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Ever get that feeling that you are still in the mountainseven if you are back at home?  It was quite a ride – but we had a safe conclusion.  It took 2 hours to get off the glaciers  beause the macpac tent had become frozen to the ice below and had to be carefully chipped free. We dropped down to the snout of the glacier in just e hour – compared to the 2.5 hours it had taken us to climb up from the snout 5 days earlier. From there it was delicious hot mutton soup and a long long ride 600km back to Golmud where we ended up doing some sightseeing in the jade market and some souvenir hunting for our friends. Roz managed to attend Friday prayers at the local mosque.

Looking back at the summit climb, it was really a call we had to make that might have gone either way. Roz was not feeling strong on the 25th, and I had to kickstep and lead all the way to the false summit at 6000m. I was feeling stronger and more motivated than in all my recent climbs and my performance that morning reminded me of my Ojos Del Salado solo back in 2005.   Below is a great photo by Rozani of the morning light heading up to the pass between the Dongakemadi and West Glacier basin. We called this section the Sha-di Glacier, after the towering snowy peak to the right (west). The route turns left in this photo and goes up a 40 degree ridge for 400-vertical metres. All the months of high intensity functional training, P90X and a change in the fitness regime was paying off!

Then, lookimg over the hump, we didnt see what we thought was a straightforward rising travers to the top. Instead, there was a 50m plus drop to a ridge that was corniced one way , rising up to another section of the ridg that was corniced in the other direction. And then with softening snow conditions and the weather turning iffy ( see the colour of the sky), we bailed. With a stronger , faster team,I think the summit could have been tagged, but we were not up to that task. As a partially disabled climber, it’s already hard and tiring work to keep up with the usual team – let alone having to break trail and lead all day…

That being said, the views were remarkable. Over on the other side, we could see the Small and Large Dongekemadi Glaciers – which confirmed that the easiest route to the top was from that side. And then from the West Glacier – superb views of up to a dozen objectives of peaks in the 5700-6000m range include Sha-Di ( of Bird Peak in Tibetan) just opposit on the glacier connecting the Dongkemadai side with the West Glacier side.

Over on the left, you can see the virgin peak we climbed we we called Sangay Ri or Lion Peak, a nod for the TIbetan people who live here as well as to our origins from Singapore, the Lion City. On the right you can see the steep and very aesthetic line of the southwest ridge ,a mixed route up to 50 degrees rising up to near the summit of Longyala Peak. Another mystery yet to be resolved si that the locals do not know of any Longyala Peak – despit i’s presence on the official permitted peaks list. There is  a Longyama village and a pass nearby called the Longyama-La. BUt the peak we had come to climb has no name – to them anyway. And if it did have a name, it should have bee Longyamala Peak, NOT Longyala Peak.

A few thoughts: Expeditions on such as these take a long time to put together, bags of research,  and a willingness to accept that you are often making decisions  based on incomplete or  inperfect information – such is the game of climbing virgin peaks. One thing I really liked, even when the winds were howling and the climbing got a bit difficult was that my bro Roz and i would simply stop, and assess what we needed to do next – do it, and then move on – our systems, honed over two decades were humming along nicely, and that is how it should be. There was never moments of desperation and panic of any kind.

I would say, sadly that mountaineering , as it is played these days , now relies on people getting on board packaaged adventures where almost every eventuality is known. That’s thetime to strike out, and blaze your own trail if you want to experience mountaineering as it was in its earliest days – exploration, achievement, camaraderie, teamwork far from the madding crowds. Until next time – stay tuned!