Southwest Ridge

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 29, 2005
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Summer


Trip report by: Liu Xinan
Photos by: Liu Xinan and Qiao Xiang (Paul)
Translated with permission from the Chinese original by: Bob Keaty

Elevation 5413 m located in the Huangduan mountains in the Qionglai Range in the Aba Autonomous region on the borders of Xiaojin and Wenchuan counties in the Siguniang Scenic Mountain Area of Sichuan China. The Changping Valley separates it from the Siguniang peaks.

Related Info: Chengdu Chama Bus Station (phone:028-875066100) Daily at 6:00, 7:30 and 12:00 noon busses leave for the Siguniang area, you should get off at Rilong Village. Travel time approx. 5 hours; cost 63RMB per person.

Once in Rilong, it is best to stay in San Sao’s home, San Sao’s cousin, older sister Yang is in charge of the grazing area at the base of Celestial peak. Her husband and younger brothers were our porters and they were able to carry our gear to the base of the mountain.

Staying at San Sao’s will cost 30 RMB/person/night. Entry tickets to Changping Valley are 70 RMB/person. If you tell them you will be staying in the farmer’s cow tents, you will be able to save the tent fee. A rental van to carry your gear to the trailhead at the old Zi Ma temple cost 20 RMB. If you take horses from the temple to the cowherd tents base of the climb at Pomiu valley it will cost 120 RMB/ person. It is best to arrange this in advance with San Sao, as her horses will be able to take you directly to the tents. If porters are needed to carry your gear, you can arrange this in advance and they should be able to carry in one day to base camp – cost is 100 RMB per porter. You will need to hire someone at base camp to keep an eye on your kit at a cost of 50 RMB/day.

The Climb

Climbing route:
Our route started at the south wall to reach the southwest ridge, which we followed to the summit. Our base camp was on the grassy slopes beneath the south wall. The walk from base camp on the grassy slopes to the base of the climb can be quite steep and dangerous and it is best to use a local guide for this section. The climb itself begins in a drainage to climb out of the basin up the south wall and this lower section was probably the most difficult climbing on the route at a grade 5.9 – 5.10a. The entire climb was about 30 pitches. The lower 10-15 pitches require some bolts but the upper pitches can all be protected with cams and traditional gear. The retreat can be done mostly on slings and carabiners; you will want to exit by retracing the climb back down.

First Attempt:
July 12: cloudy with light rain. We arrived in Rilong at 7:00 pm and checked into San Sao’s – room and board for RMB30/night. Rilong is at an elevation of 3000 m, temp was 18 C, you cannot see the main peaks from Rilong.

July 13: The weather in the morning was not bad and we decide to go into the valley to have a look at the route; we can also use the time to get used to the altitude. We took a car to the Zima Temple and from there hiked 4 hours to the Liang He River. From there we hiked up the Pomiu drainage past a few cow tents for another hour. Just as we got to the top of the drainage where it began to meander it looked as it was going to rain and at 2:00pm we decided to return to Rilong.

July 14: We got up at 4:00 am to a starry night. Together with three porters and 3 horses we rode up to Liang He drainage and soon arrived at the cow tents below Pomiu at 3600 meters. To the right of the drainage you could just make out the summit of Pomiu. We continued up the grassy slopes following a dangerous trail till we found a relatively flat spot to camp for the night at 4000 m. The guides and porters left us at this point and in the afternoon it began to rain steadily. Paul had some altitude sickness causing headaches; my only reaction was an inability to sleep.

July 15: We moved our base camp up another 150 meters to 4500 m and found a good start for the climb at 4200m. We put in two fixed ropes on the bottom section until it began to rain in the afternoon. It continued raining through half the night before the sky cleared and the stars came out again.

