UKC

First Ascent on Rungofarka in Indian Himalaya

In October 2017, US alpinists and mountain guides Tino Villanueva and Alan Rousseau established a significant new route on the north ridge of Rungofarka (6495m) in Jammu and Kashmir in the Northern Indian Himalaya, which they named The T&A Show (VI M6 WI4+, 1200m). The pair climbed alpine style over five days to make what is likely the first ascent of the peak.

Having initially attempted a direct line up the north face before descending at around 6000m due to exhaustion, the team opted for an alternative route up the north ridge, where a surprise cave proved to be a 5-star bivi and the key to success. Tino documented their ascent in detail through a series of Instagram posts:

@rousseaualan and I are sharing stories and photos this week from our climb of 6495m Rungofarka in the Zanskar Range of the Indian Himalaya. · Our primary line of ascent involved tackling a direct line up the North Face. With a short weather window appearing halfway through the expedition we decided to go for it. · We moved up 5000ft (to nearly 18000ft) from our basecamp to a bivy in the bergschrund below the face, enduring some pretty brutal trailbreaking along the way. The next morning started cloudy and it snowed lightly much of the day. · Still, we pressed on, climbing continually steeper and steeper terrain. A long ramp led into a series of ice runnels, much more sustained than we had imagined. As the day grew late, we had climbed up to 6000m, nearly half of the 1000m vertical face. However, the sustained nature of the climbing did not lend itself to bivy options. · Exhausted, calves and forearms blown, sky darkening, and no ledge options in sight, we made the decision to start rappelling into the night. · PC 📷: @rousseaualan

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After 40 hours of travel to get home we're back to our regularly scheduled programming. @rousseaualan and I are sharing stories from our First Ascent of 6495m Rungofarka. · After our first attempt on the North Face, we took a few days to recover. However, at this point, time was running out. We set our sights on the North Ridge, soaring above Alan in this photo. · We moved up to our Advanced Base Camp, 1000 meters above Base Camp, in the afternoon 5 days before porters were supposed to arrive in BC to hike us out. · The next day we climbed 9 pitches of AI3 to a col in the North Ridge. We had a lot of questions about how steep and sustained the ridge would be. In this photo it looks steppy. Nearly 50 pitches later, it didn't feel very steppy - more like steep, sustained mixed climbing... · This is my fourth post in the series.

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We continue the story of the First Ascent of Rungofarka (6495m) in the Zanskar Range of the Indian Himalaya with partner @rousseaualan. · The second day on route we were on the North Ridge proper and the terrain looked really steep above. To get started, there was a vertical step in the first 700ft of the ridge which we weren't sure was going to provide a reasonable passage or decent rock. · The climbing was difficult and sustained, and progress was slow, but we were moving upward. In the afternoon clouds rolled through and brought with them snow showers. We climbed only around 8 or 9 pitches before it was time to find a place to spend the night. · Once again the terrain was quite steep and bivy ledges were not presenting themselves in abundance. We tried to fill a tarp with snow to make a sloping snow ledge work - it wasn't going well. We lucked into finding a cave hidden behind an ice curtain that was big enough to set up our little @mountainhardwear tent inside and walk around in. Totally crazy and a welcome respite for the night. · This is my fifth post in the series.

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Day 3 on-route on 6495m Rungofarka with @rousseaualan. Alan and I are sharing stories from our first ascent in this series of posts. · After a difficult previous day, with modest upward progress, we were anxious to make some vertical headway. We knew the initial vertical step was behind us (with sustained difficulties to M6) but we were unsure what the rest of the ridge had in store for us. We hoped we could hit some snow or ice and simulclimb some long sections. · There were precious few sections that were easy and no simulclimbing. We climbed around 20 pitches through everything from mixed chimneys to vertical finger cracks to unprotected offwidths. The rock quality varied wildly from solid and splitter to bands of shale dissolving into mud. · As shadows grew long we were high on the mountain. The upper pyramid of Rungofarka is a maze of vertical rock split by runnels of snow and ice and a giant black prow of rock. · On top of the prow, at 6100 meters, around 7pm and already dark, we went to work chopping a ledge for the tent in a snow arete. As we chopped the wind kicked up. We were able to chop a ledge only half as wide as our tent. Through the long night Alan and I rotated between sitting up and bracing the tent against wind and curled up together on the uphill side, anchoring the tent from rolling off the ledge and off the mountain. · The bivy system of @thermarest NeoAir XTherm, @featheredfriends1972 Spoonbill, and @mountainhardwear Direkt 2 did an admirable job of helping us survive the night. · This is my sixth post in the series.

