Americans and Russians add fine routes to China's Mt Grosvenor

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 28/12/2011
The west face of Grosvenor. The American route climbs through the steep rock a little right of the obvious central couloir. Bruce Normand

The elegant pyramid of 6,376m Grosvenor in the Minya Konka Range of China's Daxue Shan received its third and fourth ascents by new routes on opposite sides of the mountain.

Following widespread publication of photos by Japanese explorer Tamotsu Nakamura, Grosvenor received an attempt in 2003, when Andy Cave and Mick Fowler tried the prominent central couloir on the west face.

They failed in the narrows at half-height due to lack of ice. At the same time, Simon Nadin and Neil McAdie, who were trying a shorter route towards the right side of the face, were also unsuccessful.

However, in autumn the same year Julie-Ann Clyma and Roger Payne climbed the far right side of the face to reach the south-west ridge, which they followed, not without difficulty to make the first ascent.

Koreans tried the central couloir again in 2009, failing for the same reason as  Cave and Fowler. However, in 2010 Kyle Dempster and Bruce Normand  found the 1,300m couloir to be well-iced, climbed through the narrows at WI4+ and reached the summit the same day for the mountain's second ascent.

Last autumn Americans Chris Gibisch and Jeff Shapiro followed a line of steep ice smears just to the right of the central couloir, making a bivouac above half-height and a second just below the summit.

The pair had to negotiate sections of vertical rotten snow/ice, commonly referred to as "snice". These gave cruxes of AI6, which together with more conventional fare up to WI4+ and M5+ gave for a demanding outing.

From the summit the two decided to make a direct descent of the shorter east face, completing 12 abseils to a glacial bowl, where they bivouacked. Next day they slogged across to the Grosvenor-Jiazi col and abseiled the west side to glaciers, moraine, and a long trudge back to base camp.

They named their 1,300m route Black Wolves and Blue Poppies

Around a week later Dmitry Paramonov and Denis Shushko, two members of a Russian team attempting the unclimbed west face of Edgar from the Jiazi-Grosvenor col, climbed more or less directly up the east face of Grosvenor to make the fourth overall ascent.

The pair bivouacked on the summit before descending in bad weather.

Their c14-pitch (700m) new route was largely snow and ice with an average angle of 70°. It was awarded an overall Russian grade of 6A.

In the intervening week since the American descent there had been a lot of fresh snow, and the Russians never spotted any of the Americans' Abalakov anchors in the upper section, where the two lines probably coincide.

Thanks to Chris Gibisch and Anna Piunova (www. mountain.ru) for help with this report.
 



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