NORTH AMERICANS SEND IN CHINA

Posted on: November 21, 2006


Alpinist’s very first intern, Molly Loomis, getting after it on the first ascent of Phurpa (18,500’). Loomis and her husband, Andy Tyson, climbed six pitches of mixed snow and rock (5.8) to make the first ascent of the peak. [Photo] Andy Tyson

In October of 2006, an American-Canadian team traveled to the seldom-visited Genyen Massif of China's Western Sichuan Province, and opened routes on two stunning, unclimbed peaks. Americans Dave Anderson, Molly Loomis and Andy Tyson, along with Canadian Sarah Hueniken, traveled four days by jeep and horses to reach a base camp below the Rengo Monastery. The highest peak in the area, 20,341-foot Genyen, had been climbed earlier in 2006 by an Italian team, despite its sacred status among the local people, but the rest of the mountains were unexplored.

On October 16 the four climbers attempted a single-push ascent of the striking 19,570-foot granite spire Shachun. Lack of acclimatization prevented them from reaching the summit. Hueniken and Anderson returned on October 20 to finish the route, Dang Ba 'Dren Pa (V 5.10+ M5 70 degrees, 4,000'), in 17 hours roundtrip from their high camp. The final climbing ascended an unprotected, 25-foot steep slab to a featureless summit. While Anderson was down climbing from the summit (the team chose not to bring a bolt kit) a crystal snapped, sending him on a 30-foot fall; luckily he landed in a pile of drifted snow unhurt.

Shachun (19,570’), in the Genyen Massif of China’s Western Sichuan Province, showing Dang Ba 'Dren Pa (V 5.10+ M5 70 degrees, 4,000’), the route climbed on October 20 by Dave Anderson and Sarah Hueniken. Anderson described the granite as “spectacular.” They named the route as a tribute to their friends Todd Skinner, Karen McNeil and Sue Nott. [Photo] Dave Anderson

Anderson described the climbing as, "Spectacular, excellent crack system in near-perfect granite, including a 200-foot ring-lock sized splitter at 19,000 feet." Dang Ba 'Dren Pa means "to inspire, enthuse and uplift" in Tibetan. They named the route as a tribute to their friends Todd Skinner, Karen McNeil and Sue Nott.

The next day, Loomis and Tyson climbed an 18,500-foot peak they called Phurpa after the triple-bladed Tibetan dagger that the peak resembled. Leaving their high camp at 14,500 feet, they fourth-classed loose rock and a steep snow couloir to gain the east ridge, which led them eventually to the summit after six pitches of mixed snow and rock (5.8). They called the route Naga (the serpent) after spending time "snaking" back at forth over the upper ridge.

Phurpa (18,500’), showing the route climbed by Molly Loomis and Andy Tyson in October. [Photo] Dave Anderson

The climbers attempted four other peaks in the area but were unsuccessful in summitting. In addition to the climbing, the expedition team helped in the construction of a small hostel that will be run by the local monks as a means to help raise funds for the Rengo Monastery.

"Although the Rengo Monastery itself survived the wrath of the cultural revolution, the monks and their religious freedoms did not," Anderson stated. "At one time a vibrant community supported 266 monks. Now there are just seven monks trying to revive their lost religious culture and a handful of people herding yaks living in the valley."

The climbers were well received by the local people and the monks, but advise future visitors to the area to be respectful of established customs and the sacred peaks in the area.

For more information and photos, click here

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