American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Mukut Himal and Kanjiroba Himal

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1960

Mukut Himal and Kanjiroba Himal. The 1959 American Himalayan Expedition returned to Kathmandu on November 30, after a successful trip of two-and-a-half months into the area north and west of Dhaulagiri, in central Western Nepal. The group consisted of four American climbers, John Humphreys, Caspar Cronk, Dr. Fred Dunn and John Noxon; four Sherpas (under Sirdar Ang Dawa) ; and a Nepali liaison officer, Manik Tuladhar.

The party met its group of Sherpas at the Nautanwa railhead on the Indian border and walked for three weeks across Nepal to reach its area of operations, using successively porters, mules and yaks for transport. The route mainly followed the course of the Kali Gandaki river, which cuts through the main range between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, until it branched off to the west about 15 miles south of the Tibetan border. We crossed three high passes (the highest, 18,600 feet) with a yak train and set up base of operations in the heart of the Mukut Himal, just north of Dhaulagiri II, on October 14. After the end of the heavy monsoon storms on October 7, the weather was with very few exceptions uniformly clear; a total of about 70 hours of precipitation were recorded during the next 63 days.

From this first Base Camp, the party made a concerted effort to climb the highest Mukut Himal peak, about 21,900 feet in height, in the process climbing a subsidiary peak of about 20,300 feet. The final attempt on the higher summit was made by Dunn, Noxon and Cronk, while I was recovering below from a short bout with pneumonia. They were not successful because of cornices encountered several hundred feet below the top in the midst of a snowstorm. Some expedition scientific work was also begun while in this area, in the form of preliminary theodolite triangulation, a geological collection and a small high-altitude botanical collection.

Another week of traveling to the west and north up the Barbung Khola valley brought us below a 17,400-foot pass leading west into the Kanjiroba Himal, an area as yet unvisited by mountaineers. Slowness and expense of transport and uncertainty about the onset of winter storms contributed to the decision to stop and set up a second Base Camp near this pass, rather than push further into the new country. From here four nearby peaks were climbed, none over 19,000 feet (despite the map) and none requiring the use of a rope. Survey stations were set up on two of these summits, as well as on the pass, and the Kern DKM1 theodolite was put to good use. Excellent views of all peaks of the Dhaulagiri Himal provided the control for this work.

The return journey began on November 8, with the wind and cold, even at the 18,000-foot level, beginning to be distinctly unpleasant despite completely clear skies. The party returned by a different pass system, well known to the yak drivers, but not hinted at by either the best map currently available or the few existing reports of travel in this region. In general it was found that the Survey of India map is (not surprisingly) highly inaccurate in detail in the high mountain areas, although the large valleys and major trade routes are correctly shown. With the data obtained on this expedition it should be possible to construct a much improved map of about 200 square miles of this country, together with some general conclusions concerning its geological background.

(A complete report, including a map and a summary of the results of all scientific work done, will be published in the next issue of the A.A.J.)

John S. Humphreys

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