Shimokangri, first ascent. The Alpine Club of POSCO (the largest steel mill in Korea) made the first ascent of Shimokangri (7,204m) on September 29. An expedition of eight climbers, led by Li In Oei, put five on top: Nam Yong Mo (climbing leader), Li Ji Ryue, Li Fua Fun, Kim Ze Yong, and Chuen Oir.
Although Shimokangri does not appear on a 1:50,000 topographical map by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the map does show the peak climbed by the Korean party (but with a height of 7,202m). Also the PLA map shows a 6,902m peak named Shimori, north of the west peak. Therefore, it can be assumed that “Shimokangri” comes from “Shimori,” although the Bhutan people call the mountain Kangphu Kang.
On September 5, the team left Lhasa in four jeeps and a truck. In two days, they crossed an arid, 4,000m high plateau to a temporary base camp (BC) next to a lake at 5,200m. After a three-day rest, they climbed a moraine-covered glacier in bad weather and high wind, establishing an advanced base camp (ABC) at 5,400m.
On September 17, they set up C2 at 5,900m on a col just below a ridge on the Tibet-Bhutan border, while the wind continued to blow fiercely. The next day, the team began climbing a 75° snow face, ascending 1,000 meters through snow showers. On September 22 and 23, Nam Yong Mo and three others fixed ropes to 6,700m, then descended to ABC. On September 25, five climbers tried to push the route further, but had to retreat to C2 because of bitter cold wind. Snow continued to fall, then the wind got even worse, forcing them to remain at C2 for another day.
On September 27, although it was still snowing intermittently, they started up again with 20 kg loads. Exposed to avalanche and rockfall danger, the climbing was extremely difficult. By 6 p.m., they reached 6,700m and could go no further that day, so they chopped a ledge and spent an uncomfortable night on the ice. The next day, they reached the site of C3 (6,900m) at 4 p.m., pitching tents in a state of exhaustion.
They began the final push on September 29 by first climbing the north face, then moving around to a slope on the southwest ridge. They could see many peaks in Bhutan, and many highland lakes on the Tibetan side. After five hours and twenty minutes, climbing leader Nam Yong Mo and the four others reached a point just below the summit. By 10 a.m., they all stood on top of Shimokangri.
Afterword: The 1998 Gankarpunzum expedition of the Japanese Alpine Club was suddenly suspended because of a border controversy between China and Bhutan. (See Japanese Alpine News, Vol. 1, October 2001). But now that a permit for Shimokangri was granted to the Korean party, perhaps other peaks on the Tibet-Bhutan border will become available for climbing (the Himalayan Association of Japan has already sent in an application for Tongshanjiabu, 7,207m).
Tamotsu Nakamura, Japanese Alpine News