THE ASCENT OF SERKU DHOLMA AND EXPLORATION OF THE EAST AND SOUTHEAST AREAS OF PHOKSUMDO TAL, 1973
EIJI KAWAMURA, M.D.
A Record of the Kitasato University Expedition to Kanjiroba Himal
THE Kitasato University Himalayan Expedition arrived in northwestern Nepal after the 1973 monsoon season and subsequently carried out the first successful ascent of Serku Dholma in the Kanjiroba Himal.
As an additional part of its programme, the expedition also surveyed the hitherto unexplored east and southeast areas of Phoksumdo Tal, and also conducted a medical study of the living conditions, ailments, etc., of people living in remote areas.
Of these many activities, the successful ascent of Serku Dholma and exploration of the two areas of Phoksumdo Tal are described in this report.
An advance party set up a tent on a grassy area near J urn I a Airport and began to recruit porters. At the same time we carried out a study of those persons who gathered for medical examinations and treatment by us.
9 September: Two members of the expedition, Kazuo Yago and Eiken Moriyama, went up Pung Phung Khola with Phurba Tenzing, a Sherpa and eight porters to see whether it was possible to cross Junction Col (tentative name for the pass between Junction Peak and Wedge Peak) and proceed to the Hanging Valley. If they found this to be impossible, they were to try to cross Pung Phung La and then descent to the Phoksumdo Khola. The route they were to follow was as follows: Munigaon - Churta - Barbarla Pass (4125 m.) - Hurikot - Kagmara La - Pung Phung Khola.
Note: Our altimeter was registering about 200 meters low. Therefore, the altitudes recorded by the Kitasato University Expedition are enclosed in parentheses.
12 September: The main party, consisting of four expedition members, two Sherpas, one cook, one kitchen assistant, one liaison officer and 73 porters, left Jumia. Our route was to be Gothichaur Khola - Munigaon - Maure Pass - Chaurikot - Hurikot - Gar- pung Khola - Kagmara La (5115 m.) - Julung Khola - Pung Phung Khola. We were to establish a camp on a grassy area about 30 minutes downstream from the Pung Phung Khola junction.
22 September: The main party joined up with the advance party.
The advance party was able to proceed at a very fast pace and reached a point near our Pung Phung Khola rendezvous site on the evening of 15 September. It was not able to enter the Khola through its mouth but through a lower stream. It then proceeded along a ridge winding to the left and reached a shed for yaks after about three hours. Further, climbing for about 30 minutes brought the party to a rather large lake. The valley here was considerably wider, and there was a sunny area where trees and plants were growing. This was just under the west wall of Kanjeralwa, and the Advance Camp was established here (3970 m.) on 17 September.
There were four lakes in a row further up the valley and another to the east of these. It took about two hours to reach the uppermost lake and another hour and a half to arrive under a moraine where Junction Col and Pung Phung La met. One could reach Pung Phung La, 5322 (5030 m.), by proceeding through the valley on the right for about two hours and then climbing a 20-meter rock wall.
18 September: Moriyama and Phurba Tenzing successfully climbed Pung Phung La.
The knife ridge at the pass was so sharp that if you put your hand on the top, it would oberhang on the other side. Naturally, it was not possible to stand up on the ridge. There was an almost vertical cliff with a 300-meter drop on the Phoksumdo Kho'a side. Tso Karpo Kang and Kang Yaja could be seen to the north, and Tso Karpo directly below. From here, the climb to Junction Peak became extremely difficult. The route to Junction Col started from beneath the moraine mentioned earlier and led off to the left.
This moraine was very steep and quite dangerous to climb as the footing was very uncertain and tended to crumble away easily. There were crevasses near the end of the glacier, and the 5 passage here also was very dangerous, but there were no crevasses at the upper section. After climbing the left snow wall, where patches of bare rock had to be overcome as the party advanced, in addition to a section of about 50 meters where the rocks were brittle, Moriyama and Phurba reached the Junction col (5230 m.) on 21 September. The climb took seven hours from the campsite.
There was barely enough room at the pass to sit down. From here the Hanging Glacier Peaks and Nameless Peak could be seen. Hanging Valley appeared to be very wide, and there were icefails from the side of Nameless Peak going into the valley.
It seemed possible for party members to pass this route but not to transport equipment and supplies.
On the basis of the report by the advance party, the main party unhesitatingly left on a five-day journey along a round-about course towards Phoksumdo Khola.
Our route was Dor jam Khola - Pungmo - Gauli Gad - Ring- mo - Phoksumdo Tal - Phoksumdo Khola.
