The young Chinese alpinists Yan Dongdong and Zhou Peng have climbed a direct new route on the south face of Siguniang (6,250 meters/20,505') in Sichuan Province, China. The two climbed the 1,000-meter face alpine-style over three days, with a dangerous descent by the same route over the following day and a half.
Yan and Zhou had previously attempted this line twice, first as part of the Chinese “Ultimate Expedition” in December 2008, and then as a pair in February 2009. During the latter attempt, they reached 5,950 meters. A Korean expedition had climbed to 5,650 meters on this line in 2007. Although a Japanese team climbed the left side of the south face and upper southwest ridge in 1992, and American Charlie Fowler soloed a line on the right side to reach the southeast ridge in 1994, the direct south face had not been completed.
Yan and Zhou climbed the glacier to the base of the wall on November 23 and slept there. With very light packs, they crossed the bergschrund at 5,130 meters on November 24 and mostly simul-climbed to 5,700 meters, belaying only three rock pitches. After a sitting bivouac, they continued up mixed ground and rock on the 25th and broke through the cornice at the top of the face in late afternoon. They topped out on Siguniang’s southern peak just after 6 p.m.
Unwilling to descend that night because the face was still shedding debris, the two men bivied under the cornice at 6,130 meters (20,112 feet). The next morning, the rock and ice fall was even worse, but the pair rappelled safely to reach their tent at the foot of the wall. Discovering newly fallen stones beside the tent, they moved to a safer location and spent one more night out before continuing down the glacier on November 27. The climbers named their route The Free Spirits (1,120 meters, VI AI3+ M4).
Dates of Ascent: November 23–27, 2009
Sources: Yan Dongdong, Ma Demin, Emg.com.cn, American Alpine Journal