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Asia, Nepal, "Shey Shikhar," Various Ascents

"Shey Shikhar," Various Ascents. In September and October my team explored a remote region of the Kanji Roba Himal in the Dolpo region of northwestern Nepal. I spent over a year attempting to procure a permit for a never-attempted mountain called Kang Chunne. However, just prior to our trip's departure, the government changed in Nepal and my final permit was not issued. At the very last moment I was able to procure a permit to attempt an unclimbed mountain called Shey Shikhar (6139 meters) from the north side. My team consisted of a joint American-Nepalese expedition. We were Ed Webster, Steve Ruoss, Billy Squier, Mike Sinclair, George Waring III, George Waring IV from the United States, Bruce Normand from Scotland, and Nima Tashi Sherpa, Naga Dorje Sherpa and BD Shresta from Nepal. On September 12 we flew to Dunahai to begin a trek toward our mountain. We had a slight problem in that Shey Shikhar was not listed on any map. We had been told Shey Shikhar was another name for a peak labeled Junction Peak, which appeared on one of the three topographical maps we were able to procure of the region. With Junction Peak as our goal we decided to approach its north side via a trek to Phoksundo Lake and then veer west up the Tso Karpo Kang Valley. We reached a basecamp at approximately 4200 meters at the head of this beautiful valley. Surrounding us were fantastic summits. However, Junction Peak was hidden behind a 5500-meter rock ridge. Our early reconnaissance made it clear that approaching Junction Peak from this valley would be suicidal. Fortunately, the local yak drivers were emphatic that the name of the large peak at the head of the valley was Shey Shikhar. In fact, we were able to find at least one local who nodded his head "yes" when asked if each of the unclimbed mountains in the region was named Shey Shikhar. This new Shey Shikhar, which is the highest mountain in the region, appears to be the mountain named Tso Karpo Kang on all three of our maps. This peak was also protected by hanging glaciers and a crumbly rock wall. We were successful, after several attempts, in finding a semi-safe route up the rock wall to a glacier nestled between Tso Karpo Kang (6557 meters) (Shey Shikhar 1) and a second mountain which we called Bahini Kang (6100 meters) (Shey Shikhar 2). According to our best information Tso Karpo Kang had been climbed once by an easy route by the Japanese in 1972. The other peaks in the region had never been attempted.

On September 29, after a bivouac on the high glacier at 5100 meters, Nima Tashi Sherpa, Naga Dorje Sherpa, BD Shresta and myself climbed a 50° ice buttress to intersect the summit ridge on Tso Karpo Kang. We followed this ridge to the summit. We had a bit of excitement as the summit cornice broke with myself, Nima Tashi and Naga Dorje on it. Fortunately we were all able to self-arrest with our feet dangling over a 4000-foot precipice. On the descent a storm moved in. We followed an easier route down via the west ridge. This is the route we believe was previously climbed by the Japanese.

On September 30, from the same bivouac site, Steve Rouss, Bruce Normand, Billy Squier, and myself made the first ascent of Bahini Kang via a snow ridge on the northwest side of the mountain. On the way down we narrowly avoided disaster in a small slab avalanche when Billy jumped off one side of the ridge to arrest Steve and myself who had begun to descend the opposite side of the ridge.

On October 1, Steve Rouss and Bruce Normand returned to Tso Karpo Kang, climbing a very direct route on the south face to the summit of the peak. They encountered ice up to 80° and continuously technical climbing. The final ascent by our team took place on October 2 when George Waring III, George Waring IV, Mike Sinclair, Naja Dorje, Nima Tashi and myself made the first ascent of Kang Ya Ja (5997 meters) (Shey Shikhar 3) via a spectacular but technically straightforward route on the south face of the mountain. Our path first involved 1000 feet of rock scrambling up to 5.4 in difficulty. We then negotiated a hanging glacier and maze of crevasses to a 45° snow gully leading directly to the summit ridge. Our group then trekked north to the Shey Monastery and returned via Phoksundo Lake to Dunahai.

Geoff Tabin