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Asia, China, Qonglai Shan, Siguniang National Park, Jiang Jun Feng, Bipeng Valley, First Ascent

Jiang Jun Feng, Bipeng Valley, first ascent. Chris Chitty, Pat Goodman, Ari Menitove and I were to travel to the Qionglai Range to explore and make first ascents in the Shuangqiao Valley. However, during planning before we left for China, we heard about an adjacent valley called the Bipeng, which had only become easily accessible two years ago, because of a new road. This valley lies north of the Shuangqiao and just across a ridge from our primary objectives, but is approached from the other side of the range. This area was written up in AAJ 2005 by Jon Otto, who gave us what information we had. When we got to China in mid-September, we met Jon and saw more photos of this valley. With the prospect of at least 10 unclimbed 5000+m rock peaks, we deemed it worthy and went there first.

We arrived at the trailhead in one day from Chengdu and stayed at a local hostel/guesthouse. The weather was good the next day, and we were impressed with the valley and its offerings. We located a decent camp along the trail going up and over into the Changping Valley, right below one of the more striking peaks (Jiang Jun Feng, 5,202m) and a promising-looking wall of granite spires. The weather was good for two or three days, allowing us to acclimatize and make a reconnaissance. The northeast face of 5,202m was the obvious big objective for us, but as we prepared to begin a route, bad weather set in. For the next five or six days, rain, snow, and fog kept us in our tents or under the boulder we used as a cooking shelter.

When the weather began to clear on September 28, Pat and I made a quick unroped ascent of 5,202m, via the ca. 900m northwest buttress, a low-angle fin of rock just left of a giant talus field. We carried a rope and some gear but never even put on our climbing shoes. Most of the terrain was scrambling, but a few steps required climbing up to about 5.7. We climbed to the west summit, which we believe to be the tallest point on the massif. As it turned out, this was also the best day’s weather of the trip.

Ari and Chris began a route on the northeast face. They came across a fair bit of loose rock and incipient features, interspersed with sections of good 5.10-5.11. They were climbing with no bolt kit and only a few pins. Ultimately they would have needed more of an aid rack to continue. As the weather window was again starting to close, they came down after five pitches. That same day Pat and I explored the wall of granite above camp and adjacent to Jiang Jun Feng. To our amazement this wall was made up of beautiful compact granite, covered with splitter cracks. Unfortunately, the cracks were completely filled with dirt and grass. Cleaning even one pitch would have taken hours. We did find a few clean cracks on a detached pillar at the base of the wall and installed anchors above three very good lines. Pat climbed the first splitter offwidth to place anchors, and we intended to return the next day to finish the other two, but we had neither time nor weather for cleaning the walls above. Bad weather set in, and we spent the rest of the trip toiling in the squalor of our tents or the cooking cave. This expedition was supported by the AAC Lyman Spitzer Grant and Cascade Designs. Thanks to both for their generous assistance.

Tommy Chandler