Chola Shan, Various Ascents

China, Sichuan, Chola Shan
Author: Charlie Fowler. Climb Year: 1998. Publication Year: 1999.

In July and August, 1997, Joanne Jeske and I traveled widely throughout Kham, the old eastern province of Tibet. With the exception of Minya Konka and vicinity, this region has largely been neglected by climbers, despite the fact that it is one of the most mountainous areas of Asia.

Traveling by local buses, we arrived in the town of Dege in early August. Here we stocked up on food and fuel, then backtracked eastward along the main highway from Lhasa to Chengdu to the sacred lake of Lhamcoka. This pristine lake is situated below the main peaks of the 100-kilometer-long Chola Shan. The highest peak of the range (6168m) was climbed by a large expedition of Chinese and Japanese mountaineers in 1988 from a base camp at the south end of the lake.

Joanne and I approached differently, hiking up a steep valley about four kilometers to the west of the lake. We established a base camp (5000m) at the toe of a glacier plateau, directly below the second highest peak of the range, Chola Shan II (6119m). Starting in the middle of the night and climbing alone, I made a rapid ascent of this peak, arriving at the summit at sunrise. The route was mostly non-technical; I wandered up the broad glacier and onto the southeast ridge, which was followed to the top. I returned via the same route. This was perhaps the first ascent of the peak. I also got a good look at the northwest face of the highest peak, Chola Shan I, from the top. This was to be my next objective.

After some rest and a recon with Joanne, I again set off alone and at night for Chola Shan I. The bottom third of the route was a 45° snow and ice slope that led to the main business of the route, a wide gully winding to the south face. Conditions were excellent and I made good progress, overcoming sections of 80° ice and wandering a bit to avoid mixed sections. Firm snow on the south face led to the summit, which I reached in the early morning. After leaving a few prayer flags, I descended the north face/ridge, which proved to be more difficult and time-consuming than the climb. It would have been better to just descend the route! Overall, the route was a classic snow and ice outing, of modest scale (800m from glacier to summit) and moderate difficulty. There are many other fine rock and alpine routes in this area.

– Charlie Fowler, unaffiliated

Editor's note: It is now believed that Fowler misidentified the peaks that he climbed during this expedition. See AAJ 2018 for an update and clarification.