Summit of Naya Kanga seen from the basecamp
Naya Kanga, standing at 5846m is one of the lower trekking peaks found in Nepal. Although it is not a very technical peak, the mountain is notorious for its poor snow condition and bad weather. It is located in the Lantang valley, which is the 3rd most popular trek after Annapurnna and Everest. The combination of soft, powdery snow, worsening weather and possible danger of avalanche had forced my climbing partner and me to abort the summit attempt. Nevertheless, our climbing sherpa, Mingma, had charted a less frequently used route, if at all, to reach the Northeast ridge of Naya Kanga.
As with most mountains, there are a few routes that can be taken to reach the summit of Naya Kanga. The ever-changing weather conditions ensure that there is no fixed route to reach the summit of Naya Kanga. The most common route taken is via the Northeast ridge. Although most people reached the ridge from the left side passing by Ganja La, our Mingma decided to approach the ridge from its right side. Daily snowfall for the pass few days had piled thick snow on the commonly used basecamp and highcamp. This prompted Mingma to try an alternative approach.
Summit of Naya Kanga seen from Kyanjin Gompa.
The alternative basecamp is sheltered by high ridges on three corners from the wind and has an altitude of 4200m. Generally, there is no snow found here unless it has been snowing heavily the day before. The trek to the highcamp at 5300m involved slogging through soft snow and the highcamp itself was on snow. During the days at the basecamp and the first day at the highcamp, the weather had been kind with clear skies in the morning but clouds began to move in during the late afternoon. On our acclimatization climb on the highcamp, the snow was hard and crisps in the morning.
However, the weather started to turn for the worse during the afternoon. Snow began to fall and it did not stop until midnight. Our summit attempt was postponed but the weather for the next day was bad. The sky was overcast in the morning and snow starts to fall again in the afternoon. Having stayed a few days at the highcamp, we decided to make a push for the summit that night. Even at 2.40a.m in the morning, the snow was soft at the highcamp. Soon, we reached a slope with gradient of about 45 degrees. It was a long stretch that gradually became increasingly steep but the snow remained soft. The soft snow condition meant that I needed to raise my foot up to waist level to plant the next step which would then sink a few inches into the soft snow.
When the sun came up, the sky was once again overcast and strong wind start to pick up the powdery snow and lashed at us. The wind-blown snow would also quickly fill up the deep steps from the climber in front. I was already contemplating a safe retreat when some snowballs start to flow down the slope, crossing our path. Mingma instructed us to run on the spot as the snowballs reached us. Although Mingma said that this situation was normal, we decided that the snow condition was too unstable and descended, at an altitude of 5200m, about halfway to the summit of Naya Kanga.