American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Bipeng Valley Nature Preserve, Background Information

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

Bipetig Valley Nature Preserve, background information. Bipeng Valley has at least 40 (maybe over 60) unclimbed 5,000+ meter peaks. In 2003 a paved access road was completed into the valley. This makes accessing this cluster of mountains easy and fast. The road ends in the heart of the valley at the ShangHaiZi parking lot (3,560m). There are two buildings, one a welcome center and restaurant, the other a guesthouse (at present you must pitch your tent on the guesthouse floor). The mountains range in difficulty from walk-ups to glacier climbs to world class vertical walls of rock and ice. The rock is good quality granite or a hard conglomorate.

Bipeng Valley is a Nature Preserve and you must buy an entrance ticket. Climbing is allowed and supported by the Valley’s management company, although there are some bureaucratic details. There are certain regulations for climbing in China. My company AAIC works together with the Bipeng Valley’s management and the Sichuan Mountaineering Association to encourage favorable policies and trouble-free access into these mountains. AAIC offers information to climbers, guided ascents to the mountains of Sichuan, and can assist with organizing any aspect of your climb into these mountains.

Access: The drive from Chengdu to Bipeng Valley is normally 6-7 hours. A highway will be completed in 2006 that will shorten the driving time by 1-2 hours. The route from Chengdu goes past Dujiangyan, Wenchuan, and Lixian County. If taking the public bus, buy a ticket to Lixian. From Lixian hire a mini-van to drive you up the valley, which takes just over an hour. Rental vehicles in Chengdu are also convenient and reasonably priced.

Seasonal climbing conditions: It is difficult to say what is the best time to climb in Bipeng Valley. Sichuan is semi-tropical and the weather changes rapidly. During the summer months you get longer stretches of alternating good and bad weather. There is little snow and the glacier is mostly ice. April is general nice but the heavy spring snows do not melt off until June, so snowshoes are recommended. Autumn is generally clear weather, but colder, and there is normally only moderate snow accumulation at the higher elevations.

At the higher elevations snow starts to accumulate in November and by the end of February there can be permanent snow at an elevation of 3,000m. There is a higher risk from avalanches during this period and potentially through May. By the end of winter there is a thick, heavy snowpack. By May the temperatures start to warm rapidly causing the snow to become thick and wet. During this time the snow line varies greatly depending on aspect. On north-facing slopes deep snow can start at 4,000m, while on south facing slopes it may not start until 4,600m.

Thus, there is snow at camp 1 (4,454m) on Half Ridge Peak into May, and the walk to camp 2 (summit camp) requires a lot of postholing. Over the next month or so most of this snow melts and in August this section of the climb is mostly dirt and rock, making the walk to camp 2 much easier and more straightforward. In October, camp 2, again, starts to get a permanent blanket of snow.

Jon Otto, AAC

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