Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baekdu Mountain the highest mountain in Korea

Baekdu Mountain, also known in China as Changbai Mountain and Baitou Mountain (when referencing both the mountain and its crater lake, Heaven Lake), is a volcanic mountain on the border between North Korea and China, located at 42°00′24″N 128°03′18″E. At 2,744 m (9,003 ft), it is the highest mountain of the Changbai mountain range to the north and Baekdudaegan mountain range to the south. It is also the highest mountain in the Korean peninsula and in Northeast China. The Korean name, Baekdu San, means "white-headed mountain". English-language volcanology resources sometimes refer to the mountain as Baitoushan; this name arose by reading the Korean Hanja. The Chinese name, Changbai Shan, means "ever-white mountain". The Manchu name, Golmin Šanggiyan Alin, means "white mountain". Various authors have used other non-standard transliterations of the name of the mountain. A large crater lake, called Heaven Lake, is in the caldera atop the mountain.  


All Chinese and Korean names, ever-white or white-head, originate from the Manchu language (or more accurately, Sushen language or Proto-Jurchen language) Šanggiyan Alin (white mountain).  

Geography and geology

Baekdu Mountain is a stratovolcano whose cone is truncated by a large caldera, about 5 km (3.1 mi) wide and 850 m (2,789 ft) deep, partially filled by the waters of Heaven Lake. The caldera was created by a major eruption in 969 AD (± 20 years). Volcanic ash from this eruption has been found as far away as the southern part of Hokkaidō, the northern island of Japan. The lake has a circumference of 12 to 14 kilometres (7.5-8.7 miles), with an average depth of 213 m (699 ft) and maximum depth of 384 m (1,260 ft). From mid-October to mid-June, the lake is typically covered with ice. In 2011, experts in North and South Korea met to discuss the potential for a significant eruption in the near future.[6] as the volcano explodes to life every 100 years or so, the last time in 1903. The central section of the mountain rises about 3 mm every year, due to rising levels of magma below the central part of the mountain. Sixteen peaks exceeding 2,500 m (8,200 ft) line the caldera rim surrounding Heaven Lake. The highest peak, called Janggun Peak, is covered in snow about eight months of the year. The slope is relatively gentle until about 1,800 metres (5,905 ft). Water flows north out of the lake, and near the outlet there is a 70 metre (230 ft) waterfall. The mountain is the source of the Songhua, Tumen and Yalu rivers.


The weather on the mountain can be very erratic, sometimes severe. The annual average temperature at the peak is −8.3 °C (17.1 °F). During summer, temperatures of about 18 °C (64 °F) or higher can be reached, and during winter temperatures can drop to −48 °C (−54 °F). Average temperature is about −24 °C (−11 °F) in January, and 10 °C (50 °F) in July, remaining below freezing for eight months of the year. Average wind speed is 42 kilometres (26.1 mi) per hour, peaking at 63 kilometres (39.1 mi) per hour. Relative humidity averages 74%. Summer snow cover on the peak has reduced dramatically during that time.  

Flora and fauna 

There are five known species of plants in the lake on the peak, and some 168 were counted along its shores. The area is a known habitat for tigers, bears, leopards, wolves, and wild boars. Deer in the mountain forests, which cover the mountain up to about 2000 metres, are of the Paekdusan roe deer kind. Many wild birds such as black grouse, owls, and woodpecker are known to inhabit the area. The forest on the Chinese side is ancient and almost unaltered by humans. Birch predominates near the tree line, and pine lower down, mixed with other species. In recent decades, significant climate warming has resulted in changes in the structure of the ancient forests on the upper slopes, with a change over from birch to more pine, and a thickening of the forest canopy. There has been extensive deforestation on the lower slopes on the North Korean side of the mountain.


The Baekdu Mountain has been worshipped by the surrounding peoples throughout history. Both the Koreans and Manchus consider it the place of their ancestral origin.  


