The northwest face of Siguniang (6250m), Qionglai Shan Range, Sichuan Province, China, roughly showing the new Russian variation (6B) of the renowned Inside Line. [Photo] Courtesy mountain.ru
Four Russians from Moscow and St. Petersburg have summited Siguniang (6250m) in the Qionglai Shan Range of China’s Sichuan Province via a major variation (Russian 6B) to Inside Line (ED sup: 1500m, Fowler-Ramsden), the staggering WI6 first ascent of the mountain’s north face that won the Piolet d’Or in 2003.
The team had planned to ascend a new route on the north face, right of Inside Line, in capsule style. However, after two weeks of exhausting climbing they traversed into Inside Line, which they followed to the top.
On September 26, Valery Shamalo, Vladimir Molodozhen, Denis Sushko, Andrey Muryshev and Eugeniy Korol acquired their permit in Chengdu. From Rilong, they trekked to base camp (3700m), where Korol soon fell ill, was taken to hospital and eventually returned to Moscow.
On October 4, the remaining four left base camp to approach the wall. It took one day.
Fearful of not finding snow for melting, and to avoid moving camp frequently, the team brought eight ropes. On October 6, they began climbing and established a portaledge atop Pitch 3.
Working up the lower wall. [Photo] Courtesy mountain.ru
A snowstorm on October 7-8 temporarily halted the Russians. When the weather cleared, they began slow but steady progress for 10 days up steep rock amid regular icefall and rockfall. They were burdened by arduous skyhooking and bolting.
And by injury. On October 9, a chunk of ice put Shamalo, the team’s most experienced climber, out of commission for three days. On the upper wall, Molodozhen got frostbite. And despite a 40-meter fall, Muryshev pushed on uninjured.
Tedious climbing eventually brought them to an overhanging section less than halfway up the wall on October 18. After working through the steep section, they traversed left into the crux of Inside Line.
Fixing lines on vertical and overhanging ice on the 19th, the team tried for a summit push on the 20th. But after a mixed pitch went very slowly and Sushko took a 15-meter fall, the party of four retreated eight pitches, back to the portaledge.
The next day, Shamalo and Molodozhen ascended the fixed lines, taking two with them for more lightweight progress above. They reached the summit and rappelled back to the portaledge by midnight. They left the ropes fixed for their teammates, who made a summit push on the 22nd while Shamalo and Molodozhen descended to catch their flight back to Russia.
All ropes and waste were removed from the wall.
Though pleased with their summit, Shamalo said the wandering route line traces a big question mark: It is a pity we could not climb our original aim, he said.
More information will be posted on Alpinist.com as it becomes available.
Siguniang’s upper snowfields. [Photo] Courtesy mountain.ru