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Asia, Nepal, Western Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Changwatang and Nalakankar, First Ascents, and Exploration of the Chandi, Nalakankar and Takphu Himal

Changwatang and Nalakankar, First Ascents, and Exploration of the Chandi, Nalakankar and Takphu Himal. We were granted climbing permission for Nalakankar, but ours was the first expedition to the peak since 1963. Why? In the revised Climbing Regulations of 1989, Nalakankar is ranked in the “A” group, which means that an expedition must involve at least three Nepalese. Other factors that have dissuaded climbers for nearly four decades are that Nalakankar’s height (6062m) is extremely low; such a remote objective entails excessive cost; and Nalakankar’s name, which, though it sounds nice, means “human skeleton.”

Three climbing friends and I started our trek toward Nalakankar from Simikot on June 4. We began by approaching eastward from Takche Karka along its northeastern tributar (Taisolu Khola), and, on June 26, established base camp at the frozen Taisolu Lake (5400m) on the divide between Taisolu Khola and Ning Khola. Ning Khola is one of the sources of the Dojam Khola of the Changla Himal, which had been explored by our expedition two years before. The next day, we placed a high camp at 5738 meters on the way to a peak called Changwatang (6150m, 30° 19' 35" N, 81° 53' 17" E). Starting from our high camp early the next morning, we stood on the top of this charming snow peak at noon.

Though the weather was unstable, from the summit we were able to identify the highest peaks of the Chandhi Himal: Kananu Pukari (6256m, 30° 20' 32” N, 82° 00' 27" E) and Changla (6563m, 30° 18' 11" N, 82° 07' 44" E) far to the east. To the north and northwest, along the Taisolu Khola, there are several border peaks exceeding 6000 meters, but the alpine nature of the peaks of the southern group that surround the Ling Khola (which remains completely unexplored) made them seem rather preferable to those of the northern divide between Nepal and Tibet.

We crossed the border passes of Lapche La (5018m), Lolung La (4953m), and a 4953- meter unnamed pass, enjoying fantastic views of Manasarowar Lake and Mt. Kailas to the north and north-northwest in the distance. Repeatedly crossing the cold waters of the Saja Khola, we advanced to the west along Gya Khola to establish our base camp for Nalakankar at 5250 meters in the upper stream of a mostly dried up lake. We could see the gigantic east face of Naimona’nyi (a.k.a. Gurla Mandhata, 7694m) before us. From here, an easy one-and- a-half days’ walk brings one over Nalakankar Bhangjyang (5514m) to Manasarowar Lake.

Climbing the Nalakankar (6062m, 30° 21' 27" N, 81° 23' 58" E) for which we had received permission was quite easy but confusing. On July 6, while some of the reconnaissance party was finding a route to the south col, they unexpectedly found themselves on the summit, without having used climbing boots or any other climbing gear. The summit ridge was almost free from snow and very easy. The next day, with a climbing friend and two Sherpas, I enjoyed a direct route of the icy east face of a peak to the south. We began to call this the official Nalakankar. In fact, this South Peak (6024m, 30° 21' 15" N, 81° 24' 20" E) is a neighboring peak that lies 0.7 kilometers southeast of the Nalakankar for which we had received permission. It is covered with more snow and ice. The remaining members of the expedition, slightly climbing dotards all, enthusiastically joined in the first ascent of the peak via its north ridge.

After the climbs in the Nalakankar group, we turned our attentions farther south to the Takphu Himal, the highest peak of which (30° 15' 05" N, 81° 23' 31" E) is 6422 meters. For ten days, we made a reconnaissance of this peak, but an attempt was prevented by the huge ice cliffs of the hanging glaciers. We crossed the Gya Khola at a confluence of its southern fork, and climbed up to a high, vast plateau with three beautiful lakes. Although our long trek at over 5000 meters was comfortable and very pleasant, the grand view we had expected of the entire Takphu Himal was unfortunately hidden by a thick cloud cover. We crossed a pass at the eastern foot of Til Kang (6369m, 30° 16' 27" N, 81° 24' 16" E), then descended to Halji, the largest village of the Limi Valley. We enjoyed a couple of days in Halji, as well as in Jang and Til, two other Tibetan villages of the Limi Valley. These villages are unexpectedly modernized: we were astonished when we were invited into the clean rooms of their houses and welcomed with tea and some pieces of chocolate! However, we were impressed enough by their traditional Buddhist faith, their rather aristocratic appearance, and their high manner.

At Simikot, our eight-week-long journey around the far northwestern part of Nepal came to an end.

Tamotsu Ohnishi, Osaka Alpine Club