Sunday, August 26

More - Nangpa La - A Trading and Pilgrimage Route

A cursory reference by Hoseman to ‘Nangpa La’ on the 25 August… “that they were now beyond any fixed civilisation! (great to be ‘off’ the map so to speak) in preparation of their tentative further exploration of the Nangpa La Pass.”
A mere three-syllable name, meaningless to most of us, Nangpa La is at 5800 m, probably the highest trading pass in the world and has been in use for centuries mainly through the close spiritual ties in the form of Buddhism that existed between India and Tibet. The yaks of Sola Khumbu as well as vegetables, fruit, grain, cloth, sugar, tobacco and many other goods from the foothills are greatly prized in Tibet. In return, travellers bring back great quantities of salt. Thus to the Sherpas it is both a trade route to Tingri and a pilgrimage route to Rongbuk. In the monastery of Thyangboche, there is a throne specially reserved for the Lama of Rongbuk. WH Murray considered a ‘complete’ writer of books on the Himalayas and mountaineering in general, wrote of a hike along this pass as follows:“Bourdillon and I left Chhule on 6 November (1951). Within a mile, we passed the snout of the glacier and took to the old moraines of the left bank. At last we could see the Nangpa La (or so we thought), where scree slopes at the glacier’s head rose to a col exactly as marked on the map. Suddenly our track swung right (north) into what turned out to be the true continuation of the main glacier which falls from the Nangpa La. The map wrongly marks the Nangpa La at the head of the westerly branch, and does not mark in the very much greater eastern branch. In brief, the map-maker had not gone up to the Nangpa La. At last the moraines petered out. We had travelled nine miles in nine hours when we dropped onto the glacier and pitched camp in a stony hollow. In the morning Bourdillon, Ang Puta, and I followed a track of yak dung through a mile-long mass of stone covering the glacier. Then we came onto the bare surface, in which yaks had trodden deep channels. No snow had fallen for many days; daily sun and nightly frost had transformed the surface into clear ice. In four hours we arrived on the pass – a wide and spacious snowfield, full of sun and the stir of air.”
(The Story of Everest 1921-1952) Reading Hoseman’s report we appreciate anew the references to active glaciers and moraines.

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