD. I organised but didn’t participate in a trip to try and climb the easy route in 2015 but it was somewhat disastrous. The team never got to the bottom of it. They got bogged down and demoralised by several days of bad weather lower down the Miyar Glacier. You could reach an advance camp-site at 5000m in a day’s walk up dry glacier from the Jangpar side glacier. To get to this N Face from here would be a real mission – totally committing. You’d have to go over Kang La (5400m) , down to 4500m at Khanjur in the Temasa valley, then up the Tidu Glacier to the base of the face at around 5000m – all technically easy but long and rough. I did all this on a guided trip in 2011 which is described in my Higher Ground book. If anything went wrong on the face and you couldn’t get back over Kang La you’d be stuck on the wrong side of the Himalaya. You’d have to go out to Padum in Zanskar (about 20km to a road). Then it is a major road journey via Kargil to Leh (300km, 2 days). From Leh you could fly back to Delhi. This has all the ingredients of a complete adventure. In 2011 we saw noone for 10 days – no shepherds or trekkers in these valleys at all’.

‘After reading this description and having the chance to go on what would be our first trip to the Himalayas with someone like Martin it was an easy yes for us’, said Dave. Further enquiries about the area and face revealed a picture taken by Martin from his 2011 trip and a few online reports about previous exploratory trips to the region but not a lot else. ‘We saw a picture showing an incredible looking face with what looked like plenty of potential options to climb. Apart from that and some help from Google Earth we had very little to scope the area. All the ingredients of a complete adventure were definitely there’.

Transcendence crux pitches  © Dave Sharpe
Transcendence crux pitches
© Dave Sharpe

Dave and John travelled to the area and arrived at base camp in the Miyar Valley along with Martin and his partner Ian Dring on 21st September. With the weather looking good the pair pushed on the following day to establish an advanced base camp further up the glacier. This involved travelling through tough moraine carrying big loads to gain access to the upper valley. ‘Our packs were 25-30kg and with the moraine fifty meters high in places and really chossy it felt a fair mission just to get to advance base camp’. ABC was established at around 4800m and they then sat out one of only two bad weather days on the whole trip before acclimatising on a nearby 6036m peak.

Vast slopes on Raja Peak  © Dave Sharpe
Vast slopes on Raja Peak
© Dave Sharpe

‘We were keen to use our time and the good conditions well and as soon as the weather cleared we set off to acclimatise on a nearby peak. At the time we thought it was unclimbed however we now realise it has had one previous ascent. Over the whole month long trip we only saw two days of bad weather and so were very fortunate in that respect. A trip to Alaska earlier in the year gave us a very different story and we were keen to make the most of it this time’.

Transcendence bivi
© Dave Sharpe

Keen to capitalise on the continuing good weather, the pair began the approach to Raja Peak the next day. This would take three days and take them first over the Kang La pass before dropping down to the Temasa Valley then on to traverse round to their objective. They began climbing on 30th September and summited at 8pm on 1st October having spent two days on the face. Dave described the climb as follows: ‘We spent three days on the approach to the face and what a journey it was. It felt brilliant to be travelling through such impressive terrain and be getting closer to our ‘A’ plan all the time. After a day observing the face and recuperating at it’s base, we gained access to the wall and climbed ‘Transcendence’ (1200m, Scottish 6, ED2) over two days; 31st September and 1st October. The climbing was varied and of good quality with the crux being on the lower steep corners on day one. It felt great that everything had finally come together and we’d managed to pull off such an aesthetic first ascent of what is undoubtedly the peak of the area’.

Last Chance Saloon leading to the left most peak with Crocodile Rock taking the immaculate rock ridge to the right.  © David Sharpe
Last Chance Saloon leading to the left most peak with Crocodile Rock taking the immaculate rock ridge to the right.
© David Sharpe

The pair traversed over the mountain and descended its South side to a final bivi on the South ridge. They then descended to their advanced base camp the following day. With time and weather still on their side and after a couple of days rest back at base camp the duo then decided to return back in to the mountains to attempt the peak adjacent to Martin and Ian’s peak ‘Marakula Killa’ (reported in Martin’s blog below) which was also unclimbed. They ascended to a bivi site under the face on 6th October and established ‘Last Chance Saloon’ (1300m, Scottish 4, TD-) the following day via a wandering line on the peaks North face and descended the same day. They christened the peak ‘James Peak’ after Dave’s nephew.

Hitting the ridge crest on James Peak  © Dave Sharpe
Hitting the ridge crest on James Peak
© Dave Sharpe

John commented:

‘Although easier and less-involving than Raja Peak, Last Chance Saloon was a really good day out and it was great to make another first ascent in the area. The line we took on James Peak traversed a lot of the mountain starting first up easier slopes that we could solo to around halfheight, then with a number of pitches of Scottish 3/4 to finally join the ridge crest a little to the East of the huge summit cornice. It was difficult to work out which of the peak’s summits was higher so we traversed the mountain taking it all in before descending from the mid-way col via eight abseils and a lot of down climbing. We crossed the bergschrund again around 6pm just before it got dark and returned to our bivi site. A great day out!’.

North face of James Peak  © Dave Sharpe
North face of James Peak
© Dave Sharpe

Dave and John would like to give a huge thanks to Rab for continued clothing and equipment support and The Mount Everest Foundation for their generous financial help. They would also like to thank Martin Moran for all his help with the trip and Alistair Yarwood for home-based support.

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6 Dec, 2016
Inspiring stuff guys!
6 Dec, 2016
Cracking work lads!!
6 Dec, 2016
Good work!
7 Dec, 2016
Great looking line from an adventurous approach, brilliant stuff. .
7 Dec, 2016
Awesome achievements.
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