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The Mysterious Rolwaling Valley

An alternative more sporting approach to the Everest region is through the remote and mysterious Rolwaling Valley - described in Tom Weir's book " East of Kathmandu " and also visited by ( Sir ) Chris Bonington on an abortive expedition in search of the legendary yeti.

It was at the trailhead at Charicot that I first met Nima when he was recruited by our sirdar Lal Bahadur as a porter on his very first trek. I watched in disbelief as the two huge kitbags of Horst and his wife Ursula tottered off on a pair of spindly brown legs. However Nima was to accompany me for 32 days all the way to Gokyo and back to the roadhead at Jiri.

From Charicot we headed up the scenic, steep-sided valley of the Tamba Khosi. High waterfalls cascaded from the heights and rudimentary bridges crossed the many side-streams. Ahead, the twin summits of Gauri Shanker, once thought to be the world's highest mountain, provided a prominent landmark.

Beyond Nima's home village of Tashinam we walked for two days on faint, little-used paths through dark, gloomy forests before reaching the Rolwaling Valley and Beding, the main village of the local community of Sherpas with its large chorten ( Buddhist shrine ), gompa, and stone-built houses with their fluttering prayer flags.

Mt. Gauri Shankar from Beding Village in the Rolwaling Valley

Gauri Shankar


Beding Village


Rolwaling Valley

The gompa serves as the birth control centre - when the population of the isolated valley starts to exceed the available food supply more young men are put into the gompa to become lamas ( Buddhist monks ).

Lal Bahadur had been left behind at the police post at Semigaon to sort out problems with our climbing permits and had not been seen for three days. Nuru,our cook, was worried. "Much danger in forest - bears - tigers". A search party was dispatched but shortly afterwards Lal Bahadur turned up safely - despite having walked all night through the forests.

High in a side-valley, above the summer settlement of Na with its yak pastures and stone-walled potato fields, we encamped in a wide snow-basin enclosed by the ice-bound Chugimago and Yalung Ri. A magnificent outlook extended across the Rolwaling Valley to the imposing Chobutse and Kang Nachugo lining the northern border with Tibet.

Mt. Chobutse on ascent to High Camp for Ramdung Go


on ascent to


High Camp

At our high camp Horst was suffering from a slight touch of altitude sickness and I set off with Lal Bahadur for Ramdung Go - the first of our two climbing objectives. Successfully negotiating a verglassed boulder field we gained the broad, easy-angled neve of the upper glacier but our efforts were then frustrated by the recent snowfall of deep, soft snow. We pushed on to reach a rocky prominence ( c5600m ) to enjoy our packed lunch encircled by a tremendous himalayan landscape: Gauri Shankar, Kang Nachugo, Chobutse and Chugimago all resplendent in dazzling marble-white against an azure sky. Only a short distance away the steep prow of Ramdung soared above the glacier but we had run out of time - a further high camp would have been necessary and this was outwith our schedule.



Two days later we left Na to continue our journey up the Rolwaling Valley to encamp in a grassy ablation valley ensconced beneath the large Tsho Rolpa lake at the terminus of the Trakarding Glacier. Scrambling up the loose, rough scree of the moraine wall next morning we gained a dramatic view the length of the lake to the huge triangular east face of Kang Nachugo.

Mt. Kang Nachugo from above Tsho Rolpo glacier lake

Kang Nachugo


Tsho Rolpa

glacier lake

In the opposite direction the white massif of Piphera Go Char and our second objective of Parchamo formed a great barrier sweeping up at the head of the glacier. A level walk along the crest of the moraine soon came to an abrupt end and we dropped down to pursue a tortuous and hazardous route across narrow ice-bridges between huge, yawning crevasses splitting the corrugated surface of the glacier. Clearing the zone of continuous stonefall cascading from the rotten cliffs of Chobutse we climbed above the glacier to pitch our tents on a set of small platforms levelled out by previous groups.

Mt. Takargo on ascent of Upper Drolamboa Glacier to Trashe Labtse

Mt. Takargo on ascent of Upper Drolamboa Glacier to Trashe Labtse

An easy rock buttress and ice-bound couloir by-passed the foot of the ice-fall tumbling from the Drolamboa Glacier but ropes were then required to negotiate a short ice-wall before we emerged onto the gentle gradient of the upper snowfields between an avenue of magnificent peaks. An arduous ascent of a steep, hard-snow slope attained the 5,800m top of the Trashi Labtse sandwiched between Parchamo and the sheer rock precipices of the neighbouring Tengi Kagi Tau. Just below the col an overhang provided a shelterstone for our tents. Below us to the east the twin peaks of Thamserku and Kantaiga glowed a golden orange in the final rays of the setting sun.

Pharchoma from the Trashi Labtse



Trashi Labtse

The steep, blue-ice taxed my nerve and cramponing ability to the limit but at last I stood with Lal Bahadur on the narrow, corniced, summit ridge of Parchamo. Far below snaked the lateral moraines and white-ice of the Drolamboa Glacier flanked by the avenue of great rock and snow peaks. Beyond the nearby Chobutse we could see Kang Nachugo and the twin summits of Gauri Shanker. To the east the tops of Everest, Lhotse and Makalu protruded like islands from a sea of lesser peaks. With difficulty we could distinguish Chamlang, Baruntse, Ama Dablam and also Kang Taiga and Thamserku the sentinels above Namche Bazaar. Across the pass loomed the unclimbed, spire of Tengi Kagi Tau.

Mt. Tengi Kagi Tau from summit ridge of Pharchoma

Tengi Kagi Tau



On the col our camp had already been vacated. Horst had again been suffering from the altitude and, with Ursula and the rest of our trekking crew, had descended into the valley of the Thame Khola.

Not until well after dark, leg weary and foot-sore after a 2000 metre descent and 14 hours on the go, did Lal Bahadur and I rejoin them in the village of Thame.

It was then only a half day downhill to Namche - and a further eight days hard walking across four passes to the roadhead at Jiri.

( From " Heavenly Pursuits ", Weekend Extra, Glasgow Herald, 17th August 1996 )



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Lonely Planet Nepal Rough Guide Nepal Lonely Planet - Kathmandu MapKathmandu Valley Map Trekking and Climbing in Nepal Lonely Planet - Trekking in NepalThe Trekking Peaks of Nepal Trekking in NepalTrekking in the Everest Region

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