American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Karjiang Attempt, Taptol Kangroi and Kangmi Kangri First Ascents

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

Karjiang attempt, Taptol Kangri and Kangmi Kangri first ascents. During the post monsoon season Rudolf van Aken, Pepijn Bink, Court Haegens, Willem Horstmann, Rein-Jan Koolwijk, and I attempted the first ascent of Karjiang South (7221m), the highest and most impressive summit of the Karjiang Group, situated a few kilometers northeast of Kula Kangri (7554m). We established base camp on September 20 at an altitude of ca 4950m to the north of the group. The only photographs of Karjiang in our possession were from the west but we had one excellent satellite image that promised an encouraging possibility from the northeast. We therefore decided first to go around to the east side.

Advanced base was set up on September 24 and the next day Horstmann and I reached a ca 5800m col, from where we were probably the first human beings to see the impressive northeast face of Karjiang. It looked at least 800 meters in height and even steeper and more difficult than the south face of Chacraraju in Peru. It also looked very dangerous, so we decided to skip an attempt from this side. Before retreating, Haegens made probably the first ascent of Pt 5881m. He was later followed by the rest of the team. Haegens named the peak Rognon of Good Hope. On September 30 Van Aken, Haegens, Horstmann, and I made an attempt on the beautiful Pt 6412m via its west face. Climbing 60-degree ice, we reached a height of ca 6150m, but decided to retreat due to the lateness of the hour.

We then went around to the opposite side of the mountain to make an attempt on the west face of Karjiang. In 1986 a Japanese team climbed the north summit (Karjiang II; 7216m) by its northwest ridge. They called this summit the Central Summit and Karjiang I (7221m) the South Summit. To us Karjiang I looked a lot more than five meters higher than II, especially when seen from the northeast, where Karjiang II looks like a fore-summit.

On October 4 we established another advanced base at 5700m, ca 45 minutes walk below that used by the Japanese expedition, which visited the area in the spring (see above). Unfortunately, it appeared that despite the use of porters, the Japanese had left trash on the way to their advanced base and at the site itself.

The next day Haegens and I fixed 100 meters of static in order to protect a dangerous part in the icefall. It was the only length of rope fixed during the whole expedition and was taken down at the end of the trip. We set up Camp I at ca 6300m close to the bottom of the Karjiang’s west face, just below the col between Karjiang and Kula East. After a rest day Van Aken, Haegens, Horstmann, and I made an attempt on the west face. At about 6550m we caused a slab avalanche more than 25 meters wide. It fell 200 meters to the bottom of the face. No one was hurt, but as we expected the whole face to be in the same unstable condition, we withdrew, rappelling the 55-to 60-degree face with the help of snow-anchors and Abalakov threads. The next day we explored the heavily corniced south ridge but concluded it was too dangerous under the present conditions. A decision was now made to attempt Kula East (7381m), which looked a far easier proposition. On October 13 we all made a summit attempt from a high camp at 6700m. Low temperatures (-25°C) and a very strong wind (estimated at Force Nine) forced us to retreat from 7110m. Cold temperatures and strong winds proved a problem throughout most of the expedition.

On the 19th Bink, Horstmann, Koolwijk, and I made the first ascent of Pt 6824m, climbing this beautiful pyramid via its north face. The previous day we had spent a long day ascending from base camp via a steep snow ridge to a camp below the face at 6200m. The summit day was again very cold (-24°C). We left camp at 7:45 a.m. The 500-meter-high face was impressive but not particularly difficult (50 degrees with a few short sections of 55 degrees). We arrived on the west ridge at 6700m and from there climbed for another one-and-a-half hours to the summit by a nice snow crest with one steep section at a cornice. The east top, which we reached at 1:37 p.m., proved slightly higher. We graded the route Alpine D and after subsequent discussions with local people, named the peak Taptol Kangri.

In the meantime Van Aken and Haegens put a camp at ca 6100m on the northeast glacier of Karjiang, just below the south-southwest ridge of Pt 6412m. The following day, the 21st, they climbed the narrow snow ridge to the summit (The steep west face was too dangerous because of heavy snowfall the day before). After a large rimaye they climbed a 55-degree ice face to the ridge. Following the crest, they had to climb sections of unstable snow up to 65 degrees on the west flank before reaching the summit at 2:45 p.m. They christened the peak Kangmi Kangri, which means Yeti snow mountain, and also rated the route Alpine D. More information can be found at www.geocities.com/karjiang.

Haroen Schijf, Nederlandse Klim-en BergsportVereniging (NKBV), the Netherlands

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