Sulamar (5,380m), North Buttress
China, Xinjiang, Tien Shan, Xuelian Range
From mid-August to mid-September Mike Morrison, Paul Ramsden, Rob Smith, and I visited the north side of the Xuelian Range. This area had been visited twice before by mountaineering trips, both led by Bruce Normand; it is where Bruce, Jed Brown, and Kyle Dempster climbed their 2010 Piolets d’Or-awarded route on Xuelian West. We operated as two independent teams, with Morrison and Smith exploring side valleys off the Muzart Glacier, while Ramsden and I descended the rarely traveled Xiate Trail to explore the mountains beyond the snout of the Muzart Glacier.
Our original aim was to ascend the Muzart Glacier to the col at its head and attempt Xuelian East. However, heavy snowfall during the acclimatization period made glacier travel overly exciting. Both Paul and I fell completely into crevasses: a first for both of us in over 30 years of mountaineering. Deciding that the long approach to the head of the Muzart Glacier would prove too time- consuming and dangerous with so much fresh snow, we decided to retrace part of the walk-in and strike up an unknown valley to the foot of the north side of Sulamar.
This peak was first climbed in 2008 by Normand and Guy McKinnon, who refer to it as Khanjaylak II. Approaching from the south, they climbed the northeast slopes that rise from the col between Khanjaylak I (5,424m) and II (AAJ 2009).
It was with some relief that we eventually discovered we had chosen the correct valley and could reach our objective, the prominent 1,600m north buttress. We took a full day to walk to the foot of the face from our base camp by the Muzart on the Xiate Trail. From there we climbed for just over two days up steep ice and mixed terrain, at TD+, to gain a fine snow ridge leading back left to the summit. Our bivouacs on the face were sitting/hanging.
We descended the previously unclimbed south ridge and regained base camp in a six-day round trip. All four of us felt the area to be one of the most beautiful in which we had climbed.
Mick Fowler, UK, Alpine Club