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Shisha Pangma, known in Tibetan as "the god of the grasslands", is the lowest of the world's fourteen 8000 metre peaks. It is also the only 8000-meter peak located wholly in Tibet. After an early attempt, it was first climbed in 1964 by a Tibetan-Chinese expedition and was opened to foreign climbers in 1978. The peak originally carried a Hindustani name: Gosainthan. People have descended it on skiis and for our next expedition, we are planning to offer a ski/snowboard descent option for those interested. The skiing and snowboarding are best in the camp 1 and camp 2 areas. Snowshoes or racquettes may be nice to have.
This expedition to Shishapangma maximizes our previous successful ascents on the peak itself, plus many years of accumulated wisdom of the high Himalaya, a strong record of reaching 8,000 metre/26,500 feet summits, along with an intimate knowledge of the Tibetan and Chinese officials who regulate the permit system. We must also give credit to our highly experienced and hard-working leaders, sherpas and staff. back to top
The proposed itinerary allows enough time for proper acclimatization, rest days, and several returns to advanced base camp, where the kitchen and base camp staff can look after all of your needs, and quell your appetite. The weather at this time of year is normally quite good and stable. However, we all know the global weather is changing, and in case of storms, you will note the proposed itinerary includes extra days as well. In previous expeditions, half of those who reached the summit needed every single "extra" day.
At low elevation, the temperatures can vary from 27°c to -7°c ( 80°f to 20°f). At higher elevations, the temperature can vary from 16°c to -23°c (60°f to -10°f). The wind is the most chilling factor, and can be quite variable, with everything from a flat calm, to hurricane force on the summit. There may be deep snow, heavy rains, mosquitoes in wet areas, blowing dust, burning heat, bright sunshine.
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Arriving in Kathmandu-
The trip begins in the ancient and colorful city of Kathmandu (you could also start in Beijing). You stay in a comfortable, simple, clean, hot-water hotel, at minimal cost and sample some of the very reasonably-priced tasty Nepalese, Tibetan and Western-Style cuisine, available at the hundreds of local restaurants. During your free days in Kathmandu, while your Chinese visa is being processed, you shall finalize arrangements, purchase and hire the bits of equipment you might be missing at the hundreds of mountain-climbing and trekking equipment shops in the neighborhood (with low prices, as well), and take time out for trinket hunting, with suggested visits to explore the 17th century splendors of the Monkey Temple, the Durbar Square and old Kings Palace, as well as the ancient cities of Patan, and Bakhtapur. If you are concerned about the altitude and have purchased Diamox (acetylzolamide), which is inexpensively available with no doctor's prescription in Kathmandu, this might be the time to begin taking it. back to top
Optional Tour of Lhasa-
Some members wish to add an optional trip to Lhasa before reaching basecamp. If this includes you, most members will fly to Kathmandu first, then to Lhasa. Some people prefer to fly to Lhasa from another city in China and we can also assist you with these arrangements. For those flying from Kathmandu, you take a 1 hour and 45 minute flight in a jet over Mt. Everest and the spine of the Himalaya, arriving in Tibet's capital city. In the past, we have had some fabulous views out of the plane windows during this flight.
At 3650 metres/12,000 feet of elevation, Lhasa was established around 600 AD on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The heart of the city is centered around the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred building in all of Tibet. Our simple hotel is not too far from the famous Potale palace, Jokhang palace and the renowned Barkhor Market, where you can shop for exotic handicrafts and religious art from all across Tibet, China, and Buddhist India.
After flying to Lhasa, upon arrival you will rest for 2 nights and one day. It's important that you use the rest day to get acclimated to the high altitude.
Buddhist pilgrims from Amdo region circumambulating the Jokhang Temple in the Barkhor market. Photo: J. Otto.
It is a three day drive from Lhasa to basecamp. From Lhasa, you will set out in government cars across the Tibetan plateau to meet the rest of the team in Shishapangma basecamp.
The following morning after your day in Lhasa, you will drive to Shigatse at 3650 metres/12,000 feet, the second largest city in Tibet, with a famous Monastery. The road winds along the massive Brahmaputra River, past traditional warren-like Tibetan farm towns. In Shigatse, you can have a look around and try to visit the 15th century Tashilunpo Monastery, the largest active monastic institution in Tibet. Monks in maroon robes seem to be everywhere, going about their daily chores, praying, and practicing ceremonial music performances.
After Shigatse, you will make the scenic drive to the ancient city of Lhaze (Lhatse), at 4000 metres/13,100 feet . At the western end of town is the small Changmoche Monastery, which you may visit while there. You can see interesting views of the surrounding Tibetan plateaus and hills.
From Lhaze, it is another scenic drive to Shishapangma basecamp, where you will meet up with the rest of the team. back to top
The Tashilunpo Monastery in Shigatse, where more than 700 monks live and worship in the Buddhist religion. (Photo: J. Otto)
A Tibetan farmer brings his goods to market on the road near Lhaze. (Photo D.L. Mazur)
Early in the morning you set out in a bus for the last Nepal town of Kodari at 1,770 meters/5,800 feet. If you are concerned about the altitude and have purchased Diamox (acetylzolamide), which is inexpensively available with no doctor's prescription in Kathmandu, this might be the time to begin taking it. For more information about Diamox, please click here.
