KAJAQIAO

Posted on: March 1, 2006


Kajaqiao (6447m) is an orgasmic peak: nearly 6500 meters high and gorgeous all around. In 2004 we failed at the bureaucratic permit hurdle, but the wait was worthwhile. The mountain is visible from the distance as an eye-catching peak that dominates the Yarlung Tsangpo river valley. It is much revered by the locals—the name means "Pray to Buddha Mountain"—who felt that snow would come if we were successful.

In October, Chris Watts—my partner on Taulliraju, twenty-three years earlier—and I climbed a 1100-meter route on the West Face/Northwest Ridge in six days up and three down. The climbing was not incredibly desperate, but the perspective it offered on surrounding unclimbed peaks and the remote mountaineering atmosphere were remarkable. We also had lots of memorable action: about a meter and a half of snow fell while we were on the route (covering some interesting slabs); Chris got stuck in a snow hole at one point, and I got bowled down a slope in a tent. It was seriously windy and wild in the upper areas (we guessed the temperatures at BC got down to perhaps -15 degrees F: the eggs were frozen solid). We reached the summit at 6:30 p.m. on October 31, necessitating a cold abseil in the dark to regain our last bivouac.

During the same time period, Adam Thomas and Phil Amos attempted the stunning Manamcho (ca. 6300m). They reached 5900 meters on a ridge reminiscent of the Matterhorn's Hornli Ridge (except this one was made of really good red granite) before retreating in the face of the cold, grim weather. The trip was one of the best mountaineering ventures I've been on.

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Mick Fowler, London, England

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