Zangchen is an easy to climb mountain in the southern Chang Tang, located north of the town Gertse. The mountain stretches east-west and has two summits of almost the same height located at its eastern and western ends. The mountain is surrounded by a plain with saline lakes and salt flats in almost all directions.
The mountain offers some interesting geology: Sharp formations of metamporphic rocks (could be volcanic) form some kind of "pins" with arches and small caves along the higher ridges of the mountain. The rocks on the plains and foothills of the mountain are of metamorphic sediments.
The Tibetan name of the mountain is bZang-chen (in Tibetan spelling) which translates to Zangchen in English phonetics. The name is, most probably, an abbreviation of "zangpo chenpo" that means "great kindness".
snow-capped Zangchen in the background
|arch near the East Summit |The altitude of Zangchen Mountain is 5540 according to a Tibetan Map and according to Google Earth. In the Russian Topographic 200k Maps the mountain is depicted with 6035m and 'modern' maps (Gecko Maps, Gizi Map) show the mountain with an altitude of 6011m.
Looking at surrounding vegetation and the fact that the mountain can also be snow-free in summer may suggest that it is of an altitude below 6000 m.
|summit ridge |Climbing Zangchen:
The mountain is easy to climb, you need solid mountaineering boots, but no crampons. Walking sticks may help, again not essential. Ascend is easiest from the east or west over a ridge leading to the east or west summit. From one summit it is a technically easy walk to the other summit, however the central ridge is exposed to wind. Ascend and descend can be done in one day-trip.
Ascends from south or north are more challenging, as straight walking on the ridges is obscured by the "pinnacles" of metamorphic rocks.
Climbing the pinnacles requires some basic rock-climbing skills, but the rock offers quite a lot of good handles for climbing. The pinnacles are highly wind exposed.
The top ridge is covered in snow, however snow maybe gone in high summer. In April 2005, we found snow depths up to 60 cm, but most of the time it was well frozen and easy to walk on. The mountain does not have a glacier.
The mountain is located north of the town Gertse. Gertse is a bigger Chinese town located in central Tibet along the northern road between Lhasa and Ali (see small map for details).
In Gertse it is possible to buy essential food supplies.
Driving tracks from Gertse leading north out of town from the central Yak-statue lead past Zangchen Mountain. There is one track passing the mountain on its east side and another one passes it on its west side. The two tracks come together approximately 20 km south of the mountain and can be used as a baseline to start the climb. North-west of the mountain there is the Tibetan village Zamarlung consisting of three to four clay huts and animal places. The track passing Zangchen mountain on its western side leads to Zamarlung.
On the way to the mountain you will also pass a number of smaller Tibetan settlements, often consisting only of one or two houses or just a nomad tent.
Water can be difficult to find, as most lakes are saline and rivers are dry in spring and fall. The village Zamarlung north-west of the mountain has a groundwater well, and usually nomad families know where to find water.
Zangchen Mountain is located in an are of Tibet that is rich in wildlife.
Tibetan wild ass (kiang) can most certainly be seen in large herds on the plains surrounding the mountain, the Tibetan antelope (chiru) can also be seen there (at least in spring time). The plains surrounding the mountains are full of pikas, which are curious rodents that may also be interested in your food supplies - take care.
Snow leopards also live on the mountain, we found fresh tracks in the snow during the ascend in April 2005.
map of Zangchen
You officially need a permit to climb. Permits can be organized through the Chinese-Tibetan Mountaineering Association