Himalayan Journal vol.43
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.43

Publication year:
1987

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. THE ASCENT OF KULA KANGRI FROM TIBET
    (PROF KAZUMASA HIRAI)
  2. EDITORIAL
  3. KANGCHENJUNGA CLIMBED IN WINTER
    (ANDRZEJ MACHNIK)
  4. GYACHUNGKANG, 1986
    (LT COL JEAN-CLAUDE MARMIER)
  5. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MERA
    (MAL DUFF)
  6. DHAULAGIRI 1984-85
    (ADAM BILCZEWSKI)
  7. DHAULAGIRI I EAST FACE
    (STANE BELAK AND MARJAN KREGAR)
  8. FIRST ASCENT OF SULI TOP
    (RAMAKANT S. MAHADIK)
  9. AN INDO-FRENCH MOUNTAIN ROUND-UP
    (COLONEL BALWANT S. SANDHU)
  10. POLICEMEN IN KEDAR BAMAK
    (P. M. DAS)
  11. INDO -SWEDISH EXPEDITION TO MERU 1986
    (MANDIP SINGH SOIN)
  12. A VERY MODEST MOUNTAIN
    (EMLYN THOMAS)
  13. BASPA AND ROPA, 1986
    (M. H. CONTRACTOR)
  14. A NOTE ON KINNAUR
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  15. MENTHOSA; ALMOST
    (ALOKE SURIN)
  16. SIA KANGRI, 1986
    (MAJOR K. V. CHERIAN)
  17. SASER KANGRI III 1986
    (S. P. CHAMOLI)
  18. THE SOSBUN GLACIER BASIN
    (LINDSAY GRIFFIN)
  19. 1986 BRITISH K2 EXPEDITION
    (DAVE WILKINSON)
  20. AN ATTEMPT ON GASHERBRUM III, 1985
    (GEOFF COHEN)
  21. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  22. IN MEMORIAM
  23. BOOK REVIEWS
  24. CORRESPONDENCE
  25. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1986

THE ASCENT OF KULA KANGRI FROM TIBET

PROF KAZUMASA HIRAI

Kobe University Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition to Tibet 1986
IN 1958, a Japanese botanist, Prof. S. Nakao, had a chance to enter Bhutan and took a photograph of a very beautiful and gigantic mountain from Melakarchung la. This was probably the first time that Kula Kangri was photographed. Indeed it had been surveyed by Bailey and Mead in 1922, but its picture had not been seen for a very long time. Later, in 1963, Swiss geologist Prof A. Ganser introduced the peak in his book Geology of the Bhutan Himalaya.1 Any mountaineer who looks at these pictures, would be moved by its beauty and majesty. Since then, however, neither a mountaineering nor a scientific party has visited this mountain and it had been left unexplored for a long time.

After the first ascent of Sherpi Kangri (7380 m) in 1976,2 we took Namcha Barwa (7756 m) or Kula Kangri (7554 m) as the next objectives and began to negotiate with the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) in the beginning of 1978. At that time, however, we had not enough information about the mountaineering organization in China and groped in the dark. Fortunately I got an opportunity to join the delegation of the Faculty of Engineering of Kobe University to China in 1980 and to meet with Shi Zhan Chun, the vice president of CMA (at that time). Since this first meeting with him, I often met him and we became good friends. Our objective was forced to change again and again, finally, the permission to scale Kula Kangri was given at the end of December 1984. It had indeed been a patient and tenacious effort lasting 7 years.

