In West Mustang, on the border with Tibet, lies Araniko Chuli (6,034m). The name is not Tibetan, so who christened this peak and why? This is a bizarre story of alpinism in which mysterious characters cross paths over the centuries. It begins with Araniko, also known as Arniko or Anige Jing. Born in 1245, he was one of the greatest Nepalese artists. Araniko was also a resident in the court of the Mongol emperor Khubi- lai Khan. We also have Ekai Kawaguchi, a Japanese Buddhist monk and scholar, who traveled through Mustang on his way to Tibet in 1899. Kawaguchi dreamed of studying the sacred texts of Buddhism within Tibet, although the country was off-limits to foreigners at the turn of the 20th Century [Kawaguchi became the first foreigner to enter Tibet, reaching Lhasa from Nepal. On route he stayed in Mustang for nearly a year studying Tibetan language and a local sect of Tibetan Buddhism. He eventually reached Tibet in the summer of 1990 via Jomsom, Sangda, Chharka, and a high pass in Dolpo].
A century later, in 2002, the Japanese mountaineer and explorer Tamotsu “Typhoon” Ohnishi, set off for the interior of Mustang to follow in the footsteps of Kawaguchi. His aim was to explore the region and climb Araniko Chuli (6,034m), which he did by the rocky southwest ridge [On this expedition Ohnishi followed Kawaguchi as far as Sangda, then headed north over several high passes. He returned in 2003 for more exploration of the area with a different group, some of whom made the second ascent of the peak]. Then there is Kenneth Bauer, an American anthropologist, whose work highlighting the changes taking place in Dolpo sheds a different light on the Oscar-nominated cult film Caravan, by Eric Valli. Bauer made me want to see what it was really like in Chharka, a small West Mustang village “at the end of the world.” In the fall of 2009 I set off to continue my explorations of the “Lost Valley” of Nepal. After our 2008 trek from Mustang to Phu—the “incredible journey” (AAJ 2009, p. 324)— Dolpo to Mustang represented the impossible journey, because of the complexity of securing permits to get through these two regions. However, thanks to the permit we eventually obtained to climb Araniko Chuli, we were able to link Chharka to Dolpo to Lo Manthang to Mustang, by a new, captivating route. Just the descent into Lo itself is worth the journey.
We made our long trek in a roundtrip from Jomsom, which we gained by air. After reaching Chharko, we trekked northeast toward our mountains but gave up thoughts of trying to climb Araniko Chuli from the south; it is simply a horrible pile of scree. Instead, Frank Bonhomme, Jocelyn Chavy, Denis Flaven, Gyalzen Sherpa, and I climbed Peak 6,025m, a few kilometers along the ridge running south from Araniko. We ascended easy snow slopes on the north-northwest face and named the peak Anige Chuli. Bonhomme, Gyalzen, and I also climbed Peak 6,060m, east of Araniko, naming it Typhoon Peak as a tribute to Ohnishi. It is still not clear whether one of Ohnishi’s two expeditions climbed Anige Chuli, but we found a cairn on the summit. Later a Spanish team led by Jesus Calleja visited the area, decided not to attempt Araniko, but instead climbed Anige Chuli, which they named Pico Cuatro for a TV company that provided sponsorship. At the time they were seemingly unaware of our ascent. We continued our trek northeast, crossing the Kekyap La before descending to Lo Manthang and following the well-traveled route south through Mustang to Jomsom.
My website provides information on a potential route up Araniko by its northeast side (www.paulogrobel.com/05_expes/Fiches_PDF/araniko_2009/araniko_2.htm).
There will be an aesthetic approach, with a large glacier and a new “Very Lost Valley.”
(Translated by Todd Miller)