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Mahalangur Himal (Khumbu), Khumbu, Nagpai Gosum I, Background on the Encounter with Chinese Soldiers

Khumbu, Nagpai Gosum I, background on the encounter with Chinese soldiers. David Morton’s experience was the first incident of this kind ever to befall any mountaineers within Nepalese territory. On the other side of the border not far from the Nangpa La were the tents of Cho Oyu expeditions’ advance base camps. One of the leaders who was there at the time, Russell Brice, a New Zealander, explained some background to the incident. Three soldiers of the Chinese military—the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)—were searching for a group of about 20 Amdos, Tibetans from northwest Tibet. Since the Nangpa La is an important escape route for Tibetans fleeing their country (usually to pass through Nepal to join the Dalai Lama in northern India), a unit of the PLA is permanently posted close to the Cho Oyu base camp on a highway.

The three soldiers found a woman lying down near the pass; she probably was a decoy, for when they went to look at her closely, they were unexpectedly attacked by Amdos, who hit them on their heads with rocks and stole two of their guns before escaping across the pass into Nepal. The three soldiers, two of whom were Tibetans themselves while only one was Han Chinese, chased after them the next day. The night after that the two Tibetan soldiers came back across the Nangpa La and slept in one of Brices advance base camp tents. They had no sleeping bags, warm clothing, or food.

On the third day, 15 to 20 more soldiers arrived at advance base camp looking for the same group of Amdos. Some searched the moraine, some went to the Nangpa La and returned to advance base. Three of them spent the night in Brice’s tent and the rest slept in tents of a joint Japanese-Chinese/Tibetan women’s Cho Oyu expedition. Next day the soldiers went back to their encampment near the road.

Later that morning shots were heard at advance base camp. They were fired by the Han Chinese soldier from the original trio who was now crawling, dragging himself through the snow and firing to attract attention. Brice, his Sherpas, and some Tibetans employed as Sherpas by the women’s expedition went to investigate and brought the unfortunate soldier into camp. Brice speculates that the two Americans had been shot at by Amdos in crossfire with the PLA men.

Elizabeth Hawley, Nepal