Himalayan Journal vol.24
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.24

Publication year:
1963

Editor:
Dr K. Biswas
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. THE ASCENT OF JANNU
    (Pierre Leroux)
  3. ASCENT OF NUPCHU
    (SASUKE NAKAO)
  4. EVEREST; 1962
    (SUMA.N DUBEY)
  5. TRANSPORT AND SHERPAS ON MOUNT EVEREST, 1963
    (J. O. M. ROBERTS)
  6. PUMORI -THE DAUGHTER MOUNTAIN (23,442 FEET)
    (GERHARD LENSER)
  7. THE NETHERLANDS HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION TO CENTRAL WEST-NEPAL, 1962
    (P. VAN LOOKEREN CAMPAGNE)
  8. DHAULA HIMAL
    (JAMES ROBERTS)
  9. THE JAGDULA EXPEDITION, 19621
    (DENISE EVANS)
  10. MANA-NILGIRI EXPEDITION, 1962
    (Captain S. N. DUBEY)
  11. A CAMPING TRIP TO THE HIMALAYA, 1960
    (DR. W. HAMBERGER)
  12. ITALIAN EXPEDITION TO THE PUNJAB HIMALAYAS, 1961
    (PAOLO CONSIGLIO)
  13. THE ASCENTS OF INDRASAN AND DEO TIBBA
    (PROF. DR. K. ONODERA)
  14. KHINYANG CHHISH, 1962
    (DR. P. J. HORNIBLOW)
  15. SWAT AND INDUS KOHISTAN
    (TREVOR BRAHAM)
  16. BRITISH-SOVIET PAMIRS EXPEDITION, 1962
    (SIR JOHN HUNT)
  17. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  18. OBITUARY
  19. BOOK REVIEWS
  20. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
  21. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1962-63
  22. THE HIMALAYAN CLUB

ASCENT OF NUPCHU

SASUKE NAKAO

On April 17, 1962, we left Darjeeling for Nepal. Two lorries and one Land Rover were engaged to carry the baggage and to transport some members of the expedition including the liaison officer from the Nepal Government. The party proceeded through Sukia- pokhari where we encountered the usual problems that arise before travellers are permitted to pass into Nepal, even for the purposes of carrying out a scientific expedition. After completing Customs, the party entered into Nepal and halted for one day near the village of Pashupati.

The expedition was organized by the University of Osaka Prefecture. The eight basic members included: S. Nakao, botanist and leader; K. Nishioka, botanist and deputy leader; T. Yasuda, entomologist; T. Tsubaki, soil chemist; M. Nukada, soil chemist; F. Nishida, ranger of Japanese National Parks; M. Hirano, university student, and T. Kano, university student. Mrs. S. Nishioka, wife of K. Nishioka, paid her own expenses and was allowed to join the expedition at Darjeeling. Mr. B. P. Parajuli, liaison officer appointed by the Nepal Government, joined the expedition at Kathmandu. Four Sherpas were also recruited at Kathmandu. They were Chotale as sirdar and Ha Tenzing as cook and Hlakpa Tsering and Ang Pasang as ordinary Sherpas.

Since we were well informed about the conditions in the eastern part of the Nepal Himalayas because of the basic work by Sir Joseph Hooker in this area, we decided to carry out scientific research in the north-eastern part of the Nepal Himalayas. For this purpose, we selected Nupchu which is a moderate peak, 7,028 metres high, on the border of Tibet and Nepal. A Swiss expedition in 1949 had attempted to scale Nupchu from the Tibetan side, but they were forced to turn back after reaching a height of 6,800 metres, so it was considered to be a virgin peak.1
The shortest route to the Base Camp in Kangbachen is along the Phalut ridge which is the natural boundary separating Nepal and India ; however, because of the political situation, it was impossible for foreigners to follow this route at that time. Therefore, we were forced to go by way of Ham which required two and a half days' journey. After reaching Ilam Bazar, we sought out the Commissioner who happened to be Puma Singh with whom I had become acquainted when he was the Bara Hakim of Pokhara in 1953.

