Trip Report
Xialongrezha 5625m: Standing Room Only coulouir, west face

by ecdh
Tuesday November 22, 2016 9:28pm
Xialongrezha west face. Pitches 1 – 4 continue obscured below the fin ...
Xialongrezha west face. Pitches 1 – 4 continue obscured below the fin of rock.
12 pitches, Russian alpine grade 5A (Scottish IV, M4, some pitches run out, some simu-climbed or soloed). 650m. descent by rappelling the route. Photo: Rob Baker

Credit: ecdh

During unbroken perfect weather from late October to early November we made the first ascent of the previously undocumented 5625m Xialong Rezha (unnamed and incorrectly marked as 5851m or 5346m by some sources) to the west of the Ge’nyen massif in the Shaluli Range, Sichuan. A quintessential Eastern Himalayan peak, Xialongrezha is the closest +5500m peak to the near-completely closed border to Xizang province, Tibet (see http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web16f/newswire-british-alpinists-climb-a-virgin-north-face);,

Relatively well known, the eastern and central areas of Ge’nyen have been visited regularly for over a decade, including ascents by Sarah Hueniken, Dave Anderson and Joe Puryear, with Mt Ge’nyen itself first climbed in the 90s by a Japanese team. That our trip coincided exactly with the 10th anniversary of the deaths of Charlie Fowler and Kristine Boskoff wasn’t lost on us.

Border post to Xizang, Tibet. As far as we could go. Photo Alex Tang
Border post to Xizang, Tibet. As far as we could go. Photo Alex Tang
Credit: ecdh


the western side of the Ge’nyen mountains is accessed via 4 days travel along the Sichuan-Tibet highway from Chengdu via Kangding, Xinduqiao, the ‘Tibetan Disneyland’ town of Litang and the border town of Batang, then a small road over a 5000m pass almost unknown even to the locals. 25km from the upper Yangtze that forms the administrative border, Xialongrezhe is prominently visible from the small hamlet at the end of the road, the name translating as ‘place of big horned animals and large boulders’,

We planned to do a first ascent with no additional support, something developed over many previous trips to western Sichuan/eastern Tibet. going into undocumented terrain completely self-sufficient, our only limitation was the loads we could carry, acclimation and the weather, having banked on the dependable early winter window directly after the last squall of the south Asian monsoon and before the first snows arrived. This year didn’t disappoint, with an unbroken string of 15 days without any form of precipitation.

Where the wild things are. Xialongrezha from the edge of town. Photo A...
Where the wild things are. Xialongrezha from the edge of town. Photo Alex Tang

Credit: ecdh

BC I was several kilometers from the village thru a beautiful pine and lichen forest to a sunny vale at 4200m. a pastoral delight, with clear aquamarine rushing streams, flocks of pheasants and lazy yaks, we did sorties higher up and after 3 nights to consolidate decided to move the entire BC up to 4900m rather than just a light ‘assault bivy’. This involved heavy carries up several kms of marsh, bouder fields and scree.

BC II was a true high Tibetan location; stark and lunar. By a small glacially fed lake, the high moraine and room-sized boulders showed no signs of visitation aside from thirsty antelope and small, colourful birds. The difference between direct sun and shade was a +20c and -10c differential that bookended each day.

BC II below Xialongrezha at 4900m. Photo Mitch Murray. <br/>
BC II below Xialongrezha at 4900m. Photo Mitch Murray.

Credit: ecdh

From vantage points along the approach it was clear the premium route on the west face was the jilted central couloir. we juggled thoughts about various other route alternatives but confirmed the central couloir after a recce day onto the glacier beneath.

as the route was steep, our acclimation at threshold and the amazing weather window getting on, we lead in blocks, seconding together for speed. With good team work, good rock and solid snow this worked efficiently.

Ed below the traverse to the upper pitches at around 5350m. Photo Rob ...
Ed below the traverse to the upper pitches at around 5350m. Photo Rob baker.

Credit: ecdh


after soloing the 90m glacial snout to the couloir’s base cone, Mitch powered us thru the next 3 pitches, then Ed lead up to and around where the couloir changed direction, including a long double pitch with a vigorous traverse. This was followed by Rob launching up 5 run-out pitches on lessening snow quality that ended in a pitch dug thru to the slab below to the cornice on the summit ridge. a further half pitch by Ed confirmed the sketchy snow and serious fall potential, leaving the bizarre summit formation unclimbed out of respect for sanity and local Tibetan lore.

