There are still little-known and rarely used mountains in Nepal.
Paradoxically, this is the case of one of the mountains closest to Kathmandu whose peaks are even visible on clear days from the capital.
No need to fly across the country, a few hours by jeep from Kathmandu and here we are at work.
- The Gyaltzen Peak (6151 m) is the most accessible, it is this summit that was recently climbed by the Nepalese team of Maya Gurung.
On the other hand, information about the massif or the peaks is scarce and unclear because few climbers frequent the summits of Jugal Himal, an extension of the Langtang mountains that curves to the south.
A long time ago, we reached the summit of Dorje Lakpa 6966 m from Kiangjin, and then again, in autonomy we had crossed the Tilman Pass to document a chapter of the book “Nepal Summits”. We had passed in front of the Jugal Himal massif, to the lakes of Panch Pokhari, a particularly sacred place but little frequented by trekkers. A striking intimate adventure…, with gigantic backpacks.
However, the idea of discovering this mysterious Jugal Himal massif took a long time to materialize, despite its ease of access. It took a conversation in a Lodge in Namche with Prem Gurung to reactivate the project and build the first step: actually documenting the approach to the base camp.
Then, conduct a first expedition there in the fall of 2021.
And finally, return in 2022 or 2023 to climb the highest peak of the massif.
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Jugal Himal, the approach walk
New routes have now simplified the approach to the last village, Tembathang (accessible from Jalbire/Gumthang) and a recent Nepalese expedition supported by local authorities has taken the Jugal Glacier up to Gyaltzen Peak.
Bishal and Dipeen will also go in the Autumn of 2020 to scout to base camp and if possible to the first altitude camp. And above all make contact with the locals, because everything happens the old-time, with porters!
Sacred Lakes, “Panch Pokhari”
It is both our approach walk, a nice way to acclimatize and a detour to visit a place a little away from the classic circuits, even if we find this proposal of route on the web (for some intimate Nepalese agencies).
The natural setting, the beauty of the place and can be a certain spirituality (or at least the sacred character) make this trek a beautiful experience.
The Nepalese team of spring 2019, back from the summit.
Credit: Milan Gurung
The summits of Jugal Himal
The interest of this expedition to the Jugal Himal lies not in the high altitude of the peaks, but rather in the character, the beauty of the massif and the quality of the Himalayan experience proposed.
The first important element remains the confidentiality of the Jugal Himal. We have a good chance of being alone at base camp and during the ascent. And it’s a rare luxury.
We also have little specific information on the proposed summits.
It is also an “a la carte” experience with several possible peaks with very different altitudes and difficulties.
And above all, the technicality of the summits enshrines this experience in an alpine reality. Of course, no fixed ropes and special attention to the quality of the acclimatization and our roped progression.
It is therefore an ideal expedition for a first Himalayan experience and to prepare a larger project, higher up
Maya Gurung at Advanced Base Camp
Jugal Himal 2021… A very Grobelian expedition
To repeat myself, over and over again.
This expedition has nothing to do with a proposal for an “organized trip”.
It is a trip to altitude, the vagaries of which are very numerous. This expedition is built on the notion of a collaborative project,and on a “doing together”where everyone is involved in the “good” course of this shared adventure.
- Shared decision-making (when there is no notion of urgency),
- a large place on the ground to the autonomy of the ropes,
- a Franco-Nepalese management team,
- a stated desire to co-build this ascent and the associated trek.
- precise strategic choices: continuous progression, alpine ropes,no fixed rope, built autonomy.
And, I know from experience that this is a demanding and difficult exercise.
But, for me, it is a realistic proposition in view of the complexity of this type of Himalayan ascent, where to the multitude of hazards (transportation, logistics, weather, mountain conditions, physics, health, relationships … and even earthquakes!), is added to the vagaries of personal or group satisfaction.
In short, it takes a lot of energy for everything to go well, or as best as possible.
And this is fortunately often the case, except that sometimes…, everything gets complicated.
As the slame Grand Corps Malade “On our own we go fast, together we go far …”.
And in the Himalayas you are sometimes really far from everything, and especially from the comfort of home. But it is also what makes the interest and richness of these Himalayan roamings.
And here’s the logo of our agency.
Or rather the Nepalese agency of Bishal! Surrounded by the whole team of guides and Nepali Leader.
Jugal Himal Expedition 2021
his sketch of the Japanese does not, of course, correspond to the reality on the ground.
The peaks are not in the right place, nor do they have the right altitude. But it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the realities of the time.
Some important information.
The coaching team.
This is indeed a team of guides, under the responsibility of Paulo grobel. We’ve been climbing together for a very long time.
And you will find them in the latest reports, for the Lugula or the Himlung… in the fall of 2015, in spring 2016 and for the Crossing of the Himlung in 2017. But also for internal training at the Himalayan Traveller agencyas at Loha Pass.
It is therefore a well-established and stable team (not Nepalese “mercenaries” hired on a piece by blow.
