First Ascent of Beautiful Chinese Peak


“Ren Zhong Feng” (left) from the northwest. Martin Ploug and Kristoffer Szilas reached the north ridge (left skyline) via the east face, starting from a valley on the opposite side. Photo by Tamotsu Nakamura

Martin Ploug and Kristoffer Szilas completed the first ascent of “Ren Zhong Feng” in Sichuan, China, south of the Minya Konka group. The ca. 5,800-meter peak was revealed to climbers last fall by Japanese explorer Tamotsu Nakamura, who proposed the name Ren Zhong Feng after a nearby lake with the same name. 

The two Danish climbers established a camp at 4,500 meters and then climbed the peak alpine-style by the east face and north ridge (1,300m, TD WI4 M4). 

“We had three bivies on the way and spent one day acclimatizing at the first because we had not been higher than 4,500 meters before our attempt,” Szilas said. “Most of the technical difficulties were on the east face, but storm and bulletproof ice on the [1.5-kilometer-long] north ridge made it a long and tiring climb to the summit: 18 hours round-trip from our third bivy site. 

Martin Ploug traversing along the north ridge. To the right is the icy west face, down which Ploug fell 30 meters during the pair’s descent. He was saved by his partner jumping off the other side of the ridge. Photo by Kristoffer Szilas.

Second bivy, at 5,500m. Photo by Kristoffer Szilas.

“At night on the way down from the summit, Martin slipped while trying to place an ice screw and fell 30 meters down the 1,000 meter west face,” Szilas added. “But luckily I managed to do a classic ridge jump onto the east face just in time and thus saved both our lives. He was bruised, but assisted by lots of painkillers he was able to continue back to the bivy, where we rested the next day before heading down to base camp.”

When Ploug and Szilas arrived at the mountain, they helped rescue teams searching for a group of four Hungarian climbers who had disappeared during an attempt on the peak. The Hungarians apparently were caught in a large ice avalanche that swept the valley on October 22. Extreme exposure to potential serac fall in this area hindered search efforts, and neither ground nor helicopter teams could find any trace of the missing climbers. 

Martin Ploug starting a 60-meter mixed pitch at the top of the east face of “Ren Zhong Feng.” Photo by Kristoffer Szilas.

Martin Ploug on the last step before the summit ridge. Photo by Kristoffer Szilas.

A Chinese map had suggested an elevation of 6,079 meters (19,945 feet) for “Ren Zhong Feng,” but the Danish climbers measured it at around 5,800 meters on their altimeter and GPS. 

Date of Ascent: November 2009 

Source: Kristoffer Szilas, The Alpine Briefs - A newsletter from the editors of the American Alpine Journal

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