Peak 6,134m, Carte Blanche.
By Alexander Ruchkin, Russia
Mikhail Mikhailov and I planned to be in Sichuan by mid-March. Our goal was the southeast face of Edgar (E Gongga, 6,618m), a large, steep, mixed granite wall. However, at the last minute the Chinese authorities canceled our permit because of the 50th anniversary celebrations in Tibet. Fortunately, a month later China reopened its doors, and it was not too late to continue with our project. We flew to Chengdu, traveled easily by road to Moxi on the east side of the Minya Konka Range and walked for only three hours with horses up the Yangzigou Valley to an altitude of 3,150m. “Base camp is here”, said the horsemen, and, pointing vaguely to the north as they set off for home, added, “and your mountain is somewhere there.” We were also told that Koreans had climbed Edgar, when we thought it was still virgin.
We then had many days of mist and rain. We examined the gorge leading to the foot of the southeast face, but the wall itself remained invisible. We then decided to go for a four-day acclimatization trip up the valley. During this trip, through a brief clearing in the cloud, we saw a beautiful rock wall on the south side of Peak 6,134m that cried out to be climbed. This virgin summit lies northwest of Edgar, close to 6,367m Grosvenor. We decided to waste no more time on a face we hadn’t yet seen, on a mountain that may have been climbed, when there were so many virgin peaks. On May 4 we left base camp for the southwest buttress of 6,134m, assuming it was steep enough to shrug off fresh snow.
We camped at 4,200m and during three days of poor weather marked a route to the base of the wall. We started up the lesser-angled lower spur on the 8th and climbed it over three days in about 13 pitches. The rock, generally 70-75°, was often icy, but we climbed the spur free except for about five meters of aid. This led to the headwall, a rounded pillar dividing the south and west faces.
After climbing a couple of pitches on the headwall during the afternoon of the 10th, we completed the remaining nine up this steep buttress from the 11th to 13th. Despite the angle, which fluctuated between 85 and 95°, we climbed mostly free, using rock shoes, at difficulties up to 6b-6c. We climbed more than 90% of the route free, the rest requiring aid in short sections up to A2. We took no bolts and placed no skyhooks but used a full assortment of gear from copperheads to large cams. The rock was not perfect, and there were sections where we had to hold our breath as we made delicate moves around large detached flakes. We used a small tent for bivouacs, though on two nights there was barely room to sit down.
We reached the top of the buttress at 1:35 p.m. on the 13th, spent an hour there, and then followed the sharp and broken ridge to the northwest summit, from where we planned to descend. However, visibility was zero, so we pitched the tent for another night and the next day made 20 rappels down the snowy west face to the glacier. Bad visibility again hampered progress, and we had to spend another night out in the valley before reaching base camp on the 15th. After an absence of 12 days, we were greeted by our much-relieved cook and interpreter. We were very pleased with our 1,100m route (1,250m of climbing), mostly because we were able to climb largely free. We named it Carte Blanche.