REMOTE FA IN CHINA'S SICHUAN MOUNTAINS

Posted on: August 2, 2007


A distant view of Hati (5524m) in the Shaluli Shan, Sichuan, China, seen from the southwest across the Zhopu valley. The route of the first ascent (AD, 500m, Gerrard-Sykes, 2007) more or less follows the left skyline. [Photo] David Gerrard

During May, British climbers, David Gerrard and David Sykes made the first ascent of Hati (5524m), a relatively isolated summit southeast of the Jarjinjabo massif in Chinese Sichuan. The pair traveled by jeep to the lush green valley of the Zhopu Pasture, where they were immediately surrounded by families on their "annual holidays" to collect the famous caterpillar fungus. The presence of all these people meant ample scope for porterage, but the price was high, as it meant local people taking a break from their lucrative work collecting the ground dwelling grubs.

Hati (aka Nazdenka) lies northeast of Xiashe across the Zhopu valley and was well seen in 2005 by Pat Deavoll and Karen McNeill, as well as Ed Douglas and Duncan Tunstall, who made the first and second ascents respectively of this impressive 5883-meter mountain.

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A few days after their arrival in the Zhopu valley, Gerrard and Sykes were established in a high camp to the southwest of Hati at 4900 meters. Their only problem was the temperature, which although reassuringly low on arrival, had risen considerably, stripping much of the snow from the buttresses and summit of the mountain. Route options were thin, but the pair discovered a sheltered gully line more on the west flank, which looked like it would provide some technical interest. The route, although soft at first, steepened to give a mixture of snow, ice and rock climbing. After 500m of ascent at about AD (Scottish III and a pitch of 5.3/5.4), the pair arrived on the summit to be greeted by a splendid panorama, which included the unclimbed three-headed Garapinsung to the west (a mountain west of the Jarjinjarbo rock spires with great potential for technical climbing), and in the distance the Genyen massif, Yangmalong and Xiannari. The descent via the southwest ridge was relatively straightforward, at first south along a snowy ridge, and then cutting back west down snow slopes to the tent.

Other first ascents beckoned but the weather turned nasty and after a prolonged spell in base camp, the pair decided to hightail back for an early flight home. Perversely, stunning weather returned during the bus journey and a couple of days later, after a quick rethink, the pair were ensconced at another base camp, this time below the unclimbed south face of Haizi Shan.

The 5833-meter Haizi Shan (aka Ja-Ra, Zhara, or Yala Peak) saw many attempts until the coveted first ascent in the autumn of 2006 by Malcolm Bass and Pat Deavoll via the north face (see November 16, 2006 NewsWire). It is widely believed that just a week later the peak received a second ascent, also from the north, by Christine Boskoff and Charlie Fowler, before their subsequent fated trip to the Genyen massif.

The British pair chose the left-hand gully on the face, which leads more or less directly to the top of the rocky southwest ridge (climbed to within 200 meters of the summit in 2005 by Chen Cheng, Ma Yihua and Jon Otto, TD 5.10 A0). Unfortunately, the weather gods were not on their side. The temperatures rose and turned the entry pitch into a pounding waterfall, and a later, optimistic appraisal of the situation was set back by the sight of three large avalanches. The pair left for home, concluding that they were perhaps a month too late for good snow/ice conditions.

The south face of Haizi Shan (5833m) in the Daxue Shan of Sichuan, China. The British pair planned to attempt the lefthand gully on the face but conditions proved unsafe. The peak was climbed, almost certainly twice, in autumn 2006 from the north. The left bounding ridge of the south face (not the left-hand skyline behind) was climbed to within 200m of the summit in 2005 by an American-Chinese party at TD 5.10 A0. [Photo] David Gerrard

The famous caterpillar fungus, used as a traditional medicine by the Chinese for possibly 1,000 years. Today this product, very valuable in China, is mainly used to increase strength and vitality, generally after an injury or illness, and to reduce stress. It was little known in the West until 1993, when Chinese athletes set three world records in distance events and partially attributed their success to this supplement. [Photo] David Gerrard

Source: David Gerrard



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