Previously unreported by Western media, a small Japanese team has made the first ascent of Xiaqiangla (5,470m), a fine pyramid in China's northern Daxue Shan.
This shapely peak west of the Dadu River in Sichuan Province came to the attention of climbers after photographs published by the well-known Japanese explorer, Tamotsu Nakamura.
Mitsuru Kato, Hiroshi Matsushima, Ken Sato and Chiharu Yoshimura, all from the Hiroshima section of the Japanese Alpine Club, walked eight hours from the road to set up base camp by the shores of a lake at 4,350m
Then, after placing an advanced base at 5,020m to the east of the peak, they attempted the mountain, alpine style, by two different routes.
Matsushima and Sato followed a snow couloir on the North East Face leading to the North Ridge, but struck up left in the upper section, climbing a steep mixed rock wall (III and IV) directly to the summit, where their GPS recorded 5,497m.
Meanwhile Kato and Yoshimura climbed along the crenellated crest of the longer North Ridge but only reached a foresummit before running out of time.
The successful summit pair descended the upper section of the North Ridge to meet the others at the head of the snow couloir, from where all four descended the couloir together. They were back at advanced base after a 15-hour day.
The area around the Dadu River is noted for its unique local Tibetan culture, which includes historic art, literature and architecture (typically, stone towers). However, it is now becoming impossible to ignore the serious environmental destruction to the region caused by an acceleration in the West China Development projects: a huge dam is now under construction on the Dadu.
An edited version of the revealing film, Meltdown in Tibet, will be on show at the Kendal Film Festival this weekend. It blows the lid off China's potentially catastrophic dam building projects, where in Tibet nomads are being forced out of their traditional habitat and relocated in bleak villages.
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