American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Nyanshen Tanglha, Pajan Zhari, and "Gompa Garpo Ri," First Known Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Pajan Zhari and “Gompa Garpo Ri,” first known ascents. In September and October I returned to the Nyanchen Tanglha Range, situated about 80km north of Lhasa. In 2000 I had been in the same area with two friends, and we succeeded on three 6,000m peaks that had never been climbed before (AAJ 2004, pp. 427-428). In 2005 I was accompanied by Erich Gatt, who was also a member of the 2000 expedition, and Gerhard Gindl. This time we went to the valley immediately southwest of the main Nyanchen Tanglha massif, a huge ice-armored wall with three summits above 7,000m.

We first acclimatized around Lhasa, before visiting the Nyanchen Tanglha for one week only. In that period we went to the 5,816m pass at the head of the valley, enjoyed a terrific view over Nam Tso, the second largest salt water lake in Tibet, and climbed Gompa Garpo Ri (6,232m; GPS N 30° 20.440', E 90° 31.896'), a previously unnamed and unclimbed mountain directly northwest of Pajan Zhari. Gompa Garpo Ri means “White Monastery Mountain,” and so named because of its broad white appearance when seen from the Nyanchen Tanglha Valley. I climbed directly up the northeast face, while the others followed the north ridge. We then returned to Lhasa and after two days of recuperation went back to our 5,332m base camp, which we regained on September 25.

Over the next five days we tried a new route on one of the 7,000m Nyanchen Tanglha summits. However, we were unsuccessful. On the last attempt Erich bivouacked without adequate equipment in a crevasse at 6,700m and was really cold when he returned to base camp the following evening.

Next day, October 1 and the last day of our stay, we left camp at 8.30 a.m. for an attempt on Pajan Zhari (6,221m on the Chinese Map). We had looked at the summit from adjacent mountains and decided to try the north ridge first. However, we had not been able to get a full view of the approach and on setting off were unsure how to reach the start of the ridge.

After an exhausting walk across pathless blocky terrain, we reached the glacier that provided access to the north ridge from the east. As the snow was still well-frozen, it was easy to cross a major zone of crevasses beneath the impressive ice-covered north face. At the end of the horseshoe-shaped valley Gerhard and I decided to reach a snow-covered ramp, from where we could get onto the north ridge without difficulty. To gain the ramp we had to climb a steep wall of black hard ice for about 30m. While we were doing this, Erich went up a steep snow-and- rock couloir on the opposite side of the valley to photograph our progress.

After reaching the crest at 1.30 pm, Gerhard and I continued upward in good snow along the 40-50° ridge. At the top we had to carry out a little reconnaissance to find the best way to avoid large cornices. At 3.00 p.m. we reached the highest point of Pajan Zhari (6,232m; GPS N 30° 19.724, E 90° 33.215).

Meanwhile Erich had taken a different route. After climbing the steep snow-and-rock couloir, mentioned above, to reach the crest of the northwest ridge, he turned away from the summit and followed the crest to a small rock peak. After hed finished taking photos, he returned along the ridge and climbed to the point where Gerhard and I had reached the crest. This section before the junction gave some delicate climbing, at UIAA IV, around several towers of poor rock. Erich then followed our steps and joined us on the summit an hour after our arrival.

Together we enjoyed breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain scenery and the Nam Tso Lake, which presented a range of blue colors. The headman of Nyanchen Tanglha Village had given us prayer flags to present to the gods, and we threw them into the wind. After spending one-and-a-half hours on the summit, we began our descent. At the end of the north ridge a steep snow-covered couloir led straight down to the glacier below. We thought this would be easy, but the middle part turned out to be 45-50° hard ice covered by a thin layer of snow.

Before we finally reached base camp, we had to deal with one last challenge: the river we crossed in the morning had risen during the day. However, we negotiated it without getting totally wet. Next day we left for further adventures, in the southwestern section of the Nyanchen Tanglha Range, as reported above.

Christian Haas, Austria

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