Ice Climbing In India Presentation- Karn Kowshik


A team of mountaineers, Bharat, Prerna and Karn practice ice climbing on a frozen waterfall in Spiti valley of Himachal
A team of mountaineers, Bharat, Prerna and Karn practice ice climbing on a frozen waterfall in Spiti valley of Himachal

One aspect of Ice Fest that is so important is being able to connect with other climbers to hear stories of adventures in climbing.  This year we are very fortunate to have Karn Kowshik, a visiting climber from overseas, presenting on his climbing adventures in India.  What a way to start off the fest!

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 14 7pm Community Center

In January 2017, I put up two first ascents in the Spiti Valley. I climbed two routes – Baby Steps (HWI 4) and A Feast for Vultures (HWI 5). I have been exploring this valley for over 10 years now, and this was my second trip there in the winter – a long and dangerous car drive. I drove into this valley with my climbing partners and dog, stayed with locals and explored many routes – establishing two so far.

While not incredibly long or difficult, these routes are significant for a few reasons.

Feast For Vultures, Second Pitch -GOPR0245.MP4_snapshot_00.17_[2017.01.24_01.05.19]1

The Spiti Valley in India is a remote, and very difficult place to access, especially in the winter. It’s a high altitude desert at close to 14,000 feet. It takes days to get into this valley in the winter, and life there is harsh with no central heating and an average temperature well below freezing.

These routes are amongst the first ice routes in India – all opened by Indian climbers. It is part of our effort to wrestle climbing away from our colonial past by putting up routes of all kinds – ice, rock, big mountain – by Indians. To do this, we have had the odds stacked against us. India is still an underdeveloped country. There is almost no gear available in India. When it is, it’s too expensive for us.Consider this, before going ice climbing at this high altitude, none of us had ever climbed waterfall ice before. In my whole group of climbers – my pair of ice tools was the only technical pair we had ever seen. Until 3 years ago, we were still tying on our ancient simond crampons, and wearing heavy plastic boots stolen from Army stores.

I will talk about my journey – and the journey’s of my fellow climbers – to establish these climbs. I will also introduce American climbers to the potential first ascents in the Indian Himalaya.


Karn Kowshik is a 35 year old mountain guide and climber (with the two being very distinct things in India). He is committed to putting up technical first ascents in his country – where the dominant style of climbing is the Siege Style, and climbers grapple with a severe shortage of resources. He is passionate about glaciers and climate change, and, through mountaineering, study how my country’s glaciers have changed within our lifetimes. Professionally, he organises and lead multi day treks, and expeditions above 6000 meters (or 19685 feet). He is one of the few Ice Climbers in India.