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Xiaqiangla (5,470m), Northeast Face

After my first ascent in 2007 of Bawangshan (5,551m) in the Qonglai Shan (AAJ 2008), I wondered what my next target should be. It didn’t take long to find a mountain that fit my criteria: unclimbed, prominent, beautiful, and with easy access. Xiaqiangla is an outstanding peak in the northern Daxue Shan, west of Danba and the Dadu River. Only Kiyoshi Kawajiri, Tom Nakamura, and Tadao Shintani had accessed these mountains before. [Nakamuras photo of Xiaqiangla appeared in AAJ 2009.] The peak was alluring not only because it was a fine unclimbed pyramid, but also due to the surrounding area, the so-called Valley of Beauty, where unique local Tibetan culture features fine and historic art, literature, and architecture, including stone towers that are typical of the Dadu River Basin.

Our expedition took place from April 24-May 9 and comprised Mitsuru Kato, Hiroshi Matsushima, Ken Sato, and me, all from the JAC. We first drove from Chengdu to Dang Ling (3,300m), via Danbu, and set up base camp on the shores of Da Haizi at 4,350m, after an eight-hour walk to the west-southwest. After reconnaissance we placed an advanced base at 5,020m and attempted two routes: the northeast face and the north ridge. The former would involve climbing a snow couloir leading toward the north ridge and then striking up left on a steep rock wall leading directly to the summit. The route up the north ridge would start from the north col and also be steep, with rocky gendarmes resembling a dinosaur's back. It would feature a subsidiary summit (Peak 3) and a smaller rock pyramid (Peak 2) before rising to the main summit.

On May 2 we started from advanced base at 6 a.m. Matsushima and Sato climbed the northeast face and reached the main summit at 2:40 p.m. Mixed/rock climbing in the upper section was III-IV, and their GPS gave an altitude of 5,497m. Kato and I got as far as Peak 3 on the north ridge but had to give up at that point due to lack of time. Our parties regrouped at the col between Peaks 2 and 3, then descended the couloir together, reaching advanced base at 8:40 p.m.

Tom Nakamura notes that it is now impossible to ignore the serious environmental destruction to the Dadu River region caused by accelerated West China Development projects. A huge dam is under construction near Luding.

Chiharu Yoshimura, Japanese Alpine Club, translated by Tom Nakamura