A Tribute to Lord Baden Powell and the Scouting Spirit
In the year 1907, a camp for young boys was organized by Robert Baden Powell, at Brownsea Island in England. Twenty boys spent twelve days divided into patrols, going on hikes, learning how to cook outdoors without utensils, learning patriotism and having a great time. This was the first scout’s camp. The success of this camp led to the formation of many more scout groups and camps. The year 2007 marks the centennial year of the scouts’ movement .In order to celebrate this momentous occasion, different programs has been organized by scouts the world over.
The Government of Nepal, in order to mark the centenary celebrations, has announced a new trekking route in the Ganesh Himal area, and a peak nearby that falls under the Langtang valley region, after Lord Baden Powell, the founder of International Scouts. The new trekking route will be called Lord Baden Powell trek and the peak, known locally as Urkema Peak, as Lord Baden Powell Peak. This decision was taken to popularize trekking and climbing in the less frequented regions of Langtang and Ganesh Himal area among scout groups and young adventure sports enthusiasts.
A great number of scout groups visit Nepal every year. They come to this tiny Himalayan nation in search of ideal locations for outdoor activities like trekking, hiking, rafting, mountain climbing etc. The opening of the Lord Baden Powell Trail and the Lord Baden Powell Peak will obviously prove to be popular among these scout groups. It is also hoped that this decision will help promote tourism and boost the economy in the Langtang region and Ganesh Himal area.
The decision was also inspired by the location of the Nepal Scouts Camp in Kakani. Kakani, about an hour’s drive from Kathmandu lies on the way to Ganesh Himal. The location of Kakani is convenient to use as a set-off point for the 10-hour-journey towards the north–west, where the trekking tour in the Ganesh Himal area begins.
Lord Baden Powell Trek
For a trip starting at the scout’s base in Kakani one can drive 117kms to Dunche, the headquarters of the Rasuwa district .The first night could be spent here, but if you are moving in your private vehicle you could make the drive all up to Gatlang. Starting your trek towards the north you can reach Sanjun Kharka, a large and beautiful kharka located near the Tibetan border. Going east from here, the trek leads to the hot springs of Tatopani and finally winds its way down to the village of Briddim (2,215m) , a large Tamang settlement .Continue to Goljung and Syabrubesi from where you can either drive back to Kathmandu or extend your trek to the Langtang region.
Lord Baden Powell Peak
Locally known as Urkema Peak, Lord Baden Powell Peak stands at an elevation of 5,718m.This mushroom shaped mountain situated in the Langtang region offers a perfect alternative to Imja Tse or Island Peak in the Khumbu region. On the way from Langtang to Kyangjin you will see a perfectly shaped snowy peak, which is situated slightly south of Naya Kanga(5844m) seen from the south-west, Urkema peak almost looks like Ama Dablam which is situated in the Everest region. However from the south-east the summit appears like a snowy cone, with a perfect ridge to be climbed on its southeast side. It is surrounded by majestic peaks such as Langtang II, Langtang Lirung, Dorje Lakpa and Xixapangma in Tibet.
The best base for the climb is the village of Kyangjin(3,900m), which is a good place to acclimatize. Surrounded by majestic peaks such as Langtang Lirung ,Naya Kanga and Dorje Lakpa , Kyangjin is about 2.5 hours walk from Langtang village (3,480m).Once you get there it is best to take it easy , drink plenty of fluids and rest. You can visit Nepal’s first cheese factory, which was set up with Swiss technical assistance in1965, and is now government run.
A good peak to acclimatize for the climb is Tserko Ri(4,984m).It is situated like an island just north of Kyangjin, and is regarded as one of the most rewarding day trips. From Kyangjin it takes about 3-4 hours. Just follow the upper trail out of the village across the river and climb up the ridge to your left. From the top, which is awash with color due to the prayer flags, you can see Kyangjin Peak and Kyimoshung, with Langtang Lirung towering above them. To the north-east you will see the Yala Glacier and Yala Peak. Across the main valley, Naya Kanga dominates the scenery, with Urkema Peak peeping up behind its south-west ridge.
The Launch of Lord Baden Powell Trek and Lord Baden Powell Peak
To mark the launch of the Lord Baden Powell trek and Lord Baden Powell Peak, scouts from different countries like Australia , Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore gathered in Nepal in the last week of August 2007 to go on a trek along the Lord Beden Powell route and finally ascend the Lord Baden Powell peak.
On 25th August the scouts were taken to Kakani where they were oriented and briefed about the proposed trek and climb. After spending two nights in Kakakni the group headed for the trek on 27th August. The trekking route covered Syabrubesi, Gatlang, Tatopani, Nagthali, Thuman, Rasuwa Gadi and finally returned to Syabrubesi. The group took eleven days to complete the trek. The trek ended on 6th September’07.
