Chinese triple hit in Sichuan

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 03/12/2011
South Face of Little Konka. Yan Dongdong

Emerging Chinese alpinists Yan Dongdong and Zhou Peng have climbed three new routes in the Minya Konka Range of Sichuan's Daxue Shan.

While Chinese mountaineering has traditionally been typified by large expeditions tackling relatively non-technical peaks in classic Himalayan style, in the last few years a group of young alpinists has been thinking 'outside the box'

Zhou has led WI6 and 5.12, making him probably the first Chinese capable of top-class technical grades to get really serious about climbing in the high mountains.

The two made mountaineering history in 2009 with their new route Free Spirits up the centre of the South Face of Siguniang (6,250m).

This was arguably the first time that a Chinese pair has made an alpine-style first ascent of a big technical route on home ground, and on a coveted line that had previously been the goal of several strong foreign parties.

Recently the pair travelled to the Riuche Valley on the western side of the Minya Konka Range and began the first of three significant new routes with an ascent of the North Face of Reddomain (6,112m).

Yan had tried this in February 2010 with Scot Bruce Normand, and American Christina 'Chris' Chan. They retreated in bad weather and just a few months later Chan was tragically killed in California's Tuolumne Meadows.

Yan and Zhou climbed the 1,000m North Face in around nine hours at AI2 and 55°. Prior to this ascent the mountain had only been climbed (three times) via the West Ridge.

They then turned to more difficult mixed terrain and the c1,550m West Face of Jiazi (6,540m).

This peak had previous seen only one ascent; in 1982 by Americans via the South Ridge. Subsequently there had been several attempt on different lines up the West Face, two of which reached the ridge but not the summit.

The Chinese completed their independent line with two bivouacs, Liberal Dance (M6, WI3 and 55°) the first West Face route to reach the summit.

The third of their trilogy was the South Face of Xiao Gongga (aka Little Konka, 5,928m).

The geography of Xiao Gongga, first climbed by the British Army in 1981, had been inaccurately described in previous reports and had led to the belief that in 2010 a Korean team had completed a full-scale siege of the South West Face.

Half way up their line, Yan and Zhou, this time accompanied by the female film maker Li Shuang, discovered abandoned fixed rope. It was obviously Korean and in good condition, but mostly didn't follow the best line, probably because conditions were different in 2010.

The three completed their route with one bivouac just below the top, encountering three difficult rocky pitches with a crux of M6. The 600m route, which overlapped in parts with the Korean line in the last 200m, was named Thrill (Shuang translates as thrill). It was Li's first technical alpine climb.
 



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