Russian new route on Siguniang

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 30/10/2009
New Russian route on Siguniang. Anna Piunova/Mountain.ru

A four-man Russian team has added a partial new route to one of China's iconic mountains, 6,250m Siguniang, in Sichuan Province.

The highest mountain in Siguniang National Park became globally famous in 2002, when Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden climbed the stunning North Couloir, a steep narrow goulotte. Their ascent - dubbed the Inside Line (WI 6) - would result in the pair being awarded the Piolet d'Or in 2003.

The ice couloir is bounded to the right by the equally precipitous North West Buttress, a rounded granite pillar rising 900m to the capping seracs at the top of the Fowler-Ramsden route. The four Russians, from Moscow and St Petersburg, aimed to climb this pillar direct, but a little below half-height moved left into the North Couloir and followed the Fowler-Ramsden line to the summit.

Currently, the Russians are still making their way home and further details have not yet been released. This report will be updated in due course.

The North West Buttress is an eye-catching line that was first attempted in 2005 by Americans Chad Kellogg, Joe Puryear and Stoney Richards. This team managed only four pitches up an obvious corner system before being pinned down for nine stormy days in their portaledge at the base of the route. When the weather cleared they decided to go elsewhere.

During the winter of 2006-2007 Japanese made an unsuccessful attempt on the same line, and later in the same season a Rumanian team also had the pillar as its main objective but illness and bad weather ensured they never set foot on the route.

Kellogg returned in 2007, but after an acclimatization climb decided to change objective to Siguniang's enormous South West Ridge. Sadly, the expedition was abandoned when Kellogg learned that his wife had been killed in Alaska.

But the following year he came back to the mountain, this time with Dylan Johnson. The two Americans made the first ascent of the nearly 2,000m South West Ridge, first climbing the steep 600m gable end, and then continuing along the crest for a total of 72 pitches to reach the summit. They made seven bivouacs on the ascent and overcame pitches of 5.11, A2, AI 3+ and M5.

The Russians have seemingly been rather more successful than a group of Americans, who planned to attempt an unclimbed peak in the area. Once in the mountains they were informed that in June the Chinese Mountaineering Association had implemented a new rule: any non-Chinese climbers must now apply for a permit, in person, at the CMA in Beijing. It seems that failure to do this could result in a hefty fine, and possibly a jail sentence.

Details are still to be confirmed but local police made it very clear that the Americans were not to climb anything. They were forced to leave after only a day or so. Whether this is partially the result of the accident involving Copp, Dash and Johnson in Sichuan earlier in the year, or simply a generally tightening in Chinese security, is unclear.
 



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