1 See H.J., Vol. XVI, p. 25.

We discovered that all the districts which we would visit during our expedition were under his supervision, and after enjoying a reunion celebration, we proceeded on our way with introductions to his subordinate local officers as well as helpful advice. We proceeded due north from Ilam and after three days crossed Maha- barat Lekh after which we camped on the ridge of Bhanjyang. The next morning at daybreak we were able to see both Mt. Kangchen- junga and towering Mt. Everest. It is one of the most impressive sights in the Himalayas. We were also surprised by the stately shape of the Sharphu mountains just west of Mt. Jannu.

We descended to the Tamur river and, after crossing another hill, we descended to Kabeli Khola. After three days' journey going up- stream, we reached Yambodin, the last village along the Kabeli. From here our party ascended Deorali Bhanjyang to Helock on the Tamur main stream. For this purpose the party was divided into three groups. The first group was a small advance party sent out to reconnoitre Nupchu, led by K. Nishioka. The main body of the expedition had to be in two groups because of the difficulties in replenishing our porters at Yambodin. It was always drizzling in the Bhanjyang which was gorgeously adorned by big trusses of scarlet Rhododendron barbatum and pink R. hodgsonii.

As our three parties crept along the narrow path on the grassy cliff, west of the Char Chu river to Khunsa, we were told by the local people that the French Jannu party had conquered the summit. Nishioka's advance party met them on the village greens just outside of Khunsa, while they were relaxing after their brilliant success. Thanks to the kindness of the French party, our team's Sherpas was strengthened by adding five acclimatized Sherpas from their party. They were Ang Namgyal, Tsepaley, Ang Phurba, Aug Tsering and Ajeeba. The main body of our expedition including baggage gathered at the Kangbachen Base Camp on May 8 while the advance reconnaissance party proceeded up the Nupchu Glacier.

There was no alternative route to Nupchu except the one through the Nupchu Glacier. The map prepared by the Swiss expedition in 1949 showed the presence of a long glacier more than half the length of the valley extending from Nupchu to Kangbachen. However, the upper part of the glacier was omitted from the map. The reconnaissance party found that in reality the glacier only extended to the end of the valley, just below a high icy mountain. It was difficult to pick out Nupchu Peak from the numerous surrounding icy mountains. Moreover, they could not be sure which glacier would lead to Nupchu Peak. The special Base Camp was set up at the foot of the moraine hills of the main glacier. Two parties consisting of young members and Sherpas were sent out for further reconnaissance purposes but they could not provide a final conclusive decision because of the ever-roaming clouds which blocked their observations. Nevertheless, they hastily advanced Camp I to a location which eventually turned out to be the wrong route. Hoping the peak which they had glimpsed through the cloud window was the real Nupchu, they had set up Camp I. The high altitude affected the physical condition of our members and one after another they retreated to the Kangbachen Base Camp. Wrong Camp I was left by itself on the ice.

We intentionally had a leisurely rest at the Base Camp in order to get physically acclimatized to the high altitude. The rest which was taken after a short stay at higher altitudes proved to be effective. In the meantime the results of the reconnaissance party and the information from other sources were analysed at the Base Camp. It was concluded that the broad peak behind the final main glacier was Nupchu. It was evident that the dry moraine hills and the ends of the white glacier of Nupchu were separated by steep rock cliffs and by a few frozen lakes. Luckily we discovered one moraine bridge leading up to the white glacier plateau of Nupchu. Now the climbing route was finally decided.

On May 14, we resumed the ascent of Nupchu. Sherpas and yaks hired from the Kangbachen village were engaged to carry loads to the special Base Camp. The first task after reaching the special Base Camp was to regain the climbing gear from wrong Camp I. The task was turned over to sirdar Chotale and he accomplished it in one day with the aid of five eager Sherpas. On the same day Nishioka, Nukada, Tsubaki along with Ang Phurba advanced to the spot of new Camp I. The first gentle slope of white ice was chosen as the camp site.

