3 trekkers jumping on the mountain infront of the mighty Jomolhari

Mt. Jomolhari

Jomolhari or Chomolhari(Tibetan: ཇོ་མོ་ལྷ་རི, Wylie: jo mo lha ri; Chinese: 绰莫拉日峰; pinyin: Chuòmòlārì Fēng) sometimes known as “the bride of Kangchenjunga”, is a mountain in the Himalayas, straddling the border between Yadong County of Tibet, China and the Paro district of Bhutan. The north face rises over 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) above the barren plains. The mountain is the source of the Paro Chu (Paro river) which flows from the south side and the Amo Chu which flows from the north side.

Religious Significance

The mountain is sacred to Tibetan Buddhists who believe it is the abode of one of the Five Tsheringma Sisters;(jo mo tshe ring mched lnga) — female protector goddesses (Jomo) of Tibet and Bhutan, who were bound under oath by Padmasambhava to protect the land, the Buddhist faith, and the local people.

Guru Padmasambhava

On the Bhutanese side is a Jomolhari Temple, toward the south side of the mountain about a half day’s journey from the army outpost between Thangthangkha and Jangothang at an altitude of 4150 meters. Religious practitioners and pilgrims visiting Mt. Jomolhari stay at this temple. There are several other sacred sites near Jomolhari Temple, including the meditation caves of Milarepa and Gyalwa Lorepa. Within an hour’s walk up from the temple at an altitude of c. 4450 meters is Tseringma Lhatso, the “spirit lake” of Tsheringma.

In Tibet, there is an annual pilgrimage from Pagri to a holy lake, Jomo Lharang, which lies at c. 5,100 meters (16,700 ft) elevation, just north of the mountain. Because Jomolhari was sacred and the home of goddesses, those living nearby believed it was impossible to climb, and that anyone who climbed too high would be thrown down.

Climbing History

Despite its notability and spectacular visibility from the old trade route between India and Lhasa that passes through the Chumbi Valley, the mountain has seen little climbing activity. It was known to climbers passing by on the way to Everest and was scouted by Odell as early as 1924. In 1937 permission to climb the sacred mountain was granted to a British expedition headed by Freddie Spencer Chapman by both “the Tibetans” and the “Maharajah of Bhutan. Although no refusals are known of earlier climbing requests, Chapman believed this was the reason it had gone unclimbed until 1937. Six porters accompanied the 5 man-climbing teams from Phari across Sur La into Bhutan. Chapman and Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama (of the American K2 expedition fame) reached the summit via the southeast spur on 21 May 1937. The protracted and epic descent, which they were fortunate to survive, is described in detail in Chapman’s Helvellyn to Himalaya published in 1940.

Mount Chomolhari (Jomolhari) from the road Paro – Chelela Pass, Bhutan

Signboard

The second ascent was only on 24 April 1970 -over the same route- by a joint Bhutanese-Indian military expedition led by Colonel Narendra Kumar. This ascent was notable also for the disappearance of two climbing members and a sherpa in the second summit party the following day. Dorjee Lhatoo (Nanda Devi East 1975, West 1981) led the route, partnered with Prem Chand (2nd ascent Kanchenjunga 1977) all the way to the summit via two camps.Chachu was charged with laying a “Sachu Bumter” offering on the summit by the Bhutanese King in order to “appease” mountain deities – apparently a pot containing gold, silver, and precious stones.

Chelela Pass

The following day, the second party of three was spotted close to the ridge when they became obscured by clouds. When the cloud lifted, they were gone. A telephoto lens and fruit cans were found on the ridge by a search party. Prem Chand went up to the ridge and reported gunshots thudding into the ice and whipping up ice chips – thus ending any further attempts in locating the missing bodies. Chachu and Prem Chand, on their way up during their successful summit attempt, had reported seeing a lot of PLA activity on the Lhasa-Chumbi highway.

The reason for their disappearance remains speculative – did they fall or were they shot? All three were relatively inexperienced climbers and Chachu later speculated on the exposure on the knife-edged ridge leading to the summit slope as a possible incident site. He (an ex-Gurkha himself) is quoted as believing the shooting theory to be unlikely but possible, citing his difficulty in estimating the distance between the ridge and possible Chinese positions on the Tibetan side. Chachu refuses to make the final ascend, due to religious beliefs, he was shy of 100 meters. An account of the expedition is available in the Himalayan Journal 2000. Prem Chand has not spoken publicly on the matter. Chinese displeasure with Bhutan over the expedition and sensitivities in New Delhi led to a complete media blackout of what was otherwise a notable Indian climb.

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