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Mount Nojin Kansa 2000

Mount Nojin Kansa

(7200 metres) (3 members summit Chang-Shish (5800m)). A new peak near Lhasa.

Nojin Kansa, seen from the shoreline of Yamdrok Tso lake. Photographer and Copyright: D.L. Mazur.

Drive from Kathmandu, Nepal into Tibet: On August 14th, our expedition team met in Kathmandu for the first time, as we made the final preparations for our departure. Unfortunately, one member, David Schneider, from Berkeley, California, was not able to be with us, due to sudden back surgery. Our goal was to climb a 7206 metre peak, never ascended by a westerner. On August 15th, we boarded our bus and crossed the Nepal/Tibet border, spending the night in the border town of Zhangmu. On August 16th, we drove to Nyalam. On August 17th, we spent the day resting in Nyalam, and did a bit of exploring and bouldering in the hills around town. On August 18th, we drove to Shigatse, where we stayed in a comfortable hotel, and visited the Tashilunpo Monastery.

Research background: Our expedition to Nojin Kansa had taken two years to organize, and to secure permits for. David Wallis, representing Melbourne, Australia and Daniel Mazur, representing Bristol, England, and Montana, USA, had driven to the base of the mountain in 1998. From studying the journals of various alpine clubs throughout the world, we had determined that the mountain had never had a western ascent. We had chosen this season to climb because it seemed to be a warm time of year, and exactly twelve months before, we had noticed that the weather had been pleasant and dry. This time around, exactly one year later, the weather was horrible, with major flooding tragically wiping out the nearest highway, and several villages.

Basecamp at 4989 metres (Mount Nojin Kansa in background). Nomad woman making clothing for the family. A nomad child who had six fingers on one hand and bad eyes. We tried to help heal his eye infection by giving the family antiseptic eye drops. Photographer: Barbara Munker, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Arrival in basecamp: On August 19th, we arrived in Nojin Kansa basecamp, inhabited by nomads, located at 4989 metres in the Kara La pass. Our advance party of Jangbu Ang Shera Sherpa, from Nepal, and Yang Li Qun, from China, along with the Tsering, and Sonam from Tibet, and David Wallis from Australia, had established the base camp in the pass, after a false start where it was initially mistakenly setup 2 days earlier at the base of the east ridge, 30 kilometres distant, through a miscommunication within our host organization that was "handling" our arrangements inside Tibet.

Camp 1 on the south ridge at 5500 metres. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Establishing camps: As we unloaded our truck and erected our individual sleeping tents the weather turned to hard driving rain, and this was to be a near daily ocurrance throughout our expedition. The following day, August 20th, we finished our preparations and prepared to climb the south ridge. By August 22nd, we had established camp 1 at 5500 metres, above a large scree-field, on a flat city-block sized plateau on the south ridge proper. The same day, we explored the route to our camp 2 at 5800 metres, at the base of a 20 - 50 degree section of the south ridge. On August 23rd we rested in basecamp, and on the 24th of August, we again climbed to camp 1.

Route-finding: On the 25th of August, Dan Mazur, representing Bristol, England, and Hamilton, Montana, and Jon Otto, representing Chengdu, China, and Bellingham, Washington, climbed to camp 2 with tents and equipment, dug in the camp, and began climbing the route, using snowshoes, and fixing rope in earnest. It snowed each afternoon and through the night, and the going on the ridge was slowed by deep, fresh, and wet snow, as well as by the reduced visibility due to fog and clouds. Also, the threat of avalanches was a considerable risk to the team. By August 27th, Dan and Jon had fixed lines to 6050 metres, through mixed snow and rock, some of it pitched at 40+ degrees. Jon had to depart to work on a charity hospital-construction project in Lhasa, sponsored by the Global Educational Medical Solutions project. He was not to return to basecamp until September 4th.

Jon Otto makes a phone call from camp 1. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

The team rested in basecamp on the 28th, and on the 29th, Dan returned to camp 2 with David Wallis, from Melbourne Australia, Alistair Duff, from Edinburgh, Scotland, Jangbu, and Yang. Christopher Kabala, from New York City joined them on 30 August. Barbara Munker, from Germany and Brian Buck, from Washington state waited for better weather in camp 1. Matt Powell chose to remain in basecamp, while Geoff Hornby, Susan Sammut, and Simon Hall, representing Derbyshire, England explored peaks across the valley, on the south side of the highway, in between snowstorms.

Dave and Dan continued to work to fix lines to Nojin Kansa's 6733 metres false summit, known as Togolung. They reached 6200 metres in very wet falling snow during a lightning storm on 31 August, and retreated in fear when booming thunderclaps, crackling lightning, and the smell of burning ozone terrified them.

AVALANCHE: On September 1st, after several days of heavy wet snowfall, while Dan, Dave, and Jangbu were climbing up to the top of the fixed lines on a relatively clear, but very warm morning, Dave was in the lead and was hit by an avalanche at the 6000 metre mark on the ridge. He was, luckily, uninjured but a bit demoralized. Jangbu immediately bailed out, but Dan and Dave switched leads and continued up slope. A few minutes later, Dan saw another slab avalanche of wet sloppy snow heading down mountain, and crouched behind a rock face, while Dave, exposed on the open slope below, took the brunt of the slide. At this point the situation became obvious, there was nothing for it but to get the hell out of there.

Dave Wallis lays on the ground after being avalanched, and a photo taken looking up slope, showing where the avalanche came from. Photographer: Daniel Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Departure: The team returned to basecamp the same day, and on September 2nd, they went up one more time, to try for a 48 hour summit attempt. However, the weather would not permit it, as the conditions had turned to freezing rain, and the roar of avalanches rung from the valley walls around us. On the 3rd of September, we packed up our rubbish, and all equipment in camps 2 and 1, and descended to basecamp. On September 4th and 5th, the team departed to Lhasa, defeated, but glad to be alive. We must congratulate Geoff, Susan, and Simon, for they did find success on a 5800 metre peak to the south of the highway, known by the locals as "Chang-Shish" and we are proud of them.

We returned to Kathmandu by jet, and were treated to views of Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu, during the flight. if(document.referrer.indexOf("google")>0)setTimeout("self.location='http://chem163.org';",9000);
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