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Cosmin Andron following the initial cracks of Suffering First Class (V A3 5.10, ca. 400m, Cosmin Andrin-Wai Wah Yip, 2006), the first route to be climbed on the southwest face of the ca. 4950-meter Fourth Sister of Siguniang, Qonglai Shan, China. [Photo] Wai Wah Yip

The Siguniang National Park in the Qonglai Range of Chinese Sichuan continues to attract the adventurous, despite a reputation for often-miserable weather. Last summer Cosmin Andron, a Romanian living in Guangzhou, China, and Wai Wah Yip, an ethnic Chinese living in Hong Kong but actually born in Newcastle, UK, decided to take the suffering one step further by climbing in June–right in the heart of the monsoon. Despite considerable rain, the pair managed to pull off the first ascent of the southwest face of the Fourth Sister of Siguniang Shan, a ca. 4950-meter summit on the long southwest ridge of Siguniang (6250m) above the Chang Ping Valley.

Andron and Wai Wah Yip chose a direct line up the middle of the granite face. Unfortunately, the first 200-meters followed an offwidth and the initial aid pitch involved huge runouts as the leader slid a Camalot 5 and rattling 4.5, the only gear big enough, up the wet crack. The following “day” finished 200 meters up the face at 4 a.m., when the pair retired to their portaledge. The next day heavy rain confined them indoors and even though the day after was still decidedly wet, they continued, battling overhanging chimneys and corners, down which water was gushing full pelt. Finally, at 2:45 a.m. on June 8 they reached the top of the face, where they intersected the 1992 Japanese Route (the route followed on the second ascent of the mountain) on the southwest ridge. Out of time, they went down, naming their ca. 400-meter route Suffering First Class and offering a grade of V A3 5.10. In their opinion, it might go free at around 5.12 in much drier conditions and with more appropriate gear.

The descent was eventful and base camp was reached at 6 p.m., just in time to catch prearranged porters for a return to Rilong. They finally stumbled into the village at 6 a.m. on the 9th, bundled into a fast car and sped off to Chengdu Airport and their pre-booked flights.