Uisdean Hawthorn

Gandiva, Arjuna, Indian Himalaya

Pete Graham, Ben Silvestre and I went to the kishwar area in the Indian himalaya, we managed an ascent of Arjuna's South West Pillar via a new route Gandiva E3/5.11 M5 1400m. We decided to call the route Gandiva, which is the name of a bow given to the hero Arjuna, by the creator God Brammah in Hindu mythology. We thought this a fitting name as the arête is bow shaped and faces towards the Brammah massif. I could write much more about the whole trip however, for now I will Let the photo's do the talking. 

Ben wrote a short description of our ascent. 

Finally it was time to go, and we left camp early with light bags, most of our gear already at the base of the route, at 4700m. We were fairly intimidated, so we brought a big rack incase we needed to aid sections, or rappel the route. We packed food for four days, and enough gas to melt water for six. Given the steepness of the rock and size of the packs, we chose to bring jumars for the seconds, the leader climbing on a single rope, with a tagline to haul his pack if necessary.
The following morning we left early and climbed some chossy ramps to access steep snow ramps, leading up to a notch at 5000m. This gave the start of the real rock climbing, and we were pleasantly surprised to find excellent, featured granite, leading up to the start of the arête. Six excellent pitches took us to a palatial bivy site at around 5300m, and Pete fixed another pitch to below a large corner whilst Uisdean cleared the ledge of stones. A comfortable night spooning in the Rick Graham Sufferbag V3.0, left us feeling ready for what looked like the steepest, blankest section. I took the lead, and the corner provided an excellent technical exercise. From the next belay it seemed as though the cracks would not link up, but the appearance of 'chicken head' protrusions on the faces made a continuation seem possible. A traverse around the arête gave access to another crack, which lead up and back round the arête to the base of an intimidating chimney. Thankfully, this was avoided by climbing chicken heads on the right wall, in a fairly runout position, to gain a steep and strenuous hand crack. Above this, another traverse around the arête, in an extremely airy position, gave access to a full 60m pitch reminiscent of the Strand at Gogarth. We were all in disbelief at the quality of the climbing, though the seconds had to enjoy it in their imaginations, as they struggled with jumars and big bags. The Strand pitch gained easier angled ground and Uisdean led a few long pitches to a good bivy site near the top of the pillar at around 5800m.
Fortunately, this bivy site was exposed to some wind, and we had to spoon with all our might to keep warm that night. We left camp slowly the following morning, with Pete leading us to the top of the pillar in three pitches. From here we had to abseil 30m into a notch, and we wondered for a while whether to leave a rope fixed. Pete and I used this tactic in Alaska a couple of years ago, which reduces the commitment, but necessitates a descent by the same route. Eventually we decided that we could probably climb back up by aiding some thin cracks, if absolutely necessary, so we pulled the ropes and committed. Above us a headwall loomed, with some roofs blocking our view to what lay above. I took over and did a 30m pitch on excellent chicken heads to a short way below the roofs. There seemed to be a notch in the roofs which I aimed for, pulling through on huge holds, with all the exposure one could ask for. I stopped above to haul up my bag, change into my big boots, and catch my breath since we were entering the 6000m mark, and then led up snow to belay a short way above. A long pitch on steep snow took us to a small, but sheltered bivy. The night was a lot warmer, and our fatigue made the much reduced size of the ledge seem fairly insignificant. We rose early and Uisdean did a couple of big traverse pitches to land us below the right hand of two 'horns', which dominated the summit area of the mountain. A steep and extremely strenuous mixed step guarded entry to the gully, which gave great ice climbing up to the summit ridge, and then the summit, in a further three pitches. We stayed there an unusually long time (20mins?) and then began to descend off the back. About 12 abseils down an obvious icy gully landed us on a glacier, which we walked down in the moonlight, until a steepening demanded a further 5 abseils. Arriving in a notch above a continuation gully, we stopped to brew up, eventually deciding that we were too tired to blindly stumble down the gully in the dark. We stopped for a short sleep, which turned out to be profoundly deep, and we were woken neither by the dawn, nor the Nalgene bottle which we failed to shut properly and which soaked our sleeping bags. We rose before the sun hit the gully however, and after a further 4 abseils (and much gratitude in our decision to wait for the light) we reached the snow cone we had ascended to begin with, and arrived straight back at our tent. A frenzy of eating, and extreme satisfaction in the balmy temperatures, allowed us to recuperate enough to carry our bags most of the way to BC that evening.

Massive thanks to everyone that supported us, these sorts of trips are impossible without the help of a lot of people. Primarily Mick Fowler, Jeff Shapiro, and Kaushal Desai for being a mine of information. Rob Smith for keeping us well up to date with weather forecasts. The BMC, The Mount Everest Foundation, The Montane Alpine Club Climbing fund, and The Austrian Alpine Club (UK) for their generous financial support. And Mountain Equipment,  Primus Equipment, Scarpa, Grivel, Edelweiss, Summit to Eat, OTEsports, GU Energy, Tiso, Garmin and Crux for their sponsorship in food and equipment respectively.