You clear Nepalese customs and immigration, then hire local porters and vehicles to carry your bags across the Bota Kosi River on the Friendship Bridge, to Zhangmu, the gateway town in Tibet. Upon entering Tibet, the clocks immediately go forward by 2 ¼ hours. Your liaison officer will meet you in Zhangmu. After clearing Tibetan customs and immigration, a Chinese bus takes you up the windy road through the rolling hills to Nyalam town at 3,750 meters/12,400 feet, and a basic "hotel". The smaller towns in Tibet are generally simple and rustic places, and this one is no exception.
The topography here is quite interesting in that you are perched in the transitional zone where the Tibetan plateau rams into the Himalaya, then drops into the forested valleys and jungles of Nepal, and finally out into the Gangetic plain of the Terai and India. You stay over one extra day and night in Nyalam, to help adjust to the altitude. During your rest day in Nyalam, you might wish to hang out in the Tashi Amdo teashop, and enjoy a variety of pleasant treks on the hillsides, as well as explore some interesting small Buddhist gompas (temples). back to top
Yaks taking us to ABC at 5600 metres/18,480 feet (Roland DeBare).
The following morning, after what for many is a relatively sleep-free night, you drive to Shishapangma base camp at around 5,000 meters/16,400 feet. The drive follows a dirt road and has spectacular views of the Himalaya. You will rest for a day in Chinese base, to allow for packing and acclimatizing. back to top
Moving to Advanced Basecamp-
You then spend two days moving up to the "advanced basecamp" at 5400 metres/17,700 feet, which is actually the true base camp for our climb. From here, you will complete your climb of Shishapangma, not returning to Chinese base until your expedition is finished.
Vehicles drop us at 4600 metres/15,000 feet. It's a one or two day walk to basecamp (sinclair, hume, pappenfus collection). Advanced base camp lies on the north foot of the mountain at 5400 metres/17,700 feet (sinclair, hume, pappenfus collection).
After organizing our advanced basecamp, we start the task of climbing up and down the mountain, together with our Sherpas, preparing camps and acclimatizing. back to top
After ABC we walk along the lateral moraine of the Shishapangma Glacier, and at 5800 metres/19,000 feet, we cross the glacier to a flat area with many serac formations. We climb a skiable/snowboardable "headwall" at 20-34 degrees to camp 1 at 6200 metres/20,300 feet.
The route from camp 1 follows the bottom of a big glacial valley, then climbs another skiable/snowboardable "headwall" at about 30 degrees to a massive plateau where camp 2 is located, at about 6700 metres/22,000 feet (photo right sinclair, hume, pappenfus collection: Camp 2 at 6700 metres/22,000 feet).
From camp 2, we cross a large plateau before climbing a gradual slope at about 8-15 degrees. We then climb a marginally skiable/snowboardable headwall at 28-38 degrees dotted with rocky outcroppings starting at 7100 metres/23,300 feet, until we reach camp 3 on a protected and safe rock-crowned flat buttress at 7400 metres/24,300 feet. back to top
Climber nearing the Gendarmes at 7600 metres/25,000 feet (sinclair-hume-pappenfus collection). Camp 2 at 6700 metres/20,300 feet on top of the plateau (Dan Mazur).
From the high camp, we ascend a fairly steep snow and rock ridge, past two huge gendarmes at 7600 metres/25,000 feet, and climb across snow slopes to the solid snow "knob" that tops the central summit at 8007 metres/26,262 feet. There is usually a tiny surfboard sized flat spot you can perch upon, take summit photos, and soak up the scenery. From here you are greeted by incredible views of Everest, Cho-Oyu, the Tibetan plateau, and so many kilometres of mountains that it will be difficult to absorb the site.
Just under the west summit at 7852 metres/25,750 feet (sinclair-hume-pappenfus collection). This is the central summit at 8007 metres/26,263 feet (sinclair-hume-pappenfus collection). Looking toward the true summit from the central summit (sinclair-hume-pappenfus collection).
Very few climbers have reached the "true summit" of Shishapangma, which is perched further along a wicked double-corniced snow ridge that would require many hours of delicate traversing on an unstable knife-edged snow ridge. We may try to reach the true summit depending on time and conditions on the mountain. back to top
After packing up all of your equipment, supplies, and rubbish, you will make a short return trek and drive to Nyalam, have a feast at the restaurant and stay in the hotel. The following morning, you are up early, and drive all the way down to Zhangmu, hire porters to carry everything over the Friendship Bridge, then catch a bus into Kathmandu, where you can enjoy a hot shower and a grand Nepalese western-style feast. In Kathmandu, you can have a day to relax, celebrate, tour the valley, write postcards, and do a bit more shopping, before heading home. We hope you had a safe, enjoyable, and successful adventure. Thanks for joining in! back to top
At our celebration upon return to Kathmandu. We had quite a welcome home party for the members and staff, who placed these silk scarves, known as "Kattas" around our necks, to honour us and wish us good luck in our return journey to our homes. Arnold, Maya, and Ryan, our leadership team. Roland, Caroline, and Jacques (Caroline and Jacques were married shortly afterward), the Belge and two French. back to top
Thank You for joining our Shishapangma Expedition.