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India, Zanskar, Chhomotang Valley: Chhomotang I, Chhomotang III and Thorchok II, First Ascents; Thorchok I, Second Ascent; Chhomotang II (No Name Peak), Ascent

Chhomotang Valley: Chhomotang I, Chhomotang III and Thorchok II, first ascents; Thorchok I, second ascent; Chhomotang II (No Name Peak), ascent. In summer 2004 we explored climbing possibilities in the Chhomotang valley, 85km west of Leh in the Zanskar Range of Ladakh. For some years trekking agencies have used this valley, because it offers an easy 6,000m summit on the way from Lamayuru to Kangi. The peak is referred to as “No Name Peak,” and its first ascent seems not to have been reported.

During the 2004 exploration we identified five principal peaks in the same range as “No Name Peak,” and the idea of a 2005 Chhomotang Valley expedition was born.

We approached using a 4X4 from Leh, via Lamayuru and the Fotu La (4,094m), until near Hiniskut, where a wide road leads into a gorge and gradually deteriorates into a footpath leading towards Kangi. We used donkeys in this section, though even they were unable to reach the village, and we had to send for reinforcements from Kangi. From the village we walked southeast up the Chhomotang River to our base camp at 4,900m

After an initial attempt on July 20 by Jordi Bosch (Barraca), Carles Figueras, and I, Figueras and I climbed the elegant north spur of Chhomotang I (5,865m) on the 24th.

After crossing the glacier northward, we reached the bottom of the spur at 5,415m and spent eight hours climbing the 450m of compact snow, ice, and mixed pitches that form an almost continuous 45-60° slope. There was a horizontal section at 5,640m that we called the “Plaça de l’esmorzar” (Breakfast Place). We graded the route TD, due to its committing nature and difficulty of the mixed climbing. The summit, which had had no recorded ascent, comprised two enormous gneiss blocks.

We continued along the ridge westward to “No Name Peak” (5,885m). This 1km crest had all the qualities of an alpine classic and was more or less above 5,800m throughout. The first half consisted of blocks of compact gneiss, with several sections of F4+. We made three rappels. Beyond a col, the second half of the ridge had an unexpected ice step (100m at 70°) and a long horizontal crest. This summit is climbed by trekking parties via the northwest face (AD+, our descent route). The altitude of 5,885m recorded by our altimeters contrasts with the 6,045m published in most trekking guides.

We decided to change “No Name Peak” to “Chhomotang II” after discussions with locals in Kangi. They have been referring to the valley and its principal peaks as “Chhomotang” for a long time. We encourage trekking agencies to consider this proposal and remember that, in general, alpinists should make an effort to ascertain local mountain names and not simply to invent their own. Dialog with locals is the only way of respecting their inheritance.

On the 22nd Figueras, Inaki Garrijo, and I made the first ascent of Chhomotang III (5,740m), by the northeast face (D). There were significant crevasses on the glacier approach (50° maximum), and the final slope had a section of 80°.

On the 26th Bosch, Kim Bover and Figueras made the first ascent of Thorchok II (5,590m), by the northwest face. From the summit Bosch continued north along the ridge to make the second ascent of Thorchok I (5,740m). The route, which we graded PD, would make a nice acclimatization ascent. Thorchok I was first climbed on July 9, 2004, during the reconnaissance expedition, by Bosch and Figueras. In consultation with their local staff, they bestowed the name Thorchok (Crown) on the peaks because of their appearance. Thorchuk I lies west of Chhomotang III, and Thorchuk II is immediately south of its big brother. In 2004 Bosch and Figueras climbed the northeast face (800m, TD), which began with a 45° slope and continued with a 60m pitch of bad rock. Above, an ice face of 65-70° led to the summit, which was a 40m rock formation. They descended via the north face.

We recommend Ladakh Zanskar (1:350,000) from Nelles Verlag as a good general map of the region. However, Olizane (Switzerland) has produced a more detailed topographic map of the Kangi region, under the title Ladakh-Zanskar - Centre (1:150, 000).

Josep M. Sola i Caros, Switzerland