Dempster, Normand Climb China's Mt. Edgar

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Mt. Edgar (aka E-Gongga), with the line of the Dempster-Normand route marked. Photo by Tamotsu Nakamura

Mt. Edgar (aka E-Gongga), with the line of the Dempster-Normand route marked. Photo by Tamotsu Nakamura

11/29/10 - American Kyle Dempster and Scottish climber Bruce Normand have climbed the east face and south ridge of Mt. Edgar (6,618m/21,713'), completing the second ascent of the peak—the same objective held by Jonny Copp and Micah Dash when they were killed by an avalanche below the mountain in 2009. The ascent on Edgar was Dempster and Normand's second major new route during a month-long expedition to China's Sichuan Province.

In late October, Dempster and Normand completed the second ascent of Mt. Grosvenor (aka Riwuqie Feng, 6,376m/20,919') via the central couloir on the peak's west face. The two climbed the ca. 1,300-meter face in a 23-hour round trip from base camp to the summit and back to the foot of the peak; they descended via the northeast ridge and the north face. At the crux of the couloir route, they were lucky to find thin water ice (WI4+) where previous attempts had been turned back by rotten rock.

Mt. Grosvenor, a neighbor of 24,790-foot Gongga Shan (aka Minka Konka), had only been climbed once before, in 2003, when Roger Payne and Julie-Ann Clyma ascended the western ridge. The main couloir line on Grosvenor had been attempted at least twice before: by Britons Andy Cave and Mick Fowler in 2003, and by Korean climbers Ahn Chi-young, Heo Young-cheol and Yun Young-joon in 2009. Both parties attempted the climb in the spring, and both retreated from halfway or lower.

Shortly after the American-Scottish ascent, French climbers Jean Annequin and Christian Trommsdorff attempted a route to the right of the main couloir on Grosvenor but were driven down by high winds after one bivouac.

Mt. Grosvenor (aka, Riwuqie Feng, 20,919') from the west. Kyle Dempster and Bruce Normand climbed the obvious central line in the face, making the peak's second ascent. Julie-Ann Clyma and Roger Payne had climbed the right ridge in 2003 for the first ascent. Photo courtesy of Christian Trommsdorff

Mt. Grosvenor (aka, Riwuqie Feng, 20,919

During the second week of November, Dempster and Normand approached and climbed Mt. Edgar (aka E-Gongga) in an eight-day round trip from the nearest town. During the first two days, they hiked and scrambled to a high camp at 4,100 meters (13,451'), passing through the narrow glacial gorge in which Copp, Dash, and videographer Wade Johnson were killed by an avalanche in the spring of 2009. Above this, they climbed 1,400 meters up a glacier system to a bivouac directly below the mountain's steep east face. They had chosen the only line they deemed safe, which would ascend about 700 meters to reach the south ridge, still 400 meters below the summit.

Over the next two days, Dempster and Normand climbed the face, finding mixed terrain up to M6 and WI5 at ca. 20,000 feet. The following day, their sixth out of town, they continued up snow and ice along the south ridge to reach the summit at 2:30 p.m. on November 12. After descending to 5,700 meters, they needed two more long days of glacier travel, rappelling, and hiking to get back to the road.

Mt. Edgar had been climbed only once before, in 2001, by a Korean team that ascended the west face.

Dates of Ascents: October-November 2010

Sources: Bruce Normand, Christian Trommsdorff, American Alpine Journal, Thebmc.co.uk