The next day new Camp I was set up by Tsubaki, Nishida and Ang Phurba. All remained there and they instantly reported their condition as good to the special Base Camp by transistor transmitters. These transmitters worked very well throughout the ascent of Nupchu and assisted us greatly in our communication between camps. The site of new Camp I could not be said to be safe from an avalanche. The climbers only hoped that a big avalanche would not occur during their presence. Even the special Base Camp was not completely safe. On the night of the 15th at 8 p.m. the roar of a big avalanche on the western ridge of Nupchu was heard. Seven seconds later a strong wind carrying pulverized ice lashed our camp. It passed over the moraine hills and like a violent blizzard it raged and smashed our special camp. The kitchen tent and two Sherpa tents were blown down and the area around the camp was left a cover of wide, white ice-grains. No one was hurt and after a few minutes the Sherpas recovered from their fear and began to joke with each other in their usual pleasant temper.

Nupche (7,028 m.) in centre, the Nupche valley in below and the side of Sharphu left

Nupche (7,028 m.) in centre, the Nupche valley in below and the side of Sharphu left



Jannu (7,710 m.) and its western satellites, from the north

Jannu (7,710 m.) and its western satellites, from the north



On May 18, the party proceeded to another camp. The main stream of the rather moderate slanting Nupchu Glacier filled the wide valley but its surface was full of ice shelves and crevasses. From afar it looked like an ice plateau but in reality it was a moderate ice-fall. The new Camp I was a little to the western side, but the final ascent to the top had to be made from the eastern side. There was a discontinuous rock ridge which projected up in the middle of the ice-fall. It was not so conspicuous and in many points covered by ice. At about 6,000 metres altitude we took an eastern direction and passed some ice before reaching the base of the exposed big rock cliff on the eastern ridge of Nupchu. The seracs gave us no difficulty but the hidden crevasses were so numerous that two of us would have fallen into one except for the aid of nylon ropes. Camp II was pitched at an altitude of about 5,900 metres.

Nishida, Tsubaki and Chotale first tried to open a route up Nupchu's main eastern ridge. They climbed up to a point near the twin pointed minor peak and Nishida, after strenuous efforts, cut a hole through the hanging snow on the border ridge with his ice-axe. He pushed his head out through the hole and got a glance of the Tibetan landscape, then retreated. Since this route was too difficult for the burdened Sherpas, the following day Nishida and Chotale again started out to find another route. They first crossed a wide crevasse, then traversed the snow band on the big rock cliff, and finally reached a steep narrow ice gully. The gully was at that time in the path of incessant thin surface avalanches from the upper ice face which streamed through the gully like a waterfall. The bottom of the gully was hard ice and slanted at an angle between 40 and 50 degrees. After almost a day's labour at this altitude, they succeeded in fixing a rope 200 metres in length through this gully pelted by an unending series of avalanches.

On May 20, Tsubaki and Chotale set up Camp II. Ang Namgyal, Hlakpa Tsering and Ang Phurba followed them with the equipment of Camp III. Tsubaki and Chotale climbed the gully quickly with the aid of the fixed rope and reached the border ridge (camp place) after a few hours. Tsubaki and Chotale continued without difficulty along the border ridge which led to the summit of Nupchu. The summit was a sharply cut knife ice ridge which they attained at 11 a.m. They returned to Camp II at 1 p.m.

The next day Nukada, Nishida, Hirano and Kano alternately trod on the summit of Nupchu and in the evening Nishioka from Camp I quickly ascended to the summit at 6.15 p.m. Ang Namgyal and Ang Phurba also reached the top of Nupchu. After one night at Camp III, Nishioka again ascended to the top of Nupchu at 6.20 a.m. in order to photograph the surrounding landscape. Among the grand views of the giant peaks of Nepal, the unknown Sharphu group was especially remarkable. At least one peak among them seemed almost surely to be higher than Nupchu, so an unrecorded 7,000 metre peak was discovered.

After completing the ascent of Nupchu our party was divided for their respective research purposes and each travelled in different directions. Nukada and Tsubaki visited Pangpema on the Kangchenjunga Glacier before starting their journey back to Japan. Nishida, Hirano and Kano went on to Lhonak and Tsissima Glaciers and then after one month visited the Yalung Glacier.

On June 24, all the remaining members gathered at Walungchung Gola, and on August 1, all the expedition members began the descent to Biratnagar leaving only Mr. and Mrs. Nishioka behind for further botanical and anthropological research. The latter two arrived in Japan on November 29.