Chinese Trifecta on Home Ground

Posted on: December 15, 2011


The Chinese team of Yan DongDong and Zhou Peng established three new routes in the Minya Konka Range of China's Sichuan Province. The pair climbed the north face of Reddomain (6112m), the west face of Jiazi (6540m) and, accompanied by filmmaker Li Shuang, the south face of Xiao Gongga (5928m). While Chinese mountaineering has traditionally been dominated by large, siege-style expeditions involving either commercial or governmental entities, this recent expedition breaks from that past.

Yan and Zhou traveled to the western side of the Minya Konka Range to begin their expedition on Reddomain. This mountain was first summitted in 1999 by a guided team of Chinese students via the west ridge. Yan tried its north face in 2010 with Bruce Normand and Chris Chan, but was turned back by bad weather. This year Yan and Zhou's successful ascent followed a 1000m line at difficulties of AI2 and 55 degrees.

The pair then turned to the more difficult west face of Jiazi. This mountain had previously seen only one ascent, by an American team in 1982. Subsequently many expeditions have tried for the second ascent of the peak's west face. This year the Chinese team made a successful effort on a 1550m line which they named Liberal Dance (M6 WI3 55 degrees).

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The team's third ascent was on the south face of Xiao Gongga, first climbed by the British Army in 1981. Yan and Zhou were accompanied Li Shuang, who had no previous experience with technical alpine climbing. Halfway through their ascent the trio found abandoned fixed rope, likely from a 2010 Korean attempt. The new route, named Thrill, contains difficulties up to M6 over a length of 600m.

This expedition joins an increasing number of small-scale, independent mountaineering efforts by Chinese climbers in China. As Yan explained in the 2010 American Alpine Journal, Chinese mountaineering has been held back by regulations against independent efforts. In 2002, a student mountaineering group was killed in an avalanche on Shishapangma, prompting an overhaul of mountaineering regulations in China and enabling student expeditions to proceed only under the complete control of hired professional guides. Provincial mountaineering associations were further encouraged to operate mountaineering expeditions only under the organization and guidance of "an entity with corporate capacity." Today some provinces are less strict about enforcing these regulations than others, giving home grown alpinists a chance to explore their native mountains.

Sources: thebmc.co.uk, 2010 AAJ.

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