American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Sichuan, Shaluli Shah, Xiashe (5,833m), First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Xiashe (5,833m), first ascent. On October 13 Patricia Deavoll of New Zealand and I made the first ascent of Xiashe, via the south face and southwest ridge. We arrived in the region on October 1 accompanied by an interpreter, Zhengling Cheng (Lenny), and staff. Access to the area involved a three-day drive from Chengdu over very rough, uneven roads that crossed several 4,000m passes.

Our initial plan was to climb the north face of Xiashe. However, we discovered the north face to be “dry” and apparently out of condition. While acclimatizing we changed our goal to the longer, more aesthetic, rock-and-snow east ridge. These plans too became thwarted with the arrival of a weather system that brought frequent thunderstorms, which deposited up to 60cm of fresh snow. We maintained hope that the snow would melt, leaving the rock on the east ridge dry.

On October 8 a three-person British team arrived at base camp with the same climbing objective. [The British team reached the summit on October 17 via the north face, see below— Ed.] The arrival of a new team and the deep snow were just the incentive for us to try the peak via another route. We left base camp on October 10, collecting equipment from caches and making carries farther up the valley. It took two further days, wading through deep, unconsolidated snow, to get established at a 5,300m col on the southwest ridge, from which we felt we could make a summit bid.

We left high camp at 1 a.m. on October 13, descending ca. 300m to a glacier on the south face. We spent several hours in the dark ascending the snowy face. Fortunately, wed brought snowshoes. We gained the southwest ridge around 5 a.m. and once on the crest we followed it directly to the summit. Daylight arrived at 7 a.m., and we reached the summit at 8:45 a.m. The fine weather afforded spectacular views of the Daxue Shan to the east and many other mountains in every direction. We descended the same route and arrived back at high camp by 2 p.m.

After returning to base camp, we spent the next four days resting and deciding on another objective. On October 19 a staff member drove us across the Zhopu pasture, getting as close as possible to the base of Jarjinjabo, a striking 5,812m peak ca. 15km northwest of Xiashe. After four days we established a high camp, but a storm arrived and lasted for over 50 hours. Unable to wait any longer, we abandoned our plans and on the 25th returned to the Zhopu Monastery, where the staff was waiting. The team was back in Chengdu on October 30.

The expedition was awarded a 2005 Shipton/Tilman grant by W.L. Gore.

Karen McNeill, Canada

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