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Asia, Tibet, Nyanchen Tanglha West, Sha Mo Karpo Ri (Mt. White Cap), First Ascent

Sha Mo Karpo Ri (Mt. White Cap), first ascent. In September and October I returned to the Nyanchen Tanglha Range, situated about 80km north of Lhasa. It was my third visit to this region, so we celebrated the return heartily with the local inhabitants. Our expedition comprised just two people: Hansjoerg Pfaundler and I. As in previous years, we went into the valley immediately southwest of the huge Nyanchen Tanglha massif, a line of three summits above 7,000m.

Before our visit we acclimatized by spending a week in the delightful Siguniang Mountains of Sichuan and then a second week around Lhasa. We then moved to our base camp, which we reached on October 2. In 2006 the weather proved to be extremely changeable. There was hardly a day without rapid transformations from sunshine to snowfall. On the 4th we went up a 6,000m peak named Bella Vista, where we had some good views of the surroundings. From this vantage point we could see our proposed summit for the following day, a high snowy peak on the horizon. This stood left of the pass leading to the second largest saltwater lake of Tibet, Nam Tso, which lies just north of the Nyanchen Tanglha. Because of its shape, we named the summit Mt. White Cap, or Sha Mo Karpo Ri in Tibetan.

We left base camp at 8:40 a.m. on October 5. The weather was cold, the sky was blue, and there was no sign of clouds. We passed a moraine lake in a steep slope of boulders at the end of the valley, crossed the big silt plain behind the lake, and reached the contorted glacier tongue. The main glacier led up to a pass on the watershed to the north, but we soon left it, following a tributary to the west. Clouds were now beginning to build on the northwest summit (7,162m) of Nyanchen Tanglha, and snow on the glacier reached knee deep.

After several hours trail-breaking between huge crevasses in moderately angled terrain, we arrived at the bottom of the final ridge, which rose north to the summit. In good visibility we slowly climbed the 40-45° ridge in deep snow, arriving on the summit at 3:50 p.m. GPS measurements gave the height as 6,261m and the location as N 30° 22,641', E 90° 30,015'. For a few minutes we could see our route across the glacier, but then we were shrouded in mist, and it started to snow. We started descending, but soon the tracks disappeared, so our GPS did the route-finding until we reached the main glacier, where visibility was sufficient for us to find our way back to base camp. We reached the tents at 7 p.m. in falling snow and windy conditions. Next day the weather was perfect, with no sign of there having been a storm, apart from a 10cm covering of fresh snow.

After several foiled attempts on 7,117m Nyanchen Tanglha Central (GPS N 30° 22,218', E 90° 35,181') we finally reached the summit at 5:30 p.m. on October 12 after a one-day marathon. We left base camp at 6 a.m. and returned at 9:30 p.m., having followed the normal route on the southwest ridge, which has a vertical gain of ca 1,850m. We had good conditions but in the upper part found the trail breaking hard going in deep snow. During our descent we once again had to rely on the GPS for short sections, because of the wind and mist.

Christian Haas, Austria