For the ascent of Lord Baden Powell Peak, the group set up their base camp at Kyangjin Gompa. The high camp was at 4,996 m. After spending a night at the high camp, the group started the actual climb to the peak on 12th September’07 at 5am. There were twenty-six members from Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Nepal. Only fifteen climbers could make it to the summit. The first climber to reach the summit was Mark Mangles, a scout leader from Australia. It was amomentous occasion for scouts the world over, as a scout had conquered a virgin peak named after the founder of the scout movement, Lord Baden Powell. A visibly delighted Mark Mangles shared his experiences with Suman Pandey, President of Explore Himalyas after he returned to Kathmandu. Here we reproduce an account of the ascent to Lord Baden Powell Peak, as told by Mark Mangles.
Ascent to Baden Powell Peak
Kyangjin Gompa (3,900 m) served as our base camp. The route from the base camp to high camp is fairly steep .From Kyangjin, we headed back towards Langtang. There’s a bridge across the river. After we crossed the bridge we headed west .Then we came to a trekking trail which is just opposite a village called Singdam (situated between Kyangjin and Langtang). This little trek goes up through a rhododendron forest. We followed the rhododendron bushes and crossed the river. We headed in a westerly direction up to the mountain and moved towards the south. We followed a ridge line all the way. There are two big cairns at 4135m.From the cairns we continued straight up heading towards the big, black triangular peak until we reached the top of the ridge at 4430m.We kept to the left of the rocky peak- the path follows a dried river bed and for the last two kilometers followed a very rocky and steep slope. Then we reached the high camp after climbing for four to five hours. It sure was an uphill climb!
The high camp at 4,996 m, took around four to five hours to reach from Kyangjin. The place where we set up our high camp is a good open ground .There is no vegetation .It is a large rocky area but with fresh water flowing through it. It is right below the snowline and right above the timber line. It is fairly flat. I found this unusual as most high camps are in slopes. But it was good as we could put up our tents easily and spend a comfortable night. The view from the high camp is fantastic. To the north, you have a magnificent view of Langtang Lirung, Langshisa Ri and Xixapangma in Tibet. To the south, the impressive south face of Naya Kanga (5844m) towers above. Since the camp area is totally flat, we could put up our tents easily. We passed the night at the high camp.
On 12th Sept., we woke up at 3:30 AM. We had our breakfast and got ready for our climb at 5o’clock.All twenty- five of us started the ascent together .This posed a bit of a problem as some of the quicker people got held up by having to wait for the slower or inexperienced ones. In our group there were some people who had done a lot of climbing and some who had never climbed a mountain before. So there were some delays caused by this. I think it would have been better if there were less people. A group of ten would be ideal, I think.
We made it to the summit in one day. The first part of our ascent was the climb at the glacier. The glacier was very icy and very steep. So we needed a fixed rope for that. There were four sherpas leading the way and they fixed the rope for us. Altogether there were six fixed ropes .Three more sherpas helped the climbers. I think they did an excellent job. After the glacier we had to climb up a bit of a ice fall. It was fairly steep and nearly vertical at about eighty degrees. Then we had to walk a bit. We came across another steep peak which was about sixty degrees. So we needed another rope up. We came around another peak before reaching the main peak. We climbed that up and we had a fixed rope at the main peak. A lot of time was spent on waiting for the fixed ropes
I was the first person to make it to the summit. I reached the summit at around 12 o’clock. After half an hour, a Taiwanese climber joined me. He was soon followed by three more Taiwanese guys. After them, seven Koreans joined us at the summit. I stayed at the summit for about an hour. As it was starting to get too crowded, I left for the high camp. At the summit there’s room enough for just around eight people. I descended alone and reached the camp at 3 o’clock. It took me around two hours to climb down to the high camp. As I made my way down, I passed the rest of the climbers. The last climber to make it to the summit was a Nepali climber, Naresh Maharjan. He made it to the summit around the same time I reached the high camp.
As I had reached the high camp quite early, I decided to return to the base camp (Kyangjin Gompa), with a porter. Later on, I got to know that the last climber had reached the high camp at around 7:30 PM. The rest of the group decided to spend the night at the high camp. They arrived at the base camp, Kyangjin Gompa, the next day at 11o’clock.
I found the climb very interesting. I had done a bit of climbing in New Zealand and Australia and compared to that, this climb was a bit standard. From the climbing perspective, this climb probably makes it to the PD+ grade( climbing grade).But I would suggest that too many would not trek in one go. It is best if the group size is small, around ten people. If it’s a large group a lot of time is wasted in getting organized.
It makes me very proud to be the first person to conquer the peak, especially one named after a famous scout. That the Nepal Government has named this peak after Lord Baden Powell is a matter of great honor for us scouts. Lord Baden Powell has done a lot of good throughout the world, so it’s great to have a peak named after him. I think it’s a good challenge for scouts to come out here, especially to climb a peak named after the founder of the scouts’ movement. I think Baden Powell Peak offers a good challenge to the scouts. I would suggest them to come out here and climb it. I would surely encourage the scouts in Australia to do it. I think it is a worthwhile activity .I will surely return and do it again!