Next thing we had to do was to get the permission for scientific investigation and survey in the region of East Tibet and Sichuan. From Lhasa to Chengdu there is a road called Chuan-Zang road, which was first constructed in 1954. This road crosses the upper stream of the Salween, Mekong, and Yangtse and passes several mountain ranges over 4500 m. Since the time when F. M. Bailey (in 1913) and K. Ward (in 1923) had explored a part of these regions, no foreigner has been allowed to enter these areas to do any scientific investigation or even to travel. It was also my long cherished dream to explore these regions and to travel from Lhasa to Chengdu along the Chuan-Zhang road. Very luckily I had a chance to meet the main members of Academica Sinica at Beijing and the Tibet Mountaineering Association in the summer of 1985. By the help of these friends I could resolve many obstacles and finally, at the end of 1985, the permission to carry out scientific investigation and to pass through from Lhasa to Chengdu arrived. The expedition party consisted of: myself as the chief Leader, 12 climbers (leader: T. Okaichi), (climbing leader: T. Ogata), 8 scientists (leader: Prof C. Naito), 4 TV and newspaper reporters, and, in addition, 17 Chinese including 5 climbers and 4 scientists of Academica $inica. All Japanese climbers were selected from the old boys and students of Kobe University Alpine Club and the scientists from the staff of Kobe University.

1. Birkhaser Verlag, Basel, 1983.

2. H.J. Vol. XXXV, p. 254.-Ed.

Photos 25 to 29 Frontispiece
Ascent of Kula Kangri
Immediately after getting the permission of Kula Kangri, we despatched a reconnaissance party consisting of 3 members, T Ogata, H. Hasegawa, and H. Ozaki, in April 1985. They explored the northern region of this mountain and reached upto 5700 m. Two possible routes to the summit could be considered. One was the west and the other the east ridge. The former is short but steep and difficult, while the latter is too long and avalanche-prone. After a long discussion, we decided to challenge the west ridge.

On 12 March 1986 all members, 25 Japanese and 17 Chinese, gathered together in Lhasa. By using 3 trucks, 2 jeeps, and 2 minibuses, we arrived at the base camp at 4450 m on 17 March. It was pretty cold and a freezing wind blew continuously. By using yaks and horses, the load was transported in the following 5 days to the advanced base camp (ABC) at 5300 m, which was set up besides the frozen glacier lake. In the meantime, some members pitched Camp 1 at 5700 m in the upper basin of the Kula Kangri glacier. The route from ABC to CI is very long and hard to walk especially on the tongue of the glacier. For this section, 5 young Chinese climbers devoted themselves to carry load. It is about 20 km from BC to CI, from where the west ridge begins.

The route to the west ridge was barred by a steep ice wall of c. 400 m. After 5 days strenuous efforts against violent wind we could manage to negotiate the wall by fixing ropes. Part of this wall was at nearly 70 degrees. Almost every day a violent wind blew and we could climb only for a short period when the wind subsided. On 1 April C2 was finally pitched at 6200 m on the west ridge. The west ridge rises step-wise from C2, and it has many steep cliffs and a number of crevasses. On 11 April Camp 3 was set up at 6800 m.

It had been already known by the report of the reconnaissance party that a rock face about 70 m high was located at c. 7000 m (about 300 m from C3) and it would be the most difficult obstacle to the summit. Fortunately we could circumvent it on the Bhutan side and, after traversing 250 m, a steep snow slope to the summit ridge was found. The final camp was pitched at 7100 m.

On 21 April the assault party consisting of Itani, Sakamoto, Ozaki, and Ohtani, departed from C4 at 10.00 a.m. (Beijing time). The weather was fine, while it was very bad the day before. The temperature was about - 30 °C. By negotiating the ice-slope of 40 degrees covered by a little snow, they reached the summit ridge at noon. From here the knife ridge continued to the summit. A huge cornice on the ridge threatened them. The wind was gentle. All members in BC, ABC, and other camps watched them and made contact by transceivers. At 4.15 p.m. they succeeded in reaching the summit of Kula Kangri, 7554 m. The summit was so small that two persons could not both stand on it at the same time. They stayed there about an hour. They enjoyed the splendid panorama. Especially the view of the Bhutan Himalaya including Gankerpun-sum (7541 m) could be seen. They returned back to C3 at 8.30 p.m.

