OverviewThe East summit of Camel Peak is by far the most difficult of the two with mixed climbing on steep snow, alpine ice and rock all at elevations above 5000 m. Although referred to in the translated text as partially a north face, this climb is from Changping Valley, and the village of Rilong, in the south. the climb is on the south east exposure of the peak.
Getting ThereThe Base camp is put in at the end of the Changping Valley before the pass that leads over into the Bipeng Valley. You can either walk in or ride horses to base camp. It is also pollible to hire local porters to carry your kit up to base camp.
The approach to Camel Mt starts out very flat hiking in Changping Valley from Rilong. Hike to the headwaters of Changping Valley to the KaZi drainage, nearly to the pass that leads to Bipeng Valley, where you will put in your base camp. The hike from Rilong to BC is about 30km, but the elevation gain is only 600 meters. The hike to C1 from BC is much more strenuous and mostly over nearly vertical rock ridges. C1 in put in a talus field and comfortable campsites are difficult to find. C1 is at 4800 m and is above the snow line. There were a lot of wild sheep in the area. There was not too much wind and a nearby spring made getting water very convenient.
Route DescriptionThe climbing routes can be seen on the photo: The red line is our route up the east peak; the last 500 meters are vertical over mixed ice, rock and snow terrain that form the north couloir. The blue line is the route up Camel West. Because we did not put in a C2 we were able to climb directly up the large ice tongue. The group from Chengdu Adventure who had climbed the route up the west peak a few days earlier and traversed to C2 after climbing over the ice tongue. The problem with the traverse is that is on slope of 30-45 degrees and is avalanche prone so it is not advisable to make this traverse after a heavy snow. The base of the ice tongue is also the low point between the east and west peaks. The area between the peaks is quite wide and open and usually sloped below 30 degrees; the coulior up the east peak is clearly visible form here. The area marked in yellow is heavily crevassed and can be very dangerous. There were a few difficult cruxes on the climb as described below.
1. From the bottom of the ice tongue to the base of the coulior is a distance two-rope lengths. There are many open crevasses on both sides of the ice tongue and the snow there was deep (our 95 cm ice axes sank in easily up to the head so it is best if you set up a belay over this crevassed section.
2. The bottom of the coulior is very steep and snow is funneled into it. It is easy to set off spindrift or even larger avalanches so make sure you know the snow conditions especially when climbing out of season.
3. We recommend you take along and use extra snow pickets. We took too little rock protection (bolts, pins?) and only 4 snow pickets. We discovered we could use the large boulders for belays but the smaller rocks would not hold safely. We solved this by pounding the pickets in between the smaller rocks; they were also easy to retrieve.
4. At approx. 5300 meters we had to pass a vertical rock section which we called the ‘turtle’s back’. It was made up of a series of large boulders creating roof problems that got more polished the higher up we climbed. It was especially difficult to navigate wearing mountaineering boots and it is recommended that someone proficient in technical rock climbing lead this section and spend extra time setting up a bombproof belay station.
5. The final 200 meters leading to the summit is nearly vertical rock and very difficult. Our guide, Lu Sange, suggested that we turn around at this point but since it was still early, 1:00pm and we still had a lot of daylight left and we were feeling confident in our ability on rock, we elected to continue. It took us 2.5 hours to finish this last section. It is important to take consideration of time at this point to make sure you have adequate time to get back down before dark.
6. One rope length from the summit is a large, flat ledge that makes a good and safe rest stop in the otherwise vertical climb. Sange, because he was a hunter most of his life, lead the final pitch and put in the anchors at the top. The rest of us followed on ascenders. The pitch just prior to this one was also tricky because the belayer was not able to see the leader. Constructing a good belay anchor here is very important.
7. We recommend you use twin ropes to descend and for this it is best to bring along enough flat webbing for the rappels anchors. We used lots of webbing and also left behind two snow pickets – this saved a lot of time and was the probably our only descent option.
8. Best not to make mistakes and ensure your belay anchors are solid because the fall would be up to 500 vertical meters straight down.