It was first recorded in the Chinese classic text Shan Hai Jing with the name Buxian Shan (the Mountain with God). It is also called Shanshan Daling (the Big Big Big Mountain) in the Canonical Book of the Eastern Han Dynasty. In the Canonical Book of the Tang Dynasty, it was called Taibai Shan (太白山, the Grand Old White Mountain). The current Chinese name Changbai Shan (perpetually white mountain) was first used in the Liao Dynasty (907-1125) and then the Jurchen Jin Dynasty (1115–1234). The Jurchen Jin Dynasty (1115–1234) bestowed the title "the King Who Makes the Nation Prosperous and Answers with Miracles" (Xingguo Lingying Wang) on the mountain god in 1172 and it was promoted to "the Emperor Who Cleared the Sky with Tremendous Sagehood" (Kaitian Hongsheng Emperor) in 1193.  


Koreans consider Mount Baekdu as the place of their ancestral origin and as a sacred mountain, one of the three “spirited” mountains (Jirisan, Hallasan and Baekdusan; "san" means a mountain in Korean); the one contained in the legendary foundation of Korea. From the beginning of history through the Three Kingdoms period, to the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties, Koreans have spiritually depended upon the “divine” mountain. The mountain was considered sacred by Koreans throughout history. The legendary beginning of Korea's first kingdom, Gojoseon (2333 BC–108 BC), takes place here. Many subsequent kingdoms of Korea, such as Buyeo, Goguryeo, Balhae, Goryeo and Joseon, considered the mountain sacred and held worshipping rituals for the mountain. The Goryeo dynasty (935–1392) first called the mountain Baekdu, recording that the Jurchens across the Yalu River were made to live outside of Baekdu Mountain. The Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910) recorded volcanic eruptions in 1597, 1668, and 1702. The 15th century, King Sejong the Great strengthened the fortification along the Tumen and Yalu rivers, making the mountain a natural border with the northern peoples. Some Koreans claim that the entire region near Baekdu Mountain and the Tumen River belongs to Korea and part of it was illegally sold by Japanese colonialists to China through the Gando Convention. Dense forest around the mountain provided bases for Korean armed resistance against the Japanese occupation, and later communist guerrillas during the Korean War. North Korea claims that Kim Il-sung organized his resistance against the Japanese forces there and that Kim Jong-il was born there, although records outside of North Korea show that these events took place a short distance within the borders of the Soviet Union.

Border disputes 

According to Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, the Yalu and Tumen Rivers were set as the borders in the era of the founder of Joseon Dynasty, Taejo of Joseon (1335–1408). Because of the continuous entry of Korean people into Gando, a region in Manchuria that lay north of the Tumen Manchu and Korean officials surveyed the area and negotiated a border agreement in 1712. To mark the agreement, they built a monument describing the boundary at a watershed, near the south of the crater lake at the mountain peak. The interpretation of the inscription caused a territorial dispute from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, and is still disputed by academics today. The 1909 Gando Convention between China and Japan (Japan was responsible for Korea's foreign affairs at the time, according to the Eulsa Treaty, though this treaty was later declared null and void in 1965 by the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea) recognized the area north and east as Chinese territory. The border was further clarified in 1962, when China and North Korea negotiated a border treaty on the mountain border in response to minor disputes. The two countries agreed to share the mountain and the lake at the peak, with Korea controlling approximately 54.5% and gaining approximately 230 km² in the treaty.  

Recent disputes 

Some South Korean groups argue that recent activities conducted on the Chinese side of the border, such as economic development, cultural festivals, infrastructure development, promotion of the tourism industry, attempts at registration as a World Heritage Site, and bids for a Winter Olympic Games, are an attempt to claim the mountain as Chinese territory. These groups object to China's use of Changbai Mountain, which has been used since Liao Dynasty and the earlier Jin Dynasty (1115–1234). Some groups also regard the entire mountain as Korean territory that was given away by North Korea in the Korean War. Both European maps and Chinese maps dating before the annexation of Baekdu Mountain and Gando show these areas to be under Korean Joseon Dynasty control. During the 2007 Asian Winter Games, which were held in Changchun, China, a group of South Korean athletes held up signs during the award ceremony which stated "Mount Baekdu is our territory". Chinese sports officials delivered a letter of protest on the grounds that political activities violated the spirit of the Olympics and were banned in the charter of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia. The head of the Korea Olympic Committee responded by stating that the incident was accidental and held no political meaning. South Korea has attempted to avoid having this issue become a source of friction between South Korea and China. The athletes' gesture did not become as big an issue as Liancourt Rocks and the Sea of Japan naming dispute. The 2007 official National Atlas of Korea clearly shows the boundary as per the 1962 agreement, roughly splitting the mountain and the caldera lake. However, there are some in Taiwan and South Korea who do not see the 1962 agreement between China and North Korea as legitimate.  


