Friday, January 20, 2012

Hkakabo Razi (5,881 m), the highest peak in Myanmar and South East Asia

Hkakabo Razi is Southeast Asia's highest mountain, located in the northern Myanmar state of Kachin. It lies in an outlying subrange of the Greater Himalayan mountain system. The mountain lies on the border tri-point among Myanmar, China, and India.

The peak is enclosed within Hkakabo Razi National Park. The park is entirely mountainous and is characterized by broad-leaved evergreen rain forest, a sub-tropical temperate zone from 2,438 to 2,743 metres (7,999–8,999 ft), then broad-leaved, semi-deciduous forest and finally needle-leaved evergreen, snow forest. Above 3,353 metres (11,001 ft), the highest forest zone is alpine, different not only in kind from the forest, but different in history and origin. Still higher up, around 4,572 metres (15,000 ft), cold, barren, windswept terrain and permanent snow and glaciers dominate. At around 5,334 metres (17,500 ft), there is a large ice cap with several outlet glaciers.

Environmental protection

Hkakabo Razi was established as a natural reserve on January 30, 1996 and as a national park on November 10, 1998. The Khakaborazi National Park is the last stronghold for biodiversity in Myanmar. Extraordinarily rich flora and fauna, ranging from lowland tropical to alpine species still await proper research and identification. They have barely been studied, and the park remains an excellent center for field study for students of botany, geology, zoology and geography. A study was done by the Forest Department with the assistance of Wildlife Conservation Society of New York during 1997 and 1998. The results have been presented in ICIMOD sponsored Workshop “Sub-regional Consultation on Conservation of Hkakabo Razi Mountain Ecosystems in Eastern Himalayas”, held in Putao, Myanmar during 25–29 October 1999. This was followed in 2001 with an international, interdisciplinary team of scientists from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, National Geographic Society, Harvard University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Myanmar Forestry Ministry. On 11 September 2001, herpetologist Joseph Slowinski, team leader from California Academy of Sciences, was bitten by a venoumous krait and died in the field. In 2002-2003, P. Christiaan Klieger, anthropologist from California Academy of Sciences and photographer Dong Lin retraced their previous steps, and succeeded in making the first anthropological survey of the Hkakabo Razi region. On foot they reached the northern-most village in Myanmar , Tahaundam, which is inhabited by about 200 Khampa Tibetans, including mountaineer Nyama Gyaltsen.

The region will shortly be opened to the general public through eco-tourism by the Myanmar authorities. The government is collecting information for development in that regard and a number of scientific expeditions have been already accepted in the region.

Only a few Westerners ever made it to Mt. Hkakabo Razi, the National Park or anywhere close to it. Historically, Lord Cranbrook and Richard Kaulback probably have been the first westeners to walk through the Alung Dung valley.


Climbing information

Takashi Ozaki (Japan, 1951-May 14, 2011) and Nyima Gyaltsen (aka "Aung Tse"; Burma) made the first ascent in 1996. Ozaki had attempted the mountain in 1995 but was turned back due to bad weather. Ozaki died May 14, 2011 while attempting to summit Mt. Everest. The route to basecamp is long (four weeks) and arduous through dense rain forest with many unbridged stream crossings. The recent first ascent can also be attributed to the policy that foreigners were not allowed into the area until 1993.

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