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Asia, Tibet, Kangri Garpo Range, Mt. Ruoni, Attempt

Mt. Ruoni, attempt. The Kangri Garpo Range is located in the Zayul and Bomi Counties of Eastern Tibet. Since this region is close to the borders with both India and Myanmar, it has remained strictly off-limits to foreigners for many years. Even now the area remains shrouded in mystery. There are numerous 5,000-6,000m mountains surrounding unknown glaciers and only one of these peaks has ever been climbed. In 2001 three members of a New Zealand expedition led by John Nankervis climbed and skied down from the summit of a 5,650m snow dome above the Lhagu Glacier. The highest mountain in the range is called Ruoni (a.k.a. Bairiga, see below).

In 1882 a Pundit, Kishen Singh, approached the mountain from the south, and his route was repeated in 1933 by Kingdon-Ward and Kaulback, who named the peak Choembo. After that, neither mountaineering nor scientific expeditions visited the region until 1995, when Tamotsu Nakamura’s party trekked in from the north. According to the former Soviet Union map, the height of Ruoni is recorded as 6,805m, while the 1:100,000 Chinese Peoples Liberation Army map gives it a height of 6,882m

After our expedition made the first ascent of Kula Kangri (7,554m) in 1986, I decided that Ruoni should be our next target and continued to negotiate with the Chinese Mountaineering Association. Finally, in early 2002, special permission was granted by the CMA. It had indeed been a patient and tenacious effort lasting 16 years, and I was now over 70 years old.

In the fall of 2002 a three-member reconnaissance party was dispatched. They explored the Ata Glacier to a height of 4,800m and looked for a possible route to the summit. On October 2,2003, the nine-member Kobe University East Tibet Mountaineering and Scientific Expedition arrived in Chengdu. I was chief leader, 72 years old, and the climbing leader was Prof. H. Kitaguchi. Nine days later we reached base camp at 4,150m on a lateral moraine of the North Ata Glacier.

On October 13, using 15 porters, we established an advanced base at 4,250m. At this point the Ata Glacier splits into two branches, one flowing north and the other south. Two days later Camp 1 was placed at 4,600m. From there, we decided to attempt the northeast ridge of Ruoni, which rises steeply to the summit from a col.

We climbed the ridge above Camp 1 and tried to traverse onto the upper part of the Ata Glacier in order to avoid an ice fall, but the ridge was too dangerous due to high avalanche risk. We therefore abandoned this route and on October 18, set up Camp 2 at 5,250m on a different line, which followed a smaller branch of the Ata Glacier. By the 23rd we had established a route to the col at ca 5,800m, only to find that directly above we would have to cross a sheer rock wall, overhung by a massive snow cornice. Although a search was made for alternate routes, poor visibility and 10 days of constant snowfall prevented us from making any further progress and we left base camp for Lhagu on November 2. In my opinion, the northeast ridge, while not easy, is definitely climbable if snow conditions and weather are good. The route favors a fast ascent by a small party.

Kazumasa Hirai, Japan (translated by Tamotsu Nakamura, Japan Alpine News)