Foreign visitors, mostly South Koreans, usually climb the mountain from the Chinese side, although Baekdu Mountain is a common tourist destination for the few foreign tourists in North Korea. There are a number of monuments on the North Korean side of the mountain. Baekdu Spa is a natural spring and is used for bottled water. Pegae Hill is a famous camp site of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army led by Kim Il-sung during their struggle against Japanese colonial rule. There are also a number of secret camps which are now open to the public. There are several waterfalls, including the Hyongje Falls which splits into two separate falls about a third from the top.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ultar Peak the highest mountain #70 in the world

Ultar Sar (also Ultar, Ultar II, Bojohagur Duanasir II) is the southeasternmost major peak of the Batura Muztagh, a subrange of the Karakoram range. It lies about 10 km (6.2 mi) northeast of the Karimabad, a town on the Karakoram Highway in the Hunza Valley, part of the Gilgit District of the Northern Areas of Pakistan.  

Notable Features and Climbing History

While not one of the highest peaks of the Karakoram, Ultar Sar is notable for its dramatic rise above local terrain. Its south flank rises over 5,300 metres (17,388 feet) above the Hunza River near Karimabad, in only about 10 km (6.2 mi) of horizontal distance. Combined with its strategic position at the end of the Batura Muztagh, with the Hunza River bending around it, this makes Ultar a visually striking peak. Ultar Sar also gained fame in the 1990s as supposedly the world's highest unclimbed independent peak. This was incorrect, as Gangkhar Puensum in Bhutan is higher, and remains unclimbed (and off-limits) in 2007. (Two other higher peaks are also reputedly unclimbed and of independent stature.) However that perception did add to the appeal of the peak, and a number of expeditions attempted to climb it. During the 1980s and 1990s over 15 expeditions made attempts, resulting in no success, but in a number of fatalities; the peak proved to be quite difficult.
The first two ascents were made in July 1996 by two separate Japanese expeditions, the first (from the Tokai section of the Japanese Alpine Club) led by Akito Yamazaki (who summitted, but died on the descent) and the second led by Ken Takahashi. The first summit team comprised Yamazaki and Kiyoshi Matsuoka (who died one year later on the nearby peak Bublimotin). They climbed the peak from the southwest in alpine style, doing much of the climbing at night to avoid danger from falling rock and ice. After their successful summit, they faced strong storms and bivouaced several days without food before returning to basecamp. However, Akihito Yamazaki died at basecamp of an internal disease due to the severe stress of climbing. The second summit team comprised Takahashi and four others: Masayuki Ando, Ryushi Hoshino, Wataru Saito, and Nobuo Tsutsumi. They climbed the south ridge. Since 1996, there have been no recorded ascents of the peak.  

Nearby Summits and Glaciers

Ultar Sar is the east end of a short, somewhat level ridge, the west end of which is a peak called Bojahagur Duanasir (7,329 m/24,045 ft), climbed in 1984 by a Japanese party. To the northwest of both peaks is the huge pyramid of Shispare (7,611 m/24,970 ft). Along the southwest ridge of the massif are Hunza Peak and the striking rock spire of Bublimotin (Ladyfinger Peak). The glaciers draining the slopes of the massif are (clockwise from north): the Ghulkin Glacier, the Gulmit Glacier, the Ahmad Abad Glacier, the Ultar Glacier, and the Hasanabad Glacier. (Many of these have other names as well.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trango Towers a group of dramatic granite spires

The Trango Towers are a group of dramatic granite spires located on the north side of the Baltoro Glacier, in Baltistan, a district of the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan (formerly Northern Areas). They are part of the Baltoro Muztagh, a subrange of the Karakoram range. The Towers offer some of the largest cliffs and most challenging rock climbing in the world. The highest point in the group is the summit of Great Trango Tower, 6,286 m (20,608 ft). The east face of the Great Trango Tower features the world's greatest nearly vertical drop.

