American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Sichuan, Qionglai Range, Siguniang, North Face Attempt; Siguniang North, Attempt; Camel Peaks

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

Siguniang, north face attempt; Siguniang North, attempt; Camel Peaks. The Siguniang Group was visited in May by UK alpinists, Tom Chamberlain, Dave Evans, Dave Hollinger, and Andy Sharpe. This team, which set up Base Camp in the Chang Ping, had as its aims the lengthy unclimbed southwest ridge of Siguniang and the uncompleted line on the north face attempted in 1981 by Jack Tackle and party. However, from the outset the mountains had a largely snowy appearance and the weather allowed no real improvement, being very unsettled throughout their stay.

In order to acclimatize the team turned to the humped Camel Peaks to the north. These are the two peaks on the northern rim of the valley, occupied by Pts 5,202m and 5,484m. They were both climbed from the col between the two summits by Charlie Fowler in 1994. First Chamberlain and Evans climbed Camel West from the gap and subsequently Hollinger and Sharpe climbed West and East peaks from the gap. Both peaks gave straightforward snowy climbing and were thought to be of equal height—around 5,510m. Chamberlain and Evans then attempted Pt 5,672m (dubbed Snow Goose), the next peak north of Signuniang North (5,700m: a subsidiary summit at the base of the north ridge of Siguniang) but retreated in heavy snowfall. They then set out for a fine rock tower on the west side of the valley dubbed Paine Peak, probably corresponding to Pt 5,422m on the map, but were again thwarted by the weather. A final attempt on Snow Goose reached the 5,200m col below the south ridge, then continued up snow on this ridge until a point estimated to be only 150m from this virgin summit. Here, the slope was so dangerously avalanche prone that the pair had no option but to retreat.

Meanwhile, Hollinger and Sharpe had attempted the north face of Siguniang. They swam up steep unconsolidated snow over granite to reach the crest of the spur tried by the Americans in 1981, then climbed several pitches of Scottish 3-4 mixed before realizing the route was totally out of condition and would prove far too time consuming for the very limited breaks in the weather. A few days later they went around to the col below Snow Goose and attempted the northeast ridge of unclimbed Siguniang North, carrying enough food so that if a fine spell materialized they could continue up the north ridge of Siguniang itself (descended by Fowler and Ramsden in 2002). They took to the right flank of the ridge and climbed about 200m of this 500m line, negotiating wet snow over very shattered rock, before deciding to bail in heavy spindrift. As if on cue a sustained blizzard moved in and accompanied them all the way back to Base. For the more ice/mixed climbing that the area offers, the team feel a return visit earlier in the year, perhaps from January to March when the weather is rumored to be more settled, would prove fruitful.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO Editor, CLIMB magazine

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