The route, camps are marked with red squares. Descent was roughly the right skyline.
The tent we left at advance base was destroyed after the wind sawed off the guy lines on the sharp anchor rocks. The food we had left was smeared all over everything we had left in the tent. Fortunately we were able to scrape together enough food for the attempt and my long underwear wasn't actually needed. I spent dusk cleaning goo off the Firstlight.
Bruce reaching sun and the start of the climbing.
Kyle and Bruce following an excellent mixed pitch.
Kyle starting another fantastic mixed pitch, this one protectable with stubbies.
Kyle on excellent ice shortly before our first bivy.
Two hours of chopping, space for 5 butt cheeks. The only bivy without night precip.
Nice morning light on the peaks left of base camp. Not so nice morning clouds.
Kyle and Bruce on low-angle water ice.
An excellent pitch of fat steep water ice.
Kyle and Bruce at the top of the waterfall pitches.
Kyle ready to start his block.
Kyle getting into the business of a high-quality mixed corner.
Kyle starting one of the crux pitches before the more serious spindrift avalanches started.
Bruce (visible) and Kyle following a detatched verglas pitch with junk gear until the last few meters which turned into excellent rock climbing.
Do you see any snow deep enough to set up a tent?
We found butt-deep snow and cut blocks that would support our feet. It was after 2am by the time we were sitting in the tent. The spindrift avalanches became a major problem, threatening to push us off the ledge, so we jacked around with the poles and changed the shape of the tent to push one side all the way in against the slope so the avalanches would go over rather than pile up behind. Our stove was producing something toxic which scared the shit out of us, but we couldn't ventilate much due to spindrift pouring into the tent. We didn't get enough to eat and drink.
Late morning. The stove seemed to do okay in the morning with more ventilation. Kyle on the first pitch of the day.
Xuelian North (left) and Main
Typical climbing on the third day.
Bummer the crux comes before the gear.
Bruce on the questionable belay. The angle of the face is gradually easing.
Day 4 before the spindrift kicked in (this time from wind). The climbing called for a rope soon after this part.
Kyle (and Bruce in the shadow) on a snow patch with one more simul pitch before things open up.
Bruce at the bottom of the final summit slope.
Kyle getting to the summit.
Kyle and Bruce on top.
We descended down snow to the left in order to lose elevation quickly and get out of the wind. The ridge we needed to get on was to the right.
The fast and easy part of the descent. This allowed us to lose elevation rapidly and got us out of the wind, but incurred a long ice traverse and a little climbing to get back where we wanted.
Traversing across snow and ice slopes to get back to our ridge.
End of the rapping on the lower West Ridge.
Glad we're finally done climbing in these spindrift avalanches.
Time to hurry if we want to be down before dark. Part of the NW face on the right, Xuelian North is the high peak in the background.
Starting the walk out on the freshly dusted glacier. We walked 7km of glacier and moraine to base camp which was loaded on some horses, then 23 km to Xiate Hot Springs, then waited until well after dark for a van to show up and drive us part way to Zhao Su before the differential conked out. After waiting for some hours because we were in a cell-phone shadow, and breaking a tow rope at least half a dozen times, we got the van up the hill and towed it to our destination and checked into the hotel at 5am for some sleep before the bus ride to Urumqi.
Cilo Gear packs. Rides well on a horse.
If horses can get there, why not a motorcycle?
Our pile of stuff in Xiate Hot Springs.
Drying out gear next to the People's Park in Urumqi. Fortunately we finished this task before the riot squad occupied this space.