This mountain creates spectacular views when trekking in Bhutan. Jichu Drake is located directly east of Chomolhari, and has a distinctive pyramid-shaped peak composed of razor-sharp ridges. Jichu Drake is at the edge Bhutan's Jigme Dorje National Park, and divides the border to Tibet. Blue sheep are often encountered in this area.
This peak is said to represent the protective deity of Paro, but has seen little expedition activity. Climbing in Bhutan was allowed for a short period between 1983-1996. As of 1996, no technical climbing is permitted in Bhutan.
After an unsuccessful attempt on the southeast ridge by an all women Japanese team in the pre-monsoon season of 1983, Austrians climbed to the lower south summit by the southwest ridge (AAJ, 1984, pages 224-5). In May of 1984, Japanese climbed the southeast ridge but again went only to the south summit (AAJ, 1986, page 210). During the autumn, an Italian expedition attempted this elegant line, but tragically two climbers were hurled down the east face when the crest of the ridge broke away.(AAJ, 1985, pages 244-6).
Doug Scott gave this account of the first successful 1988 summit: “The only possibility seemed to be up the south face. We established Advance Base on a lovely lake nestling in the rocks at 16,000 feet. A few days later, we established Camp I at 18,000 feet on the great ice shelf. We retreated to Base Camp for a rest before the actual climb. On May 24, we left Base Camp for Advance Base. Saunders was hobbling on his ankle, Griffin had a torn shoulder muscle, Sharu Prabhu had stomach trouble and I was trying to combat old age. Only David Rose was fit, but he was on his first Himalayan expedition as a reporter for the Guardian. Sharu Prabhu was an Indian who had climbed to 24,000 feet with the Indian expedition to Everest in 1984 and she had been to 25,000 feet with us on our northeast-ridge Everest expedition. Neil Lindsay had to leave for home. On May 26, we broke trail in sweltering heat to the base of the south face and traversed a mile in dense fog. We had to find a camp site nearby. In the morning, we set out rather late and saw we had no hope for reaching the only likely bivouac site some 2000 feet higher. We settled for leading out and leaving our four ropes for the morrow. Back in the tents, by one o’clock we were hammered by the usual afternoon storm. On May 28, we were away by 4:30, moved rapidly up to the bergschnmd and up the four rope-lengths. The next pitch was steep with a vertical step of hard green ice. At one o’clock, Saunders expressed doubts about continuing, but I suggested we should take a diagonal line for the southeast ridge and a possible bivouac site. By the eighth pitch, the storm was very violent and the snow was pouring down the face in waves. We were still two pitches from the southeast ridge. Just as the sun was setting, Saunders reached the ridge. I led up the heavily corniced ridge for 100 meters to a flat part of the cornice, where we hacked out space for our bivy tents. The next morning, Saunders and I found a better camp site some 500 feet higher, protected by a steep bulge in the ridge. Later that day, we all moved up, occupying what was probably the final Japanese camp, having joined their route on the ridge. Griffin had not been sleeping well and Rose felt that we three others could make faster progress if he stayed with Griffin. Sham Prabhu, Victor Saunders and I were off at 2:30 on May 30. From time to time we came across Japanese rope. The twelfth pitch took us to the south summit, where we found the end of the Japanese line. We still had to descend 100 feet on the corniced ridge and climb 1000 feet of easy snow slopes on the west side of the higher north summit. By midday we were on the summit (6790 meters, 22,277 feet). We had to concentrate all our thoughts on the tricky descent, making one awkward, often diagonal abseil after another to arrive in Camp IV just before dark. The next day, after down-climbing two pitches and abseiling twelve full rope-lengths, we were back on the glacier.”
Jichu Drake can be viewed within a few minutes of hiking east of Jangothang (Chomolhari base camp). See Chomolhari description for the beta on the three days of trekking required from Paro.
Trekking in Bhutan must be arranged through an approved agency. There are over 200 companies who can make all the arrangements and many advertise the availability of custom itineraries.
Climbing snow-topped peaks in Bhutan is forbidden lest you "disturb the spirits". Bhutan is transitioning into democracy in 2008, so perhaps things will change in the future.
Doug Smith indicates he camped at "Thangothang" which he found to be a "good base for exploring the western side".
External Links1989 American Alpine Club
1984 American Alpine Club
I changed this posting to "area/ranges" due to (negative) feedback which was received. There are many people like myself who gaze upon the unique shape of the summit the spectacular mountain, and wonder about the summit history. The distinctive jagged pyramidal shape of Jichu Drake is immediately recognizable, but there is scant information on the Internet. I hope the content on this page will assist in the quest for knowledge for Jichu Drake, and perhaps inspire future climbers.