Asia, Nepal, Mustang Himal, Arniko Chuli, First Ascent and Survey

Publication Year: 2003.

Arniko Chuli, first ascent and survey. In the summer of 2001, I began topographical research of the mountains west of Lo Manthang and Chharang, and made the first ascent of Arniko Chuli (6,034m). Arniko Chuli is at the northern edge of the range between Lo and Dolpo, on the border between Nepal and Tibet. I was attracted to this mysterious peak for its height, its strange name, and because no foreigner had ever seen it. The Indian surveyors gave the peak a Nepalese—not a Tibetan—name. Aruniko (or Araniko) is the name of a famous artist from Nepal who, in the latter half of the 13th century, went to Tibet to design statues for Buddhist monasteries.

I planned, along with two Nepalese friends—Ang Purba and his wife Pasang Diki (Thame)—to approach Aruniko Chuli from the Dolpo side. On July 3, we left Jomsom at Kaligandaki with five pack animals, and walked to Sangda village along the historical route taken by Sharmana Ekai Kawaguchi—a Japanese priest, the first foreigner to reach Lhasa from Nepal, 102 years ago.

After crossing Geba La, we followed another trail north along Lhanhimar Khola to a nameless pass. Then we descended along a northwestern stream, Sano Kiraphuk Khola. On July 8, we set up our base camp very close to Chanagor Bhanjyang (5,665m), on the northern border. The next morning, we climbed the pass on the border, and were rewarded with a good view of the Tibetan side.

West and northwest of us, there were four other passes in the northeastern Dolpo: Daknak Bhanjyang (Sena La 5,465m), Jyanche Bhanjyang (5,534m), Kang Kung Bhanjyang (5,564m), and Pindu Bhanjyang (5,600m). The trails from Dolpo to Tibet cross these five passes and converge at the Raka Nadi River. We also saw one of the tributaries of Yalung Tsampo, flowing north. On the eastern two passes, there was no sign of activity nor cattle; blue poppies and other alpine plants were abundant. Presumably, these passes have been abandoned as roads have been built. Old markets have been disappearing too.

On July 10, we left base camp in fine weather. From a small pokari (pond) just below the pass, we walked east and northeast along the border ridge, and after an hour of climbing a gentle ridge of rock and snow, we were on top of Araniko Chuli, surrounded by other 6,000m peaks.

From the highest point, a vast ice field extended east. I confirmed various bearings and elevations of nearby peaks on the Nepalese New Topographical Map (1:50,000), using surveying instruments. But to the northeast, the peaks of the Man Shail group were hidden by clouds. We returned to base camp by another route: straight down a scree slope on the south face of Araniko Chuli, where, unlike on the Tibetan side, there was no snow. Then we finished our research and climbing around Aruniko Chuli in three days, by following an old path directly to Mustang from Chharka, via Ghami Bhanjyang (5,740m), to Ghami.

The second stage of our activity in Damodar Himal started at Ghami. We set up a base camp at the northern foot of Saribung (Selibung or Soribung, 6,327m) following a route via Chharang, Dhi, Yara, and Nakkali Damodar Kund (a sacred place for Hindus). Another party had already pitched a high camp, at 5,720m, on the northwest glacier of Kumlung North Peak (6,378m). In the central part of this huge glacier are the two highest peaks of Damodar Himal: Khumjungar Himal (6,759m) and Chhiv Himal (6,591m). They were both climbed by The Himalayan Association of Japan in 1983. Although the other party had attempted Saribung, they were unsuccessful because of sudden bad weather.

We continued the topographical research in this area—the east glaciers of Bhrikuti Sail (6,361m), and north of a nameless high peak (6,899m) in the east—then we returned to Pokhara, via Jomsom.

Tamotsu Ohnishi, Japan (translated by Tamotsu Nakamura)