Dragon’s Tooth/Longya Feng (5,250m), east ridge attempt; Peak 5,138m, north face attempt; logistical notes. Jon Otto, China’s greatest first ascensionist, tipped me off about the potential of the Bipeng Valley. My initial foray into the valley was in the winter of 2005, to scout ice-flow potential. Once immersed in the valley, I looked past the waterfall ice and up at the untouched rocky peaks. I have since been to the valley on four trips, with varying success and experiences on each trip. Some logistical notes are at the end of this report.
The local Chinese rock climber Liu Yong and I met in Chengdu on September 20 and went straight to the local market to stock up on food. By the 24th we were poised at the base of our target peak. From the Bipeng Valley side the striking Dragon’s Tooth resembles the Matterhorn. From the Chang- ping Valley side the peak looks like a rocky mass. Our goal was to climb the aesthetic line up the northeast ridge in a long day.
We pitched our tent on a sloping hillside at 4,228m and set out at 4 a.m., bound for the ridge. By daybreak we were roping up at the base of the wall. We were quickly sobered by the mixture of loose rock and Scot- tish-style moss holds, reaching 4,600m before encountering the first rock pitch of quality. Liu Yong took the lead up a 5.10 hand crack that curved into an overhang. He jammed his way up and dead-ended at the overhang, looked around for a long time, and lowered back to the belay ledge. I was in disbelief, so I climbed to the roof to see if I could find a route. The hand crack dissipated into 100% featureless terrain; it was like trying to escape from a racquetball court. From our belay perch we could look left down the east face and right toward the north face. The east face was a series of blocky overhangs with seemingly featureless rock in between, similar in scope to the Diamond on Long’s Peak. The north face had more handholds and ledges, but was caked with snow and loose blocks leading to more overhangs. Neither looked possible. We made several rappels to the ground, using pitons and cordalette.
The Dragons Tooth is still unclimbed from the Bipeng Valley side. The rock quality is good up high, but difficult. We gave the peak the name Dragon’s Tooth while back in Yang’er Ge’s cabin (see below). When I’m in Bipeng Valley I have to describe peaks by elevation and appearance, or with photos. We decided to name the peak to alleviate further confusion. After several rounds of green tea, beer, and moon cakes, the locals and I decided Dragon’s Tooth would be a fitting name for this beautiful sharp-featured peak.
The next day we decided we’d hike farther up the valley of scree and try to climb several pitches of rock on the Dragon’s Tooth’s east face, so we could gain the south ridge and then the summit. As we neared the east face, we were again disappointed by loose snow and blocky overhangs. Our attention turned to Peak 5,138m, just south of the Dragon’s Tooth:. This peak is an obtuse rocky mass, but we could see a line winding up to the summit. I was excited to climb it and gain a better view of other peaks in the area. We were at the base of the north face, which was coated in snow, ice, and wet rock, but the angle was only about 45–55°. We did not have boots, crampons, or axes, just a light rock rack, rope, helmets, and a bit of food and water.
The snow was soft but held together well. We kick-stepped easily in the snow and scrambled up 5th-class rock. The terrain got more difficult at 4,600m, so we roped up and used a running belay with occasional rock protection. Our thin gloves and approach shoes were completely soaked, but we pushed on to 4,900m by about 3 p.m., by which time a sleet storm began, and we turned around. By the time we reached the tent the weather had cleared, and we were looking at stars. Bipeng Valley has a tendency to morph from summer clear, to winter blizzard, to spring monsoon in a 24-hour period.
We decided to pack up and return to Shanghaizi to replenish our spirits.
This expedition was made possible by support from the McNeill-Nott Climbing Grant sponsored by the American Alpine Club and Mountain Hardwear.
Jon Lane Sullivan, AAC