Xialongrezha summit stack, across dangerous granulated snow over seaml...
Xialongrezha summit stack, across dangerous granulated snow over seamless granite slabs. We left that to the gods of another time. Photo Ed hannam
Credit: ecdh

The couloir presented no good options for bivies so all 12 pitches were climbed in a single push, non-stop effort on new terrain.
Experience from previous trips had us carrying an array of alpine pro, but we ended up using a time-proven rack of small to mid cams and wires, beaks and pitons and an occasional screw. aside from the upper two pitches the snow was excellent, with ice a mix of glacial and alpine. rock in the western cluster is A grade granite, fissured with finger to hand width cracks splitting contiguous slabs and faces topped wild gendarmes, gargoyles and features.

Chopping thru the cornice we could see eastwards into the main Ge’nyen area, with 6200m Mt Ge’nyen and other +5500m peaks clearly visible. Westwards, in the other direction, we could make out long ranges of robust peaks over 6000m beyond the closed Tibetan border.
At 16:00 we began the many rappels that would get us back to camp at 22:00.


Mitch & Rob at the final anchor, 5610m, with BC II just visible at the...
Mitch & Rob at the final anchor, 5610m, with BC II just visible at the lake 700m below. Photo Ed Hannam.
Credit: ecdh

Continuing the good weather streak we spend the following day laying on sun-warmed granite boulders and eating, before starting the heavily loaded return to the village where we were welcomed by the local monk and school kids. Returning to Batang we consumed the hotels entire supply of roast duck.

the team consisted of organizational legend Zhang Jiyue, sharp-end expert Alex Tang (China) and climbers Mitch Murray, Rob Baker & Ed Hannam (Australia).

L to R: Ed Hannam, Rob Baker, Mitch Murray. All smiles before the weig...
L to R: Ed Hannam, Rob Baker, Mitch Murray. All smiles before the weight of the packs and altitude set in. Photo Alex Tang.
Credit: ecdh

This trip was entirely self-funded, with no sponsors, no grants, no awards and no film deals, though a special thanks goes to Sea to Summit for their sleeping mat solutions, and to Cilogear for producing the unique packs that made the unsupported nature of the trip doable.





  Trip Report Views: 3,246
ecdh
About the Author
ecdh is a climber from the east.

Comments
NutAgain!

Trad climber
https://nutagain.org
  Nov 22, 2016 - 10:03pm PT
Pretty cool looking spot and nice adventure!
How did that part of the world enter your radar?
EdBannister

Mountain climber
13,000 feet
  Nov 22, 2016 - 10:18pm PT
fantastic line and accomplishment.
nah000

climber
now/here
  Nov 22, 2016 - 10:21pm PT
dope.

has been good to see you back on st..

thanks for sharing the story behind [some of] the absence.

super sweet!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Outside the Asylum
  Nov 22, 2016 - 10:33pm PT
Congratulations, and thanks for the report!

You didn't happen to see donini, did you? :)
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
  Nov 23, 2016 - 06:16am PT
Rad
Stewart Johnson

Gym climber
top lake
  Nov 23, 2016 - 06:32am PT
Exellent!
Jay Hack

Trad climber
Detroit, Michigan
  Nov 23, 2016 - 06:58am PT
Awesome line, climb and adventure. Congrats!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Nov 23, 2016 - 07:02am PT
Well done!

Three cheers for TR's!

Three cheers for FA's!

Three cheers for big travel!

Congratulations team, and thanks for sharing with us here at Politopo!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Nov 23, 2016 - 07:57am PT
Nice.... Good adventure....Cilo Gear packs are awesome!
ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Nov 24, 2016 - 12:48am PT
Dozens of +5500m FAs to be had out there. Just gotta work for it. No industry to point the way and hopefully never will be.
We just saw the start of it, and its raw stuff. Zero set up for big groups. The locals wont and cant get too involved. Self-sufficient groups only is the way - not always simple when it means weeks above 4500m in winter.

