American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Sichuan, Daxue Shan, Mt. Edgar and Xiao Pangwa Attempts

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

Mt. Edgar and Xiao Pangwa attempts. During the spring a British expedition comprising Angela Benham, Chris Drinkwater, Titch Kavangh and Andrew Phillips gained permission to attempt Mt. Edgar (aka E Gongga: 6,618m), in the northern sector of the range (J. Huston Edgar was archaeologist with the China Inland Mission in Kangding and was important in the development of historical and topographical knowledge of the area). Unfortunately, due to the prevailing poor weather they were unable to find a safe approach to the mountain.

Until shortly before leaving the UK, the team only knew of one previous attempt on this fine pyramid: in 1982 Stuart Hepburn’s British expedition first planned to examine the difficult north side but on finding the approach up the Nan Men Guan Valley impossible due to heavy flooding, macheted a route into the opposite side of the mountain and made attempts on both the south and west faces. Bad weather and poor snow conditions forced them down. However, last spring, just as the British team was about to leave for Chengdu, they learnt of an unreported ascent in 2000 by a Korean expedition, which, it is believed, climbed the mountain via the easier south face. Nonetheless, the British team decided it would keep Edgar as its primary objective and attempt to make the first ascent of the peak from the impressive north side. This would require possibly the first exploration of the upper Nan Men Guen, though the 1981 British Army Expedition had been some way up the valley during their reconnaissance of Jiazi.

After establishing Base Camp on April 2 below the snout of the glacier at 3,400m and two more camps in the valley at 3,800m and 4,200m, bad weather prevented much progress up the approach glacier to the foot of the north face. Finally on the 20th the team decided that the second serac barrier was just too dangerous and retreated, turning instead to two lower unclimbed peaks to the north on the opposite side of the main glacier. These were named Xiao Pangwa (5,630m) and Da Pangwa (5,910m). A 750m-high, east-facing snow couloir led to the crest of a ridge, which in turn ran first north west then north to the first summit, Xiao Pangwa. On the 22nd, Drinkwater, Kavangh, and Phillips reached the crest at 5,400m after climbing the ca 45° couloir through the previous night, then progressed along it to a suitable bivouac site. A little further on the climbing looked much more serious and time-consuming than they had expected and in the next two-three kilometers of ridge there appeared to be no suitable campsite. As the three were already weak and dehydrated, they decided to retreat.

Finding what they believed to be a sheltered site on the edge of the couloir at around 5,200m, they stopped to sit out a rapidly approaching storm. During the evening the site was battered by a shower of rock and ice, one large lump tearing right through the tent. It was a relieved trio that finally reached base camp the following day.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO Editor, CLIMB magazine

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