Asia, China, Sichuan, Daxue Shan, Haizi Shan (5,820m), East Ridge, North Summit Ascent and Main Summit Attempt
Haizi Shan (5,820m), east ridge, north summit ascent and main summit attempt. Known to Tibetans as Ja-ra (King of the mountains), Haizi Shan is a striking peak north of Kangding in a region that was formerly known as East Tibet. It is most easily approached from the north via Danba, allowing a drive up a rough track to base camp in a forested valley at 3,800m. An alternative is to trek in 1-2 days from the roadhead in the Yala valley, reached from Kangding. The north face is featured in Tamotsu Nakamura’s article in AAJ 2003, page 155.
An Alpine Club (UK) expedition —consisting of Richard Isherwood, Martin Scott, Bill Thurston, and me— attempted the peak in spring. Haizi Shan had been attempted a few times before, notably by Neil Carruthers, who reached the lower north summit in fall 2003 (report on www.summit-post.com). We reached base camp on April 16, rather too early in the season, as the mountain was still plastered in deep soft snow. This made for slow and frustrating progress through thick rhododendrons followed by a twisting moraine ridge. We climbed up to an obvious snow shelf below the east ridge (very clear on Nakamuras photo) and left a gear dump there on the 25th. Poor weather and lack of food then forced us to retreat to base camp for a few days. On our return we camped at the gear dump, and on May 3 we climbed up the east ridge, getting excellent early morning views of the Minya Konka range to the south. The ridge was corniced and icy in places, but not technically difficult. Dick Isherwood and I reached the north summit about 11 a.m. and continued to the saddle below the main summit. We climbed the first of two steep icy steps, but reluctantly turned around before the second in order to avoid an unplanned bivouac. Our high point was less than 200m below the summit. On the descent from the north summit we took the glacier below the east ridge, as Carruthers had done. This necessitated a couple of abseils over short ice walls, and would not have been an attractive ascent route in the prevailing snow conditions.
Haizi Shan offers the possibility of many harder alpine-style routes. The valley around base camp is well populated in springtime by Tibetans collecting caterpillar fungus. We were very well supported at base camp by the staff of Sichuan Adventure travel (Chengdu).
Geoff Cohen, AAC