Andy Latham, Kyajo Ri Recon Expedition • October 16 - November 10, 2004

In October and November of 2005, Andy Latham joined Kathy for a different kind of trip in Nepal. The goal was to climb one or more peaks and see a lot of territory, hopefully leaving the beaten track and crowds of the Khumbu at some point to access more remote parts of the area. The main goal was to explore and hopefully climb Kyajo Ri, a peak newly opened for ascents by the Nepalese government. Information about previous ascents, if any, was sparse, and with only a few distant photos and a name on a map to guide them, they set out to see what they could do.

The plan involved an ascent of Lobuche East to acclimatize, and a traverse over two high passes: Cho La from the Khumbu valley to the Gokyo Valley, and then further westward, Renjo La from the Gokyo valley to the wide valley down which the Tibetan traders descend to the market in Namche Bazaar. Up this valley lies the Nangpa La, the pass at the border with Tibet. Three years earlier, Andy had seen this pass from the Cho Oyu base camp during another expedition with Mark and Kathy.

Other Recent Trips

This photo, taken by Andy from above the village of Chiutunbo, is clearer by far than any of the photos we had available to us before our trip. The most obvious route, that going up the snow arete/slopes from the col on the right, looks beautiful and moderately challenging; getting to the base of it would appear to be the greatest challenge of this climb! Photo Andy Latham


We trekked in to the Khumbu via the usual itinerary used by trekkers to Everest Base Camp and Kala Patar. Here we are enjoying a sunny morning at the Tengboche Monastery, where monks appear to be drying out some draperies. Photo Andy Latham


Our fearless leader on this trip was Mingma Sherpa of Thame, shown here with a nephew. Mingma has an impressive mountaineering resume, including multiple ascents of Everest by numerous routes, and climbs of difficult and rarely climbed peaks throughout the Khumbu, as well as at least one expedition to Pakistan. He was a tireless, cheerful leader, adaptable and capable, and a fantastic cook as well! We felt very privileged to have him caring for us. Photo Andy Latham


We made a major side trip up to the Everest Base Camp, which was utterly deserted in this late autumn season. This is a view up the infamous Khumbu Icefall.


After our visit to Everest Base Camp, we moved on to our climb of Lobuche East. This photo shows the North Face of Cholatse, dramatically facing our Lobuche high camp.


We shared our summit day on Lobuche with a couple of dozen other climbers in an Australian/British/Anglophone group, making for crowded conditions. Kathy was too busy jockeying unsuccessfully for a more traffic-free position or an alternative to the fixed lines, to take any photos, unfortunately, but Andy helped her out on this mostly clear morning. Photo Andy Latham


The steepest part of the climb was not extreme, but rather exposed. Fixed lines both hindered and helped; causing bottlenecks on the ascent, but also a quick way off on the descent. Photo Andy Latham


Andy on the summit, looking pleased despite the fog that rolled in by the time we reached it.


After our ascent of Lobuche East, we trekked westward over the Cho La, shown here as the low-lying flattish glacier just left of the center of this photograph. The day we crossed the pass was very foggy, so we missed many of these views until our view-finding hike the following morning to a hilltop high above our resting place in "Tarngnok" (Kathy's best guess at spelling the name of this place, which she had to ask Mingma about a million times).


This same hill-top vantage point gave us a much-coveted rare view of Kyajo Ri from the East. It is the peak directly above Kathy's head. She is seen here getting a binocular-full of evidence that the route doesn't go from this side! But the approach might.... Photo Andy Latham


We spent two nights at Gokyo (tiny, but visible here if you have strong reading glasses, at the upper left edge of the Gokyo Lake), in order to climb Gokyo Ri with its famous views. This photo however was taken not there, but on our way out of town, on the climb up to the Renjo Pass to the West of Gokyo Lake. Everest is looking abominably cold with its scarf of cloud; to the right the dramatic left-leaning peak is Cholatse.


This is the view of Everest from Gokyo Ri. Photo Andy Latham


Renjo Pass is the low point in this ridge. This photo was taken again from our hill-top viewpoint above "Tarngnok". The Gokyo Lake and village are just out of sight to the right, as is Gokyo Ri.


