Lagpa-la Pass

Slate Belt - J.H. Wittke


In the late afternoon, we leave the valley of the Tsangpo River, and turn south up a narrow valley of a minor tributary stream towards Lagpa-la Pass. We pass several small slate quarries, and the road surface shines in the sunlight. Rock fragments tinkle under the pressure of our tires. The slate carries lovely little brownish metallic cubes, which one can find loose on the ground. The original rock had formed in a oxygen-poor environment and iron had bonded with sulfur, rather than oxygen, to form pyrite. Subsequently, the pyrite crystals had reacted in an oxygen-rich environment to produce hematite, a form of iron oxide, but had retained the original shape of the pyrite. While we study the rocks, as is always the case, a Tibetan appears almost magically from the bleak rocky surroundings. He is peddling some large yellow quartz crystals, but no one expresses any interest in them.

Tibetan Plateau north of Lagpala Pass - J.H. Wittke


At around 6:00 pm, we reach the top of Lagpa-la Pass (5250 m), one of the highest points we would attain during the entire trip. The pass is a broad saddle covered with shattered slabs and trash. To the north, a horizontal band of mountains reveals the flattness of the Tibetan Plateau.

Chomolungma from Lagpala Pass - J.H. Wittke


Parts of the road decending the soutrh side of the pass are very rutted and we walk in the cool of descending twilight while the drivers negotiate the surface. Coming around a ridge, we see a prominent snow-covered peak at the horizon (left). It is our first view of Mount Everest, which is more properly called Chomolungma, Tibetan for "Mother Goddess of the World." We are bathed in twilight, the surrounding mountains casting long shadows across the road, while Chomolungma is a brilliant white pyramid, still shining in the setting sun. To its left is Lhotse, Lhotse is separated from Chomolungma by the South Col, the high pass from which Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first reached the summit of Everest in 1953.

Sign advertizing Chomolungma Hotel - Anne Barton Wittke


A long, but beautiful trip, takes us to our hotel near Shegar. It is not actually located in town, but at the road junction about 10 km away. We drive past a sign that promises delight to our weary group: hot water. Unfortunately, the plumbing leaves something to be desired; there is hot water, but the power fails and the cold water stops during our showers! The maintenance man twists valves in the dark hall, but since these have not been turned recently, it seems unlikely that this will fix the problem. After about 10 minutes, the power comes on, and the cold water flows once more.

Free Tibet!