Significant climbs on the Chinese side of the Tien Shan
By an American-Scottish expedition
10 October 2009
From Inclined: American Alpine Club blog:
"A small American-Scottish expedition backed by a Lyman Spitzer Cutting-Edge Award from the AAC has made significant climbs on the Chinese side of the Tien Shan. Americans Kyle Dempster and Jared Vilhauer, sponsored by the 2009 Spitzer grant, along with American Jed Brown and Scotsman Bruce Normand, scored several new lines in the Xuelian massif, including a superb and difficult one on a 6,422-meter western satellite of Xuelian Feng.
Xuelian Feng (6,627m) is a massive, marble peak whose extended north, northeast, east, and west ridges all feature a number of tops. A Japanese expedition, approaching from the south, made the first ascent in 1990. Normand and other partners explored the north side of the massif in the summer of 2008, after which Normand and Paul Knott wrote a feature article for the 2009 American Alpine Journal describing the climbing potential in the Chinese Tien Shan. This summer’s expedition turned a little of that potential into reality.
As part of their acclimatization, Brown and Normand climbed the west ridge of Xuelian’s untouched northern satellite (6,472m) to investigate the short but steep north ridge of the main summit. The two then launched a one-day push on the very long east ridge of Xuelian, while Dempster and Vilhauer climbed the east side of the north face. Coincidentally, both pairs reached the upper slopes at the same time and teamed up for the 800-meter slog through deep, rotten snow to a high point at ca. 6,400m, arriving just as marginal weather deteriorated into a white-out.
With the team all back in base camp and five days left to climb, Brown, Dempster, and Normand prepared to attempt the huge north face of Xuelian’s west ridge while Vilhauer rested a frost-nipped toe. The trio discovered that the tent they had pitched at the base of the north face had been destroyed by high winds, but they salvaged enough gear to begin the climb the following day.
They climbed the face over four days, finding excellent ice in the lower half but challenging and slabby mixed climbing above, along with heavy spindrift, minimal bivy sites, and a severe thunderstorm. After tagging the top of the formation, they descended along the west ridge. The 2,650-meter line, the Great White Jade Heist, went at M6 WI5 5.7 R."
Source: blog American Alpine Club
Photos: Jed Brown e Blog AAA