Trip Report
Asura Peak FA, Gangga Range, NW Sichuan, China, Nov 2015

by ecdh
Saturday November 28, 2015 10:57pm
pre-edited draft of the AAJ report, with off-cut photos

the north face of Asura Peak
the north face of Asura Peak
Credit: ecdh

in early November 2015 Norihide Yamagishi (Japan), Paul Manson (Scotland) and Ed Hannam (Australia) made the first ascent of Asura Peak at the junction of the western and central massifs in Sichuan’s Gangga Range. the peak’s height remains unverified as 5207m. before this trip only anecdotal images and a general location of the peak existed.
the ascent was the first official ascent of any of the +40 >5000m peaks in the range, proceeded only by an unauthorized ascent in 2013.
Hannam had previously visited the range in 2014 but failed to summit a 5429m peak in the central massif due to logistical problems. the timing of the 2015 trip was centered on weather observations made in the previous year.

Nomad's seasonal home in the valley c.4300m. Asura Peak is the promine...
Nomad's seasonal home in the valley c.4300m. Asura Peak is the prominent, pointy one to the left.
Credit: ecdh

dont try this at home kids. Paul sharpening up his ice tools in a movi...
dont try this at home kids. Paul sharpening up his ice tools in a moving vehcle.
Credit: ecdh

the Gangga Range sits in the far north west of China’s Sichuan province, 700km from Chengdu and 250km from the border with ‘Tibet’ (Xizang province). the range forms part of the north eastern-most extension of the Himalayan ranges and has a checkered past of accessibility. the population of the region is >75% Khampa Tibetan, centered on the trading and monastery town of Ganzi. in early winter nomadic families from the high plateau pass thru the Gangga ranges valleys.

one of the nomadic yak herders who we met in the approach valley. we w...
one of the nomadic yak herders who we met in the approach valley. we were in his backyard.
Credit: ecdh

the trio’s aim was to make a first ascent via the north face of an undocumented peak, climbing unsupported and in as clean alpine style as possible (nothing pre-placed, nothing fixed sections, nothing permanent, non-stop if possible). this entailed being self-contained for 9 days, without porters or electronic communications, once leaving the road at 4200m.

a three day approach lead to a cold yet ideally located launch camp at the base of the 400m north face. nearby sub-peaks and passes afforded good views of the face to plan routes by and chances to acclimate.

Yamagishi having his morning coffee before the wind picks up.
Yamagishi having his morning coffee before the wind picks up.
Credit: ecdh

our camp at the base of the peak wasnt comfortable enough to earn it t...
our camp at the base of the peak wasnt comfortable enough to earn it the term 'basecamp'. cold and windy, we used the blue cord to ferry stuff between tents when it was too cold outside.
Credit: ecdh

the first attempt was a direct line up the center of the face, finding good steep snow to 70o, thin ice and rock of widely varying quality. initially hoping to follow an obvious ice line, upon finding it too thin they moved to increasingly difficult mixed climbing beside it, retreating after Yamagishi took two 6m falls on an overhanging pitch at around 4900m, eventually losing an ice tool.
similar long ice lines cover the face and have huge future potential.

Paul making it happen on a fairly good example of the terrain.
Paul making it happen on a fairly good example of the terrain.
Credit: ecdh

the second attempt took a meandering line that linked two tiers of exposed snowfields via pitches of Scottish Grade V mixed, into the obvious couloir that bisects the face. it was debated that the couloir would lead to a summit ridge but instead several steep snow pitches lead to an overhanging corniced notch surrounded by rock towers and dangerous loose rock 60m below the assumed summit. descent was via the couloir and took a 13hr round trip from camp.

Yamagishi coming up onto one of the snow bands
Yamagishi coming up onto one of the snow bands
Credit: ecdh

Yamagishi in the central couloir
Yamagishi in the central couloir
Credit: ecdh

a ‘rest’ day that allowed for more discerning recon of the peak confirmed that the true high-point was actually set further back from the main face and best reached by crossing the central couloir and traversing upwards a series of steep snowfields at the base of the faces headwall. arrival of the trips first bad weather threw concern over the chance of getting back onto the face in the short amount of time left.

the dry snow that fell wasnt much on the scale of things, and was enou...
the dry snow that fell wasnt much on the scale of things, and was enough for us to stay in our tents.
Credit: ecdh

after the weather cleared we found we had been silently visited by a l...
after the weather cleared we found we had been silently visited by a large, solitary canine that come down from the higher, uninhabited valley. thats a size 11 shoe for comparison.
Credit: ecdh

after a night of dry snow fall a middling morning of scattered cloud cemented the decision to make a final attempt, refining our previous line on familiar terrain and a known descent route if the weather collapsed. rested, with a degree of expectation and the pressure of an unpredictable weather window the trio simu-climbed as a three, to arrive at the couloir in the late morning. the angle of the face and dryness of the precipitation meant minimal snow had collected. further simu-climbing across the upper snow and linking mixed sections bought them to a short corniced ridge and a traverse to the summit at 12:30pm. an encroaching cloud base of 6000m gave a fifteen minute period to take photos into the previously unseen southern reaches of the range that included southerly aspects of the highest peaks and multiple previously undocumented alpine objectives.
descent followed the route, meeting with the previous rap line down the central couloir.
discussion graded the line at Scottish V / M5 / 70o snow, 700m over 400m alt gain.

