The Free Spirits (VI M4 AI3, 1000m), Siguniang (6250m), Qonglai Shan, Sichuan Province, China. After three failed expeditions to climb the line, all since 2007, Zhou Peng and Yan Dongdong completed the objective in five days round-trip from Rilong. The pair also believes their climb is the first all-Chinese ascent of Siguniang. [Photo] Zhou Peng
On November 27, Chinese climbers Zhou Peng and Yan Dongdong completed a route up the attractive south face of Siguniang (6250m) in the Qonglai mountains of Sichuan Province, China, that had been attempted at least three times prior. The Free Spirits (VI M4 AI3, 1000m) takes a direct line up the center of the face before connecting with the southwest ridge just below the summit. The climb marked not only completion of the unfinished line, but also the first all-Chinese ascent of Siguniang.
Zhou and Yan took part in two of the previous attempts on the route. In December 2008, they participated in an all-Chinese expedition that reached 5600m. In February 2009, they made another attempt in alpine style but had to descend from 5950m when the upper icefall collapsed while Zhou was climbing it.
But the line was first attempted by a Korean team in 2007. The Koreans pushed to 5650m using fixed lines. An avalanche destroyed their camp at 5200m, however, and they retreated.
Zhou and Yan left Rilong on November 23. Local porters helped move gear to the traditional basecamp (4800m), then the pair climbed to 5130m that evening to camp just below the bergshrund, the start of the route.
On the morning of November 24 they reached 5700m, simulclimbing most of the way. They pitched out three ropelengths on more difficult terrain.
At 8:07 am on November 25, the men began their summit push. They climbed over the right side of the rocky step at ca. 5900m, leading four mixed pitches of mainly rock. After working through the cornice onto the windy southwest ridge, they reached the southern summit around 6 p.m. A descent to 6130m brought them to a bivy spot along the cornice, where they dug a snow cave.
“Because the entire face further down was threatened by falling debris,” Yan said, it was “too dangerous to rap down in the dark.” The next day the danger of falling rock and ice was even worse, but they descended through it nonetheless, back to 5130m. There, they moved their tent, still there from the first night, down the slope to avoid the danger of further falling debris while camped for the evening. On November 27, Zhou and Yan trekked down the glacier and back to Rilong.
Editor’s Note: Read more recent news from Siguniang in the November 4, 2009 NewsWire.
Zhou on the southern summit of Siguniang (6250m) after climbing The Free Spirits. Central and north summits are visible in the background. [Photo] Yan Dongdong