Our original plan was to approach Yangmolong from Sanglongxi (pronounced song-lung-see, a.k.a. Sanchu) Valley and climb from the east. We arrived in the valley on October 17 and spent the night in the lower village, which has a population of ca 300. The following morning the village secretary took us to a community meeting. The result of our 30-minute “talks”: “You are not allowed to climb Yangmolong.” Our stand-in liaison officer, Chen Li, with Zhang Jian, had a private meeting with village officials, which proved even worse. We were told to leave the valley that day or the villagers could not guarantee our safety. Climbing the mountain brings about ominous events such as bad weather, sickness, and natural disasters. Reasoning with superstitions is impossible.
We had two options. One was to delay our climb, return to Chengdu, and work through official channels to negotiate access to Sanglongxi Valley, the other was to approach the mountain from Zhongba Valley to the south.
We knew the south face of Yangmolong might not offer a feasible line to the summit, but returning to Chengdu would have wasted a lot of money and resources. Approaching from the south seemed worth the risk.
On the 19th we established base camp at 4,700m in the Zhongba Valley, by the northern shores of Lake Yangmogen (pronouced jong- more-gen). Here people were friendly, and we were easily able to hire horses. The head lama of a monastery told us that many of the surrounding peaks were sacred, but that nobody felt they should be banned to climbers. After a reconnaissance Tim Boelter, Kang Hua,
Lao Wang, Su Rongqin, Yao Zhen, and I set up advanced base at 5,065m on a moraine directly below the south face.
A 600-700m wall of rock, snow, and ice stood between us and the summit. A huge serac stretched across the entire face at mid-height, and the summit ridge had suspicious-looking cornices overhanging our route. On the morning of the 23rd, Tim, Kang Hua, Su Rongqin, and I started up the face. I tried not to notice that large parts had recently calved off and were lying in rubble at its base. I was in front, when a rock exploded 50m above. I quickly took cover but 20 minutes later saw a rock twice the size of a fist shoot down our route. The sun had hit the upper section of the south face, and the cliff 400m above us was coming apart. Disappointed, we descended, knowing that this route was unsafe.
Back on the glacier, we looked at another line, a thin couloir in the center of the face. Su Rongqin and I climbed the 45° cone flowing from the fissure, and I then led an almost vertical section of mixed rock and ice. This was followed by a long 30° snow couloir and a pitch of hollow WI3, running with water. It was getting late so we rappeled.
Next morning four of us jumared back up and continued climbing, but a chunk of ice hit Tim hard on the hand, and a few minutes later ice and rock flew past. The ice above was thin and melting fast. Further climbing was too risky. We retreated from 5,400m dejected, noticing that our first abandoned line was now a waterfall. We had done our best.
Next morning, the 25th, Tim, Su Rongqin, and I walked around to the central glacier leading to the col between Dangchezhengla and Makara (Yangmolong central peak, 6,033m).
It was full of crevasses, but they were obvious. We eventually reached a 100m wall of 70° ice, which we climbed to a flat spot at 5,554m, just below the Dangchezhengla-Makara col (5,565m). We camped there for the night.
Next morning we made a long traverse west below the northeast ridge, before climbing 70° snow and ice for 150-200m directly up the southeast face to reach the final section of ridge. We followed this to the summit, the steepest part at 80°. From the top we had a fabulous view of Yangmolong’s upper ridge, which looked more challenging than we had imagined. We could also see Everest on the horizon and Namche Barwa to the west. We were the third team to summit this peak and Su Rongjin the first Chinese. We also believe we made a new variant. [In 2002 Japanese reached the Dangchezhengla-Makara col directly and then climbed the right side of the northeast ridge on very steep ice, 11 pitches from col to summit.] We made five 60m rappels directly down the southeast face, regained our traverse line, and followed it back to camp. Continuing down, we made it to base camp at midnight.
Jon Otto, AAC