Ice climbing in Shuangqiao Valley, Sichuan, China
December 28, 2005- January 15, 2006
Icefalls change from day to day, during the season and from year to year. This makes grading of ice routes inherently difficult - and some say even impossible. Nevertheless, ice routes in popular climbing places have guide books with ice grades according to the Canadian Waterfall Ice (WI) system. These grades have usually been obtained by consensus over years of climbing and thus present an average grade, which might vary 0.5-1 grade up or down depending on the conditions the day you climb it.
We did not have any prior knowledge of the routes we climbed on this trip. For most of the routes we didn't even know if they had been climbed previously, and if so, which grade the previous parties had suggested for the route. Since our return we have learned that Rastafarice had previous been climbed by Stéphane Husson and that he had suggested a grade of WI6 for the ice pitches. We agree with this grade, and there is thus some consensus on this route.
In my view there is some difference in grading between different regions of the world. I have visited Rjukan (Norway), Banff (Canada) and Ouray (USA) several times and in my view Banff is graded harder than Ouray which is graded harder than Rjukan (e.g. a WI5 route in Rjukan would be WI4 or WI4+ in Banff). Given that the Canadians invented the WI grading system, we have chosen to grade the routes we climbed in Shuangqiao Valley according to the Banff standard. Thus, take this into consideration if you are accustomed to ice climbing in a different region of the world. Also remember, that conditions might have been easier or harder when we climbed the routes than when you will in the future. Finally, the remote setting of the valley (= lack of any rescue system and more than 6 hours drive via a bad road to the nearest hospital) and the long length of the routes (complicated self rescue) add significantly to the commitment grade.
In other words, we do not give any guaranties of the grades - climb safe - and remember to have fun while you do it :-)
Last update: 28-8-2006
© Hans Bräuner-Osborne