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This week I have been sharing stories from the First Peak Ascent of 6495 meter Rungofarka in the remote Northern India Himalaya with @rousseaualan. · The morning of day 4 we woke to a beautiful sunrise. The wind had died down early in the morning and there was not a cloud in the sky. Not that any of that mattered, we were fairly committed at this point. · A couple more pitches up an ice runnel through the headwall (one of which was probably the crux pitch of the climb) and we had finally popped over the top of the North Face, hoping the summit was close. · Looking up, however, it was clear we still had quite a bit of terrain to cover. Switching to simulclimbing, we moved together up the 60-70 degree ice slopes. · As I approached ridgeline I yelled down that we were about to top out. But as we reached the ridge the true summit revealed itself to still be a distance away. After a bit of traversing the corniced ridge, we were standing on top of this peak we had stared at for a month, 8000 meter peaks in the distance in Pakistan and the dry desert valley 2500 meters below us. We would be trying to descend all the way back to basecamp as porters were to be meeting us the next morning. · This is my seventh post in the series. · I would like to thank the Copp-Dash Inspire Award and the Mugs Stump Award, as well as all the grant sponsors, for making this expedition a reality for us.

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This will be my final official post in the series of the climb of 6495 meter Rungofarka with @rousseaualan, though you can be sure I will continue to post content from this trip. · The descent from the summit started out casual enough down the West Face - a handful of v-threads, a couple bollards. It looked like we could start walking across the glacier soon! As I started a rappel, halfway to the hanging glacial bench, I peered over a gigantic overhanging serac, the ropes falling away below. This situation would characterize much of the descent. · Negotiating the glacier basin also was not as easy as it looked. And, looking at my bruised and scabbed legs today, I vividly remember breaking trail through breakable windcrust, falling into my crotch over and over. · Getting through the final ice cliff was probably the most fucked up section of the descent. I'll let photo 1 speak for itself. · Photo 2 is a route overview of our route on the North Ridge; VI M6 WI4+ 1200m. An interesting note about the name of the peak: Every piece of information we have seen refers to this peak as Rungofarka. Except one. The India Mountaineering Foundation has a different name listed at the coordinates of our summit, though the associated elevation with that name is not correct. · This area is remote and still being explored. Locals could not tell us a name and the IMF info was not complete. Gaps are still being filled in on the maps. · Photo 3 was given to us from @seth.timpano who, along with @hennesseysamuel, sent a badass route on Barnaj, a peak SE of where we were - check out what they did! The photo offers a different perspectice on the North Ridge (the sun/shade line) · Thanks for following along!

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Three weeks ago @rousseaualan and I found this random cave on a random peak in India. Actually, this cave at 5900m was probably key to our success in nabbing the first ascent of Rungofarka (6495m) because this bivy was so plush: perfectly flat, protected from the elements (it was snowing lightly outside) and a ceiling of ice to chop and melt for water. The entrance was behind a curtain of water ice and, once inside, you had to take your backpack off to squeeze through the entrance. Once inside though, it was big enough to walk around in. On a route steep enough to otherwise need to stay tied in at night in the tent, the cave was a luxury. · This was a stark contrast from our next bivy at 6200m where we chopped a snow ledge half as wide as the tent. When we tried to lay down inside the tent shifted, creeping over the downhill side over the ledge towards thousands of feet of vertical exposure. I did not get much sleep at this high bivy, sitting, or at best curled up, watching the tent thrash in the wind, tent poles bent out of position, waiting for the whole thing to explode.

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Listen to an American Alpine Journal podcast by Dougald MacDonald in which he interviews Alan Rousseau about the ascent:


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