Tinjung Attempt, Pandra and Danga First Ascents

Asia, Nepal, Janak Himal
Climb Year: 2002. Publication Year: 2003.

The Danish Janak Himal Expedition comprised Allan Christensen, Bo Belvedere Christensen, Jan Mathorne, and myself as leader. All had made several expeditions to the Himalaya previously, most recently in spring 2000 to the Polish Route on the south pillar of Everest. We planned to fly to Ghunsa by helicopter to save time and avoid both monsoon and terrorist problems, but at the last moment permission was refused by the Nepalese Government because the police station at Ghunsa had been bombed earlier in the year. Instead we used the usual approach from Suketar, arriving at our 4,785m Lhonak base camp on October 1. Our journey had been hampered only by the monsoon and rumors of Maoists.

We decided first to attempt the peak generally considered to be Danga I (6,355m). This had been attempted by Chris Bonington’s expedition in 2000. But at the col between the main summit and a subsidiary peak christened Danga II (6,194m), this team turned right and followed the southwest ridge to the latter summit. However, it quickly became clear to us that the new Nepalese map calls the higher summit Tinjung and the real Danga lies more to the southwest.

On October 4 and 5 we established a camp just below the glacier at 5,450m and inspected the glacier to 5,900m. On the 6th we left camp early and followed Bonington’s route to the col. From here we ascended the Southeast ridge of Tinjung to a foresummit (GPS reading 6,137m: N 29° 49.803', E 87° 59.473'). So far the climb had been on steep, unstable monsoon snow at a standard of Alpine D-. The real summit lay to the north, appeared to be 100m – 200m higher and required crossing a long mushroomed ridge with loose snow and rock. It looked dangerous, so we retreated to base camp, where the weather also took a turn for the worse (the weather was generally poor for the first half of the month but improved considerably after).

On October 9 we established a camp at 5,250m on the moraine where the Lhonak Glacier splits. At this point I turned back due to a fever and throat infection. The other three continued up a side glacier southeast of Pandra (eventual GPS reading 6,673m: N 27° 51.897', E 87° 59.547') to see whether the attractive south face of this unclimbed mountain was feasible. After a bivouac at 5,500m it started to snow, so they returned to base camp. On the 14th Alan, Bo, and Jan returned to the bivouac and continued next day to a second at 5,700m, above which they saw a couloir leading out of the glacier basin towards Pandra. Starting at 4.a.m. on the 16th the three climbed the 500m couloir (55° max) and the ridge above to the upper part of Pandras south face. They continued up steep and partially loose snow (some dry-tooling in parts) and at 6,500m reached a plateau above some seracs and below the final pyramid. The latter gave straightforward snow climbing and the well-defined summit was reached at 1 p.m. After down- climbing the summit pyramid, they began a series of rappels to above the couloir, then descended the latter to arrive at the bivouac site after sunset. The climb was rated TD- and was felt to be good apart from the lack of belays.

With only a few days remaining it was decided to attempt the peak we are now sure is the real Danga. It is a well-defined but complex snow and ice pyramid standing at the head of a side valley that leaves the main trekking route between Ramtang and Lhonak. On the 19th we spent a long day walking down toward Ramtang, then up the stony side valley and onto a complex glacier, where we bivouacked at 5,200m. On the 20th all four of us started up the glacier rising north to Danga but at 5,450m I was again forced to turn back due to continued illness. The others continued over increasingly complex terrain to a snowy ramp, which gave access to the upper part of the mountain. Good alpine snow climbing led to the summit, which was reached at midday (GPS reading 6,238m: N 27° 49.023', E 87° 58.598'). The route was about D in standard and the same night we were all re-united in base camp. The mountains north of Lhonak still hold many possibilities for first ascents and new routes but future parties should be prepared for long and stony approaches.

Henrik Jessen Hansen, Denmark