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Rob Collister – Himalayan Skiing

It is a great pleasure to introduce Rohantime readers to Rob. Long time friend of Rohan. Some may remember Rob was included in Al Evans story of Rohan in The Lakes last years  A Family Affair – Rohan in the Lakes 25 years.
Today Rob shares with us a recent Himalaya Skiing Trip. 
Rob Collister qualified as an International (IFMGA) Mountain Guide in 1976 and has earned his living ever since guiding clients on climbs and ski tours worldwide, on every continent, in fact. Nowadays, in the interests of reducing his carbon footprint, he travels less extensively but commutes regularly to the Alps by train from his home in North Wales. Read more…

Kedar Dome in the Indian Himalaya, as the name implies, is not extreme skiing. On the other hand, serac walls and giant crevasses mean that careful route finding is required and the avalanche hazard is not to be underestimated. Although well below the notorious Death Zone, at 6833 metres it is quite high enough to create problems and altitude was a factor from the moment we stepped off the bus in Gangotri at 3000 metres…

From there, three days walk along a pilgrim trail brought us to a comfortable base camp on the grassy plain of Tapovan overlooked by Shivling, one of the world’s iconic mountains.

The first few days were not always pleasurable. Shoulders ached, chests heaved and heads throbbed as we acclimatized by moving food and equipment up the valley to the foot of our mountain. It was ten days after leaving the UK before we put skis on our feet. When we did, the heat of the sun and the glare of reflected light were unbelievably enervating, despite white shirts and sunhats.

Early starts were de rigeur. Then, for two days, we were tent bound by a storm which left the mountain in a dangerous state and dictated retreat. But it was not all a painful slog. There were moments of startling beauty, especially at dawn and dusk. There was even some skiing! Hours of graft were rewarded by minutes of silky smooth spring snow when we made the most of every turn even if it did mean gasping for breath at the end of each pitch.

Finally, we were in a position to go for the top. Crawling out of the tiny tent to a starlit sky, our newly grown beards swiftly clotted with ice and in bulky mitts we fumbled clumsily with ropes and skins.

Slowly but rhythmically, we gained the height in long sweeping zigzags, noticing the ice-fields and buttresses of Shivling glow pink then gold. Only when the sun finally reached us, casting our shadows hugely across the snow, did we begin to warm up. The upper slopes had been eroded and hardened into sastrugi by the recent wind and we paused to fix harscheisen (ski crampons) to our skis.

And then , quite suddenly, sooner than expected, we were there, gazing northwards over countless peaks in Garwhal and Tibet protruding from a sea of cloud. It was much too cold to linger, however. Fresh food, hot showers and spring flowers beckoned. But first there was 2000m of skiing ……