Aiseo is a beautiful glacial peak located on the main Himalayan divide in Zanskar, Indian Kashmir. Its North Face can be seen from the Pensi La looking up the Durung Drung Glacier, the largest glacier in Ladakh. The mountain provides an enjoyable snow and ice climb with a long glacial approach.
Aiseo (left) and Rahamo (right) from the Durung Drung Glacier
The Route to the Mountain
The usual route to Aiseo begins with a drive to Kargil from either Srinagar or Leh. The Zanskar region is then approached by following the River Suru, passing Ringdom (aka Rangdum) Gompa and eventually reaching the Pensi La at 4400m. Most parties traveling through this via this route stop to acclimatise and admire the secenery at Ringdom, which has an altitude of roughly 4000m. The Pensi La can also be reached by driving from Padum along the Zanskar River.
Z8 from the road to Pensi La.
Moving through the canyon in the icefall.
Map of the Glacier
Starting up the route through the icefall
The Durung Drung Glacier dominates the view from the Pensi La, with the twin towered Z3 (6270m) immediately visible. This peak is perhaps the most attempted of the region. The approach from Ringdom also offers excellent views of Z8 (6050m).
Aiseo lies some 25km from the snout of the glacier, beyond Rahamo and to the west of Doda, the highest mountain in the immediate area. Given this distance, parties will usually pitch two camps before attempting the summit (beneath Z3 and above the icefall).
It is possible that the mountain may also be reached from Kishtwar, although this region has had restricted access for some time owning to the risk of terrorism.
On the flatter section near the summit pinnacle.
The only known route on Aiseo takes the North-West Face, climbing from the Savoia Pass entirely on snow, with short icy sections. The angle of the snow rarely rises above 40 degrees, though particular care should be taken traversing beneath the seracs at the base of the face. Care should also be taken to avoid a number of hidden crevasses, both on the mountain proper and on the long glacial approach. The true summit is an icy pinnacle, rising out of a broad flat section above the face and close to a rocky outcrop.
The route has an alpine grade of PD, with technical difficulties similar to those found on the Weissmies Voie Normale in the Swiss Alps. Aiseo is, however, an expedition peak of over 6000 metres. Being situated so far up the glacier, it has a distinctly remote ambiance.
As a mountain located in the Indian Himalayas, all expeditions should be registered and approved by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF). A liaison officer will most probably be required, as well as a not insubstantial peak fee. Details can be found at the IMF website.
When to Go
The best time to visit Ladakh is between June and September. Being located in the Himalayan rain shadow, the monsoon does not come to the region in the Summer. The air is exceptionally dry which means that nights are very cold while days can be very warm. The winters can be bitterly cold with Dras (near Kargil) claiming to be the "second coldest inhabited place in the world" after Oymyakon in Siberia.
External LinksThe Indian Mountaineering Foundation
Zanskar Range (Wikipedia)
Pensi La (Wikipedia)
Durung Drung Glacier with Z3 (left) and Aiseo (distant right)