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The Japanese climbers move up the Fukan Glacier towards the east face of Panbari Himal (6905m). At this point they are at ca. 6000 meters, between camps 2 and 3. On September 29, 2006, all five members of the expedition reached the summit via the right skyline (northeast) ridge from a col out of picture to the right. The team operated without Nepalese assistance above base camp. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura collection

A Japanese expedition has made the first ascent of Panbari Himal, a remotely situated 6905-meter snow peak in the Nepal’s Peri Himal, very close to the Tibetan border north of Manaslu. The mountain, which was only officially opened to climbers in 2002 and has received no previous attempt, lies immediately north of the 5135-meter Larkya La, a relatively spectacular pass that forms the high point on the increasingly popular Manaslu Circuit. This whole area was closed to foreigners for many years due to its proximity with Tibet, but it was surreptitiously opened in 1991 and it took several years before trekkers caught on.

In 2004 the Japanese Alpine Club Student Section made the first ascent of Chivv Himal (6650m) in Mustang’s Damador Range. The Panbari expedition in the autumn of 2006 was the follow-up. The five-member team, under the leadership of Miss Yoshimi Kato, approached from the west through the Marsyandi Khola and crossed the Larkya La. Descending the normal trekking route on the east side of the pass, they turned north and established a base camp at 4865 meters on the Fukan Glacier, which rises west to towards the east face of Panbari Himal. Though this glacier looked gentle and relatively benign, it presented complex icefalls with unstable seracs and hidden crevasses. Route finding proved difficult but by late September the team had established Camp 3 at 6280 meters below the northeast ridge.

On the 29th Kato, Gakuto Komiya, Miss Sayaka Koyama, Kenro Nakajima and Yousuke Urabe reached the col between the base of the ridge and the unnamed 6767-meter peak on the Tibetan border immediately north. The ridge proved to be broad, technically straightforward, though deep in snow. The five Japanese ploughed their way upwards till they came to a plateau, which took them by surprise when they realized it was the summit. The time was 9:40 a.m. Over the next two days they removed all their ropes and camps from the mountain. This was another innovative expedition by young Japanese climbers, who achieved success on a high and little-known mountain without the support of Nepalese helpers above base camp. This was one of only three new summits to be climbed during Nepal’s post-monsoon season.