Tuesday, October 28, 2008

AAI Guide Scouts New Routes in China

After completing our China – Genyen Area Expedition on October 12t, AAI guide Aidan Loehr has embarked on a solo expedition to scout new routes on Minya Konka and Reddomaine. He is currently climbing Minya Konka, the highest mountain in Sichuan, China at 24, 790 feet. As Aidan explained, “Minya Konka is the most holy mountain in China. There are four holy mountains in China, but Minya Konka is the holiest of the holy.”

Aidan stayed at the Gongaa Monastery, which sits at the base of Minya Konka, for several days, where he hung out with young monks, met tourists from Hong Kong, and spoke with French climbers who had climbed in the area. From the monastery, Aidan did many shorter exploratory hikes to find the best way to access the main ridge to Minya Konka’s summit.

Early on, Aidan experienced great weather: clear skies, warm days, cool nights, and barely any wind. Aidan described one particularly notable morning:

“I woke up around 6:30am. It has been an absolutely gorgeous day. I sat outside the monastery on a rock, and a young monk joined me to do his morning prayers. I watched the sun rise behind Minya Konka. There was a halo of clouds around the top that turned bright orange as the sun rose. It was pretty cool, a very good place to be.”

Aidan explored the surrounding area extensively. He followed a nearby river that lead him to a green, grassy valley from where he eventually discovered a great base camp. Located at about 14,700 feet, base camp sits next to an access glacier that leads to a “really long access ridge” which connects to the proper ridge of Minya Konka.

On October 22nd, Aidan set out from the monastery with 10 days of food, made his way up the access glacier he had found, and established his second camp at 15,900 feet. Unfortunately on October 25th, the weather took a turn for the worse, with heavy snow and roaring winds which Aidan guessed were reaching 80 to 100 miles per hour on the ridge above him. Despite the conditions, Aidan continued to climb to higher elevations, making it up to about 18,500 feet, to acclimatize and to find the quickest way to the top if the weather cleared.

Though Aidan is currently pinned down by high winds, he is in characteristically good spirits, and has been immersing himself in great literary works, such as Magellan and The Siege of Malta while he waits out the weather in his “tiny tent.” Aidan is currently camped at 17,500 feet, and will wait there for the weather to break, which he thinks will happen sometime in the next 4 or 5 days. Once he gets his long awaited window, he will make a bid for the summit.

After that he’ll descend back to the monastery in about 6 days before heading on to Reddomain base camp, where he will continue to explore and find new routes in the mountains of Sichuan, China.

--Emily Znamierowski

No comments: