Fowler and Ramsden Chinese new route

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 17/09/2010
The North Face of Sulamar (aka Khanjaylak II). Bruce Normand

Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden have recently returned from Chinese Xinjiang with a fine prize: the first ascent of the North Face of Sulamar.

In a six-day round trip from base camp the pair climbed the prominent central buttress to the c5,380m summit, first climbed in 2008 via the North East Flank.

The 1,600m buttress gave steep mixed climbing and was completed over four days at TD+; alpine-style of course. Two bivouacs on the face were of the sitting/hanging variety.

The team then set off to explore the previously unvisited Chulebos Range to the west. Access to these mountains is via the historic Xiate Trail, which was once a major trade route but nowadays sees virtually no traffic because the glaciers have become too broken.

Unfortunately, they discovered plenty of fine and alluring objectives, which only fuelled the desire to return.

This expedition was Approved by the BMC and awarded a grant from the MEF.

Sulamar is a striking peak on the northern edge of the Xuelian Massif, and its picture is widely displayed in much of the Xinjiang tourist literature. It was first climbed in 2008 from the southern flank, finishing up the North East Ridge, by Bruce Normand and Guy McKinnon, who referred to it as Khanjaylak II. Together with Paul Knott, this pair also climbed the higher, adjacent summit to the east, Khanjaylak I (5,424m).

Sulamar wasn't the original objective. The pair had planned to attempt the North West Ridge of Xuelian East but deep snow on the 25km glacier approach thwarted this ambition. It was during this period that Fowler and Ramsden fell completely into crevasses; a first for them both!

The Xuelian Range lies east of, and over the border from, the famous Kyrghyzstan peaks of the Inylchek Glacier, such as Pik Pobeda (7,439m) and Khan Tengri (6,995m).

Reliable weather seems rare in this region: Fowler and Ramsden experienced thunderstorms on most days and a four-day period of continuous snow.

The north side of this impressive complex of high rock and ice peak, culminating in Xuelian Feng (6,627m), not previously explored until Bruce Normand's visit in 2008.
Normand returned in 2009 to climb several superb routes, notably the 2,650m Great White Jade Heist on the North Face of Xuelian's 6,422m western sub-summit.

It was this climb, made together with Americans Jed Brown and Kyle Dempster, that gained widespread recognition in April 2010, when it was awarded a Piolet d'Or.

 



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