Mt Edgar (6,618m), North Face Attempt
Asia, China, Daxue Shan, Minya Konka Range
In September and October 2010 our Russian team hoped to complete new routes on Edgar from the Nan Nem Guon Valley to the north. The main objective for Alexander Novikov and me was the unclimbed west face. The Nan Nem Guon is rarely visited by locals, and we trekked for two days up the valley, following overgrown tracks and building log bridges across two rivers. Our porters dropped their loads and ran away an hour below our planned base camp. It took another day to ferry our gear to base camp, which we established mid-September.
We discovered that it was more or less impossible to access the west face from there. The cwm below the face is guarded by a dangerous icefall that was active the whole time. We turned to the north face and established an advanced base below it at 4,400m. This face was huge and covered mostly with unconsolidated snow.
While the weather had been fine during our approach and for several days after, it started raining at base camp and was clear only above 4,000m. As soon as we began our attempt, though, it got really bad, starting to snow at midday for two days, snowing continuously on the third.
We began on September 29 and climbed 500m before faced with poor snow and continuous powder avalanches. We headed right and climbed part way up a rocky rib, then moved right again and reached a small col at 5,900m on the northwest ridge, where we made our third bivouac. (The first two had been at 5,100m and 5,560m.) The climbing, mainly over snow-covered rock, had been unprotected. There was only one pitch of good (vertical) ice where we could place ice screws and there were no decent bivouac ledges.
We sat at the small col for two days. It was windy and snowing, with no visibility. Our only way out was to descend the left side of the west face to the cwm below. It was complicated, but after another bivouac in the cwm, we crossed the col between Jiazi and Edgar, then descended to the lower part of the icefall, which we rappelled as quickly as possible to avoid falling debris. We decided to return in 2011, having figured out a much better approach to the west face, by passing through the col between Grosvenor and Jiazi. The outcome of this attempt is described below.
Vladimir Belousov, Russia