Tri-foliate Mount Lhotse
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
Lhotse mountain massif in the Himalayas lies on the border of Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The summit is on the border between Tingri County of Tibet (China) and the Khumbu region of Nepal. Lhotse lies just south of Mount Everest, to which it is joined by a ridge at an elevation of about 7,600 metre. Lhotse is one of the 14 Eight-thousanders in the world.
Lhotse denotes ‘South Peak’ in Tibetan language. Lho means ‘South’ and Tse is ‘Peak.’ Lhotse is located 3.25 km south of the peak of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) in the Mahalangur Range. This peak adjoins Mt. Everest, rising 2,000 feet above the South Col.
The name Lhotse was first given by C.K. Howard-Bury who led the Everest Expedition of 1921 from the Tibetan side. The British reconnaissance team to Everest led by Eric Shipton was the first to have close look at the peak from the west. E-1 was the original survey symbol for the mountain, which was given to it by the Survey of India in 1931.
Lhotse has three summits: Lhotse Main, Lhotse Middle and Lhotse Shar. These three peaks are as a ‘Tri-foliate’ in the same mountain range. Lhotse Main is 8516 meter high from the mean sea level. Lhotse Middle (East) with 8413 meter is located 0.5 km east of Lhotse Main. And Lhotse Shar having 8383 meter, is situated 0.7 km south-east of Lhotse Middle and 4.45 km south-east from the Everest summit. Generally, the name Lhotse is referred to the ‘Lhotse Main’ and two other are the subsidiary peaks of the main mountain.
Bradford Washburn Sagarmatha Map
Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain in the world and the third highest in Nepal, after Mount Everest (8848 m) and Kanchanjunga (8586 m). Mount Lhotse has been overshadowed by by Mount Everest in terms of mountain climbing activities. The geographical co-ordinate of Lhotse Main is 86° 56′ 03” East of Greenwich Meridian and 27° 57′ 45” North of Equator. Administratively, Lhotse falls in the Eastern Development Region in Khumjung Village Development Committee of Solukhumbu District. The view onto the jagged, desolate ridges of Lhotse and over to Everest is a magnificent wilderness.
Long east-west crest of Lhotse Main is located immediately 3.25 km south of Mount Everest, and the summits of these two mountains are connected by the South Col, a vertical ridge that never drops below 8,000 meter. Lhotse is sometimes mistakenly identified as the ‘South Peak’ of the Everest massif, as the caravan route and climbing route is the same up to Camp-III (7400 m). After this, Everest climbing route leads to the north, whereas Lhotse route goes to slightly east and north. Lhotse is an exhilarating climb that follows the Everest climbing route as far as Camp Three. A narrow gully splits the upper northwest face making for an exciting and interesting finale to the climb.
From the Base Camp, it has to ascend the famous Khumbu Icefall and enter the Western Cwm that the expeditioneers follow to Camp-II, surrounded by the towering flanks of Nuptse, Lhotse and Everest’s South West Face. The route steepens as the expeditioneers have to climb the icy Lhotse face to Camp-III, then on through the Yellow Band to Camp Four at the base of the summit gully. 600 m of climbing up the icy gully follows, sometimes with rocky sections that keep all expeditioneers on their toes, making this a challenging ascent.
Ascent to Lhotse
The main summit of Lhotse was first climbed on 18 May 1956 through the south-west face by the Swiss team of Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger from the Swiss Mount Everest/Lhotse Expedition. On 12 May 1970, Sepp Mayerl and Rolf Walter of Austria made the first ascent of Lhotse Shar. Lhotse Middle remained, for a long time, one of the Eight-thousanders unclimbed named point on Earth; however, its first ascent was made on 23 May 2001 by Eugeny Vinogradsky, Sergei Timofeev, Alexei Bolotov and Petr Kuznetsov of a Russian expedition. It is difficult to climb Lhotse Middle and Lhotse Shar, due to very steep slope, as the peaks are more sharper than Lhotse Main. It is a fact that no serious attention was turned to climbing Lhotse until after Everest had finally been first ascended in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary.
The first Nepali climber was Urkien Tshering Sherpa who topped the Lhotse Main mountain peak on 8 May 1977. Chantal Manduit of France was the first women to summit Mt. Lhotse Main on 10 May 1996. Lhotse Main has been successfully climbed by 604 mountaineers till 2015.
The Lhotse standard climbing route follows the same path as Everest’s South Col route up to the Yellow Band beyond Camp-III. The expeditioneers have to fly by Twin-otter aircraft from Kathmandu to Tenzing-Hillary (Lukla) air-strip. The caravan route starts from Lukla to Jorsalle, Namche, Khumjung, Pheriche, Lobuche, Gorakshep and then Base Camp (5364 m). Climbing route starts from Base camp to Camp-III via Camp-I and Camp-II, the same route to Everest. After the Yellow Band beyond Camp-III (7400 m), the routes diverge with climbers bound for Everest taking a left (north-east) over the Geneva Spur up to the South Col, while Lhotse climbers take a right (east-north) further up the Lhotse face. The last part of the climbing route to the Lhotse summit leads through a narrow couloir until the Lhotse Main peak is reached. Length of the caravan route to Lhotse Main is 52 km and the climbing route is 9.8 km long.
