American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Peaks East of Gongga Shan (Minya Konka)

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

Peaks East of Gongga Shan (Minya Konka). On April 15 ten members of the Academic Alpine Club Zürich left Switzerland for China and reached Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, within five days. There, a ton of food and gear awaited us. Thanks to the good organization of the Chinese Mountaineering Association, we got to Moshimien on April 23, following the main road to Lhasa. Two days of reconnaissance and discussions with the local porters provided the necessary information and we were struggling through thick jungle to arrive at Base Camp three days later. Most of the porters refused to carry their loads further up the Hai-loko Glacier and thus we were forced to set up Base Camp at only 9675 feet. The information about the weather given us by Professor Imhof, one of the first Westerners in the region in the early 1930s, proved accurate. During our 50-day stay at Base Camp, we had only four fine days. Some hundred meters higher the weather improved slightly, but high morning winds and late afternoon snowfalls hampered us considerably. Consequently, the danger of avalanches was high and could not be foreseen. On May 1, J. Hochstrasser and I climbed Black Triangle (5050 meters, 16,568 feet) and G. Dürrenberger and G. Furger ascended Deerhorn Mountain (5050 meters, 16,568 feet). These lay south of Base Camp. The first three weeks were spent with setting up advanced Base Camp at the foot of the 6400-foot-high icefall and finding a way around it. A two-week assault on Mount Tai (6410 meters, 21,031 feet) was successful on May 20 after Dürrenberger, F. Häflinger, R. Spoerry and I were snowed in for four days at 18,375 feet. We approached from the north and climbed the northwest ridge. The peak lies southeast of Minya Konka. We also climbed the mountains that lie in a northwest-southeast line to the northeast of Tai: from southeast to northwest, Three Color Mountain (5030 meters, 16,503 feet) on May 8 by Häflinger and me; Sheep Mountain (5200 meters, 17,061 feet) on May 13 by Dürrenberger and me; and Snow Pagoda (5480 meters, 17,979 feet) on May 29 by Dürrenberger, G. Styger and me. Because of the bad snow conditions, we had to give up our plan to climb Minya Konka, an ascent that would have been far too dangerous. Neither the northeast nor southeast ridge could be reached safely. In agreement with the Chinese liaison officer, having found a way around the icefall over a smooth rock face on fixed ropes, we concentrated on the east side of Minya Konka. A steep 2300-foot-high snow-and-ice gully led us onto the Ma-tsöko Glacier basin, where we were able to climb six unclimbed 6000-meter peaks, among them Sun-Yat-Sen (6886 meters, 22,593 feet), the highest in the region apart from Minya Konka. On June 4 Dürrenberger, Haflinger, Spoerry and I approached the col between the south and main summits and followed the east ridge to the main peak. On June 5 Dürrenberger and I climbed Sun-Yat-Sen South (6600 meters, 21,654 feet) by its south ridge. We also made the following ascents: from west to east, White Pyramid (6020 meters, 19,751 feet) and Pyramid Mountain (6150 meters, 20,177 feet) on June 2 by Dürrenberger, Häflinger, F. Müller, Spoerry, Styger and me; and Long Ridge Mountain (6100 meters, 20,013 feet) on June 4 by G. Benisowitsch, Furger and Müller. The fact that we had climbed too many peaks—only Minya Konka and Tai were stipulated by contract—brought us considerable trouble, but as we could prove that we had acted in full agreement with the liaison officer, we finally found a solution agreeable for both parties. Sun-yat-Sen may now also be called Zhong Shan. Our names were given us by Mr. Fong, chief of the Chengdu branch of the Chinese Mountaineering Association, after I had given him a description of what the mountains looked like. Our conversation was in English. Mr. Fong then translated them into Chinese.

Roman Boutellier, Akademischer Alpen Club, Zürich

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