28 September: We reached the proposed Base Camp site (4395 m.), located about 40 minutes' walk from Tso Karpo, and established it the next day.
Our expedition included the following persons: Eiji Kawamura (leader), Kazuo Yago, Eiken Moriyama, Mitsuhiro Kikuchi, Hiromi Ichikawa, and Morihiro Takechi, B. N. Rana (liaison officei^).
Sherpas: Anu (Sirdar), Dorje, Phurba Tenzing, Namgyal, and Ang Nima.
29 September: Snow began following in the evening and continued to do so for ten consecutive days. During this period, we carried out preliminary reconnaissance and unpacked our equipment and supplies.
6 October: We established our Advance BC on the south glacier at an altitude of 4980 m.
When the snowdrifts became deep, we established a supply depot in a rock cave midway between our BC and ABC.
We were, however, blessed with fine weather from 14 October.
Our route from the ABC was along the left flank of the south glacier.
15 October: We established Camp I at 5200 m. From this point it was possible to have a panoramic view of the main, north, east and southeastern sides of the Nameless Peak. The entire side of the high-soaring east wall was covered with gigantic creases, and it was not possible to discover a climbing route.
We decided to make our climb through the col (tentatively named Phoksumdo La) between the North Peak and the Tso Karpo Kang.
The snow wall rose for 300 meters at an angle of about 70 degrees, and at the top was a series of five snow caves, each measuring 2.5 meters in length, 3 meters in thickness and 50 meters in width. Directly underneath was a snow band running lengthwise on which a person could walk standing up. There were constant small avalanches.
16 October: Two members of our party and two Sherpas left to seek a climbing route. It took them four hours to reach the band under the snow caves. On the side toward the rock peak, areas of thin ice were discovered, and one of the members made the climb up. The remaining three began their climb from a point a little more toward the middle and succeeded in getting to the top of a col. The following day, a new snow route was dug in order to establish a straight climbing route for the snow wall.
21 October: We established Camp II (5480 m.) at the top of this col. Looking to the west from this point, we could see two moraines which stretched like a pair of rails along both sides of North Hanging Valley (tentative name). Sitting solidly directly in front of this valley was the main peak of Kanjiroba. On its east side, there was, as could have been expected, an awe-inspiring ice wall.
On the basis of the report by our survey party which had proceeded down below North Hanging Valley, we found that the end of the northwest ridge of Hanging Glacier Peaks cut off sharply from the North Hanging Valley, and it did not seem possible that we could proceed further. It then appeared that a climb up the east wall of the northwest ridge was possible even though there was the danger of snowslides.
If we were to attempt to reach Hanging Glacier Peaks from the col between Flanging Glacier Peaks and Nameless Peak, we would face very great difficulties as the ridge was knife edged and there were large icefalls at the upper end.
To reach the lower part of the northwest ridge, it was necessary to proceed down North Hanging Valley. However, we learned it would be impossible to proceed along this route since there were very difficult icefalls, ice-towers and irregular, chopped-up crevasses. In addition, the end of this glacier was cut off by a vertical drop along its entire edge, and it would be impossible to go beyond this point.
On the other hand, while the conditions observed at the east and west walls of Nameless Peak made it apparent that we could not climb there, we saw that if we could successfully reach the northwest ridge of the peak, there were good possibilities that we could climb to the top from there.
25 October: We established Camp III (5600 m.) just below the north wall of the north peak.
28 October: We decided that Moriyama, Takechi and Anu Sherpa would comprise the first team to attempt to reach the summit.
Almost the entire upper section of the north face of the north peak was covered with icefalls. Our plans were to climb from the left and then traverse to the right in going up to the top of the northwest ridge.
29 October: Ichikawa, Dorje and Phurba reached the summit of the north peak (5915 m.) by working up this route.
Moriyama, Takechi and the Sirdar established Camp IV on the northwest ridge (5815 m.) and made preparations for the final assault to be made the following day.
30 October: The three members who were at Camp IV succeeded in making the first ascent to the summit. The detailed description of the climb will be quoted from the notes prepared by Moriyama:
"Arose at 4-30. Temperature:-18° C. Clear skies. Can hear the wind outside the tent. Departure at 8-30. Reached the summit of the north peak in about one hour. At the base of the main peak are snow-filled crevasses and further beyond is a small ice wall. Going over this wall, we reach a ridge, where we suddenly find ourselves having to make our way through snow which came up almost to our chests. But then the ridge turned to the left, and from here on, the snow has a hard crust and our cramp- ton are very effective. Step by step, we kick our feet in until we reach the summit.
