American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Himalaya, Tatungsakhu Himal, Pachyung Ham (6,529m), Gang Dzong Kang (6,123m), First Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2005

Pachyung Ham (6,529m), Gang Dzong Kang (6,123m), first ascents. The Kansai Section of the Japanese Alpine Club (JAC) sent an academic and mountaineering expedition to West Tibet in 2004 in commemoration of the JAC’s 100th anniversary, which comes in 2005. The objectives of the expedition were to scale unclimbed peaks in the Tatungsakhu Himal of West Tibet, to retrace footsteps of a Japanese monk, Ekai Kawaguchi, who reached Lhasa a century before Sven Hedin, and to explore unvisited regions in the headwaters of Sutlej, Indus, Yarlung Tsangpo, and Mt. Kailas. The climbing record is briefly introduced below, while an article on Ekai Kawaguchi and explorations will be published as a separate volume of the JAC centennial issue of the Japanese Alpine News 2006.

In 2003 I led a party from the Osaka Alpine Club that took a picture of Gang Dzong Kang, a dominant rock peak that soars south of a highway connecting Lhasa and Kailas in the vast and arid Tibetan plateau. Since it can be viewed from the road, presumably many travelers would have been allured to the peak. An early explorer, Sven Hedin, sketched the mountain. However, no one had tried to climb it. The photograph, which was taken from the Nepalese side beyond a ridge, shows a rock face but does not cover the whole profile in detail. The challenging rock face on this 6,123m peak was estimated at 800 meters.

In 2004 I was again assigned to lead an expedition. The party departed from Kathmandu on August 13 and entered Tibet by road after having spent two weeks in the Khumbu area for acclimatization. Then the climbing leader, Satoshi Kimoto, and I headed to the first objective, Pachyung Ham, accompanying two sherpas after having seen a younger group off to Kung La pass, where they searched for the tracks of a Japanese monk, Ekai Kawaguchi. (A hundreds years ago Ekai had crossed the Himalaya and hurried to reach Lhasa in disguise with a mission to seek original scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. His narratives are written in his book Three Years in Tibet.) We established base camp at 4,607m on August 20. Advance Base Camp was built at 5,216m between a current glacier and pasture in the upper part of a typical V-shape valley on August 26.

Our climbing route on Pachyung Ham follows the north ridge of this stunning rock and snow peak. A little before a younger team of six members arrived, an elder party of four members left the camp for reconnaissance, route paving (including fixing ropes), and ferrying up loads half a day in front of the younger team. After days of work, on September 3 we departed early from C1 at 6,167m. An unstable slate ridge became mixed with snow and then ended at a snow wall. A snow ridge then led all the members to the virgin summit.

A few days later after our success on Pachyung Ham, we returned to ABC to assault Gang Dzong Kang. We decided on the southeast face as had already been planned. The route opening work was conducted by two alternating parties. Senda’s party took the lead first. In two days they gained four pitches that took them to where the ridge met the wall, which was very steep toward the large upper band. As the place was shaded and got colder in the afternoon, they wanted to move to the face on the left side, which received sunshine all the day. They gained only one 60-meter pitch the next day because the wind and snow were merciless. They hurriedly descended. The following day the face was found totally white with fresh snow. As it was obviously not a condition to climb, they returned to ABC.

They decided to extend the climbing period by three days. Senda’s party reached the upper large band in a further three pitches in two days. On the third day, September 19, they stood on top of this unclimbed peak at 12:40. On September 20, Kimoto’s party left ABC in deteriorating weather. Fortunately the snow that had fallen on the previous day did not much disturb the climbing. Despite snow and melting water in a wide crack, they reached the summit at 13:40.

Members of the expedition: General leader: Kazuuki Abe (75); leader: Tamotsu Ohnishi (62); climbing leader: Satoshi Kimoto (48), and five climbing members. Academic party: Leader: Toyoji Wada (58) and one member.

Editor's note: this route involved approximately nine pure rock pitches up to 5.10d, with a short section of A1 on the first. Fixed rope was used and a few bolts placed.

Tamotsu Ohnishi, Japanese Alpine Club

Adapted from Japanese Alpine News, Tamotsu Nakamura, Editor

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