Asia, China, Sichuan Province, Shaluli Shan, Peak 5,600m, First Ascent; Dangchezhengla (Bongonzhong, 5,830m), North Side
Peak 5,600m, first ascent; Dangchezhengla (Bongonzhong, 5,830m), north side. Steve Hunt, Dick Isherwood, Peter Rowat, and I spent October in Western Sichuan, exploring the northern approaches to Yangmolong (6,066m) and attempting to climb it. In good, though never totally clear, weather we entered the Sanchu River valley and stayed with villagers, before establishing base camp at 4,400m in a tributary valley. From there we stocked an advance base camp at 4,900m at the foot of the westernmost glacier descending from the northern side of Yangmolong. Dick found himself suffering from breathing problems, which meant that he was unable to climb above 5,000m. To acclimatize, the rest of us made the first ascent of a fine 5,600m snow peak to the southwest of ABC and south of Peak 5,850m, at about PD in difficulty. After a day’s rest, we climbed a new route on the north side of Dangchezhengla, first climbed by a Japanese team in 2002. Our ascent climbed through a rocky buttress to the south of the main glacier to gain a snow ridge leading to a steep fore summit, where we joined the Japanese route up the difficult summit ridge. After a steep 70m pitch of deep unconsolidated snow to a shoulder, climbed largely via my burrowing efforts, we flanked the corniced ridge on unconsolidated snow, sometimes crusted over but hollow to a depth of a foot. At one point we tiptoed along the cornice breakline with axes planted in the ridge crest for support. Estimated grade: D. [Dangchezhengla is referred to locally as Bongonzhong—Ed.]
The weather then became very cold and windy, with frequent snow showers, which put a stop to climbing for about a week. Peter managed a reconnaissance of the shattered saddle to the northeast of the main summit, and we established a camp at 5,100m on the easternmost glacier descending north on Yangmolong. Steve and I attempted the steep north spur, which falls almost directly from the main summit, but were forced to turn back at 5,400m. It was extremely cold, and snow conditions were difficult, with an inch or two of crust over unconsolidated snow. A threatening storm finally blew in around 2 p.m. and lasted until after dark.
With just a few days left, we decided to pack up, descend to the valley, and walk around the mountain to reach Dangba, while the base camp team supervised the return of equipment by the original route in from the north. We believe ours was the first Western party to make this trek through beautiful and varied country. So it was a good trip despite not climbing Yangmolong.
Dave Wynne-Jones, U.K.