July 16: AT 5:00am a thick fog obscured the sky, by 6:00 the sky was light and the fog began to burn off. After breakfast, we packed our sleeping bags, bivy bags, stove and food into a 70 ltr. Backpack and carried two 8.1mm, 60 meter BEAL dry ropes and began our climb. We reclimbed the two pitches we had set yesterday and added a third pitch and set up a belay. At this point we faced a steep wall that we needed surmount to gain access to the ridge. The pitch did not look too long but the 50-meter slab climb offered only three places to place protection. The run out was unnerving but the climbing was easier than anticipated – all it takes is good balance.

After another pitch we reached a wide ledge at 4600m and we prepared to bivy there. Unfortunately I was not careful and lost my sleeping bag over the edge. I proposed that I sleep only in my bivy bag for one night and that if I had no energy the next day, and if Paul’s headache did not calm down, we would retreat the next day. We agreed on this and since it was still early, about 3:00 pm and the rain hadn’t started yet, we decided to climb a few more pitches before returning to the ledge to sleep. Maybe this would give up a better look at our intended route. We packed up our gear and began climbing again and after two more pitches we repelled back to our bivy ledge. The night was very cold and we were hungry and wet. The second half of the night turned clear.

July 17: 5:00 am and the sky was still dark and we were in thick fog. In spite of the dampness, cold and our hunger, we set off climbing again. First back to our high point from yesterday and than another pitch that brought us to 4700m and in clear sight of the summit. After two more pitches the sun finally came out to warm us. We took off our wet shoes and enjoyed the sun but we also knew that it would no longer be possible for us to reach the summit on this attempt. All we could do was talk each other into climbing two more pitches to 4900 m to get a bit closer. The summit was fully in our view and the angle and severity of climbing had lessened significantly but we were unable to continue.

It was already past noon and we knew we would have to retreat all the way back to base camp this afternoon before the rains started again. Getting caught in the rain would have made our retreat more difficult and slow. We began our rappels immediately and arrived safely at base camp by 4:00p.

July 18: Weather had not changed and we returned to Rilong.

Second Attempt

August 26: We arrived in Rilong at 10:00am to cloudy skies and a light rain. It had been raining in Rilong for the past 20 some days and we felt down and doubted our chances for success for completing our route on Pomiu.

August 27: We were unable to make it all the way back to base camp, the porters dumped our gear half way up from the cow tents and headed back to Rilong. The skies became darker and a few drops of rain fell.

August 28: We were up at 6:00 am and by noon we had carried all our gear up to base camp. The weather cleared up, skies cleared and looked to stay that way for the rest of the day. After arranging camp and cooking lunch we set out to climb and were on the rock by 4:00pm. By 7:00 pm we had carried all our kit except our sleeping bags from 4200 meters up to a ledge at 4700m. We abseiled back down to base camp fixing lines on the bottom 4 pitches.

August 29: We got underway climbing by 8:00 and made quick time reclimbing the familiar route. By 10:30 we had reached our cache at 4700m and the higher we climbed the more the difficulty slacked off. Other than the danger posed by loose rock the climbing was quite easy. At 5000 m we found a very good bivy ledge and decided to camp there; our only problem is we did not carry enough water so we spend a dry and thirsty night there.

August 30: We began climbing at 7:00 and by 10:30 we reached a small patch of snow. We stopped long enough to drink and fill two water bottles before continuing on to another flat spot where we stashed our packs. Climbing went much faster without packs and we made good time along the ridge leading to the final summit peak. The ridge brought us to a steep final wall and the last two full 60-meter pitches to the summit. Pulling up on the block I saw red flags marking sticking out from a pile of stones that Sula and his party had left there just a few days before. I knew we had a short way to go to the summit.

A few more meters and I was on a summit, but by now the fog had moved in and obscured our well-earned view. We could not see down into Changping Valley, the only thing we could see was a peak off to our left floating in the clouds. I knew that that was the true summit of Pomiu. After Paul climbed up we followed the ridge for two more pitches to our left first down than back up and by just past 4:00 pm we were sitting on the top of Pomiu.

We had finally completed our route on Pomiu in free style.


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