In 2013, a small group of Team Petzl members went on an ice climbing trip to explore the Siguniang Mountains in China. Inside the national park of the same name, Erwan Le Lann, Mathieu Maynadier, Marcos Costa, Audrey Sniezek and Takako Hoshi followed in the crampon steps of "Rastafar'Ice," establishing a few new lines of mixed climbing among an infinite number of possibilities up and down the enchanting valley covered in surreal-looking ice. An adventure revealed in Guillaume Vallot and Raphael Lassablière's new movie, "China on Ice."

Video: China on Ice © Guillaume VallotSurrounded by the valley's first waterfalls, the small fortress that marks the entry into the upper Shuangqiaogou.

 

Shuangqiao Valley, Sichuan Province, China

Known since the early 1980s for its granite big walls and technical faces of Himalayan proportions, the Siguniang Mountains have started to gain quite the reputation for ice climbing. The national park's three valleys contain several waterfalls fed by huge drainage basins that start as high up as 6000 meters elevation. An exceptionally wet climate and cold winters create ideal conditions for a multitude of frozen waterfalls to form. Introduced only recently to the pleasures of climbing on ice, young outdoorsy Chinese are now flocking to these frozen blue pillars during their New Year's vacation. While enjoying the festivities as the year of the Dragon turned into the year of the Snake (year 4711 on the Chinese calendar), a small eclectic group of Petzl climbers were on location lighting firecrackers and climbing from one free-standing pillar to another.

 

An eclectic group following in the footsteps of francophone pioneers

Vidéo : China on Ice © Guillaume VallotErwan Le Lann belays Mathieu Maynadier and Marcus Costa up the third pitch of "Dragon Breath," one of the valley's a legendary WI 6 climbs. On the right side of this magnificent 150 m high waterfall, Erwan and Mathieu established "Baijo Hang Over" ground up placing just one bolt, a mixed route rated M7/M8.

Vidéo : China on Ice © Guillaume VallotErwan Lelann climbing the wide curtain on Avalanche Pass, WI 5.

The group led by Frenchmen Erwan Le Lann and Mathieu Maynadier included Brazilian Marcos Costa, North American Audrey Sniezek, and Japanese Takako Hoshi set out to follow in the footsteps of the first ice climbing pioneers to the area. In 2003, François Damilano, Stéphane Husson, and the late Guy Lacelle thoroughly explored Shuangqiao Valley, leaving a superb futuristic line in their wake, Rastafar'Ice. This M10, immortalized by photographer Monica Dalmasso, held its place of honor for quite some time in both the catalog and on an amazing poster. Last February, the next generation of Petzl climbers, who made this second journey through the area, could not help but notice the growth and the success of ice climbing in China.

 

"Baijo Hang Over," an icy mix!

Video: China on Ice © Guillaume VallotMathieu Maynadier reaches the thin ice smears on "Little Apricot," M8, a new dry tooling route near Rastafar'Ice.

Video: China on Ice © Guillaume VallotMathieu Maynadier on the crux of Rastafar'Ice, an M10 put up by Stéph Husson, François Damilano, and Guy Lacelle in 2003.

Hundreds of ice climbers, often enthusiastic beginners, enjoy the valley's classics and their easy approaches. During their trip our heroes, after sharpening their picks on the already well-established difficult lines, decided it was their turn to leave their Chinese friends with some new routes to chew on. In a country known for its fearless approach to dining, the saying around here is that to put up hard routes on ice, you need to climb where there isn't any. This elegant paradox, which would have made Laozi himself smile, was put into application by Erwan, Mathieu, and Marcos, who established several awe-inspiring routes. In addition to the hundreds of lines of water ice that form each winter, dozens of mixed lines highlight the undeveloped potential of Shuangqiaogou. To thank them for these icy gifts that will offer the valley a most-scintillating future, the local Chinese climbers invited their Western colleagues out for a traditional Baijo celebration. This famous concoction is difficult to say no to, and the name for one of the new routes, "Baijo Hang Over," probably has something to do with it.

 

Watch the movie, "China on Ice"

Enjoy the entertaining scenes of our eclectic group having fun together in, "China on Ice," filmed and written by Guillaume Vallot, directed by Raphaël Lassablière.

 

An interview with Xiang Yang

This young 25 year old climber, originally from Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, Xiang Yang does the voiceover for the film, "China on Ice." Recorded in Briançon (French Alps) while she was in the area for a mountaineering training course, she talks about her first time ice climbing and meeting Team Petzl.

Video: China on Ice © Guillaume VallotDressed in colorfully embroidered black clothing typical of the local Tibetan population, Xiang Yang, the young Chinese climber from Sichuan, poses next to her radiant grandmother.
Video: China on Ice © Guillaume VallotA chorten decorated in prayer flags or "wind horses".
 

Below is an excerpt from her invitation to come discover her country…

My province, Sichuan, is located in the southwest corner of what is commonly referred to as the Middle Kingdom. The granite in Sichuan is much older than the Himalaya, and is part of a mountain range that formed hundreds of millions of years before its lofty neighbor. To get to the Siguniang range, you will likely fly into Chengdu and then drive into the mountains. Remember that the mountains here are very high, and the valleys to reach them extremely arduous. My grandmother taught me a proverb that rings true here, "It is much harder to travel to Sichuan than to travel to the heavens (蜀道难于上青天)." The road up to the 4487 meter high Balang Pass collapsed almost entirely into the river bed. The recent reconstruction efforts of this central artery have been of gargantuan proportions. In Chengdu, when it's not raining, people say that the weather is great. This reminds me of another local proverb, "In Shu, when the sun comes out the dog barks (蜀犬吠日)." This means that the sun is like a stranger that a dog has never seen. But don't be discouraged, Shuangqiaogou means, "Twin bridges valley." Come enjoy the well-paved and perfectly maintained thirty-five kilometer long road up this narrow valley, as well as the amazing number of frozen waterfalls that line either side. For a decade now, Shuangqiaogou has become a well-known spot in China, and the country's best place to go ice climbing. A popular festival brings together dozens of ice climbers once per year and there is also a guidebook. I hope that you will join us every winter in this enchanting valley, whether you climb hard or not!

Guillaume Vallot --

 

Video: China on Ice © Guillaume Vallot Mathieu Maynadier climbing the main free-standing pillar on Avalanche Pass, WI 4+, with Siguniang's 5000 meter high granite peaks in the background.

 

Ice climbing

 

To learn more

  • Download the guidebook >>
  • In addition, be sure to read the full article with topos and practical information in the year-end issue of Vertical magazine.

 

 

 

 

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