West face of Arjuna, Kishtwar Himalaya, India

West face of Arjuna, Kishtwar Himalaya, India
June 2017

Aleš Česen, Marko Prezelj and Urban Novak, Slovenia
The report was written by Urban Novak
Visiting the Kijaj Nullah valley was on our bucketlist since 2015, when we were climbing above Chomochior glacier. At the end of our expedition we were planning to have a look at the Kijaj Nullah valley, since there was so little information – who knows what kind of interesting climbing objectives could be lying in the untraveled corners? Climbing on Cerro Kishtwar kept us busy for longer than we thought, so we postponed our visit to the next fall. I planned a climbing trip to Kijaj Nullah Valley with Hayden Kennedy and Marko Prezelj for 2016. A week before our departure we were shocked by the news about the accident of our dear friend Kyle Dempster and his climbing partner Scott Adamson. We cancelled the climbing part of expedition, but instead myself and Marko went to India to check out few potentially interesting climbing objectives. We visited Kijaj Nullah valley and were most impressed by the magnificent West Face of Arjuna (6250 m). This valley has had a few alpine visits, especially in the end of the 70’s and the beginning of the 80’s.
The first ascent of P6013, which lies on the west bank of Kijaj Nullah, was made by Polish climbers in 1979, (Krzysztof Łoziński, Stanisław Gorgon, Jan Marczak, Józef Makinia and Stanisław Pelczarski). That same year there was an attempt to climb Arjuna by Polish climbers, Jacek Szczepański and Jan Oficjalski. When not returning after four days, Jan’s wife Barbara, who was with them in base camp, started the search. After eight days of searching for any sign of them she decided to descend, which was also a story for itself. Polish climbers returned to the area in 1981, when they were successful at climbing on the South summit of Arjuna (Wacław Otręba, Janusz Bartos and Piotr Puzyrewski). They climbed the East ridge.

In 1983, Tomasz Bender and Przemysław Piasecki climbed the West Face on the South summit of Arjuna in alpine style. That same year, Mirosław Dąsal,
Jerzy Barszczewski and Zbigniew Skierski climbed the West Face of Arjuna to the
main summit. They fixed the ropes in the lower 500 meters of the climb.
In 1994 the valley also got a visit from the German climbers with an
objective to climb on Arjuna. American climbers Chriss Gibisch and Jeff Shapiro
came to the valley with the same goal in 2016. Because of unfavorable conditions
on the West Face of Arjuna, they redirected their attention to the South Face of
Brammah II, where they climbed a new route and completed the third ascent of
the summit.
In the past few years we were visiting the Kishtwar Himalaya in the fall.
This year we decided to visit it in spring, mainly because we were expecting
much better conditions for mixed-climbing. On May 29th, we put up our base
camp on the West side of the glacier (4008 m). The first impression showed that
surrounding peaks were covered with much more snow than they were last fall.
For acclimatization objective, we decided to try P6013, which lies on the West
side of the valley and offers a nice view on the West Face of Arjuna.
P6013 (6038 m); North Ridge, D (2.6.2017 – 4.6.2017), new route, 2nd ascent of the
summit
A snow and ice climb – the ascent was via the glacier to the west of our base
camp. We set up our first bivy on the glacier around 5000 meters and the second
one at the end of the glacier around 5500 meters. From the second bivy we
ascended a side peak of P6013, around 5700 meters – from where we could see the
possible route to the summit of P6013. The next morning, we climbed to the plateau
on the west side of P6013, at which point we traversed under the NW face towards
the North ridge. In quite variable snow conditions on the North ridge we reached
the summit of P6013 on June 4th. GPS device measured 6038 meters.
There was nice weather on the summit of P6013, so we could see our
main objective from there – the West Face of Arjuna. We saw a line that was
really standing out which started in a gully to the right of the main summit. We
all agreed that this line deserved our full attention. Motivated and full of
expectation for the days to come, we descended to base camp on the same day.
In variable weather on June 10th, we carried part of our gear and food to
the glacier under the West face of Arjuna where we were planning to set up our
advanced base camp. We returned to BC on the same day in a heavy snow-storm.
On June 15th, we came back to ABC. The weather was nice, so we put up a tent
and later in the day broke a trail to the base of our planned route. It started
snowing again that evening. The next day we were planning to leave at 2am, but
had to postpone the departure until 5am, when the fog cleared and the northern
winds calmed down.

