AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Asia, Tibet, Himalaya, Kaluxung, First Ascent

Kaluxung, first ascent. To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Alpine Club of Keio University, Teietu Yakuwa led an expedition to unclimbed Kaluxung [6,647m; 6,671m on the Mi Deshing map—Ed.], south of Nojin Kangsang, approximately 150km southwest of Lhasa. A reconnaissance expedition in 2004 by a mature party of Japanese climbers confirmed suitability of the climb for older mountaineers. However, younger members of the club were strongly encouraged to participate. Unfortunately, none were able to take enough vacation to come, so the final team comprised Eiichiro Kasai (64), Tooru Mita (64), Tadao Shintani (61), Hisashi Tanabe (74), Shaw Watanabe (64), Teietu Yakuwa (69) and Yoochi Yamakawa (67). Because of our ages we had physical checks in a low-pressure chamber at the training facilities of the Self-Defense Air Force, Tachikawa Base.

Our arrival in Lhasa coincided with the end of celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Tibet Autonomous District. Lhasa had been transformed into a totally clean city with flags streaming everywhere, and the southern road to Shigatse tarmacked as far as Nakartse. In 2004, when we made our reconnaissance, it took two full days to reach Nakar- tse from Lhasa by way of Shigatse. Now the road via the Kamba La was very pleasant, and we were in Nakartse after a drive of only a half-day from Lhasa. The following day, September 13, we set up base camp close to the road on the north side of the mountain. Although we had a distant view of Kaluxung from there, we couldn’t see the top.

Good weather prevailed, our acclimatization was almost perfect, and no one complained of bad headaches. We established three camps on the mountain, the highest at 6,150m. Although we were ready for a summit bid on the 21st, bad weather intervened and we returned to base camp. However, as the weather improved on the 27th, we all climbed back up to Camp 3. With our time in the area nearly up, unless we got a spell of fine weather in the next 24 hours, we would have to abandon the climb.

At 5:00 a.m. the next morning the sky was clear and starry. Kasai and Shintani left at 7:30 and after climbing a gentle slope, they jumared four fixed ropes on a steeper section and continued to the summit, arriving at 11.30 a.m. There they enjoyed a fine panoramic view of the vast Tibetan highland and the large Himalayan peaks that straddle the Bhutan and Nepal borders.

The ascent went very smoothly, considering the average age of the expedition members, 66. No one became sick, mainly due to our thorough acclimatization program and a stock of good food and equipment. We made it a rule to take all our garbage from every campsite and collected other trash around the base camp area.

With the opening of the railway to Lhasa and the development of infrastructure, such as roads, tunnels, and bridges, Tibet will become a major tourist destination. It is therefore important that we all embrace the concept of clean climbing, so the natural environment of Tibet can be preserved.

Eiichiro Kasai, Keio University AC, Japan