MATHO KANGRI, 1992
MATHO KANGRI I (6230 m) is in the Zanskar range of mountains in Ladakh, some 20 km. from Leh. Seen from Thikse on the other side of the Indus (see diagram and photograph) the icy north face is the most obvious feature between the north and west ridges. The main summit is at the apex of the north face connected to the second summit by the long west ridge. Another long ridge runs eastwards. Maps1"2 show it to be the easternmost peak of the group of mountains separating the Markha valley from the Indus. At the western end is Stok Kangri, a trekking peak of increasing popularity.
The mountain was first climbed in 1985 by the Japanese3 who named it Yan Kangri (Kangri means 'icy peak' in Ladakhi). It was climbed again in 1989 by two Indian parties, using either the north or east ridge, and fixing up to 100 m of rope.4 At this time the peaks were renamed. Yan Kangri became Matho Kangri 1, and the pair of summits on the west ridge, Matho Kangri II. The account also mentions Matho Kangri III and IV, but we were unable to identify these, either on maps or from the summit.
Our expedition had the simple objective of making the first British ascent of the mountain. The team consisted of four British members. M. Ratty (leader), T. Willis, J. Shelley, and A. Rowland. Our other member was Deepak Jhalani, the liaison officer. Although the team was experienced in Alpine climbing, only Michael Ratty and Deepak Jhalani had Himalayan experience. Local knowledge and experience was provided by Phunchok Tangias, a local guide and climber.
The mountain is close to the road, so for acclimatisation we undertook a ten day trek, which effectively circumnavigated the range of mountains of which Matho Kangri is a part. It followed the well trodden route over the Ganda la to Skiu in the Markha valley, and along the valley to Hankar. We climbed to the Nimaling plain, and returned to the Indus valley over the Kongmaru la. Apart from getting everyone used to the altitude, it also provided an opportunity to study the geography of the mountains. For some of the team it was an introduction to a remote and beautiful part of India.
Base camp was established in the Mirutse valley, at 4100 m on 13 August. It is a few hours' easy walk from the roadhead at Matho village, altogether just one day away from the comforts of Leh. The valley has several houses in it, and is used for grazing sheep and goats. The following day, we climbed to a flat area below the north face, and set up advanced base camp (4700 m).
We intended first to climb the mountain via the west ridge, which appeared straightforward, and to follow this with further ascents via the north face or the gullies to either side. That same day, Trevor Willis and Deepak Jhalani continued to the col on the west ridge, where they set up a tent at 5300 m. Cl was intended to provide rest during future descents, and useful acclimatisation. The route to the col follows a gully descending from the lowest point on the ridge. It was icy in parts, but presented no problems.
On 15 August the remaining three members accompanied by Phunchok Tangias, joined the other two on the west ridge, and all continued to the summit. There was little or no snow on the ridge, and the remainder of the ascent was on scree and loose rock. The summit itself was gained by a short scramble up a rock rib. Having decorated the summit cairn with Indian and Union flags we descended without incident.
During the ascent and descent we reconnoitred possible technical routes. The north face is icy, but not excessively steep, and we saw no evidence of recent avalanches. Its upper slopes appeared crevassed with a distinct bergschrund, but all were somewhat obscured by snow. Long gullies holding good ice ran to the summit slope on ejther side of the north face. Unfortunately any attempts on these routes were thwarted by four days and nights of rain, snow and low cloud which kept us off the mountain. On 20 August we recovered Cl in a snow-storm, and began our retreat.
We noted some inconsistencies in the height and location of Matho Kangri. The height of Matho Kangri I is variously listed as 6230 m5-6 and 6100 mJ According to our altimeters it is less than 600U m Secondly, the maps show Matho Kangri forming the eastern end of' the line of peaks that begins with Stok Kangri.W In fact Nimaling (Kangri?), not named on the maps, is the end-most peak, and Matho Kangri I and II are northern outliers, separate from the rest.
1-8 U.S. Army Map Service, (1962), series U502, sheet NI43-12.
2-9 Chabloz. P., (1989), Carte Artou Ladakh Zanskar Editions Olizane.
3-4-5 Bawa; Major H. S., Singh, B. P., 'Matho Kangri' Expeditions 1989', (1989), Himalayan Journal, 1988/89, pp. 192-4.
6 Alpine Club (G.B.) Himalayan Index.
7 Genoud, C, (Ed.) (1984), Ladakh Zanskar, Editions Olizaine, p. 208.
Summary: The ascent of Matho Kangri I (6230 m) by a British team on 15 August 1992.