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Climbing in the alps of Tibet

My first climbing trip in western China was in 2004 when, with three companions from England, I attempted to make the first ascent of Haizi Shan (19,000 feet).

This trip was the subject of a Traveler's Journal show in 2006.

We didn't quite get to the top of the mountain but we gave it a good try, and we all had an enjoyable time in very beautiful and interesting country that is rarely visited by outsiders.

There are several other unclimbed mountains in this region. With another small group of friends, I organized a trip in the fall of 2007 to the peak of Yangmolong (19,876 feet), which is in the westernmost part of the province of Sichuan and very close to the border with Tibet.

The people in the area are ethnically Tibetan and practice Tibetan Buddhism. This trip will be the subject of my Traveler's Journal presentation.

As far as we knew, Yangmolong had been attempted only twice before. We had very limited information on it and no photos.

A Japanese party in 2002 had described the south side as both difficult and dangerous, so we decided to try the north side. This was a totally unknown quantity from a climbing point of view, but it was at least closer to the road.

Friendly local villagers took our gear and food from the road head, first by motorbike, then by horse and yak, to a base camp in a grazing meadow at about 15,000 feet.

On the way to the base camp, we were intrigued by a sawmill far up in the forest, powered by electricity led through the trees on bare wires from a very small turbine far below in the nearest river.

Insulation seemed to be unknown, and we wondered how it all worked, but it certainly did. Similar tiny turbines provided electric light and even supported DVD players in the villages.

We set up a higher camp and began prospecting the north face of Yangmolong. This proved to be not dangerous but certainly difficult, with deep powder snow low down and too much steep ice in its upper part.

We climbed two slightly lower peaks in the increasingly cold late fall weather and finished the trip with a trek round the mountain, passing through forests and yak pastures and by a very large and beautiful highland lake.

The south side of Yangmolong actually looked more inviting than the north, not the least because it got sunshine and was much warmer. We may go back and give that a try later this year.

Join me for an interesting look at a part of the world few have seen, its peoples and its nearly 3-mile-high mountains.



About the presenter:

Richard Isherwood has been rock climbing and mountaineering since the 1960s. He has climbed in Great Britain, the European Alps, the Himalayas and more recently the Olympics, Cascades and Rockies. He lived in Nepal for five years and climbed a number of peaks there, up to 23,000 feet, including several first ascents.

He now lives in Cape George, Port Townsend, and keeps a sailboat and a sea kayak on Discovery Bay. His presentation will describe his third climbing trip in recent years to western China.



This week: "Climbing in

the Alps of Tibet"

By: Richard Isherwood

When: 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 12

Where: Sequim High School cafeteria, 601 N. Sequim Ave.

Admission: $5 at the door

(18 and under are free)





Traveler's Journal is presented by the Peninsula Trails Coalition as a fundraiser for the Olympic Discovery Trail. All the money raised is used to buy food for volunteers working on trail projects. For more information call Dave Shreffler at 683-1734.

Next week's presentation: "Egypt by foot, 4-wheel drive, camel and sailboat'





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