Editor’s note: In one Chinese fable, Yutu means rabbit.
Will the true summit of Yutu ever be reached? It definitely will some day, but I find it interesting how elusive this peak is. The rabbit keeps hopping away. Yutu proved to be steep and complicated.
On summit day we thought we could simply climb to the ridge and follow it to the glacier, which would lead to some easy rock towards the summit. How wrong we were.
On “summit” day we left at a little past 6:00 a.m. and easily reached the ridge by 8:00 a.m.. This section of the ridge proved to be un-climbable. Well, no ridge is truly un-climbable, but some are so distorted and ugly that climbing along them is impractical, risky, and a huge waste of time.
We abandoned this plan and traversed out onto Yutu’s face. We did not know what the face had to offer, but to our relief found it very climbable. We were able to link-up class 4 snow and rock ramps. At one point a 20 meter high rock band of loose and vertical rock split these ramps. Liu Yong efficiently surmounted this obstacle and we continued following the ramps up the face to a slightly overhanging snow cornice. I dug my way through the cornice which led onto the glacier.
During the morning, we had lost 2 hours lower down attempting the ridge and by having to find a new way up the face, but were confident we had made up time as we moved onto the glacier. The glacier was of very hard ice and of low angle. Good protection was essential since the glacier ended not far below us and the mountain dropped away for a 1,000 meters. Exciting exposure!
Soon the glacier ended and we were in front of a rock dome. It was 4:00 p.m.. This was no easy dome. We estimate this last section to be only 20-30 meters high, but it was class 5 rock and would take around two hours. It was anything but the easy rock we had anticipated. Our GPS read 5566 meters, a mere 10 meters below the supposedly 5576 meter summit. It was clear that Yutu’s true height is around 5600 meters.
We stood below a clear line up the rock dome but due to the late hour decided not to climb it. Thus, we started our descent a little before 5:00 p.m. and reached below the glacier by dark.
We rappelled the rest of the way in the cold night air. Just below the last rappel, Liu Yong’s headlamp ran out of battery power and my crampon came loose (a part had fallen off). I used thin rope to temporarily fasten my crampon back on my boot and the two of us slowly continued back to the tent, Liu Yong using what little of the moonlight he could to feel his way. We arrived back at the tent by 10:00 p.m. and soon after, a storm picked up. Given the weather, a dysfunctional crampon, and running low on fuel, we were unable to make a second attempt at the summit.
We had linked together a beautiful route up Yutu, found a line to the top. We had stood upon the rabbit’s head, but its ears were erect, not relaxed as we hoped . We will call it a first ascent – almost. The Yutu saga continues and when its ears will finally be scaled, nobody knows.
Peak Yutu, 5578 meters, First Ascent-Almost, Jon Otto(USA)Liu Yong(China), October 27, 2007