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Asia, India, Ladakh & Zanskar, Pangong Range Reconnaissance; Peak 6,342m (Mt. Maan)

Pangong Range reconnaissance; Peak 6,342m (Mt. Maan). The Pangong Range is just a one-day drive northwest from Leh, crossing Chang La (5,250m). This range includes more than 10 peaks over 6,000m, some of which are still unclimbed. The one problem is getting permission from Indian authorities to enter the Ladakh district of Jammu & Kashmir, so close to the sensitive border with China. Fortunately, in July the Japanese Alpine Club Ishikawa Section obtained climbing permission from IMF after four months of trying, and a traffic permit to the prohibited Pangong Tso area, the first ever given to foreigners, from the local Security Office.

The Pangong Range extends its main crest along the southern shore of Pangong Tso, and the northeast side of the lake gives a good approach to the mountains. Major peaks are Kangu Kangri (6,724m, climbed by an Indian Army Party), Kakstet Kangri (6,461m, probably also climbed by the Indians), Spangmik (6,250m, climbed by Chukyo Alpine Club, Nagoya, Japan), unclimbed peaks such as Mari (6,587m), Harong (6,210m), Tangtse (6,096m), and 12 unnamed peaks. Of these peaks Mari looked the most attractive in shape, altitude, and imagined technical difficulty; therefore we picked it as our target.

On August 3 our seven-member party left Leh, crossed Chang La, and arrived at Maan village on the shore of the Lake Pangong. It was only a half day of driving on a paved road, but due to four time-consuming checkposts, it was midnight when we arrived at the village.

The next day we looked up into the mountains for a good place for our base camp. Because we were the first foreigners, we had no information besides the map, nor any photo identifying our objective. From the map we knew Mt. Mari was out of sight behind the main divide. Gentle scree slopes ran up for some distance and then abruptly steepened. There the wall was cut by seven gorges, some guarded by waterfalls. Judging from the map, Mari seemed located above the fourth glacier from the right, which was hidden behind huge terminal moraines. We pitched base camp at 4,250m on the pasture facing this valley, and Camps 1 (4,746m) and 2 (5,653m) on up the glacier.

On August 11 I went alone to reconnoiter the upper part of the glacier. After several hours of hiking I saw striking twin triangular peaks standing far ahead. Immediately I recognized them as Mt. Mari! I climbed farther and stood on a ridge that divided two valleys. Above a snow flat stood a rock mound 20m high, shaping the 6,342m unnamed peak that we later named Mt. Maan after the village at its foot.

A glance at the sheer ridge connecting the east summit of Mt. Mari with its main west summit (6,587m) made me abandon the idea of following it. Attempting the west summit would require going down to the western glacier basin, then climbing 800m back up its west face. Giving up the idea of climbing Mt. Mari, we changed our plan to bringing all seven of us to the summit of Mt. Maan, which we did on August 14 and 15. On the 16th we sent five porters to C2 to carry all the gear down to BC.

Notes: Maan is a village consisting of approximately 30 families. It is marked “Mari” or “Mun” on some maps, but “Maan” or “Man” is considered correct. Maan means “medicinal herb.” Mari means “red mountain”: Ma means “red,” and Ri means “mountain.” Maps: LADAKH/ZANSKAR (Centre) 1/150,000/Geneve/2005; LEOMANN MAPS INDIAN HIMALAYA MAPS, Sheet-9, Rupsh, Tso Moriri, Pangong Tso 1/200,000/England/2000; INDIA AND PAKISTAN EDITION-2-ANS, NI-499, Pangong Tso 1/250,000/Washington DC/1962.

Rentaro Nishijima, Japanese Alpine Club (translated by Tamotsu Nakamura, Japanese Alpine News)