Ah the packs. Only Cilogear. They were made with specific tasks in mind from elements of existing designs and fabric combinations. Worth every cent if carrying big loads to places without names is your thing.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Nov 24, 2016 - 11:08am PT
Nice Tilman style old skool adventure!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Nov 25, 2016 - 09:31pm PT
What a great trip

My only criticism is that your photos are not large enough. When you click on your photos to see the larger version, there ain't one.
COT

climber
Door Number 3
  Nov 26, 2016 - 07:03am PT
Awesome! Psyched to read about your expedition. After multiple trips trying (with some success) to climb rock routes in Shuli-Shan during the late summer early fall, I think you guys nailed the right time period and climbing style.

Here is a trip report from the Euro climbers that summited Hutsa this year( a peak that I had tried and failed on 4 times due to bad weather and altitude issues).
https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=sichuan%20expedition%202016

China has unlimited new route potential.

The language and cultural barriers in China can pose challenges for Western climbers, but sounds like you folks hired the right crew

cheers


Dave Anderson
i-b-goB

Big Wall climber
Nutty
  Nov 26, 2016 - 11:18am PT
Way to help yourselves!
ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Nov 26, 2016 - 11:28am PT
COT, really cool to see you here, youre 'the guy' on the area and your input appreciated.

We considered Hutsa but in the end went for a new area as central Genyen seems so busy these days. We could tho see it from the top of Xialongrezha. The big Euro team we were aware of, not our style at all.

Re the weather: i dont get why the persistence with an earlier schedule - everyone does it and always problems. Tho colder, a month later is stable and iced. Weve seen this for over 10 years running and assume C Fowler saw it too.

Yes we have good friends to roll with in Sichuan. Freedom without beauracratic problems. Alex is really atuned to both Han and Tibetan sensabilities and we leave minimal impact. Worth his weight in dyneema.

Its worth noting the western side is associated with Batang, not Litang. They have a different culture and dialect (gorge culture not plateau people), build with wood not stone, sedentry hunt and graze rather than semi nomadic etc. cool stuff.

Maybe one day see you out there. Those 6000m ers just across the border are enticing.

SLR: photo matter noted. Am onto it, but as a used primate with the tech ability of a retarded jellyfish it will take time. Can send you any pics you want to see bigger to line the bird cage with.

Happy to share with anyone pledging an oath to the unsupported doctrine.
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Nov 26, 2016 - 06:20pm PT
Beautiful trip ecdh!

Thank you for remembering Kris and Charlie too . . .
NutAgain!

Trad climber
https://nutagain.org
  Nov 26, 2016 - 06:56pm PT
My only criticism is that your photos are not large enough. When you click on your photos to see the larger version, there ain't one

As far as I can tell that is a supertopo limitation. If I want to show larger photos, I have to host them myself (e.g. google photo) and then use img tags with the links. Uploading to supertopo always resizes downward.
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Nov 26, 2016 - 08:22pm PT



Powerful write up


great adventure,



My 1st thing was to look at those packs.

Now I've read a few comments
Let's see some pics of those work sacks.
ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Nov 28, 2016 - 10:52pm PT

Our packs were remarkable and designed to quite clear specs. Pic is a collage from a spec sheet for them. cilogear have been very accommodating with the whole process. Some folk freak over the costs but a no brainer when they get the job done so well.

Really they are pack sets, combining a large volume loader with a smaller alpine pack. We each used personalized versions, and Rob actually the large pack stripped right down to climb in.
At full capacity we each had about 120L before having to strap stuff to the outside. Ive also used a set at 150L volume.

They are in various versions of dyneema, so they wont absorb water, warp, freeze, tear or abraid. Basically they go as far as can be gone to solve the specific load bearing vectors. Its white mans way of post-brown people expeditions.

anyone wanting one should talk to Cilogear, im sure they will oblige.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
  Nov 29, 2016 - 09:50am PT
Congrats on your adventure and climb(!) and thanks for posting this fun to read trip report.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Nov 29, 2016 - 10:10am PT
Solid Gold.

Congratulations on climbing in the best style.

And thank you for sharing this.

Guy Keesee
ecdh

climber
the east
Author's Reply  Jan 12, 2017 - 08:05pm PT
slightly different version on Alpinist

http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web17w/newswire-xialongrezha
Go