Longemain (6,294m) and Daddomain (6,380m), first ascents. The excitement started early on this trip. Originally heading to eastern Tibet, our permits were cancelled the day before we headed to Lhasa from Chengdu. Some parties had evidently annoyed the authorities by climbing illegally in the Nyenqentanghla Hast area—a warning to us all. Once we managed to get a smile back on our faces we refocused on the Daxue Shan Range in western Sichuan and in particular on the unclimbed peaks of Longemain (6,294m) and Daddomain (6,380m). Unfortunately, no one could supply us with a photo and we had no idea what the mountains even looked like until we woke up one fine morning in basecamp.
Longemain and Daddomain lie just north of the gob smacking pyramid of Gongga Shan (Minya Konka, 7,756m) and their western aspects drain down to the Moxi valley. We walked in from the village of Laoyulian over the Buchi La inr four days and set up base camp in a pleasant grassy meadow at 3,870m in the Moxi Valley. A few days later we established an ABC on the glacier under the icecliff festooned west face of Longemain. We initially intended to reach the col between the two peaks, but a closer look revealed the prospect of scuttling back and forth under large unstable icecliffs. We changed our focus to the west ridge of Longemain. Access to the ridge was up a long couloir of depressingly unconsolidated snow and from there the route followed the main ridge to the top. We summited on October 20 in three days from ABC, after an earlier acclimatization foray to camp one, and an electrifying episode in which we were both hit by lightening. The route was about Alaskan Grade 4.
After a recce to check out the northern side of Daddomain we came back to our original ABC and, after sitting out poor weather, headed up a long rotten rock couloir, which boasted a lovely coating of loose snow. That deposited us on the west ridge, which we followed via two camps to a shoulder on Daddomain’s subsidiary west peak. Once over that we dropped into a basin that led us around and up to the main summit on the 29th. This route was of similar grade to Longemain, although snow conditions were much more convivial.
The weather was mixed. Early in the trip we had clear mornings with regular afternoon thunderstorms. This gave way to a short period of settled clear weather, which in turn gave way to 10 days of unsettled weather with no discernable pattern. All weather came from the Tibetan Plateau to the west, and by early November had become very cold.
This is a great area with wonderful locals and plenty of new route potential on some big, steep faces. Longemain: 29 deg 39.110 min N, 101 deg 50.241 min E; Daddomain: 29 deg 40.503 min N, 101 deg 50.250 min E.
Sean Waters and Jo Kippax, New Zealand Alpine Club