It is dazzling so we cannot see clearly, but ahead there seems to be a peak. Then from the top of that peak, we see a slightly higher place about 50 meters ahead. That is the actual summit of this peak. We tie the national flags of Nepal and Japan and our expedition flag to our ice-axe. At 11-29 our three members reached the summit.
From the summit, we took a panoramic photograph giving a complete, 360-degree view. After a period of rest, we leave the summit and start downward on the side facing of the Hanging Valley to make exploratory studies. We proceed to Camp III, where the main party is waiting for us."
Plans for the assaults by the second and third climbing parties were cancelled in view of the very great dangers which are apparent in the unstable conditions of the icefalls along the routes, they were to follow on their scheduled routes to the summit.
We named this summit which we had reached "Serku Dholma," which are local Tibetan words. Serku means golden statute, and Dholma is the name of the goddess in the Kanjiroba Himal who is worshipped by the people living in this region.
Survey of East and Southeast Sides of Phoksumdo Tal
10 November: With 43 porters we left Base Camp, began our descent of Phoksumdo Khola and headed for the northern end of Phoksumdo Tal.
After considerable study of how to get to the eastern part of the lake, we finally decided to go by raft since we did not know the route around the eastern shore. The raft was 3.2 meters long and 2 meters wide. One large and one small red nylon sails were prepared, and two oars also were made available.
13 November: Early in the morning, Moriyama and Takechi boarded the raft with 10 days' supplies for two and a cargo of expedition equipment and supplies.
However, a strong southerly wind arose around 11 o'clock and drove the raft ashore near the point of departure. That night, a favourable tail-wind developed, and the raft was able to proceed along its course. Late that night, the raft was guided ashore, and a temporary camp was set up on the beach. The voyage was resumed early the next morning.
A polyethylene tank attached under the right side of the raft had struck a rock and was torn open. As a result, the raft listed sharply to the right, and the two members aboard the raft continued their voyage with one foot each in the cold water.
At 10-30 a.m. the two-man party abroard the raft arrived at their destination, which was the mouth of the Sagar Khola in the valley to the east of the lake.
Details of the exploration from this point on will be quoted from the notes prepared by Moriyama and Takechi:
"From this point we are entering an unexplored area. This Khola is wide and bright. After an hour's walk we reached a point where the Khola divides broadly into two sections. The main valley seems to be the one that turns off to the right, so we made a depot there of our supplies and equipment and then entered the valley that went off to the left. A 30-minute walk led us to a deep gorge which made further progress extremely difficult.
We climbed a rock mountain, and we could see a snowT
-covered mountain of about 5500 meters in height at the upper reaches. Then we turned back toward the depot. It seems that yaks have grazed here during the summer as there were traces of yak droppings and bonfires.
On the next day, 15 November, we left our camp and proceeded up the main valley. After we passed through a forest belt, we came to a deep gorge. The river was 20 meters wide at its widest point and about five meters at its narrowest point. Here and there we found animal trails. We learned later that inhabitants of this area would travel along these trails and apparently were able to reach the northern end of the lake.
Today we had to wade through water 55 times.
On 16 November, after walking for one hour, during which period we repeatedly had to wade through water, we suddenly came out on a wide river beach which divided into two large valleys. We discovered yaks at the upper reaches of the valley to the left. After climbing straight upward for about an hour on the right bank away from the valley, we discovered a large herd of yaks and some Tibetans on the opposite bank.
On reaching the trade road to Tibet (the main road from Manduwa to Do), we wr
ent northward for about 30 minutes and reached a small hill. After a short rest, we returned along this same route. We decided to make a further exploration of the valley where we had made a survey in the morning. We came upon a snow-covered mountain, and we had to walk in snow which came up to our knees. After going ahead for about two and a half hours, we came to a small hill which we climbed, and we could then see the winding, rising course of the valley, but we could not see the col.
We returned to the depot where we had left our supplies and camped there overnight.
On the next day, 17 November, we proceeded along the main course back to the old trade route, and on the right we could see the sharply rising, beautiful snow-covered mountain (about 5500 m.). Here we found yak shelters made from rocks.
We were first able to see Norbu Kang from the upper reaches of this valley. As we proceeded further, the valley suddenly became extremely narrow and was covered with icefalls. A snow- field spread out in front of North Kang, which was a series of three soaring peaks.
After climbing the col (5250 m.) of the beautiful pyramid- shaped mountain on the opposite side, we could see Norbu Kang. The icefalls merged into the snowfield at the upper reaches. On the southern side of the col was a vast snowfield (it is possible that there is no snow here in the summer), and beyond it was Kang Teiga rising sharply. We returned to our depot of supplies near the trade route and made our camp there.