Structure of the group

All of the Trango Towers lie on a ridge, trending northwest-southeast, between the Trango Glacier on the west and the Dunge Glacier on the east. Great Trango itself is a large massif, with four identifiable summits: Main (6,286 m), South or Southwest (circa 6,250 m), East (6,231 m), and West (6,223 m). It is a complex combination of steep snow/ice gullies, steeper rock faces, and vertical to overhanging headwalls, topped by a snowy ridge system.

Just northwest of Great Trango is the Trango Tower (6,239 m), often called "Nameless Tower". This is a very large, pointed, rather symmetrical spire which juts 1000 m out of the ridgeline. North of Trango Tower is a smaller rock spire known as "Trango Monk." To the north of this feature, the ridge becomes less rocky and loses the large granite walls that distinguish the Trango Towers group and make them so attractive to climbers; however the summits do get higher. These summits are not usually considered part of the Trango Towers group, though they share the Trango name. Trango II (6,327 m) lies northwest of the Monk, and the highest summit on the ridge, Trango Ri (6,363 m), lies northwest of Trango II.

Just southeast of Great Trango (really a part of its southeast ridge) is the Trango Pulpit (6,050m), whose walls present similar climbing challenges to those of Great Trango itself. Further to the south is Trango Castle (5,753 m), the last large peak along the ridge before the Baltoro Glacier.

Climbing history

Overall, the Trango Towers group has seen some of the most difficult and significant climbs ever accomplished, due to the combination of altitude, total height of the routes, and the steepness of the rock. All of the routes are highly technical climbs.

Great Trango

Great Trango was first climbed in 1977 by Galen Rowell, John Roskelley, Kim Schmitz, Jim Morrissey and Dennis Hennek by a route which started from the west side (Trango Glacier), and climbed a combination of ice ramps and gullies with rock faces, finishing on the upper South Face.

The east face of Great Trango was first climbed (to the East Summit) in 1984 by the Norwegians Hans Christian Doseth and Finn Dæhli, who both died on the descent.

The first successful climb of and return from the East Summit was in 1992, by Xaver Bongard and John Middendorf, via "The Grand Voyage", a route parallel to that of the ill-fated Norwegians. These two climbs have been called "perhaps the hardest big-wall climbs in the world."

The least difficult route on Great Trango is on the Northwest Face, and was climbed in 1984 by Andy Selters and Scott Woolums. This is nonetheless a very serious, technical climb.

Trango (Nameless) Tower

Trango (Nameless) Tower was first climbed in 1976 by the legendary British climber Joe Brown, along with Mo Anthoine, Martin Boysen, and Malcolm Howells. There are at least eight separate routes to the summit.

One notable route is Eternal Flame (named after a Bangles album), first climbed on 20 September 1989 by Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Güllich. This route ascends the South-East Face of the Tower, and was climbed almost entirely free (in stages, using fixed ropes to return to a base each night). This helped inaugurate an era of pure rock-climbing techniques and aesthetics on high-altitude peaks.

Other summits

The West summit of Great Trango and the Trango Pulpit were both first climbed in 1999. The West summit was climbed by two separate teams, one American and one Russian, almost simultaneously, by parallel routes. The American team of Alex Lowe, Jared Ogden, and Mark Synnott climbed a long, bold, highly technical line which they called "Parallel Worlds." They reported difficulties up to 5.11 and A4. The Russian team of Igor Potan'kin, Alexandr Odintsov, Ivan Samoilenko and Yuri Koshelenko climbed an equally proud route (Eclissi) and encountered similar technical challenges. Both climbs were nominated for the prestigious Piolet d'or award in 1999. The Pulpit was climbed by a Norwegian team (Robert Caspersen, Gunnar Karlsen, Per L. Skjerven, and Einar Wold) over a total of 38 days on the wall. The team reported of difficulties up to A4/5.11.


On 26 August 1992, Australians Nic Feteris and Glenn Singleman climbed Great Trango and then BASE jumped from an elevation of 5,955 metres (19,537 ft) on the Northwest Face, landing on the northern side of the Dunge Glacier at an altitude of 4,200 metres (13,779 ft). This was the highest starting elevation for a BASE jump on record. The current Guinness World Record for a BASE jump starting elevation is held by Singleman himself and partner Heather Swan for a jump from 6604 meters (21,667 ft) from Meru Peak in northern India on 23 May 2006.

