Asia, China, Sichuan Province, Qonglai Shan, Genyen Massif, Peak 5,695m, First Ascent, Inglis-Puryear
Genyen Massif, Peak 5,695m, first ascent, Inglis-Puryear. In mid-October, Julie Hodson, Peter Inglis, Jay Janousek, Michelle Puryear, and I made our way toward Mt. Genyen (6,204m). Following the extensive research of Tamotsu Nakamura, our objective was the unclimbed peak of elevation 5,965m—the second highest peak in the Genyen area—just west of Mt. Genyen. Peter and Julie were good friends of Christine Boskoff and Charlie Fowler, who were killed on Mt. Genyen the previous fall, and we all wanted to pay tribute to them.
After a bumpy three days’ ride by hired van from Chengdu, we arrived at the small town of Sanla, southeast of the Genyen massif. Being already acclimatized from earlier weeks of attempting peaks, we made quick progress and established base camp three days and 30 miles from Sanla. Our base camp was set up at 4,200m on October 19. The next day Peter, Julie, and I left for high camp, which we established at 5,000m below a glacier on the mountain’s southeast aspect. On October 21 we made an attempt up what appeared to be the path of least resistance, but eventually a cliffy sub-summit impeded progress.
The next day Peter and I left high camp early. Temperatures were cold, and the weather was unsettled but not necessarily threatening. We headed for a large mixed couloir directly above camp, which appeared to bypass the sub-summit. Most of the chossy lower gully was frozen in place, and we quickly gained elevation. Just past mid-height, fifth-class rock and moderate mixed climbing provided entertainment, until steep snow led us to the crest of a ridge. This ridge led to a steep snow headwall that led to the final east-trending summit ridge. We continued up over a large snow hump but were forced to downclimb exposed 60° snow on its backside. This led to a flat col.
We continued up an avalanche chute to the bergschrund below the upper south-facing headwall. Snow conditions on the entire climb had been absolutely perfect, so we continued unroped up the 55° headwall for 200m to the ridge crest. The summit ridge was quite a surprise; it was very sharp and slightly corniced to the other side—very Alaskan. We got out the rope and traversed another 200m to the small summit, arriving just before noon. We said a prayer for Charlie and Christine before the uneventful descent. Once back in high camp, we hurriedly packed, so we could reach base camp before dark. The climb was a tribute from all of us to Charlie and Christine. As Peter said on the summit, “They died in the most beautiful place in the whole wide world. And we miss them dearly.”
We spent another four days exploring around the north side of Mt. Genyen and visiting the 600-year old Lengo Monastery, before returning to the town of Lamaya. The whole trip was absolutely amazing, as we explored a vast wilderness, made friends with nomadic people, and took a step back in time in this distant region of the Tibetan Plateau.
Joseph Puryear, AAC