Asia, China, Yulong Shan Attempt

Publication Year: 1987.

Yulong Shan Attempt. Imposing as it may appear from the Yunnan town of Lijiang, Yulong Shan (Jade Dragon Peak) presents no special technical challenge to explain its 50-year virginity and rebuff of four attempts. Only the weather guards it. So far, that has been enough. In April Mick Deiro, Dan Batwinas, Andy Fried, Russ Faure-Brac, Andrew Palmer, Kenny Moser and I as leader threaded the pony carts, roto-tiller-mobiles, bicycles and “honey wagons” for three days from Kunming to Lijiang. A two-hour truck ride from Lijiang brought us to the Base Camp established by the American team in October 1985. Racing on an absurdly tight climbing schedule, we set up Base Camp, carried packs up a forested cow trail to the snowline and established Advance Base, all on the first day. Though crippling bronchial diseases struck one member after another, the supply carrying continued. Good weather allowed rapid progress. University of Chicago anthropologist Chas McKann, studying the Naxi culture near Lijiang, joined our effort. With Glacier Camp established, Deiro and Batwinas made a powerful push to the long summit ridge and established Ridge Camp. Several days later they made a make-or-break try, attempting to cover the entire distance from Glacier Camp in a day. Fighting ill health and deteriorating weather, they got to within 500 vertical feet of the summit before pitching a small tent on the ridge. Though the next day was clear and the summit less than two hours away, they were so spent that they felt their only choice was to return. Fried and Faure-Brac tried next, hauling heavy loads to Ridge Camp. A major weather change came in. Snowstorms scoured the ridge and visibility dropped to 100 feet. With our tight climbing schedule coming to an end, Palmer, McKann and I left Glacier Camp the next day for Ridge Camp. Spindrift avalanches raked the route, drenching us in icy showers. Visibility dropped to 50 feet. We found Fried and Faure-Brac wisely bivouacked at Ridge Camp. While they rappelled and hiked back to Glacier Camp, we took up residence at Ridge Camp. We awoke to the same howling snowstorm and minimal visibility. On this, our last climbing day, we turned back.

Eric S. Perlman