Recent ascents

Some of the more recent ascents on Great Trango have focused on the longer routes found on the west and south sides. In particular, in 2004 Josh Wharton and Kelly Cordes completed a new, very long (2,256 metre/7,400 ft) route on the Southwest Ridge, or Azeem Ridge, to the Southwest Summit. Though not as extremely technical as the East Face routes, the climb was notable for the extremely lightweight and fast (5 days) style in which it was done.

Over 7 days in August 2005, two Slovak climbers, Gabo Cmarik and Jozef Kopold, climbed a new route, which they termed Assalam Alaikum, to the right of the Wharton/Cordes line on the south face of Great Trango. The climb comprised around 90 pitches, up to 5.11d A2. They used a lightweight style similar to that of Wharton and Cordes.

In the same month, Samuel Johnson, Jonathon Clearwater and Jeremy Frimer made the first ascent of the southwest ridge of Trango II, which they termed Severance Ridge. The route involved 1,600 m of climbing over five days, with rock climbing up to 5.11 A2 and ice and mixed climbing up to AI3 M5.

Also in August 2005, a South African team, composed of Peter Lazarus, Marianne Pretorius, James Pitman and Andreas Kiefer, climbed to the summit via the Slovenian route. Pretorius was the third woman to reach the summit.

During May/June 2008, the Norwegian route on the east face of Great Trango (1984) was repeated by the four Norwegian climbers Rolf Bae, Bjarte Bø, Sigurd Felde and Stein Ivar Gravdal, spending 27 days in the wall to reach the summit, and three more days for the descent. This is reportedly the first repetition of the route, and thus also the first successful ascent and return. Rolf Bae died later that summer. He was one of 11 climbers who were killed in the 2008 K2 Disaster.

In mid August 2009, Alexander and Thomas Huber managed to make an all free ascent of "Eternal Flame" on Nameless Tower, with climbing up to french grade 7c+.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sangemarmar Sar a pyramidal peak in the Batura Muztagh

Sangemarmar Sar (or Sangemar Mar, Sang-e-Marmar, Sangemarmur) is a pyramidal peak in the Batura Muztagh, at the end of a spur ridge running southwest from Pasu Sar in Pakistan. It lies between the Muchuhar Glacier, on the west, and the Shispare (or Hasanabad) Glacier on the east.

Because it is much lower in elevation than many of the surrounding peaks, such as Batura Sar and Rakaposhi, Sangemarmar Sar is little-known, and there has been only one successful ascent of the peak, according to the Himalayan Index. However, because of its location on the southern flank of the main crest of the range, relatively near the Hunza Valley, it does enjoy tremendous vertical relief above local terrain. For example, its summit rises over 5,000 metres (16,400 ft) above the Hunza River, in a horizontal distance of 15 kilometres (9 mi).

The mountain was named (as "Sangemarmur", meaning "marble", after a conspicuous band of yellow marble crossing the summit) in 1964 by the First Canadian Himalayan Expedition, comprising Fred Roots (leader), Donald Lyon, John Ricker, Lisle Irwin, Donald Poole, Hermann Jamek, Momin Khalifa and Karl Tomm. They intended to locate and climb Hachindar Chhish, which they determined to be a peak a few kilometers to the west of Sangemarmar Sar; however that peak proved too difficult and technical for the party to attempt. The expedition reached 6,300 metres (20,700 ft) but was then forced to retreat by repeated heavy snowstorms.

On July 11, 1984, a team from Osaka University made the first ascent of the mountain via the southwest ridge. The expedition comprised Takashi Matsuo (leader), Hiromi Okuyama, Takehiro Hirota, Tokio Kozuki, Masaya Oishi, Toru Sakakibara, Kenya Sato, Shinichi Miyata, Tomoyoshi Mizukawa, Hiroyuki Onishi, and Akira Noguchi. All members reached the summit, on two separate days. They encountered ice up to 50 degrees. They used three high camps, and fixed 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) of rope.

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