American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Nyainqentanglha Range, Nyanchen Thanglha Southeast Summit, Probable First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Nyanchen Thanglha southeast summit, probable first ascent. From April 12 to June 1 I guided an international expedition to the Nyanchen Thanglha (also spelled Nyainqentanglha) range. Our idea was to acclimatize for 10 days before heading to Mt. Everest. After climbing small peaks up to 5,700m around Yangbajing (the main village in the south of the mountain-range), we moved to the highest part of the area. The base camp was built up in the valley to the south at about 5,050m. It is a five-hour hike from the village near the road from Yangbajing to an area with giant boulders in an alpine lawn. The mountain rejected us during our first attempt to climb Central Peak in a bad snowstorm (we reached camp 1 at 6,200m), so we took a rest day in base camp. The second try was also in bad weather, with wind, snowfall, and bad visibility all day. The angle is 30° to 45° and very exposed. We did not use any fixed ropes or belays, and we reached the summit in a full snowstorm at about 14:00 Chinese time. Base camp was reached around 21:00.

While our two co-guides led two more groups each consisting of four people to the Central peak, my father (Erich) and I made an attempt to climb the Southeast Peak of Nyanchen Thanglha. Again we climbed the “track” up to the 5,900m col between a small mountain—we called it Mirador—at 6,100m and the slope up to Central Peak. Traversing the avalanche field on the southeast side of the fore summit of the central peak was hard work. The snow was sometimes 80cm deep in this dangerous area. A crevasse-zone at 6,100m brought a small maze for us that we escaped exactly when dusk fell. We stayed the night at 6,200m.

The second day we climbed to the south-ridge of the Southeast summit and traversed it until the flank at about 6,400m. Without belay we climbed the 45° hard firn ice flank until a rock- barrier closed the flank. This barrier consists of 60m of loose rock and is the crux of our route. Difficulties up to UIAA IV-V had to be climbed, partly mixed with ice. From the top of the rock band there came one pitch with 60° ice. After that a 50° later on less steep hard firn ice flank leads to the top. Because we know few people have been in the area of Nyanchen Thanglha and because we have not found any hints of previous parties, we think that this was a first ascent.

We made the descent to the saddle between the Central and the Southeast peaks and then found a track through the maze of crevasses to our tent—twice abseiling 10m over overhanging seracs. From the tent we used the same way back to the basecamp as we came up.

Stefan Gatt, Austria

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