Lixian County, Bipeng Valley, Half Ridge Peak (Banji Feng) (5,430m), north face, first ascent. On May 4 our team made the first successful ascent of Half Ridge Peak (Lat: 31° 14' 41.1", Long: 102° 55' 39") via the north face. This is a semi-technical route of snow mixed with some rock (rock useful for placing pro but no actual mixed climbing required) and ice near the summit. We descended via the southwest ridge to the saddle with Peak 5,370m and then down. The climb starts at the ShangHaiZi parking lot in Bipeng valley. From the parking lot, walk back down the road about 400 yards to the first stream. You can clearly see the glacier from this vantage point. Turn right up the valley following the left side of the stream. The trail should be marked. The walk starts through a coniferous forest, which seamlessly melds into a rhododendron forest. At an altitude of around 4,050m, you start to get above treeline. The trail meanders up a steep grassy slope to the left, then continues to camp 1 at 4,454m. The next day we trudged south through deep, wet snow and made camp 2 (summit camp) on the glacier at 5,026m. This glacier is split into two parts by a small rocky ridge that starts from the summit and cuts straight down the valley dividing it in half like a backbone. You must cross this backbone to reach camp 2.
On May 4 we went for the summit. On the lower part of the route at the base of the gully there was a short section of chest deep snow. We stayed to the left of the gully to avoid potential avalanches, then followed the rocks around left and up. The steepest section is about half way up the rocks and may reach 45°. Near the summit is ice. The weather became continually worse, and by the time we reached the top visibility had dropped to 200 feet. To date, we have established four routes to the summit. They all start from camp 2 (summit camp) at 5,026m. This climb was run by the Arete Alpine Instruction Center (AAIC), a company I co-run based out of Chengdu. See www.aaic.cn for more information.
The team members were: Jon Otto, USA (leader); Ma, Yihua, Beijing/Chengdu (leader); Su, Rongqin, Chengdu; Ni, Hui, Chengdu; Liu, Qing, Chengdu; Sun, Ping, Beijing.
Jon Otto, AAC