- The guides are: Paulo Grobel (UIAGM guide for more than 30 years), assisted by one of the team’s Nepalese guides: Dhan Magar, Deepen Bothe, Sajjan Gale.
- The “Nepali Leader” are: Kumari Kulung (A young Nepalese) Dorje Bothe, Karma Sherpa, Anil Rai or Sonam Sherpa.
For me “Nepali Leader” means first of rope.
They can therefore drive a rope and they help with the carrying of the equipment.
Usually they go to the top with us (and sometimes without us…). Some are currently undergoing training to gather the necessary prerequisites to take the UIAGM aspirant guide exam in Nepal.
And, the presence of a woman on the team is a great step forward for me!
Jugal Himal Exploration
There are adventures and books that go unnoticed and are totally forgotten by the community of mountaineers and Himalayans. So it is for this first female ascent in the Himalayas on the summit of Ladies Peak. In this year 2020/2021 of Tourism in Nepal, valuing both a little-known massif (the Jugal Himal) and an exceptional female achievement is a very motivating project. You should read the book of the expedition: “Tents in the cloud” by Monica Jackson and Elisabeth Stark. And dive back into those periods of the birth of mountaineering in the Himalayas. It seems to me that the summit called “Lady’s Peak” dates from this period and to have debaptized it is necessarily a fault of taste.
Later, a few expeditions explored this Massif of the Jugal Himal, especially the Japanese in 1960.
In 1984, some of the summit names of the Jugal Himal were Nepalized.
- The Big White Peak is now called Leongpo Gang (or Dorle Pahad),
- Lady’s Peak… Gumba Chuli
- and the Madiya… Takura Bhairab.
Unfortunately, it is always difficult to know the meaning of these new names, or what motivated this name change.
The official Nepalese map of 1:50,000 DORLE PAHAD 2885 16 (published in 1997) indicates these new names.
An ITV by Maya Gurung in a Nepalese magazine.
How did she prepare to get at the top of the Gyalzen Peak?
Maya Gurung answers,
‘We set the base camp of Gyalzen Peak at the height of 4500m (from where we could climb other six peaks of Jugal Mountain range). We stayed there for two-three days in order to get acclimatized to mountain surroundings. Then we set on foot to the high climb at 4700 m. and created another camp at the altitude of 5000 m. We continued to climb whole night escaping crevices on the way. It was of course not easy to find the way to follow the less challenging route. It took almost 23 hours in the process to reach the summit of Gyalgen Peak but it was relatively easy while returning to the base as we had already spotted the shortest route that took just half the time it took while ascending the peak. Now, the climbers in the future can use the shortest route which we followed while descending down the base camp. The route of the Gyalzen peak is fixed now and we have prepared the map to help the other climbers who choose to climb the peak.’
For now, it is impossible to find this map, or even recover a sketch
And here’s Lindsay Griffin’s handling of this information in the 2021 AAJ.
In 1955, Evelyn Camrass, Monica Jackson, and Elizabeth Stark (U.K.) launched the first all-female mountaineering expedition to the Himalayas (albeit with male Sherpa support). By completing the first ascent of a high Nepalese peak, they proved to many that women mountaineers could hold their own in a male-dominated activity.
After exploring the Jugal Himal and what is now named the Jugal Glacier, Jackson, Stark, Mingma Gyalgen Sherpa, and Ang Temba Sherpa climbed to the head of the Jugal Glacier and then up the south face and upper southwest ridge of a “22,000foot” (6,705m) peak on the Tibetan border, which they named Gyalgen Peak after their sirdar. This peak was climbed subsequently by two Japanese expeditions in the early 1960s.
Fastforward around 50 years to the creation of the “official” HMG-Finn maps for Nepal. The old Gyalgen Peak is now named Leonpo Gang East and given 6,733m (though the map mistakenly names it “west”), and the map positions Gyalgen, now written as Gyalsten, as a 6,151m frontier peak some distance to the southeast. The 1955 expedition referred to this mountain as Ladies Peak, and though they did not attempt it, they reached a pass on the frontier ridge just to the south during their explorations.
The mistakes on the map were discovered in 2005 when Camrass joined a primarily American expedition that planned to attempt the “new Gyalsten” but spent too much time determining which peak was which to mount an attempt (see AAJ 2006).
Gyalsten finally was climbed in the spring of 2019. Maya Gurung’s all-Nepalese expedition of six amateur members (two women and four men) and four professional Nepalese guides (lead guide Tul Singh Gurung) visited the Jugal Glacier and established base camp at 4,470m on April 3. They avoided the lower icefall of the glacier on the right by technical ground, and placed an advanced base at a site named Nyang Kharka (4,724m). They were stuck at that camp for several days in bad weather, and when it cleared one member was evacuated by helicopter and more food was delivered.