The morning of our trek over Renjo Pass started out sunny, but once we crossed to the West side we were immediately engulfed in fog. A coating of new snow and the stamped in footsteps of other trekkers and their porters, made the footing on the steep descent seem treacherous enough for us. But in typical Sherpa fashion, porters made it look if not easy, at least remarkably graceful despite their cumbersome loads.


We descended to a small, quiet village with one teahouse, called Lungden. It too had a nice hill-top view point above; we checked it out during the sunny hour or two of the following morning. Here we are looking northward up the valley toward the Nangpa La.


We had already seen enough of Kyajo Ri to strongly suspect it was too much for the time remaining to us. We had spoken with an American climber who had climbed another unnamed peak nearby, which we called simply "Peak 3118", shown here. After a discouraging reconnaissance hike, we decided with Mingma's help, to use the rest of our time to explore a side valley and visit his home in Thame before our time ran out. Photo Andy Latham


We crossed the main valley and ascended to the West up another drainage, to a deserted hamlet of herdsman's cottages called "Chiutungbo". Yet another hill-top viewpoint gave us a great view of Kyajo Ri (on the left) and the ridgeline of peaks extending southward from it, including "Peak 3118" in the center of this grouping.


Our idyllic camp in Chiutungbo with an awe-inspiring view of a barrier of peaks to the West, forming the division between this valley and the Rwaling peaks further West. Mingma told us the Sherpa guides and porters do mountaineering training among the icefalls of these glaciers; a fantastic playground that sees few other visitors.


The cottages at Chiutungbo were empty at the moment, but plenty of yaks were grazing nearby.


A peak glimpsed toward nightfall during an exploratory scramble above the village.


After a rest day in Chiutungbo, we headed Westward still more, to round the corner of a ridge dividing us from another seldom-visited village further to the south, on our way to Thame. This hike afforded us incredible views of the giant East faces of these peaks. Most of their names are unfamiliar to trekkers in the Khumbu, who rarely see them.


A humbling prospect. Below us lay a lake that about 17 years ago burst through its moraine barrier, sending tons of rock, mud and debris tearing through the valley below and destroying houses as far downstream as the Lukla area.


Our next resting place was another charming and nearly deserted village called Langmoche. Here we were served fresh "Nak" (female Yak) milk, a local delicacy! Yuuuummmm!


The following day essentially began our return journey toward Lukla. We first headed back toward Thame, Mingma's home village, where we looked forward to his hospitality and visits at some smaller monasteries. This view shows us still a long way above Thame; here we are looking at the peaks above Lukla on the right; above Andy and Mingma's heads is Kusum Kunguru; to its left is Tamserku, the snowy double-summitted peak in the background is Kangtega.


Zopkyos (a cross between Yaks and cows), doing what they do best! Photo Andy Latham


We visited the small monastery at a village just above Thame, and Kathy has to admit that she cannot remember the name of this village!


A view of Thame, and the north face of a peak often referred to as Kongde peak, a name disputed by Mingma.


Another, perhaps more jaded view of Thame through the eyes of one of its residents.


From above, you can see the layout of Thame, with its holding pond for the 600 kilowatt hydro-electric facility which provides power to the surrounding towns including Namche Bazaar.


Late on our first evening in Thame, we heard the bells of what sounded like several dozen yaks passing by Mingma's doorway. He explained that some Tibetan traders had arrived, stopping off on their way to or from Namche. The following morning we saw them getting up and about none too early!


A typical interior of a Sherpa home. Photo Andy Latham


Mingma's two little girls (the boy was off practicing his horse-intimidation skills with a scrap of string.


The obligatory mani stones; we saw more large and impressive collections of these in Thame and surrounding villages than I'd ever seen elsewhere.


At last it was time to head out via Namche Bazaar; this photo taken between Thame and Namche, with again Kusum Kunguru (Kathy thinks) in the background.


Back in Kathmandu we had a day or two to do a bit more sight-seeing in Bahktapur before Andy had to head back to Kalamazoo.


Woodcarving typical of Bahktapur.

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