The western flank of Lhotse is known as the Lhotse Face. Any climber bound for the South Col on Everest must climb this 1125 m wall of glacial blue ice. This face rises at 40 and 50 degree pitches with the occasional 80 degree bulges. High-altitude climbing Sherpas and the lead climbers will set fix ropes up to this wall of ice. Climbers and porters need to establish a good rhythm of foot placement and pulling themselves up the ropes using their jumars. Two rocky sections called the Yellow Band and the Geneva Spur interrupt the icy ascent on the upper part of the face.
The Lhotse Face is a steep ice slope on the way to Camp III. The slope is around 1139 m high and has a pitch of 30 to 40 degrees, with the ice sometimes jutting out to an 80-degree pitch. The climbers must use ropes that have been put in place by Sherpas to pull themselves up the wall of ice. Strong winds and blowing snow often beat back climbers, forcing them to turn around and try the ascent another day.
It may have snowed the day and night usually before attempt to climb the Lhotse Face. As the climbers proceed on their way up, fierce winds may blow snow to the climber’s faces, covering their safety ropes and concealing crevasses. Expeditioneer’s hands would be stinging with cold, which will made it difficult to clip up their Jumar ascenders. In this condition, all of the climbers, Sherpas and westerners alike, use to turn back to Camp-II for the safety.
Nearest settlement from the Base Camp is Lobuche which is 8 km far. Nearest Police and Army posts from the base camp is at Namche with 34 km distant. Nearest health post is located at Pheriche, 15 km. It may take nearly 60 days round trip expedition, including the acclimatizing period. Climbing royalty to Lhotse for the foreigner is 1,800 US $ and for Nepali is 10,000 Rs. per expeditioneer (Spring Season). However, the royalty may change time to time with the decision of Nepal government.
Nepal Himal Peak Profile
Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) is going to prepare ‘Nepal Himal Peak Profile’ of 476 Mountain Peaks, which are above 5800 metre from the mean sea level. Mountain Peak Profile Committee (MPPC) was formed by the Government of Nepal in 2 January 2014 under the Chairmanship of NMA President. Purpose of the preparation of Peak Profile is to :
- equip with necessary information about the mountain peaks.
- float information online all over the world.
- promote mountain tourism / adventure tourism in Nepal.
- provide necessary information to the expeditioneers and mountaineers of various countries of the world.
- identify more peaks above 8,000 meter.
- identify unknown peaks.
- attract expeditioneers to climb virgin peaks.
- help government to make decision easy to open virgin peaks.
- familiarize Nepal more all over the world through the mountain tourism.
Information such as name of the peak with photograph, height, location, range name, history, latitude/longitude, length and location of the peak, caravan and climbing route, duration of expedition have been incorporated in the Peak Profile database. Similarly, name of the nearest settlement from the Base Camp and the distance in km, geological construction of the mountain, name of the nearest glaciers / glacial lake, name of nearest police post, army barrack, tele-communication tower, Hospital etc have been included in the Profile. Database of all information will be created digitally in GIS technique to float online. Nepal Himal Peak Profile Manual will be published in the hard copy format as well.
Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) with the collaboration of Nepal government Ministry of Tourism observed the Silver Jubilee celebration on 18 May 1981 with a grand function, to commemorate the first successful ascent of the Lhotse Main. Similarly, Golden Jubilee function was organized by NMA with the support of Nepal government on 18 May 2006. It was celebrated with a procession and long rally honouring the successful mountaineers of the various countries. They were mounted into the horse carriage along the procession. They were felicitated by Nepal government in recognition of their successful expedition spirit. Ernst Reiss, the first successful Swiss summiteer could not come to Kathmandu to join the Golden Jubilee celebration due to his age, as he was 86 years old at that year. It is a matter of sorrow that he died in 2012 at the age of 92. Now Nepal is going to celebrate Diamond Jubilee celebration of the first accent of Mount Lhotse Main on 18 may 2016 with a colourful function. It is expected that successful summiteers from abroad and home will participate the gracious function. This celebration will contribute to expand the mountaineering activities and expand adventure tourism further in Nepal.
- Elizabeth Hawley (Updated 2014), Himalayan Database
- Harka Gurung (December 2006), Nepal Parbat Vol-7, Number 13, Kathmandu
3. Mountaineering in Nepal Facts & Figures (June 2013), Government of Nepal, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Kathmandu
- Preliminary Report on Preparation of Mountain Peak Profile (March 2016), Nepal Mountaineering Association, Hattisar, Kathmandu
5. Dr. Harka Gurung (December 2006), Nepal Parbat Vol-7, Number 13, Kathmandu
6. Mountaineering in Nepal Facts & Figures (June 2013), Government of Nepal, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Kathmandu
7. Ms. Elizabeth Hawley (Updated 2014), Himalayan Database
8. Preliminary Report on Preparation of Mountain Peak Profile (March 2016), Nepal Mountaineering Association, Hattisar, Kathmandu