American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Himalaya, Kaqur-Kangri First Ascent, No-Trace Efforts, and Survey of the Region

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2003

Kaqur-Kangri first ascent, no-trace efforts, and survey of the region. Five members of Doshisha University Alpine Club made the first ascent of Kaqur-Kangri on September 24. Located near the headwaters the Yalung Tsangpo River, Kaqur-Kangri is the highest of many virgin summits in the remote Ronglai-Kangri Range, bordering Nepal and Tibet.

The first non-native to explore this area was a Japanese priest named Kawaguchi Ekai (1866-1945), who passed through on his way to study Tibetan Buddhism. In 1900, Ekai left Marpha along Kali-gandaki, Nepal, then went along the northern side of Dhaulagiri, wandering around until he found his way to Narue via the Cang-chu River. The next visitor was Sven Hedin, the first person to go up the Cang-chu River. In 1907, he made a sketch of Kaqur-Kangri. Doshisha University Alpine Club made the first ascent of Mt. Saipal in 1963, and observed the Ronglai-Kangri Range from the summit. In 1997, Sadao Yoshinaga and the Osaka Alpine Club climbed Rongla-Kangri (6,799m), and made a reconnaissance of Kaqur-Kangri.

To avoid high avalanche danger, our eight-person team—Katsumi Nishida (climbing leader), Yusuke Ueda, Atsushi Senda, Hyosuke Tsuboi, three sherpas (Naga-Dorje, sirdar), and myself (team leader)—planned this ascent for late September or early October. We wanted to cross the Yalung Tsangpo River at New Zhongba, but when we arrived at the end of August, that unpredictable river was swollen and impassable. Instead, we had to make our approach from Laru, about three hours (by car) above Paryang, in the vicinity of the Kubi Tsangpo River. From Laru, we traveled up the Cang-chu River by yak and horseback to the Kaqur Tsangpo River. After crossing a ridge of Kaqur-Kangri, we set up base camp on the left side of the South Kaqur glacier (5,100m) on Sept. 8. Then we had to sit still for a week, waiting for the monsoon to end.

When the clouds cleared on September 14, we established advanced base camp on the lowest col of the east ridge, above the South Kaqur Glacier. But when we moved onto the East Kaqur Glacier, we encountered so many hidden crevasses that we decided to tackle the face of the east ridge instead. Because of continuing avalanche and crevasse danger, we fixed ropes to the two upper camps. High winds forced us to place Camp I (6,100m) on the leeward east side of the ridge. Then we established Camp II (6,400m) on September 20, on a large ice shelf close to the ridge.

We began our final ascent before dawn on September 24. At first we had excellent cram- poning up 45° to 60° slopes, winding through crevasses near the ridge. But when we climbed over a small cornice onto the summit ridge, we encountered high winds and a steeper slope than we had expected, so we extended the fixed lines another 200m. The final corniced slope was easy. We reached the summit after only four hours of climbing on that final day.

We conducted a “no-trace” expedition, leaving only the fixed ropes near the summit (too dangerous to recover). We used portable toilets at base, and “sanita-clean” in the advance camps. All excrement was placed in plastic bags. At base, kitchen refuse and feces were mixed with a fermentation accelerating agent, then buried in a grass field. Combustibles and portable toilets were burned, and non-combustibles packed out to Lhasa. The sherpas were very cooperative in this effort.

Following our ascent of Kaqur-Kangri, we made a survey of the Ronglai-Kangri Range. Since the names of the mountains vary locally, we decided to use the Tibetan names. Kaqur- Kangri (also called Zazi-Kangri by some locals) is the main peak in center of the range. On the east side of the border ridge leading to Kaqur-Kangri are Langlung-Kangri, Surlung-Kangri, and Pakyung-Hangmu—6,000m to 6,500m virgin peaks—and the rocky, unique Galzon-Gencok. Most of the mountains trending northwest are unclimbed, but the ridge is so convoluted that it’s difficult to define the border. Unlike on the Nepalese side, the glaciers are well developed and make for good routes. A well-timed approach should be relatively easy.

We also confirmed the names of the mountains extending from the source of the Yalung Tsangpo River, which branches off to the Kubi Tsampo and the Chema-Yundung Chu, west of the Ronglai-Kangri Range. These ranges are called Gorakh Himal, and the Changla Himal in Nepal. To date, only the Northwest Nepal Women's Expedition and the Climbing Team of Japan have climbed in these ranges (1983).

Impressive unclimbed mountains in the Gorakh Himal include Mukchung-Jungu, Absi, and Ngomo-dingding, which can be approached from the Kubi Tsangpo River. Local people call the main peak on the border Absi Gyablung, but the vanguard peak on the border is Absi. The main peak of the range is Mukchung-Jungu, which becomes Mukchung-Tseung in the west. The mountains called Asajyatuppa and Gorakh-Himal in Nepal correspond to Muchung-Jungu and Mukchung-Tseung, respectively.

At Langta-Chen, the Gorakh Himal turns sharply, then runs north-south. The Changla Himal are the mountains on the border. The main 6,721m peak (still unnamed) and Chema- yundung-kangri, to the east, stand out. Chema-yundung-kangri has twin peaks: one on the border, and the other inside Tibet. In Nepal, the peak on the border is known as Changla Himal (6,563m). The unnamed main peak (attempted in 1983) is called Kubi-dongdong or Dondong in Tibet. It looked to us like its summit pinnacle was bare of snow.

Finally, we tried to ascertain the source of the Yalung Tsangpo River. Local inhabitants said the Kubi Tsangpo might be its source, but others insisted the true source was the Chema- Yundung Chu. Since the Kubi Tsangpo has the greatest flow, it appeared to be the main stream, but the map shows that the Chema-Yundung Chu is longer. We had to conclude that either one could be called the source.

Toyoji Wada, Doshisha University Alpine Club (translated by Tamotsu Nakamura)

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