Arjuna (6250 m); All or nothing, ED+ (M7+, Wi5+, A0), 1400 m (16.6.2017 –
18.6.2017), new route, 2nd ascent of the summit, 1st in alpine style
Mixed climbing and steep ice – we found good snow and ice conditions in
the lower part so we climbed most of this section un-roped. On the first day we did
another 6 pitches of mixed terrain where we had problems with some occasional
avalanches of wet snow. We set up our first bivy site under what we believed would
be the crux part of the route. The next morning it took us an entire eight hours to
do three hard mixed pitches. We climbed one more steep ice pitch, followed by
seven other snow pitches. The second bivy was set up late in the night about three
pitches under the summit ridge. We reached the main summit of Arjuna the next
day around noon (GPS device measured 6250 m) and rappelled via the route of our
ascent the same day. Beside the lower part of the face, where rappelling looked
more like a canyoning, rappelling went fine and we reached the ABC around
midnight that day.
On June 19th around noon we packed up our ABC and returned to base
camp with heavy backpacks. Half an hour after our departure from ABC it started
to rain and it didn’t stop for the next three days. On June 24th we were leaving
our base camp in Kijaj Nullah valley with huge smiles on our faces; rarely do you
get all the dots to connect – conditions, weather and personal feelings that fit in
so precisely as they did for us this year. Truth to be told, this year we could easily
leave this valley without climbing or even trying our main objective and we
could walk out with our “heads held high”.

The Kishtwar region offers some interesting climbing objectives. The Kijaj
Nullah valley is not an exception. This whole area has exceptional playground for
the modern style of climbing as well as in rock as in mixed and snovy-icy terrain.
Therefore, we believe the area may get a lot more visits from the climbers in the
future. We could also say that this valley characterizes as an upgrade of a very
popular Pakistani Charakusa valley (in the sense of terrain complexity).
(Marko): ‘’This year’s expedition to the valley beneath Arjuna was very intensive
from the adventurous point of view. Urban and I knew the ascent to base camp and
the area itself, which represented some kind of relief and pressure at the same time.
We knew there is no consolation objective on the West face of Arjuna. It’s steep and
high face is showing one characteristic mixed line from the base to the whole top.
The biggest difference between my two other expeditions to this area was, that we
came to base camp with really defined expectations, which were not in favor to our
wanted casualness. We were forced to wait for the climbing appropriate time until
the very last hour, because of the poor weather conditions. In thirty years of my
expeditions I have never witnessed such an accurate utilization of time. All the
years of experience may have contributed to our success, but right these
experiences show me, that we won a jackpot in a fairly uncertain game.’’
(Aleš): ‘’Only when we were walking back from base camp among blooming flowers
and herbs in perfect sunny weather, we slowly started to realize just how lucky and
rewarded we were for our persistence. There were only six days of precipitation
free weather during our stay in and above base camp. First two of those days we
spent climbing on P6013, where we acclimatized really well for our further
climbing goals. In the next three days of precipitation free weather window we
managed to climb a hard new route on the West face of Arjuna. An additional
precipitation free day was a day before our return to the valley. We were able to
dry out all of our soaking wet gear and clothes before packing it for departure.
They say that luck favors the brave. I don’t know how brave we were, but I can
definitely say that we had luck, lots of it.’’

For additional information you can contact:
Aleš Česen (ales.cesen@gmail.com)
Urban Novak (unovak@gmail.com)
Marko Prezelj (mark@markoprezelj.com)
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Vse ali nič – nova prvenstvena smer Česna, Novaka in Prezlja v Himalaji

Slovenski alpinisti Aleš Česen, Urban Novak in Marko Prezelj so se junija v indijski Himalaji povzpeli na Arjuno (6250 m), kar je bil drugi vzpon na glavni vrh tega šesttisočaka in prvi v alpskem slogu. Novo 1400-metrsko izjemno zahtevno smer v zahodni steni Arjune so poimenovali Vse ali nič in jo ocenili z ED+, kar je povišana najvišja stopnja francoske šeststopenjske lestvice. Člani alpinistične odprave Kijaj Nullah 2017, ki jo je podprla tudi Planinska zveza Slovenije, so za aklimatizacijo po zahtevni novi smeri splezali še na vrh P6013 (6038 m).

Urban Novak

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