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Dempster, Normand ‘On Thin Ice’ in Sichuan

Bruce Normand chops his way up solid ice on the east face of Mt. Edgar (6618m), Gongga Shan Massif, Western Sichuan Province, China. Normand and partner Kyle Dempster established their new route, The Rose of No Man’s Land (VI WI5+ M6, 2400m), in four days and in alpine style. [Photo] Kyle Dempster

Kyle Dempster and Bruce Normand have completed two new routes on Mt. Grosvenor (6376m) and Mt. Edgar (6618m) in the Gongga Shan Massif, Western Sichuan Province, China. Their climbs mark the second successful ascents of each mountain.

The duo began their expedition by “warming up” on a new route up Grosvenor on October 28. Beginning at 3 a.m., Dempster and Normand hiked more than 1000m of talus, snow and low-angle ice before roping up for 1000m of steep ice climbing. They encountered thin ice and some mixed climbing and reached the summit 15 hours later. The duo rated their 2050-meter route WI4+.

Dempster and Normand used their climb on Grovesnor and another 5200-meter peak to acclimatize and improve their alpine style techniques that they knew they would need for Mt. Edgar. “We knew that Edgar was going to be a very long climb and that camping out underneath the face was both dangerous and highly involved (long approach from nearest town),” Dempster said. “So a fast and light-ish, alpine style push was in order.”

The climbers arrived at Mt. Edgar’s base camp at 3200m on November 7. The next day they scrambled up unstable river drainages to reach advance base camp on a glacier below Mt. Edgar’s east face. It took an additional day of roped glacial travel to reach the base of the east face at 5500m.

East face of Mt. Edgar showing The Rose of No Man’s Land (VI, WI5+, M6, 2400m). [Photo] Kyle Dempster

They began climbing on November 10 in sunny weather that allowed them to reach a sitting bivy at 6000m after 300m of ice and snow climbing, one drytool pitch (M6) and three ice pitches (WI5). The following day they climbed five pitches of vertical ice with some mixed climbing. They rated this section WI5+ and reached the exit col at 6200 m. The next morning, they crested the South Ridge. “[That was] the most exciting part,” Dempster said. “At this point we had exited the steep and technical east face, and although we were still unsure about reaching the summit, it felt much more attainable.”

The duo climbed the remaining 418m of ice and snow along the south ridge to reach the summit. Their descent took two days of rappelling and glacial travel along the south ridge. They named their route The Rose of No Man’s Land (VI WI5+ M6, 2400m) and left no gear behind except rappel anchors and a dropped helmet cam.

Dempster returned from the climb with mixed emotions. “Other mountains I have climbed have left me feeling proud and almost warm inside. They gave me a sense of my strength,” Dempster said. “Edgar has left me feeling empty both mentally and physically… Mt. Edgar has a high level of risk and objective hazard to it–not something that I am comfortable or proud about ascending… I don’t ever want to climb a mountain with levels of danger similar to Edgar ever again.”

Source: Kyle Dempster