Beautiful North Face Climbed in China

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The Xuelian Massif from the north, with Sulamar (5,380m) prominent on the far left. The major rocky wall on the far right is the north face of Xuelian West, first climbed in 2009 by Americans Jed Brown and Kyle Dempster and Scottish climber Bruce Normand. Photo by Jed Brown

The Xuelian Massif from the north, with Sulamar (5,380m) prominent on the far left. The major rocky wall on the far right is the north face of Xuelian West, first climbed in 2009 by Americans Jed Brown and Kyle Dempster and Scottish climber Bruce Normand. Photo by Jed Brown

10/6/10 - Ace British alpinists Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden completed the first ascent of the north face of Sulamar in the Chinese Tien Shan range. The two men climbed the route over four days (six days round-trip from basecamp), rating it TD+ on the Alpine scale. At 5,380 meters (17,651 feet), the peak is relatively low compared to neighbors in the Xuelian Massif, but the north face gained more than 5,000 vertical feet. The peak had first been climbed in 2008 and is also known as Khanjaylak II.

Fowler and Ramsden had hoped to climb the northwest ridge of Xuelian East (6,380m), but deep snow on the long glacier approach thwarted their efforts. After their climb of Sulamar, the two trekked into the previously unexplored Chulebos Range, near the Xuelian Massif, finding numerous enticing objectives for the future.

Close-up of the north face of Sulamar. Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden climbed the 1,600-meter face over four days. Photo by Bruce Normand

Beautiful North Face Climbed in China

The spectacular Xuelian Massif has seen one expedition per year for the past three years, ever since Paul Knott, Guy McKinnon, and Bruce Normand became the first climbers to approach the range from the north and did some exploratory ascents in 2008. In 2009, Normand returned with Americans Jed Brown, Kyle Dempster, and Jared Vilhauer and did a series of spectacular climbs, including the north face of Xuelian West, an ascent that won a Piolet d'Or earlier this year.

Fowler and Ramsden have formed one of Britain's more successful alpine duos of the past decade, with super climbs including the north face of Siguniang in China and the first ascent of Menamcho in the remote Nyainqentanglha East Range of Tibet.

Date of Expedition: August-September 2010

Sources: Thebmc.co.uk, Planetmountain.com, Climbing.com