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Asia, China, Tien Shan, Sigunian Shan, Sichuan

Sigunian Shan, Sichuan. In September 1994 I was based out of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. From here I made two exploratory trips into the exceptional mountains of Kham, on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. First I visited the Songpan region and the National Park at Jiuzhaigou. There are a few mountains of interest to climbers in the area, notably Xuebaoding, east of Songpan. I made an ascent of a peak north of this area, known locally as Wosikaxiong (4000+ meters). It was a moderate rock scramble from the west. Later, I went to the Qionglai mountains northwest of Chengdu. This area, on the edge of the Wolong Nature Preserve, is quite accessible and very scenic. Here is Celestial Peak, a fine rock pyramid first climbed by an American team several years ago. Celestial Peak, however, is overshadowed by the highest peak of Siguniang, certainly one of the most beautiful 6000-meter peaks in the world. I spent over two weeks in this region, exploring and climbing by myself. Based out of the nearby village of Rilong, I made several trips up the Changping Valley. On my first outing I hiked past Celestial Peak and Siguniang Shan, establishing a basecamp at the head of the valley below three fine peaks. I made an advanced camp at 15,000 feet. Next day I climbed a moraine ridge to a glacier descending from two of the peaks. I climbed up snow and ice to the saddle separating the two peaks, then easily bagged each summit (heights about 17,500 feet). Later, during a period of unsettled weather, I made a camp below the west face of Celestial Peak. I had seen another fine peak to the west from the other summits, but now the weather limited my options. Nevertheless, I made an ascent of a peak just west of Celestial, via a rock ridge which turned to snow and ice. The summit appeared to be slightly higher than that of Celestial Peak (given 5413 meters). I set my sights on Siguniang but the weather thwarted my plans several times. Finally I approached the south face from the Changping Valley, a rather difficult thrash. I made a bivy at the base of the south face at 15,000 feet. Next day I climbed the right side of the face up steep snow and ice gullies, reaching the east ridge at approximately 17,900 feet. I continued up the east ridge and face on snow and ice, arriving at the top in deteriorating weather late in the day. The descent was epic — I was forced to make an unplanned bivy on the ridge before completing the descent the next day (I down-climbed the route I had ascended). The route itself was classic — a moderate climb but with great character. This was the third ascent of the mountain, and by a new route.

Charlie Fowler, unaffiliated