OverviewBanji North is connected to Banji Peak via an airy knife-ridge. The north face is an impressive rock face approx. 800 m high that has yet to be climbed. We attempted the face in Jan 2006 but completed less than a third of the wall, we had seriously underestimated the difficulty of the climbing and the time needed for a successful ascent. We spent three days on the walk in and the next two days climbing the wall. On the third day, after topping out, we rappelled down and walked back to base camp. We walked out the following day for a total of 7 days start to finish.
Getting ThereThe approach is via a valley a few km south of the Bipeng Gou valley reception center. You should arrange a van from the center, they should be able to help you find porters if you want help carrying your gear in. You can see the drainage you need to hike up and you can look for the small footbridge over the larger creek that marks the trailhead. The trailhead at N31 17.618, E 102 55.584, is at 3,200m follows the drainage via a small yet well cleared trail first through bamboo than forest and finally through rhododendron thickets before reaching a large marsh where we put in base camp at 4,150m. The north side of the march has a mound of earth that catches the sun till late in the afternoon and made for a soft, warm camp spot. You have excellent views of Banji North from here.
The second day of the approach to Advance Base Camp is a 300m haul up a steep talus slope into the basin directly at the base of the wall. In the winter, ice forms a low angle falls in the middle of the drainage and you may consider climbing it because the hike up the snow-cover talus is strenuous and also treacherous because the boulders are large and loose. Hauling your gear up will take a few hours. We pitched our tent just over the lip of the upper basin on a large, flat rock – campsites in the talus filled basin are very hard to find except in the flat at the bottom of the basin.
Route DescriptionMany lines up the wall become clear from this vantage point, the only problem is finding your way to the bottom of the wall. Getting onto the wall from the left (east) is hampered by a large steep glacier set back into the basin and not visible from ABC. The center of the wall is protected by a steep sided bowl that, in January, was covered with a deep sugary snow that it was impossible to make forward progress on.. We gave up on these two approaches and decided instead get on the lower reaches of the wall to the far right-hand side. From here, we would attempt to traverse back to the center of the wall towards our intended line. Although we never completed the traverse back to the center, our line got us started on the face and put us in a good position to move to the center lines.
We climbed from the low point on the right-hand side of the wall to the top of the first tower gaining 200m in elevation and ending at 4600m. From this point one could also continue straight up the next tower to the bottom of the hanging glacier and the start of the wall forming the ridge that leads down western side of Banji North. Both options lead to many interesting looking possibilities.
The rock on the lower portion of the climb has moss clinging to most cracks and fissures. The moss itself is very dry and must be pulled off in order to get solid axe placements or to place solid protection. This slows progress. In more open, and less vertical, areas there is also much frozen mud offering shallow but good axe placements. The center lines of the wall and the upper portions of the route we climbed appear much lighter in color because of the absence of moss or plantlife of any kind.
7 pitches, Grade VI, 5.10a A0 M4
Climb as high on the talus/snow slope as possible without a belay. Set your first belay in the boulders below the final snow slope beneath the rock wall. The snow in this section is powder on top of slabby granite and best climbed with crampons. There is a good ledge for the second belay 2m up the wall.
From the ledge, begin traversing left to avoid the steeply overhanging wall above. Make you way up via a clean parallel crack that takes a yellow camalot. The crack is difficult to negotiate in mountaineering boots and it is the only place we used aid on the entire climb. This pitch continues up and to the left till you come to a snow field.
The third pitch crosses two snow fields and a rock rib of moderate climbing. At the top of the second snow field we put in our first bivouac just at the base of a long crack system.
The fourth pitch proceeded straight up the crack system to the top of the intermediate tower. This is the most severe climbing of the route. We had to tie off our packs about half way up and then haul them past this point. The top brought us to the top of a small tower and gave great vistas of the entire climb and the ice falls and glacier to the east.
The fifth pitch proceeded across the steep snow slope, knee deep slope over high angle, slabby rock, into what looked like as easy section that turned out to be nearly impossible to protect. Cosmin ran it out unable to find suitable cracks for cams or nuts and settled for driving angles between rock and frozen mud. The rock at this point becomes blank and has much less moss growing on it. We believe the rest of the climb continues largely on this type of rock with very few cracks. The pitch ends below a difficult ceiling.
The sixth pitch traverse right from the belay across to the next crack system and up into another small snowfield. We put our 2nd bivouac at the top of this snowfield.
The seventh pitch leads straight up from the bivy over a series of cracks and some large flakes to the top of the tower and our high-point. From here a snow field leads you to the tower above or off to the left towards the center of the wall and the summit. The summit is clearly visible overhead as are the ridge wall and the hanging glacier to the right.
Six rappels, mostly on slings, brought up back to the base of the wall but we did use three pins for the bottom two rappel anchors.