Major First Ascent on El Capitan-Like Wall in India’s Uttarakhand

Three Swiss climbers just freed a massive new route in India on a wall that struck them (justifiably) as similar to Yosemite’s El Capitan.

Stephan Siegrist , Jonas Schild, and Andy Schnarf have established a new 350m route on Kirti-Nose rock in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. They named the 10-pitch 7b, A3 route “Between Two Parties”.

Apparently, the route is named “after a legendary party with brothers Thomas and Alex Huber and Tad McCrea” Siegrist wrote on Instagram.

But this massive rock wasn’t initially in the climbers’ plans. They’d arrived in Uttarakhand to climb a different and taller peak that they refrained from naming. However, the region’s monsoon season proved much more destructive than usual. It caused dangerous floods and avalanches throughout India and Nepal.


In early October, for example, an avalanche occurred on Mount Draupadi Ka Danda-II. So far, 26 bodies have been recovered and three more trainees remain missing. The mountain is located just 25km from the base camp of the Swiss team.

“The monsoon was unusually long this year, and it quickly became clear that mountaineering and climbing would not go according to plan,” Siegrist wrote. “The large amounts of new snow caught us by surprise, and facing the increasing avalanche risk, we had to accept that after four weeks of anticipation, our main target would, unfortunately, remain unclimbed.”

While waiting in base camp at the unknown mountain, “a beautiful face caught our eyes,” Siegrist said. The wall rose for 400m and had an “astonishing resemblance” to El Capitan, he said.

So the Swiss climbers decided to embrace the unknown and try for something entirely different from the objective that brought them to India in the first place.

Climbing the Kirti-Nose

Having found a new objective, the Swiss climbers started preparing to tackle the mountain’s accessible south-facing wall.


Its southern exposure meant the face dried quickly in the sunshine, 4sport reported. With the summit altitude at about 5,050m above sea level, it seemed a perfect project to avoid the worst of monsoon conditions.

With a brief four-day weather window, they committed to completing the new route as fast as possible. They named the line “Kirti-Nose” for its resemblance to El Capitan’s most famous route and its proximity to the Kirti Glacier.

The climbers followed a high-quality crack system for the first 150m of the route. Then it turned more difficult, with fragile rock and uncertain terrain. The team discovered old equipment from previous expeditions to climb the face, though the gear seemed at least 20-30 years old, 4sport wrote.

Ultimately, the route finished with another 120m of stellar climbing, and the party could claim a new big wall route in India’s Garhwa region.

But when Siegrist posted on Instagram about the achievement, he only described the route briefly before acknowledging the tragedy on Mount Draupadi Ka Danda-II, which they didn’t know about until returning home to Switzerland.

“Hard to find the right words for this,” Siegrist wrote. “We wish the relatives and friends a lot of strength and confidence in the difficult hours.”

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.