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Xuelian Massif Explored

Kyle Dempster works through the crux pitches of a climb (M6 WI5 5.7 R, 2650m) in the Xuelian Massif, Tien Shan, Xinjiang Province, China. Dempster, along with Bruce Normand, Jed Brown and Jared Vilhauer, spent the month of August exploring the area. [Photo] Bruce Normand

A Scottish-American expedition has done some notable climbing and exploration on the Xuelian Massif of China’s Tien Shan mountains.

Scotsman Bruce Normand, who began scouting the north side of the massif last year with Paul Knott and Guy McKinnon, spent one month in the area this August with Americans Jed Brown, Kyle Dempster, and Jared Vilhauer. The four acclimatized by climbing on the east, northeast and north ridges of the massif before discovering a gem on a north-facing buttress along the west ridge of Xuelian Feng (“Snow Lotus Peak,” 6627m).

Going at M6 WI5 5.7 R, the climb traces a 2650-meter line up the marble buttress, reaching ca. 6422m. Brown, Dempster and Normand–Vilhauer remained in camp to nurse a toe frostnipped on an earlier outing–climbed for five days, August 26-30, before returning to camp.

Brown and Dempster start up the exit gullies in spindrift on Day 4. [Photo] Bruce Normand

With rock features and weather threatening to stop the show, and time running out, Normand summed up the feeling of the three climbers with the words “It felt like we’d just robbed a bank.”

The Tien Shan, in China’s Xinjiang Province, is one of the world’s most remote and striking ranges. Normand compared the area to “a cluster of Denalis.”

Dempster and Vilhauer traveled to Pakistan while Normand is headed for Tibet’s East Nyainqentanglha range. More news from their travels will be posted in Alpinist NewsWire as it becomes available.

Sources: Bruce Normand, Lindsay Griffin,,,