British climbers make first ascent of Cha Ri

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 04/09/2013
A Google's eye view of the mountain range west of Gya (which is approximately in the bottom right corner of the picture).

A small British team has more or less made the first ascent of a previously unnamed 6,000m peak in Ladakh, India, stopping eight metres below the top of the rotten summit rock cone.

The three-person expedition was led by Douglas Briton, a research student at Edinburgh University, who had been in Ladakh immediately prior to the trip, leading a trekking group for World Challenge.

The expedition focused on a partially unvisited range of largely non-technical mountains accessed from the Leh-Manali Military Road.

At the very northern end of this chain stands the popular Kang Yissay (6,400m), at the head of the Markha Valley above Nimaling. Southeast from its summit the chain runs parallel to the military road.

Built by the Indian Army to feed military supplies to the northern border areas, the 500km road runs north from Manali in the Kullu Valley, finally crossing the Tanglang Pass (ca5,300m) before descending to the Gya river valley. It winds along this through the Gya Gorge before eventually meeting the Indus River.

Partway through the gorge stands the old monastery of Gya, about 70km from Leh, and the three climbers set up base camp here, before moving west into the hills.

Prior to 2013 no officially approved mountaineering expedition appears to have operated in their chosen part of the range, and the three spent the last two years planning and gaining a permit to visit to what is locally referred to as the Yabat Valley.

Assisted by local horsemen, the team took five days to reach the foot of the Yabat Glacier, where they established an advanced base.

After reconnoitring the glacier and using two local helpers to cache supplies to be used during descent, Caroline McCann and Matthew Jones climbed a nearly snow-free, unnamed mountain in a 13-hour round trip.

While the lower flanks were typically loose scree, the upper section held solid red granite, giving enjoyable climbing.

However, on the summit pyramid the rock deteriorated once more, and the final eight metres were considered too precarious to climb, a decision validated the following day when a significant rockfall was seen emanating from the summit cone.

At their high point the GPS recorded 6,038m, and from this they deduce the summit to be 6,046m. The pair managed to reach advanced base just before nightfall.

They have called the peak Cha Ri (mountain of the flying bird); a Lammergeier was seen circling the top most days.

A trek through the Markha Valley at the northern end of the range is one of the most celebrated in Ladakh.

While the attractive Kang Yissay is a well climbed peak, most parties actually do not go to the main summit, but to the far easier Kang Yissay II (6,100m).

Kang Yissay I (6,400m) has received far fewer ascents by comparison and was probably first climbed in 1982 by Trevor Mitten's Irish expedition via the east ridge.

However, this year's British expedition confirms that there is still plenty of scope in Asia's mountains for making first ascents of high peaks of a non-technical nature. You simply need to do your research.



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Anonymous User
10/09/2013
What a wonderful adventure and hopefully an inspiration to others to head off the well beaten tracks.

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