American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Nyachen Thanglha (Nyainqentanglha) Range, Beu-tse, First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2004

Beu-tse, first ascent. In September Derek Buckle, Martin Scott, Alasdair Scott, and I made the first ascent of Beu-tse (6,270m), which lies in Tolung Dechen County of Central Tibet, ca 16km south of the town of Yangpachen. The peak forms one of a small glaciated range of mountains running in a north-south direction and is the highest point of the extensive highland area bounded by the Yangpachen Valley to the north and west, the Yarlung Tsangpo to the south, and the Tolung valley to the east. The sharp pyramids of the two main summits are well seen from the Shigatse road near Yangpachen Monastery, as is the spectacular hanging glacier that falls between them to the west.

The only published photo is titled Da Kangri, and hence we were the British Da Kangri Expedition. However, the locals were adamant that our peak was in fact Beu-tse (Calf Peak) and that Da Kangri, also known as Da-tse (Horse Peak), lay elsewhere to the southwest. As is common in Tibet, their name applies to the group as a whole rather than any one peak. The range is close to the Western Nyanchen Tanglha, which stretches in a great arc along the opposite side of the Yangpachen Valley culminating to the south in Jomo Kangri (7,048m) and to the north in Nyanchen Tanglha itself (7,162m).

This is a well populated and accessible area, and Yangpachen can be reached from Lhasa in less than two hours by the main northern road. We arrived in Lhasa on September 9 and on the 11th drove to base camp at 4,645m in a high valley to the west of the mountain, close to the five houses of Nya. One choice of route was to climb steeply up the end of the long west ridge before following it to a high snow saddle and then turning south to reach the summit pyramid. In retrospect this would have been easiest, but instead we entered the hanging valley that ran along the northern side of the ridge, making our first camp by the entrance at 5,185m. We then climbed easily upward through moraines to the head of the valley, where we placed a second camp at 5,641m in the shelter of a steep rocky outcrop at the top of the initial snow slopes. A long snow slope then led steeply upward to the 6,000m saddle forming the end of the west ridge.

After a day spent acclimatizing, followed by two nights of snowfall, we eventually set off in pairs at 4:50 a.m. on September 21. The snow was in perfect condition, but the slope steepened rapidly from 45° to 60°-70° in the final stages. It was disorientating to haul up onto the flat expanses of a saddle, but the summit pyramid was not the push-over we expected, being steep, exposed, and heavily corniced. At 11:20 a.m. we reached the summit, though no-one went near the highest point of cornice, six or seven meters above our little snow ledges. It took until 7:30 p.m. to down-climb our route, which those who knew rated at D+/TD-.

John Town, U.K., Alpine Club

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