When flying from Chengdu to Lhasa, you pass over more than 200, 6,000m peaks in the Nyanchen Tanglha East. Nearly all are unclimbed, and many are situated either side of the Yi’ong Tsangpo. In 2010 and 2011 Tibet became more sensitive, and access for foreigners more difficult. The situation went from bad to worse after the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of Tibetan liberation, held in Lhasa in June 2011. Qamdo is now closed, except for Rawu (Largu) Glacier and the Midou Glacier, which are popular tourist spots. In Nyainchi Prefecture foreigners have only been allowed to visit towns along Route 318, the Sichuan-Tibet Highway. This has been strictly controlled by the Public Security Bureau, which has banned foreigners from accessing areas off the highway.
Tsuyoshi Nagai (79), Tadao Shintani (65), and I were issued a permit to visit only towns along the highway. However, to accomplish our objective, a visit to the lower Yi’ong Tsangpo, we couldn’t acquiesce to these restrictions. In the last year and a half a vehicle road has been constructed from Yi’ong village to Bake, and on October 17 we drove directly to Bake, which was originally to be the base for our exploration of surrounding mountains. When we arrived, the PSB ordered our return to Bomi County, the police there overseeing the PSB in Bake. If we had done this, we would never have been allowed to enter the Yi’ong Tsangpo. Our capable Tibetan guide, Awang, proved discreet. We drove back down the valley but turned left up a side branch north of Talu, reaching the roadhead at Wopu Village. Above, the valley leads to the Jiangpu Glacier, the second largest in Nyanchen Tanglha East and home to a number of unvisited 6,000m peaks.
Six days on horseback through Tibetan jungle brought us to a marvelous lookout, where we had magnificent views of unclimbed peaks. After 12 days of clandestine exploration, Awang received a phone call from his agent in Lhasa, explaining that the PSB was nervous about three missing Japanese, who should be reporting to Nyainchi police authorities in Bayichen. When we arrived, the talented Awang made up a consistent and plausible story for our 12 days absence, not mentioning that we had been off Route 318. He was allowed to leave, and we flew to Chengdu on the 30th.