A First Ascent of the West Face of Bhagirathi IV

In India’s Garhwal Himalaya, three Italian alpinists have completed a first ascent of the west face of Bhagirathi IV. Matteo Della Bordella, Luca Schiera and Matteo De Zaiacomo topped out on September 14.

The Bhagirathi mountains offer some extreme rock-climbing routes, featuring massive granite walls, tricky overhangs and significant risk from rockfall. The west face of Bhagirathi IV had proven particularly tough. A succession of teams attempted the face in the 1990s, and the Italian trio had previously tried in 2015 and came within a couple of hundred metres of the summit. They were only halted by a steep band of loose schist (metamorphic rock formed from mudstone or shale) at around 6,000m.

The imposing granite wall of Bhagirathi IV. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella

They returned this season to finish the job. They left for Base Camp on August 14 and spent time acclimatizing on 6,512m Bhagirathi II. In early September, they were preparing to attempt Bhagirathi IV’s west face when two huge rockfalls swept down their proposed route. Chastened, they elected to try a different, more direct line. However, the new route proved too difficult. After several days of climbing, they were ready to admit defeat.

They eventually decided on one last ultralight attempt. They set off at midnight from their advanced camp at 5,000m, taking turns leading the pitches. Debris and dust deposited by rockfall made the climbing much more difficult than in 2015, but conditions improved as they approached the summit.

The new route. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella

The final push consisted of two pitches through the same fragile rock that had turned them back in 2015. The first pitch was aided by a vein of granite and the last of the day’s light. The second had to be completed in the dark.

At 11pm, they reached the 6,193m summit and rested for a few hours before descending the moderate east side of the mountain.

Luca Schiera, Matteo De Zaiacomo and Matteo Della Bordella on the summit. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella

You can find Matteo Della Bordella’s recap of the climb (in Italian) on Planet Mountain.

Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam. A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon. He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon. His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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