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Asia, Tibet, Kangri Garpo Range, Lhagu Glacier, Ski Expedition and Probable First Ascent of Pt. 5,928m

Lhagu Glacier, ski expedition and probable first ascent of Pt. 5,928m. In the past our Silver Turtle Group, composed of elderly mountaineers, has climbed several 8,000m peaks. More recently we have been concentrating on unexplored regions, notably the Lhagu Glacier in the Kangri Garpo Range of southeast Tibet. The Lhagu has the largest surface area of any glacier in Tibet and appears to be retreating quite fast. We first visited the glacier in 2000 but were not able to progress very far up it. We returned in 2001 and 2002 but were still not able to make much progress due to poor conditions and soft snow. As we had only snowshoes and crampons, walking proved difficult.

In 2006 we planned to ascend the glacier on skis and finish our exploratory work. The expedition comprised Takeo Honjo (64, leader), Kaneshige Ikeda (67), Haruhisa Kato (62), Isamu Moriyama (67), and Hiroshi Sagano (61). We drove from Lhasa to Rawu via Bomi, finding the Sichuan-Tibet highway vastly improved, with most of it paved. On October 21 we set up a temporary base camp near Dapa Bridge on the way from Rawu to Lhagu village. Three days with horses took us to a base camp at 4,730m on the moraine of the Lhagu Glacier, where the yak trails ended.

On the 27th we established Camp 1 at 5,200m in a crevassed zone of the glacier, and Camp 2 at 5,260m. All the time we followed the north bank; in 2000 we had tried to go up the south. Above Camp 2 we decided to split into two groups: one would try to reach the headwaters of the glacier, while the other would try some nearer peaks.

On the 31st we were blessed with fine weather (in the autumn of 2006 the weather in this region was much better than normal) and left camp at 8:30 a.m. Unfortunately, although the temperature had fallen to -10°C the previous night, the snow remained unexpectedly soft, and ski tracks were still 10cm deep. Ikeda and Sagano skied up toward the glacier head and, after identifying surrounding peaks from a point just before the watershed with the Midoi Glacier. Meanwhile Kato and Moriyama headed up toward the 6,260m peak of Hamokongga on the northern rim, a little farther west of Camp 2 and skied up a 5,928m peak called Snow Dome.

By November 2 all members had returned to base camp, having enjoyed continuously fine weather since arriving on the glacier. The following day, as we waited for horses, Honjo suddenly became ill. His breathing became difficult, and after 15 minutes he lost consciousness. After a further 15 minutes his pulse stopped, and he passed away. There had been no time to perform even emergency measures.

Several photographs accompanying this report show some of the unclimbed peaks on the southern rim toward the head of the glacier.

Kaneshige Ikeda, Japan