A four-man team of Chinese climbers battled early season snow and thick vegetation to climb a new big wall route up the steep South Face of Mt. Hua Shan’s South Peak (2154m) over 11 days, reaching the summit on November 4. Hua Shan or Huashan, famed as one of five sacred Taoist mountains in China, is a cluster of five granite summits said to resemble a lotus flower in the east-west trending Qin Mountains in southern Shaanxi Province.
Several Taoist temples, some dating back almost 2,000 years, are scattered across the range, attracting pilgrims and hikers. A Via Ferrata trail, a hanging-plank walkway with chains for safety, threads up steep cliffs on South Peak.
The four climbers, Wei Guangguang, Gu Chizhi, Wang Zhiming and Griff, fixed several pitches in late October before heavy rain pinned them in a cave 20 meters above ground. They spent three days waiting for the weather to clear, then climbed 140 meters to a higher bivouac on the evening of October 27. Poor weather continued, forcing yet another rest day. When the skies cleared, they climbed wide cracks filled with vegetation.
After establishing a bivouac at 280 meters on October 30, a 24-hour snowstorm began, making, says Griff, for a “cold and wet Halloween.” The weather cleared on Tuesday, November 1, and after waiting until noon for the rock to dry, the team climbed another 60 meters.
The next day the crack system they were climbing disappeared on the upper headwall, forcing them to connect incipient cracks with aid climbing and pendulums. That evening they received a forecast for another two days of bad weather, but the next morning the sun rose and the wind died and “beautiful granite crack climbing made us forget about our tiredness,” Griff said. That night, the team bivied at 510 meters atop pitch 13.
On the last day, November 4, the men climbed a dirty chimney to a low-angle face, followed by slabs covered in dense vegetation for another four pitches, reaching the summit in darkness and rain. That night the rain turned to heavy snow, forcing the team to wait another three days to retrieve gear on the route. They named their route High Tide or Low Tide (5.11 C2, 690m), “in memory of the rain, snow, and wind we endured on the wall,” Griff said.
Climbers have opened new routes on Mount Hua Shan’s steep flanks over the past few years with permission granted by the government. Northern Celestial Masters (E6 6b, 600m) on West Peak, the first route established on Hua Shan, was climbed in 2009 by Leo Houlding (U.K.), Carlos Suarez (Spain), and Wang Zhiming (China). This is considered the first big wall route in China. Never Give Up (5.10+/R C2+, 600m), opened in 2014 by Chinese climbers Zhu Xiaofei and He Chuan, was the first route on the South Face of South Peak. In July 2015, Chuan soloed the new 20-pitch Climb Like You are Dying (5.10+ R A3) over eight days on Mt. Hua Shan’s South Peak.