Mentok Kangri A Peak in the Land of Passes

Ladakh is a region of northern India that forms the borderland with Pakistan and China/Tibet. In the distant past it was called “Little Tibet” with what we now know as Tibet being “Greater Tibet”. The name Ladakh means The Land of Passes, and it is well named. Politically, it is an area in a state of constant alertness because the never-ending conflicts in Kashmir and the Karakoram border with both China and Pakistan are also not far away.

After acclimatising and sightseeing in the capital Leh (3500m) and visiting some of the areas unspoiled Buddhist monasteries, we set off into the heart of this remote area. It is only inhabited during the summer by nomadic herders and by rare animals such as wolf and kiang (wild ass) year-round. In this area porters are not used to carry gear but rather ponies or mules. They cope brilliantly with the conditions, whether it is altitude, rocky terrain or river crossings. We coped less well than all of them.

Our mules crossing the Yalung Naula Pass (5400m)

After a week of inspirational trekking crossing many high passes and camping in remote valleys, we reached the Yalung Naula Pass (5400m) where we got our first views of the glowing azure blue, 20-kilometre long lake Tso Morari, whose colour famously changes with the colour of the sky and whose surface frequently reflects the image of one of the higher peaks in the area, Lungser Kangri (6600m). These days, sadly, the peak is closed to climbers and trekkers due to its proximity to the Chinese border.

Our goals were on the opposite side of the lake, the 6000m+ summits of Mentok Kangri that provide steep snow/ice slopes that lead to an easier sinuous ridge linking the summits of Mentok Kangri 1, 2 and 3. We made a high camp at 5300m at the only water source on the mountain this year. We were alone there for 3 nights.

Mentok Kangri from high camp

The ice face of Mentok Kangri 2 above us looked steep, so initially we explored a couloir further down the ridge that one of our climbing Sherpas had climbed some years ago. It turned out to be low on snow and high on rock fall, so we abandoned that plan and returned to the original ice face route.

The route initially climbed a series of moraine ridges to about 5600m. Above that a steepening glacier lead to an ice wall of about 45 degrees where we fixed ropes for several rope lengths. Above the ice wall the angle eased but still gave a long uphill pull to the rounded summit. The view from the summit was magnificent, we could see peaks in China in one direction, Pakistan in the other and far below the shining waters of Tso Morari lake.

On the way to the summit of Mentok Kangri 2. The headwall descends on the left

A classic mountain adventure.

Climb Mentok Kangri with KE Adventure Travel. If you're lucky you may even have Tom himself guiding you!

By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

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Tom Richardson
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