Chola Shan (Que'er Shan) is a prominent mountain in a virtually untouched region of Western Sichuan. On clear days the mountain looms above other rugged mountains and even further down valley is numerous Qiang villages (Tibetans). This is a mountain covered year round in snow and ice but is a fun peak to practice expedition style mountaineering and skills required to tackle other high altitude peaks (glacier travel, crevasse rescue, ice and rock climbing, fixing lines, acclimatizing, etc.) Chola Shan is the highest peak in a glaciated range of peaks, many of which are unclimbed.
Chola Shan is in a remote area and therefore not many teams have climbed it. I believe it was first climbed in 1988 by Mick Fowler. Several Japanese, Korean, and Chinese teams have tried the mountain in the course of the last few decades. A pair of Koreans was successful and a team comprised of Japanese and students from Sichuan University were also successful. Recently Jon Otto and MaYihua of Arête Alpine Instruction Center have successfully led a handful of clients to the summit. All together, as of 2004, fewer than 50 people have summitted this mountain. I summitted with Jon Otto, George Lloyd (the first Australian), TJ Bittel, Nima, Nihui, Wudi, and YT on August 9, 2004.
The route starts by passing Ganhaizi Lake and then ascending to a valley at the base of a large waterfall of glacial melt off and an amphitheater of peaks. Some class 4 scrambling is required to get to the base of the glacier. The glacier itself is large and meanders all the way to the summit of the mountain. July and August are good months to climb because crevasses are generally melted out and visible. The summit ridge is exposed and fixed lines or roped team travel should be considered. Some crevasses are large enough to be climbed into and out of, rather than walking around. A map and photos can be viewed at AAIC although the text is in Chinese.
Starting from Chengdu in the Sichuan province of China you must drive west for almost 900km. A good place to spend the first night of driving is the village of Bamei. Ganze (Garze) is a good sized city with tons of character and the last place to stock up on fresh and moderately safe food. The last bit of "civilization" you will encounter is the village of Manigango (Maniganghen). This village has a couple of guesthouses with squatter toilets and home cooked food. Set aside 2 days and 2 nights for this drive. The drive is incredibly scenic passing through Yi and Qiang villages, nomadic yak herders, Buddhist monasteries, and beautiful mountain scenery.
Permits are required, up the road from Manigango a ranger station type thing can be found with a liaison that speaks some English. They can arrange for local porter and horses to get you to base camp. To inquire about fees try:
The Sichuan Mountaineering Association
Red tape is thick and confusing in China. One reason why certain regions are still pristine I suppose.
When To Climb
July and August the crevasses are more visible. Most of the successful summits have been in these months. We had about 8 days of beautiful sunny weather but storms with heavy and relentless precipitation have been known to last for days as well. Our summit day was a complete white-out.
Trekking is becoming more popular in the region. I'm not sure what the fee for camping is. This is a remote region that has seen little tourism to date. Only the heartiest of travelers should go here. Speaking some Chinese or having a reliable translator is almost a must.
Inquire in Chengdu at the Guanzhunzhiye climbing gym and bar.
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