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Last Updated: April 2012. Click on an image to see the FULL size with a caption.
To the south of Gauri Shankar in Nepal lies the Rolwaling Valley, which leads to the Tashi Lapcha pass, giving access to the Khumbu region. Crossing the Tashi Lapcha pass was generally straightforward with only one steep section on the ascent where my climbing Sherpa cut some steps, and one steep section on the descent where we had to use a rope.
The beautiful isolated Rongshar Valley in Tibet, home to the famous Tibetan yogi Milarepa, gives access to the Menlung Valley and Menlungtse and the east face of Gauri Shankar. Trekking in the Rongshar and Menlung Valleys is one of my dreams, but China has closed this area.
Gauri Shankar is the second highest mountain in the Rolwaling Himal after Menlungtse (also spelled Melungtse). Gauri Shankar has two summits, the northern (higher) summit at 7134m and the southern lower summit at 7010m. Gauri Shankar is protected on all sides by steep faces and long, corniced ridges.
"Gauri Sankar has deep religious significance for both Hindus and Buddhists. Sankar (the North Summit) is the Hindu god Shiva, married to the goddess Gauri (the South Summit). The Buddhist Rolwaling Sherpas living south of the mountain can only see the South Summit and call it Jomo Tseringma. Throughout Buddhist Lamaism, to as far away as Sikkim, Tseringma is considered the most holy mountain of the Sherpas." - Sacred Summits by Peter Boardman.
"... the structure of Gaurisankar was very complicated. From the summit, an imposing snow-cap, numerous ridges ran far down towards the valley, hanging from the snow-cap like monstrous tentacles, their steep sides furrowed by deep couloirs. The ridges were like masterpieces of Gothic art - over-full of detail and ornamentation. They were extremely narrow, serrated and cut into deep gaps; no possibility of an ascent there. On the whole face there was not one ledge where a camp could be placed, nor was there any sign of that "friendly glacier" that was to have led us easily upward. If the great mountain had been less perfect in its beauty and strength, it might perhaps have left us a little hope." - Raymond Lambert and Claude Kogan: White Fury - Gaurisanker and Cho Oyu.
Gauri Shankar was re-opened to mountaineering expeditions in late 1977. Al Read submitted the first successful application, and composed a team of five Nepalese Sherpas and five Americans.
John Roskelley and Dorje Sherpa completed the first ascent of the main North Summit of Gauri Shankar on May 8, 1979.
Roskelley from his book Last Days: “After 66 pitches on the wall, one of the most difficult climbs I had ever been on, the last move over a rounded bulge proved the worst. I tried stemming to the side. That didn't work. I found an off-width crack and tried jamming that. No good. Finally, I hugged it like a fat lady's bottom and shimmied up it. The face was climbed."
Menlungtse (Tib. Jobo Garu, also spelled Melungtse) is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. The massif has two summits, the lower West Summit at 7023m, and the higher Main Summit 7181m to the east, separated by a 1.5km broad saddle. The peak rises to the north of the main Himalayas in Tibet.
"In November 1951 two British mountaineers, Eric Shipton and Michael Ward, and a young Sherpa, Sen Tensing, crossed from Nepal over a 20-000-foot snow saddle they later named the Menlung La and descended into a great glacial basin. Centered within the basin was a magnificent double-summit peak isolated within a ring of smaller mountains very similar to that of Nanda Devi's twin summits. In Shipton's words, "On every side its colossal granite walls were pale and smooth as polished marble." He later named the peak Menlungtse. ... (from the East summit) Menlungtse was the nearest and the loveliest vision of all. A mighty white obelisk of snow and pale pink granite, whose shape matched that of the Matterhorn from the east." - John Roskelley: Last Days - A World-famous Climber Challenges the Himalayas' Tawoche and Menlungtse.
A strong 4-person American team failed to climb the East Ridge in 1990, with Greg Child and John Roskelley stopping at 6460m by bottomless snow and teetering cornices.
In 1992, the Slovenians Marko Prezelj and Andrej Stremfelj decided to tackle a more direct route, the 2000m South East Face, threatened by seracs and stone fall. They dealt with the objective dangers by climbing very quickly.
On the early morning of October 22 they climbed in just five and a half hours from 5150m to 6150m, at which point they had to stop and shelter in a cave from falling rocks and ice. The following day they set off at 8:30 am and at 18:30 on October 23, 1992 they reached the main summit of Menlungtse. Descending in the dark, they regained the bivouac by 2:00.