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Dogonomba Climbed for the First Time, Again

Dogonomba (5960m), Daxue Shan, Sichuan Province, China, showing the June 2010 line of ascent by New Zealanders Tim Church and Yvonne Pfluger. The team believed they had made the peak’s first ascent, but later research suggested otherwise. [Photo] Tim Church collection

In late spring, a team from New Zealand summited Dogonomba (5960m), a day’s travel from Chengdu and north of the impressive Minya Konka (7556m), in China’s Daxue Shan mountain range. Over the course of four days, Tim Church and Yvonne Pfluger made–what they believed was–its first ascent.

It wasn’t until the climbers succeeded and returned to New Zealand that they discovered their ascent was not, in fact, Dogonomba’s first summit. Research revealed that an American guide had soloed the peak in late 2008 via a similar route up the west ridge.

While Pfluger described the ill-fated coincidence as a “disappointment,” the New Zealanders were pleased to reach the summit after a string of logistical challenges. When heavy snowfall prevented Church and Pfluger from reaching the base, they decided to attempt the neighboring Little Konka (5928m); that climb proved unsuccessful. Pfluger explained, however, that this eight-day detour contributed to feeling “really well acclimatized and fit” to return to their main objective.

Pfluger and Church approached Dogonomba and established advanced base camp at 4400 meters. For the next two days they made several load carries to a high camp at 5300 meters, then went for the summit along a “glaciated ridge line with some steep snow sections and several big crevasses,” the team wrote.

The summit ridge proved the technical crux of the route, with two pitches of “mixed rock/loose snow on an ice base” separating the low and high peaks. During this part of the climb, the weather deteriorated. As a result, only Church completed the final pitch. The team descended after a night at their high camp.

The ascent is not the first notable climb by New Zealanders in the range. Pat Deavoll has climbed various other peaks in the area, her most impressive achievement there being the first ascent of Haizi Shan (aka Ja-ra or Yala–the King of the Mountains–5833m) in 2006; the year before, Kiwis Sean Waters and Joe Kipax established the first routes up Daddomain (6380m) and Longemain (6294m), to the south, and noted the unclimbed Dogonomba as “worthy of attention.” It was this report and conversations with Tamotsu Nakamura and the Sichuan Mountaineering Association that led Church and Yvonne to Dogonomba.

Sources: Tim Church, Yvonne Pfluger, Kester Brown