“The Angry Wife,” first ascent, via north ridge (Raindog Arête); Daogou, first ascent, via south face (Salvage Op). In early September Jay Janousek, Joe Puryear, Stoney Richards, Paul Saddler, and I left Seattle for the Qionglai Mountains, with our main objective a new route on Siguniang (6,250m). After establishing ourselves in the Changping valley we climbed the west summit of Camel Peak (a.k.a. Luotou, 5,484m), then set our sights on the northwest face of Siguniang, a 900m rock wall rising straight out of the glacier just right of the 2002 Fowler-Ramsden ice couloir. This magnificent wall tops out at nearly 6,000m; above, the summit of the mountain is guarded by seracs. Due to the height of the route and the fickle weather, we planned to adopt capsule-style, big-wall tactics.
Puryear, Richards, and I ferried loads up 1,500m to an advanced camp across from the base of the route at 5,100m. During a brief two-day weather window, Joe and I led the first four pitches up a corner system, which appeared to offer the least objective hazard. A series of troughs then blew into the Siguniang region. Joe, Stoney, and I took shelter in a portaledge at the base of the route for the next nine days, until it became obvious there was no chance of reaching the summit via this route. Having spent nearly four weeks working and waiting, with only a week left in our trip, we decided to retrieve our gear. While double carrying loads back to base camp, we met a Russian team making a reconnaissance. The Russians were interested in a winter ascent of the northwest wall.
Back at base Stoney, Joe, and I decided to hike up the Chiwen Gorge for the remaining six days. As we passed west of Celestial Peak (a.k.a. Pomiu, 5,413m) the weather began to improve, and we set our sights on an attractive north-facing rock ridge higher up the valley. Dropping our packs under a large boulder, we began rock climbing in earnest at 4,500m. I led the first block of four pitches, the last of which was 510. Stoney led the next four pitches, following the line on the ridge between sun and shade. On his fourth pitch Stoney solved the 5.10c crux, which involved climbing thin, weaving, moss-filled cracks. Joe led the last two pitches to gain the summit at dusk. There was no evidence of a previous ascent, and we named the peak The Angry Wife (5,005m). Nine rappels down the east face led to the base of the route, which we named Raindog Arête (550m, 5.10c). We left only single pitons and stoppers on the descent.
The following day we hiked to the top of the Chiwen Gorge and reached a pass leading down to the Shuangqiao Valley. Knowing little about the valley into which we were descending, we were fortunate to discover a goat trail across the base of Chibu (5,450m) that shortened our descent considerably. As we rounded the base of Chibu, large rock towers emerged at the head of the valley. Of the three stunning rock summits, the main peak of Daogou, which had been attempted previously by Americans from the north, looked a particularly formidable challenge.
On the cloudy morning of October 13 we hiked to the base, keeping right of a south-facing buttress. At ca. 4,700m we reached the head of a small, talus-filled cirque and began to climb a prominent drainage, where we found a direct line up the south face. The route began with a deep 5cm-8cm hand crack, but then the terrain eased, and we soloed low-to-mid-fifth class rock for the next few hundred meters, until the head-wall steepened. The granite was excellent and on the headwall gave sustained 5.10 climbing above 5,000m. The crux was the summit block.
Joe describes the final pitch: “Unsure of which block was the actual summit, I led a difficult pitch on the east side, only to find that I had gone the wrong way. I rappelled back to a ramp and climbed around to the other side, where I found a horrifying series of ice-filled off-widths and chimneys. A 5.10d off-width over a bomb-bay chimney led to another chimney, with an overhanging chockstone. The mental crux came at the final block, where I had to chimney up a one-meter-wide gap, nearly 20m out from my last piece, and mantel onto the sloping summit edge.” This lead was testament to the climbing skill Joe has developed in the Alaska Range.
We stood on the 5,466m summit before dusk, concerned that Joe had frost-nipped his toes. Stoney set the anchors as we rappelled 17 pitches to the base of the route, which we named Salvage Op (650m, 5.10d). We left only single pitons and stoppers on the descent.
Chad Kellogg, AAC