On 18 November, we accidentally came up with the rest of our party led by Kawamura, who had moved eastward from Baga La. We joined forces."
Main Party Heads for the Southeastern Side of Phoksumdo Tal
13 November: In the morning, after seeing the Moriyama party left aboard the raft in the lake, the main group proceeded along the western shore of the lake and then moved southward. After passing Ringmo, the party arrived at Manduwa on 14 November. The following day, Yago, Phurba and the liaison officer headed for Jumla with four porters.
16 November: Kawamura, Ichikawa, the Sirdar, Dorge and five porters set off to expore the southeastern part of the lake. The road that proceeded to Do was well travelled and wide. However, since rain had not fallen here for some time, this region had become very dry, and the dust here was terrible. Since this main party had set forth rather late in the day, it did not go very far before making camp.
17 November: The group proceeded around Manduwa Khola, and after about 15 minutes reached Khang Loong Khola, which flows from Kang Teiga. Kang Teiga (meaning a mountain which looks like a saddle on a horse) is wrapped in snow in the distance, and can be seen from here. The main valley is wide and bright. After walking two hours, we found the trail suddenly turning sharply to the left and then moving upward at a sharp angle, leading to Baga La. The party established its camp just below the starting point of this climb.
18 November: The party headed for Baga La. At a point where the altitude is about 4400 m. the trail became covered with snow, and the river was covered with snow-blanketed ice.At the 4750 meter point, there was a snow valley. The snow was about 40 centimeters deep. Looking back, we found Kang Teiga, conspicuously beautiful. The trail became steeper as the party proceeded, and Baga La could be seen directly ahead. From the peak, large herds of yaks and goats and also a group of young and old men and women could be seen. When we approached this group of people, we found Moriyama and Takechi with them. Thus, our parties joined forces.
From the col and looking northward, we could see the spreading plateau of Tibet in the distance. To the southeast, Norbu Kang soared into view, but we could not see it in its entirety as mountains in the foreground cut off part of the view. We returned to camp by evening.
19 November: We cut across the main valley and climbed the left side of the moraine directly ahead to explore the area known to the people of Ringmo as Chhoi Kyang. This area was near the lake which we reached after walking about two hours. There were a number of small streams flowing across the lake bed. Pacing the lake to measure it, we found that the lake was about 600 meters long from north to south and 330 meters wide from east to west.
To the south of this lake was a series of peaks, the central peak being about 5600 meters high. We decided to call them the Chhoi Kyang Peaks.
There were two valleys to the east of this lake. I explored these two valleys. The southeast valley was narrow and dark. Immediately after entering this valley, I came upon a frozen waterfall and could not proceed beyond it. I thought it might be possible to make a detour around to the right flank, but I did not attempt to go further.
Moriyama later climbed a beautiful, pyramid-like peak 5150 m. in height which was situated nearby. He stated that if I had walked for another hour, I should have arrived at two beautiful lakes known as Chho Lugyelma. This name was given by the local people because the lakes had the appearances of a sheep carrying bags slung over its back.
The frozen eastern valley became even wider and brighter as we moved through it. Along the way, the valley made a large curve to the north and became a gradual upward slope . I believed that this route would eventually take me to the main road from Manduwa to Do, but I did not have time to travel further to confirm this and turned back at the 4800 meter point.
We returned to our camp late that evening.
20 November: We made a one-hour descent and went to Khang Loong Khola after crossing the wooden bridge in order to carry out a survey of Kang Teiga. We proceeded further for an hour along the ice and snow of the valley until we came below Kang Teiga. The avalanche from a valley to the right wr
as very bad. Around it was a section of an icefall, so we could not climb there. At the left was a gorge, and a waterfall, which was frozen, so we could not ascend. (If we had had the proper equipment, it would have been possible to make the climb on either side). On the right bank, we reached a grassy section, which wr
e traversed, but we were not able to go any further. We made a detour and came directly below a rocky peak. The south peak was hidden from view by mountains in the foreground, but we obtained a very good view of the north peak. We mentally drew a map of the route to take to reach its summit, and we felt that if we were able to successfully cross the field of icefall, the climb to the summit would be comparatively easy,
21 November: We returned to Manduwa.
23 November: With 31 porters we began our return trip.
We were not able to go by way of Kammara La because of the snow, so we went by way of Tibrikot and arrived in Jumia on 3 December.
Serku Dholma from about 5,000 m. on Kang Yaja.
View from Pung Phung La
THE EAST ROUTE OF THE PHOKSUMDO TAL