Nakamura: Sichuan's Most Outstanding Unclimbed Peaks

Posted on: June 9, 2010


[Map] Tamotsu Nakamura

On dozens of expeditions over more than two decades, Japanese explorer Tamotsu Nakamura has voyaged among the highest peaks at the eastern edge of the Himalayas. His systematic approach and interest in surveying—from Eastern Tibet to China's Yunnan and Sichuan provinces—has resulted in a climber's trove of remote but well-documented unclimbed summits.

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Nakamura has shared his findings widely, often producing photographs or other records of notable peaks to the climbing world for the first time. His images of virgin summits have inspired countless mountaineering expeditions. They continue to capture the interest of alpinists today.

Over time, Nakamura's work has led to a vast aggregation of data about the relatively unfamiliar peaks in these remote ranges. Drawing on his knowledge, he recently compiled a best-of list for peaks that remain unclimbed in the West Sichuan Highlands. His 16 picks below, which certainly will capture the attention of aspiring first ascensionists the world around, are not necessarily the highest unclimbed summits in this area of Sichuan. Instead, they are those that Nakamura believes are the most "outstanding" and "inspirational" for climbers.

Editor's Note: Read the December 3, 2009 NewsWire for a report on Tamotsu Nakamura's autumn 2009 expedition. And find out more about this extraordinary explorer in the May 7, 2008 Feature.

Western extension of Chola Shan Range

Polujab (5816m) is located close to the Zhogchen Gomba monastery, west of the Chola Shan Pass, Chola Shan Range. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Shaluli Shan Range

This mountain range covers a vast area and includes the Gangga Massif, Litang Plateau, Yangmolong Massif, Genyen Massif, Gongga Xueshan (Kongkaling) Massif and neighboring mountains.

Gangga Massif, Shaluli Shan Range. This massif is located just north of Yalong Jiang (a tributary of the River of Golden Sand—the upper Yangtze) near the town of Ganzi. The highest peak, Gangga (5688m), was reconnoitered and accessed by a Japanese party but remains unclimbed. There are several 5400- to 5500-meter peaks, none of which have been attempted. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Yangmolong massif and its vicinity, Shaluli Shan Range. This massif is situated about 16 kilometers east of the town of Batang. There are three principal peaks: Dangchechengla (5833m), climbed by the Japanese; Yangmolong Central (6033m), climbed by the Koreans; and the main peak of Yangmolong (6060m, shown above). Yangmolong, perhaps one of the toughest peaks in Sichuan, remains unclimbed despite repeated attempts by a Japanese party and British parties. [Photo] Derek Buckle

North face of Xianqingqieke (5867m), Yangmolong Massif, Shaluli Shan Range. A Chinese 1/100,000 topographical map indicates a cluster of 5700- to 5800-meter peaks located northeast of Yangmolong massif and south of the Sichuan-Tibet Highway. They are all unclimbed. The highest peak is 5870m and the second highest is Xianqingqieke. [Photo] Shingeru Aoki

A circa 5700-meter peak on the Litang Plateau, Yangmolong Massif, Shaluli Shan Range. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Genyen massif and neighboring mountains to the north and northwest, Shaluli Shan Range. Genyen (6204m) was first climbed by a Japanese party and then an Italian party made the second ascent via a new route on the east face. The second highest peak in the massif (5964m) was climbed by an American party. Nevertheless, many challenging peaks north and northwest of the massif, ranging from 5800m to 5900m, remain unclimbed. [Photo] Thomas Obtulovic

Gongga Xueshan (aka Kongkaling) Massif. This massif includes three "fascinating" snowy peaks located in Daocheng County that form the southern rim of the Shaluli Shan Range. These unclimbed peaks, Xiannairi, Yangmaiyong and Xairuduo, are holy among local Tibetan people. Xiannairi (6032m, shown above), the highest peak, was attempted but not summited by a Japanese party. Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff bailed 500 meters short of the summit of Yangmaiyong (5958m). Xiaruduo (5958m) was once attempted by an American party. Climbing on these peaks has been banned by the Daocheng County government because of their status as sacred mountains. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Northwest face of Yangmaiyong (5958m), Gongga Xueshan Massif, Shaluli Shan Range. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

West face of Xairuduo (5958m), Gongga Xueshan Massif, Shaluli Shan Range. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Gongkara Shan Range

The main peak of this range is Kawarani I (5992m), 30km east of the town of Ganzi. A Japanese party and a British party tried to set up the BC for reconnaissance and climbing, but monks of a lamasery in the vicinity hindered their approach. Since then no party has visited these mountains.

North face of Kawarani I (5992m), Gongkara Shan Range. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Daxue Shan Range

Baihaizi Shan (5924m), Lamoshe Massif. This massif is just east of Kangding town. Early explorers named them the "Mountains of Tatsienlu." The highest peak is Lamoshe, which was first climbed by an American party. One of the other 5800m peaks has been climbed by a New Zealand expedition, but Baihaizi Shan, the second highest peak, remains unclimbed. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Minya Konka Massif. Only a couple of 6000-meter summits remain unclimbed in this huge massif. Nakamura's "outstanding" virgin peaks are a 6858-meter peak, San Lian (6684m, 6468m and 6368m), a 7556-meter peak and Nyambo Konka (6114m), southwest of the main summit of Minya Konka. There are three unnamed peaks of 6206m and 6130m on the ridge between Mt. Edgar (6618m), Jiaz Feng (6540m) and a 6148-meter peak on the west ridge. San Lian is the dominant peak among the unclimbed summits in Minya Konka massif. [Photo] Kenji Sudo

Southeast face of E-Kongga (aka Mt. Edgar, 6618m), Minya Konka Massif. A Korean party ascended the west face, but the southeast face remains unclimbed and is "the most challenging target in Sichuan," Nakamura said. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

East face of San Lian (6684m, 6468m and 6368m), Minya Konka Massif, Daxue Shan Range. [Photo] Shaohong Zhang

Mountain Ranges east of Dadu River, southeast of Danba

Many 5400- to 5700-meter peaks border the east side of the Dadu River valley between Danba and Luding. No climbing record has been published. The highest peak is 5734m and details of the massif are unknown.

Qonglai Mountain Range

Most of the peaks, including Mt. Siguniang (6250m) and adjacent peaks over 5200m have already been climbed. Hordes of climbers have descended on this area over the last decade. While many peaks remain unclimbed, details are not available because of the sheer number of 5400- to 5500-meter peaks in this mountain range. However, it has been confirmed by Mr. Konzo Okawa, an expert of the Qonglai Mountains, that Se'erdenpu (a.k.a. Barbarian Peak, 5592m) and Goromity (5609m) have not been summited.

Northwest face of Se'erdenpu (aka Barbarian Peak, 5592m). [Photo] Kenzo Okawa

Northeast face of Goromity (5609m). [Photo] Kenzo Okawa

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