On the 9th, an advanced team continued up the Jugal Glacier and set up Camp 1 at 5,180m; the rest left at 10 p.m. and rested at Camp 1 briefly, and then, at 12:30 a.m. on the 10th, the climb- ers all left Camp 1 to head for the summit. Guides Nar Bahadur Asthani, Ash Bahadur Gurung, and Tul Singh Gurung broke trail up the icy arm below the peak and then fixed ropes up its steep south-southeast face. The last 200m were reported to be 50-70 degrees. These three reached the summit at 5.30 a.m., then descended so they could escort remaining members to the top. At 11:30 a.m., the three previously named guides plus guide Samir Gurung and three climbing members—Maya Gurung, Milan Bahadur Tamang, and Sharmila Thapa—stood on the summit. They regained Camp 1 at 5 p.m
While chatting with Lindsay about our project this fall, I also learned that the small Tibetan-pouring summit had already been climbed in 2005 by a small English team led by Victor Saunders.
Tsha Tung, first ascent. June 2005 (in AAJ 2006). by Victor Saunders and partners.
“During my 2003 winter attempt on Xixabangma I noticed a small peak on the south side of the Phu Chu Valley just east of Eiger Peak (6,912m), as it was called by Doug Scott’s 1982 Xixabangma expedition. Later study showed it to be a northerly outlier of Gyaltsen (6,151m). My Tibetan yak herder and camp assistant, Kesang Tsering, told me it was called Tsha Tung and was, as far as anyone locally knew, unclimbed. It looked like a perfect objective for a short, semi-commercial trip (I believe the correct phrase is “not-for-profit”). The morning after our arrival we used yaks to carry loads up the first eight kilometers of the Phu Chu Valley to our base camp at Drak Po Che (a.k.a. Smaug’s Lair, 4,070m). The most logical route on our peak was the wide, snowy east ridge. We used a couple of donkeys to carry loads up to Camp 1 (4,600m), located in a beautiful hanging valley fed by a couple of streams. The following day we scrambled up loose boulders and rock for about 400m and then followed a rocky shelf, establishing Camp 2 (5,135m) at the snout of the glacier. June 19 was our summit day and initially involved moving westward on a broad glacial shelf and climbing a 100m 40o ice wall to the ridge. Seven hundred meters of snow led to the fine sum mit pyramid. As the clouds drifted in and out, we had an occasional glimpse of the fearsome- looking north face of Phurbi Chachu and a set of pinnacles at its eastern end, which we dubbed The Coolin Towers. The grade of our road equated to Alpine PD, and descent, following our route of ascent, was straightforward, with even some judicious glissading to ease tired legacies. »
The Tibetan side of Jugal Himal!
And this is the southern slope of jugal Himal with the different names. Great work from Lindsay.
For Ladies also, of course…
It would be a shame to want to commemorate the first women’s expedition to Nepal, without offering a special action towards women mountaineers, Nepalese or Western.
1… With Bishal,we will try to form at least one female rope of the agency Himalayan Travellers. Definitely with Kumari Rai (who I hope will come with us to Manaslu this spring).
2… In France,I would like to propose to a group of girls, or a female rope to join our group. with all the flexibility they want.
This can be:
- a differentiated female experience,on the same date or slightly offbeat, with or without support from the Nepalese team.
Just with the same agency and sharing all our experience.
- or, a simple rope that fits our group, with the same organization, but with a self-contained operation.
Inevitably this alpine game will be interesting!
And above all so different from the caricature of Himalayan expeditions on the great peaks.
Jugal Himal. Before you sign up…
A logic of mutual co-optation.
From “customer” to “teammate.”
The registration procedures I wish to use illustrate the tone of the expeditions I supervise.
The aim is to move from the concept of “customer” to that of “teammate” to build a group of solidarity, competent and dynamic, involved in the success of the project.
But don’t worry… It is not for me to evade my duties, obligations and responsibilities, quite the contrary.
It is simply another way of approaching the subject, more consistent with my values, the nature of these sometimes very complex Himalayan expedition projects, and my vision of things.
An expedition is above all a project co-directed by each participant, each of whom contributes to the success.
It is therefore essential to contact me, either by email or by phone (06 42 90 75 34).
All the administrative part: the regulation, the air, the insurance, is provided by SERAC, a tourism association, of which I am a member, which includes guides and escorts. It is therefore at SERAC that you should contact for any application for registration, via the website.
In addition to the presentation on my website, a technical sheet is also available. It includes all the “mandatory” travel information. Just click on the link in the SERAC website (to come).
Preparation for the expedition will actually begin at the whole team meeting in early summer 2021.
It is therefore fundamental because it validates the relevance of the ascent for each participant, both from a technical point of view and from a group cohesion point of view.
Of course, I am available to answer any questions you may have.
- by email ()
- 06 42 90 75 34
When I’m in the Himalayas, all is not lost!
Call SERAC on 04 76 86 46 84.
Noelle knows the field of shipping and Charlene will be able to inform you about your air booking, the follow-up of your booking request, ect.
See you soon…
Don’t hesitate to contact me for more information, I am available.
And the mail is still the simplest…
A new story begins… Welcome to Jugal Himal.
Paulo_Le December 1, 2019
and then on May 3rd at my base camp in La Grave in full lockdown.