Going for a stroll on 5200m Shittadar Peak.
After four and a half hours of climbing by headlamp, just as the first rays of pre-dawn light were brightening the sky and the wind, which had been gaining force all morning, reached the height of it’s strength, we came to the base of slope too icy to skin and even a little sketchy to boot pack up. As we got our gear ready for the hike, I began to get intolerably cold, but Allen graciously lent me his mittens, saving my day. At the top of the steep, icy pitch, we found that we were, in fact, not yet at the ridge, but still about a hundred meters below it. Another fifteen minutes more, and we were finally (FINALLY!) on the ridge, in the sun, and, unfortunately, also the wind. We sat around for a few minutes, trying to warm up before setting off up the ridge forwards the summit.
Not ten minutes further, we crested a ridge and were shocked to learn that we were still not on the summit ridge, but that we were, in fact, on a lesser ridge that abruptly ended in the middle of a large face that we would have to boot up (too steep/icy for skinning) for at least another thousand feet before gaining the summit ridge.
They say its better to lead than follow. That’s especially true when you have to follow this walking view ruin-er. (Allen, gaining the false summit ridge.)
Allen, following Amits skintrack towards the final open slope.
Up to this point, we’d been moving pretty fast, and gaining altitude at a headache inducing clip. By the time we got to the snow slope though, we were at a crawl. Somewhere on the slope, we crossed the 5000m mark, and to make it more challenging, the snow we were climbing was extremely crusty, necessitating time-consuming rest-stepping. When we finally reached the real summit ridge, we were all feeling the effects of altitude in the form of fatigue, headaches, and a mild dizziness. After a short rest we pressed on to a high point at 5100m, where we stopped for lunch. The summit lay another hundred meters higher, but the steep, exposed snow below it would have taken at least another two hours to climb in our condition. We decided that since the snow below us was already starting to warm, it would be smart to eat lunch at our current location and enjoy great skiing, rather than push on to the summit and thereby expose our self to the dangers of thin air, and late afternoon snow.
Allen, near the Glacier, booting up to the snowfield.
The mind numbing climb up the crusty final slope.
Allen, nearing the final ridge.
The view off the back of the ridge.
Each of the little valleys you can see here could support a month of aggressive backcountry touring without ever skiing the same line twice. If they’re lucky they see a party a year.
Allen and Amit, nearing our high point while I catch my breath. The true summit of Shittadar peak is visible in the background.
The view across the valley.
“Ok everyone, pretend you don’t have a headache and that you haven’t been hiking since 2am”
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