We were quite surprised to reach the valley so fast - from the e-mail correspondence with Camp Four we had understood that it would take two days to get there! But after leaving Denmark on Dec. 28 we are now ready to start climbing on Dec. 30! Our guide Jeffry has tried to ice climb once and thus does not know a lot about the routes. However, he does know that the routes opposite the guest house are very popular among the local climbers due to their easy access and reasonable grade.

Route 1 (left, WI4+) & 2 (right, WI3+) seen from the valley road.

No World War II nazis hiding here - just another Tibetan prayer symbol!

Route 1, WI4+, 70 m

We thus walk up to the climbs. Jeffry and his brother joins us and even carry the lunch - what a luxury! We flip a coin to decide which rope-team that gets the left and right route. Carsten and I "win" the left route, which turns out to be harder than anticipated.

Carsten leading the first pitch of route I. He made a belay a few meter further up.

In spite of the relative mild temperatures (probably just below freezing), the ice is rock solid and very prone to dinner plates. This behavior turns out to be quite general for the ice in the valley and I assume it must be due the cold & clear nights we had throughout the trip.

Hans leading the second pitch, which is harder and thinner than the first pitch. The belay pine three can be seen at the top of picture.

Carsten leads the first pitch. After ~40 meters he makes a belay as he is running out of ice screws (we climb with 70 m half-ropes) and he doesn't like the looks of the last 30 meters. It is getting steeper and thinner - the rock beneath the ice is visible in quite a few places.

Carsten climbing approaching the belay of the second pitch. Our backpacks can be seen in the sun in upper left corner. The route is ~70 meters high.

I get up to his belay and look further up. It is certainly harder that I like for the first climb of the season, but on the other hand it would be a pity to give up on the first climb! I thus organize the gear and continue up the hard ice. I am quite happy to reach a big pine three and set up the belay. On the way up we noted an abalakov anchor, but we are lucky that our 70 m ropes just reach the bottom of the climb and we thus do the whole rappel in one go. 70 m ropes are great and throughout the stay in the valley we truly enjoy them.

Carsten rappelling route 1. As can be seen the route can be climbed in a lot of ways - the right side would be quite difficult.

Route 2, WI3+, 50 m

We walk over to route 2 where we eat lunch while waiting for Ricka, Martin and Charles to finish the climb. We met Charles, a Chinese from Beijing, the night before and he was very interested in climbing with us as he had no partner and had limited experience with technical ice climbing. So we took him along the first two days and had a great time - what he lacked in experience he had in enthusiasm and humor. Also it was quite interesting to hear about the Chinese climbing community and University of Beijing where he works.


Ricka and Martin at the belay of route 2. Charles, a Chinese we met at the guest house, is climbing as third partner.

It turns out that there are only ~100 active Chinese ice climbers - almost the same as Denmark which is a country of 5 million people compared to 1.2 billion Chinese! Well, good for us - we almost had the valley to ourselves. The few Chinese that did arrive to climb, primarily climbed routes 1 & 2 close to the guest house and so we had the great luxury of climbing virgin ice on all routes the following days. No lines as in Rjukan and Ouray - nice!

Carsten leading the WI3+ pitch of route 2.

I almost forgot to mention that we also ended up climbing route 2. We did some WI2 soloing at the base of the climb and then Carsten led a 50 m WI3+ pitch. Except from the second pitch of route 1 the climbing was not too interesting, but it was nice to get off to a good start, although Charles had a small accident when he pulled an ice axe into his head. A classic mistake, but it was easily fixed with a band-aid and a bottle of Chinese wine!

The Danes and Charles (with the band-aid) celebrating the first day of ice climbing with Chinese red wine of varying quality!


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Last update: 11-2-2006

© Hans Bräuner-Osborne