The next day, 22 April, the second assault party of Morinaga and Hasegawa, also succeeded to climb the summit. They reached the summit at 2.15 p.m. and returned back to C3 at 6.30 p.m. Very luckily the wind did not blow and it was fine on both these two days. All members returned back to BC on 28 April and to Lhasa on 6 May.

From Lhasa to Chengdu
On 15 April the natural scientists, Prof Naito and 3 other Japanese together with 4 Chinese scientists, had already left BC for Chengdu. Using 3 jeeps and a truck, they went down along the Yaluzangbu river. They approached the foot of Namcha Barwa and returned to Linzhi to joint the Chuan-Zang road. They pursued their investigation along this road to Chengdu. They took 54 days from BC to Chengdu. The other 17 members, Japanese and Chinese, departed Lhasa on 10 May by using a jeep and a bus. The following is the diary of this party.

May 10: Lhasa to Gbngbujianda. Soon after starting from Lhasa, the road was partly under construction and we were forced to make a detour. Furthermore, our jeep and bus suffered punctures several times. If there were no such mishaps, it is possible to reach Linzhi from Lhasa in a day.

May 11: Gonbujianda to Linzhi. We stayed at Linzhi 2 days, and visited the Tibet Agriculture and Livestock Breeding college. May 13: Linzhi to Bomi. From Seqilla (4320 m) we expected to see Namcha Barwa and Gyala Peri. However, it was cloudy and snowy and we could not see anything. Descending about 2000 m from the pass, we had to pass a dangerous place between Dongjiu and Tongmai, where there are always landslides and a rockslides Just after we had passed this place, the following 2 trucks were hit by a rockslide and fell into the river. Traffic in this place is very often blocked. Bomi is a paradise. Apple and peach blossom, lovely forests, friendly people, and a beautiful landscape of gigantic mountains around, all refreshed us.

May 17: Bomi to Basu. The road was buried by an avalanche at places. The red and white rhododendrons were in full bloom. After crossing Anjiu la (4400 m), the woodland disappeared and a dry and sandy land presented itself.

May 18: Basu to Zuogong. After an hour after departure we crossed the Lu-jian (Salween) by a small bridge. The stream is muddy and violent. After passing Dongda la (5000 m), the road branches to the north and the south. The road to the north leads to Changdu. We took the road to the south.

May 19: Zuogong to Batang. Today we crossed two big rivers, the Langchang-jian (Mekong) and the Jinsha-jian (Yangtse). The Jinsha-jian is wide and not so violent compared with the other two rivers. We stayed at Batang 2 days.

May 21: Batang to Yajian, We enjoyed the finest landscape in this route. Many unnamed peaks over 5-6000 m seen from the Litan plain attracted us very much. Today we travelled about 340 km, the longest distance in a day.

May 22: Yajian to Kangding. From Xingdu qiao the road is paved. Many gigantic peaks such as Minya Konka in the Daxue range could be seen. May 23: Kangding to Luding.

May 25: Luding to Yaan. At Yaan we could meet again with the advanced scientific party. They could successfully investigate and survey in several fields along the Chuan-Zang road. May 28: Yaan to Chengdu.

Sketch Map of Kula Kangri

Sketch Map of Kula Kangri



Illustration of the route

Illustration of the route



Frontispiece: Kula Kangri from Tibet.  (Prof K. Hirai)

Frontispiece: Kula Kangri from Tibet. (Prof K. Hirai)



Gankerpunsum (7541 m) south face from Camp 3.

Gankerpunsum (7541 m) south face from Camp 3.



Unnamed Peaks (c. 6000 m) near Ranwu lake between Bimi and Basu.

Unnamed Peaks (c. 6000 m) near Ranwu lake between Bimi and Basu.



Unnamed peak (c. 6000 m) between Litang plain and Batang.

Unnamed peak (c. 6000 m) between Litang plain and Batang.



Minya Konka range from Zheduo shan near Kangding.

Minya Konka range from Zheduo shan near Kangding.