Yamagishi at a belay on the snow band.
Yamagishi at a belay on the snow band.
Credit: ecdh

Paul and Yamagishi on the final ridge to the summit.
Paul and Yamagishi on the final ridge to the summit.
Credit: ecdh

regulation horsing around on the summit shot. first peak officially su...
regulation horsing around on the summit shot. first peak officially summited in the range, our altimeters varied widely so we left it unverified at the posted height of 5207m.
Credit: ecdh

Asura is a deity that inhabits the next world above humans and appears...
Asura is a deity that inhabits the next world above humans and appears differently depending on perspective.
Credit: ecdh

this trip was self-financed though some equipment was provided by Teton Bros, Polartec, Millet, la Sportiva, Big Sky International, Cilogear and Skylotec

  Trip Report Views: 2,220
ecdh
About the Author
ecdh is a climber from the east.

Comments
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Nov 29, 2015 - 07:32am PT
Bump for some great climbing content.
This part of China has always intrigued me. Big mountains, remote, wild, unknown.
Thanks for posting.
ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Nov 30, 2015 - 12:51am PT
China is really starting to get going now, with consistent interest from foreign climbers, especially the japanese and eastern europeans, plus a solid dose of americans bringing alaskan-style climbing on board.

ive been climbing there for nearly 20 years now, and the old favourites like the Minya Konka range and Siguniangshan area have become quite developed, but head another days drive out and theres decades of stuff. beyond that the ranges heading west are barely entered at all, tho the Tian shan gets some attention.
an eyeball of google earth shows even outside the locked down Xizang province theres vast ranges.

redtape takes some negotiating - not a bad thing always as it keeps things from getting too overrun - but id say get there now. the chance to delve into such an array of climbing comes once a generation...
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Nov 30, 2015 - 02:06am PT
Nice! Thanks for giving us an advance look of what remains, for me, a most exotic climbing location.

John
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  Nov 30, 2015 - 04:14am PT
Wuoshi wan!
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
  Nov 30, 2015 - 06:17am PT
Interesting TR. Thanks!

And way to hang in there with multiple attempts until you succeeded.

Interesting paw prints too. Wolf or Tibetan mastif ? At least not a yeti.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Nov 30, 2015 - 08:45am PT
Nice report, perseverance pays off!

Need a badass unclimbed peak/face for 2016, any recommendations?! :)
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Nov 30, 2015 - 08:55am PT
Nicely done! Those pics of mine you asked about were near Siguniang. Much closer to Chengdu then you were.
ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Nov 30, 2015 - 04:24pm PT
Mt Vitaliy M

whats youre taste(s) for 'badass'? big walls? remote? steep? high? complex? all of the above?

theres lots out in that same area covering all that. with 4 weeks you could get onto something like a 900m wall and or a couple of alpine objectives.
depends too what you want to spend - permits, logistics etc for china are a lot more sophisticated, but there are 'options'.

im going back next year with a few objectives lined up that may fit the 'badass' description. happy to loop you in.

ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Nov 30, 2015 - 04:17pm PT
Mr Donini

we went to the Siguniangshan area a week after that trip. a very different outcome.
will put up a TR for that asap.

are your pics from the Changping side, or an unusual angle from elsewhere? ive spent lots of time in the place but never eyed that.
understood if its better left obscure.
ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Nov 30, 2015 - 04:22pm PT
Mr(s?) Jan

we like to think it was a wolf - and apparently they are in the area - but really no idea.
the nomads didnt have mastifs (thankfully) so unless they go rogue sometimes, again, no idea.

similar size pretty much. damn glad whatever it was left us alone. it came between the tents, but whatever food it smelled must not have appealed. early winter and not interested in food seems odd...
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Nov 30, 2015 - 04:29pm PT
cool
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Nov 30, 2015 - 04:33pm PT
Loved seeing this. Thanks for posting this up.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Nov 30, 2015 - 05:45pm PT
What is your email? If you want, just email me. Stuff that I have seen getting done in Kishtwar looks really good. Climbing there is expensive (as companies that organize logistics, transportation etc cost a lot) and permits seem like a bit of a cluster though. I like that it is possible to carry your sh#t in and go climbing, where you guys were. If you want, just email me. xxvitaliyxx@yahoo.com
ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Nov 30, 2015 - 08:22pm PT
Mr Vitaliy

mail sent.

china still has its own redtape but over time ive got a handle on it that gets rare freedoms. personally i like that it provides a filter that avoids some of the cluster that other himalayan areas have become.

if totally off-the-grid places excites you its a good area. tho it wont remain that way forever...
thebravecowboy

climber
The Good Places
  Nov 30, 2015 - 08:29pm PT
somebody's gotta get the goodies while they're still good. thanks for letting us in on the secret.
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