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Asia, Tibet, Menlungtse, Attempt, and Milarepa, Ascent

Menlungtse, Attempt, and Milarepa, Ascent. We arrived at the upper meadows of the Menlung Valley beneath the north face of Menlungtse on September 3. We set up Base Camp (4900m) in the normal monsoon weather of clear mornings followed by rain in the afternoons and evenings. A few days later, Martin Zabaleta decided to return home. Mark Price, Andrew Brash, and I stayed on to attempt to climb both Menlungtse and several unclimbed and unnamed peaks just north of Menlungtse. Particularly interesting was point 6262 meters on the Chinese maps.

On September 14, we camped at 5420 meters on the compact west glacier of a small, unnamed peak northeast of our BC. On the morning of the 15th, after the normal snowfall during the night, I made what was probably the first ascent of this peak (ca. 5610m) by its

short, exposed, granite west ridge. The climbing was not difficult, but several steep steps were tricky due to the newly fallen snow. I descended the east flank, a simple scree slope, and circled around the peak to the south. On September 23-24, all three of us hiked back up to the top of Pt. 5610m by the easy eastern scree slopes and spent the night a few meters under the summit for acclimatization. On September 26 and 28, following a line up an ice rib on the east end of the north face of Menlungtse, we fixed

about 600 meters of 7- and 9mm line to a small, safe bivouac spot at the base of a 20-meter rock wall. Working as a threesome, we were able to carry up food and gear to the bivouac spot for a planned seven- to ten-day alpine-style ascent of the remaining 1600 meters of the peak. A nine-day storm ensued. So much snow fell that huge crown fractures were visible all along the top slopes of the north face of Menlungtse. On October 8, we made the decision to abandon the climb. Much less snow had accumulated on the two mountains north of Menlungtse, and we changed our objective to the unclimbed point 6262 meters.

On October 12 at 5 a.m., we three set off up the east face of point 6262m from a col (5550m) between it and another smaller peak. It was an ice face with a short mixed section at the bottom and another just under the summit. Not far up the face, Andrew decided to withdraw from the route. The face was about 50 degrees in overall steepness, and the ice climbing was moderate. Only the last two mixed pitches to the top were time consuming. At 3:30 p.m. we stood on the exposed, corniced summit, the junction of three steep ice ridges. The descent went quickly with two 60-meter ropes. Due to the threatening weather front approaching, we had rigged rappel anchors all the way up the route. By 7:30 p.m., we were back at the col. The following day, we descended to BC without urgency. On October 16, we left BC for the two-day return hike to Tsambouche Village.

We named point 6262m “Milarepa Peak” after the well-known Tibetan yogi and saint who died about 900 years ago in the Rongshar Valley. Milarepa’s last days were spent in the sacred caves at the base of point 6262m, only a few hundred feet from the renowned Chuar Monastery.

Carlos Buhler