American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Ngari Province, Nganglong Kangri (Kang Ngolok) (6,710m), First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2005

Nganglong Kangri (Kang Ngolok) (6,710m), first ascent. The British Nganglong Kangri Expedition consisted of Derek Buckle, Martin Scott, and myself (UK) and Toto Gronlund (Finland). We left London on the 28th of August, flying to Kathmandu and entering Tibet by road from Nepal on 1st September. The Nganglong Kangri massif lies in Ngari province in West Tibet at 81°00'E 32°49'N. The peaks lie 85 km east-northeast of Ali and 45 km north of the county town of Gegye. The massif consists of two sections separated by a deep valley, the northern section being the larger and higher. The massif covers an area roughly 24 by 16 km. It holds 37 glaciers, two of which are over 6 km in length, and more than 40 peaks above 6,000m.

Our land cruiser journey of 1,500 km from Kathmandu to Base Camp took a total of seven days. The route led via Zhangmu, Nyalam, Tingri, Lhatse, and Raga, then north on Route 22 via Tsochen to meet the Northern Highway at Dong Tso, and finally west past the saltpans of Tsaka and on to the back road, which runs via Chaktsaka toward Gegye. We knew of no motorable route for the final 36 km between the Gegye road and our hoped for base in the upper Ngo Sang valley. This valley leads west to the southeastern flank of the main summits and we had identified it as the best approach. The lack of a road did not deter the drivers of our lorry and two land cruisers, who plunged through a large river and set off cross country while demanding further guidance. Navigating by pre-programmed GPS and satellite photos we picked up a sketchy track, which took us over the Naglung La into our valley. The final section to our Base Camp was trackless and extremely rough with repeated river crossings.

On 8th September we continued up the valley on foot for several hours to where it turned right, opening out to reveal an impressive panorama of high peaks set back to the north. Initial impressions were that the largest and nearest of the big peaks must be the 6,542m Aling (Nganglong) Kangri marked on the Soviet 1:200K map. On the next day ABC was established at 5,400m on the glacial plain 3 km to its south. I had concerns that although the double-headed peak appeared higher than others, it was clearly well south of the marked location on the watershed, and much else I could see did not fit the map or satellite image. On 11th September I descended to BC to conduct further reconnaissance while the others began our attempt on the peak by establishing a site for Camp 1 on a rocky promontory at 5,775m. The route then climbed over the lateral moraine and made an easy rising traverse of the southeast glacier to Camp 2 at 6,200m, which was occupied on the 13th September.

Meanwhile, I had ascended the steep valley to the northwest of Base Camp, bivouacking at 5,400m and then continuing up to Peak 6,153m, which gave a clear view of the southeast aspect of the massif. Our peak was clearly not the Aling Kangri of the map but another unnamed summit to the south of the watershed whose contour count of 6,600m made it the highest in the massif. The next day, 14th September, Derek, Martin, and Toto aborted a pre-dawn start because of cold and stove problems, but eventually departed from Camp 2 just before 10:00 am. Their route lay over a snow dome and up the southeast face toward a rightward slanting snow ramp at 6,600m. This proved unattractive on closer acquaintance and a more direct route was taken up the steep face to its left, which lead easily to the summit ridge and on to the summit. Readings from two GPS units gave the height as 6,710m. The peak, Nganglong Kangri 1, is known by local people as Kang Ngolok. On the 15th the party descended to the lateral moraine, where Martin continued the descent to ABC while Derek and Toto climbed the striking but easy southeast ridge of the 6,595m east summit. Between the 15th and 17th I conducted a further westward exploration, bivouacking at 5,500m before crossing a 5,900m pass and descending into the deep valley separating the northern and southern sections of the range. The pass gave excellent views of the two main southern peaks, ca 6,400m, but time ran out before I could gain a view from the opposite side of the valley of Nganglong Kangri 4 (6,582m) or the great southern glacier. The nearest permanent habitation is over 30 km from the main peaks and the area shows little or no signs of human presence. During our time in the mountains we encountered wild yaks, gazelle, kyang and a black wolf.

John Town, Alpine Club

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