American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Bhutan, Chomolhari

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1971

Chomolhari. Captain Prem Chand, Instructor Dorje Lhatoo of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Santosh Arora and Sherpa Thondup made the second ascent of Chomolhari (23,930 feet) at 10:25 A.M. on April 23. This most sacred mountain of Bhutan, its second highest, was first climbed on May 21, 1937 by Spencer Chapman and Pasang Dawa Lama. It overlooks the Chumbi valley of Tibet. The expedition was sponsored by the King of Bhutan, who took a personal interest in it. The success was followed by a tragedy the following day when Captains S. L. Kang and Dharam Pal were lost when making a second attempt on the summit. They were both from an Indian Army training team in Bhutan. They were last seen 500 feet short of the summit. The four summiters saw them with binoculars going up as they were on their way down to Base Camp. The climbers had reached the hump of a very difficult ridge at 22,000 feet above the final camp. When those descending looked again, they were not to be seen. The weather turned bad and vision was obscured. Sherpa Ang Nima, who had been in the ill-fated second summit team, was saved as he had been left behind. The helicopter search had to be April 26 because of the weather and could not be resumed the next day. Despite continuing foul weather intensive ground and air search parties were sent out but without success. Finally the leader Lieutenant Colonel Narinder Kumar himself set out. Kumar feels they may have fallen down the 8000-foot precipice to the Tibetan side. After the Ministry of External Affairs asking Peking whether it knew about the fate of the officers, at first the Chinese expressed “surprise”, but subsequently replied that they had sent out search parties who found no trace of the climbers. A unique feature of this expedition was the extensive use of bamboo ladders, which proved useful and economical.

KAMAL K. Guha, Himalayan Club

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