American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Yanga Kangri, Attempt on a New Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Yangra Kangri, attempt on a new route. The highest summit in the Ganesh Himal lies on the Nepal-Tibet border and is referred to as Yangra Kangri (in Tibet) or Ganesh I (in Nepal). The 7429m peak was climbed on October 24,1955 from the Nepalese side by Eric Guachet, Claude Kogan, and Raymond Lambert, but since then nobody else has reached the top. In 1987 a joint expedition between The Himalayan Association of Japan and The Tibet Mountaineering Association succeeded in climbing Labuche Kang (7367m), west of Cho Oyu. In spring 1995, Mr. Cheng Tianliang, the Tibetan leader of that expedition, suggested a 10th anniversary joint expedition, the target being the north side of Yangra Kangri in 1997. As the area around the peak had not yet been opened to foreigners, I lost no time in replying that the HAJ agreed to his suggestion. I organized a reconnaissance and at the end of September 1996, joined 45 year old Gaya, one of the Tibetan members, in Lhasa. The northern approach planned by us was via Tingri, the north side of Shishapangma, Ma La (5234m) and the Kyirong Zangbo River (the upper stream of the Bhote Kosi River). The route would then proceed southward about 50 km along the river. On September 29 we tried to gather information in Kyirong Prefecture but were given the unhappy news that no road or trail existed on the north side of Yangra Kangri. Although from the maps we found it hard to believe, lack of time forced us to change our route to one that approached from south via the Sanji Glacier. From the prefecture (4127m) to Kyirong District (2795m), we had a 75km jeep ride, driving on a road made in the bottom of the river. In a few hours we had moved from desert area to forest. At 10:00 p.m. some local policemen came to us and took our passports away. Next day we visited the border police office, where they told us not to proceed. “Why?” we asked, “we have permission.” “The Chinese map is not authentic,” they replied. After an hour’s discussion, they permitted us to go, saying “We will keep your passport until you come back. Don’t take any photographs.”

Gaya and I hired four porters and left Kyirong District. We descended southward along the Kyirong Zanbo River, where many laborers were making a roadway. After a five-hour walk we reached a point (2026m) where we had to cross the river via a bamboo basket hung from a single wire rope. Shortly after, we reached Jangzon (2400m), where we stayed the night. Next day we camped early at 3480m close to the river, from where Gaya reached the Lado La (4632m). The entrance to the Sanji Glacier was obscured due to rain, and persistent bad weather meant that we were subsequently prevented from seeing the south face of Yangra Kangri. We had no alternative but to go back, arriving in Kyirong District on October 5.

The reconnaissance had given us an unexpected present. On the way we had noticed a very attractive mountain, Kabang Peak (6717m), from the Ma La, so in the autumn of 1998 I planned a second expedition to look at both this peak and Yangra Kangri. On October 26, after investigating Kabang, we reached Ruka (3050m) on the Kyirong Zangbo River. From there Yosihide Higami and Yasuo Ota ascended the Rama Pu to find the route to the foot of the northeast spur. However, they failed to reach the Pawu Glacier on the north side of Yangra Kangri because it was too hard for only two men to make any progress through marshes and bushes.

Our third expedition took place in the autumn of 2001. On September 15 the main party: Kinichi Yamamori (57, leader); Yoshihide Higami (57, deputy leader); Hideki Sato (53, climbing leader); Seiko Mantoku (47); Yasuji Moriyama (51); Yasuo Ota (48); Kunihiko Sato (58), and Masakatsu Tamura (59), left Lhasa and four days later reached Ruka. After finding a suitable route to base camp at 3350m in the forest the other side of the Lama Pu, and building a bridge, we moved our equipment up there on September 24 with the help of 51 local porters. We then established Camp 1 at 4400m beside a lake named Lachang Co. This was close to the start of the northeast spur.

The spur is a branch of the east ridge and itself splits into two branches at ca 6100m. On September 30 we started climbing, aiming for the easterly branch of the spur. It took two hours from Camp 1 to the end of the glacier, after which we climbed a snow face, passing to the right of a rocky tower to reach the foot of the upper face. Camp 2 (5350m) was established below a glass-shaped rock wall.

The route now became difficult. We climbed two pitches on the rock wall then followed a snow ridge, which became very thin and narrow. Above, more ridge led to an icefall. After climbing through the latter, we reached a plateau, where on October 18 we established Camp 3 at 6000m.

From here the route climbed directly up a huge snow face to the east ridge. There were many big steps and crevasses, and shortage of ropes meant that in order to extend the route we had to remove those that had been fixed lower down. On the 24th we sited Camp 4 at 6860m just below the east ridge. Four members stayed there and on the 26th climbed up the east ridge without ropes or pitons (which had all been used below) until they were forced to give up at 6900m.

Although we were unable to succeed in making the second ascent of Yangra Kangri via a new route, we were all satisfied with our expedition, on which a middle-aged team had climbed 2500m at altitude up an ambitious challenge without the help of high altitude porters.

Kinichi Yamamori, The Himalayan Association of Japan

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