Danes Climb Ren Zhong Feng, Hungarians Missing

Posted on: December 9, 2009


The north ridge of Ren Zhong Feng (ca. 5800m), Minya Konka group, Sichuan Province, China. The peak, revealed to the climbing community last year via Tamotsu Nakamura's photographs, was summited for the first time last month by Danish climbers Kristoffer Szilas and Martin Ploug, who took the east face to the north ridge (TD: M4 WI4, 1300m). Four Hungarian climbers who attempted the peak in October are still missing. [Photo] Kristoffer Szilas collection

Danish climbers Kristoffer Szilas and Martin Ploug have made the first ascent of Ren Zhong Feng (ca. 5800m), a striking ice-encrusted peak in the Minya Konka group of China's Sichuan Province. The ascent was bittersweet, however; one week before the Danes arrived in China, they received word that a Hungarian team of four with the same objective had not returned as scheduled to Chengdu, likely lost on Ren Zhong Feng.

Szilas and Ploug encountered most of the technical difficulties on the east face, like this gully (5400m) they encountered on November 26. [Photo] Kristoffer Szilas collection

Szilas and Ploug supported rescue efforts before attempting the mountain but found no signs of the Hungarian team. A helicopter search also proved fruitless. According to a story reported by the Budapest Times on November 6, the Hungarian Mountain Federation requested its Chinese partner to search for the following climbers: Peter Csizmadia, Veronika Mikolovits, Balazs Pechtol and Kata Tolnay.

The Hungarians planned to return to base camp on October 31 and have yet to be found. Last known contact with the team was made on October 22, according to Szilas. Alpinist will post more news on the Hungarians as it becomes available.

The Danes built their objective around the work of Tamotsu Nakamura, whose 2008 photographs motivated the team to attempt Ren Zhong Feng. (Nakamura's most recent expedition is documented in the December 3, 2009 NewsWire.) The Danes gleaned important peak information from Nakamura, and they used the same company, Sichuan Earth Expeditions, that Nakamura had traveled with the year before.

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Szilas and Ploug established base camp at 4500 meters, spent one day acclimatizing, then climbed the east face to the north ridge in alpine style from November 24-28. They found most of the technical difficulties on the east face. However, a storm and bulletproof ice made their final push to the summit a tiring 18-hour round-trip from their third bivy site.

Szilas described the 1500-meter ridge as "very long and tiring... but it was free from objective dangers." They graded the 1300-meter route TD: M4 WI4.

Mixed terrain at 5100m on the east face of Ren Zhong Feng. [Photo] Kristoffer Szilas collection

After measuring the mountain's altitude—initially thought to be 6079 meters high—with altimeters and a GPS unit, the Danes have suggested a new summit height, just above 5800m (their measurement was 5820m).

On their descent from the summit, Ploug took a 30-meter fall on the steep west face while trying to place an ice screw in the dark. In a deft maneuver, Szilas kept both men from tumbling off the peak. "Luckily I managed to do a classic ridge jump onto the east face just in time," Szilas said, "and thus saved both our lives." They descended without further incident to their high bivy. A very bruised Ploug was assisted down by "a lot of pain killers" after the fall. They rested at the bivy site the next day before finally returning to base camp on December 1.

Sources: Kristoffer Szilas, budapesttimes.hu, climbing.com

Szilas and Ploug followed bulletproof ice on the north ridge for a kilometer and a half before reaching the summit. [Photo] Kristoffer Szilas collection



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