Friday, August 27, 2010

Climbing Mt. Chola

Climbing Mt. Chola from Kenneth Koh on Vimeo.


I've just returned from a 2+ week climbing trip to Mt. Chola (Que'er Shan) 6168m/20,236'.  Mt. Chola is located in the Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province, Western China, near the Tibetan border.  The region was only recently opened up to foreign tourists and the mountain hasn't seen that many ascents.  The main peak or Chola I, was first climbed in1987 by a joint Japan-China team.

Setting Off From C1 in Less Than Perfect Weather.  Nikon D300, 12-24mm.
Getting there isn't easy.  First off, there's a string of red tape to navigate... And it doesn't help that it's all in Chinese!  There's park, climbing permit, environmental pretection fees, liaison and translator requirements, and a 2-day bus ride to get there from the nearest gateway city of Chengdu.  If you're interested in doing this climb, you'll need to get in touch with the Sichuan Mountaineering Association, or otherwise engage a guiding service who will take care of all this stuff.  We used Sula, through Singapore's mountain guide, Lim Kim Boon.

Crevasse Crossing Under the Guide's Watchful Eyes. Nikon D300, 12-24mm.
Sula's standard scheduled climb up Chola was a little too quick for us 'flatlanders' from Singapore, and so Kim Boon arranged to have a few extra acclimatization days built into Basecamp and Camp1.  This worked out well for us.

 Navigating the Glacial Terrain of Chola. Panasonic LX3.
This was a guided climb, and we had porters to help with the group gear like tents, cookware and food.  Woohoo!  Except for the summit ridge, most of the climb almost qualifies as a walk-up (hopping over the occasional cravasse ;o), but has 'moderately' technical bits to provide some challenging moments.  Topping out is a different story.  Gaining the summit ridge requires climbing a 70m section of steep, crappy ice.  This would have been a serious lead, and would have changed the whole flavor of the climb.  Fortunately, this section was fixed for our group by Sula's team of guides, and so with little more than a lot of huffing and puffing, seven of our group reached the summit (Two of our group experienced a few frost-nipped fingers and toes).

Descending Chola.  Panasonic LX3. Photo © Sula/Lim Kim Boon.
Stuff That Worked (and Stuff That Didn't)
Panasonic LX3 - This is a little champ of a camera.  Small, lightweight, tough, great image quality.  Almost all the photos on the summit were taken by LX3s.   

Chamois - indispensable for outdoor photography.  Used to wipe down rain drops on my DSLR lens.  I have a square foot in my camera chest pouch.

Heading Down Towards C3.  Panasonic LX3.
Clothing System - I confess that this didn't work well for me.  Fearing the summer heat, I brought a hodgepodge of clothes.  I ended up with clothes that I hardly wore and carried them up and down the mountain.  I'll have to give more thought as to what clothes work better together as a system.

A GPS Plot of the Climb. Courtesy of Norman Hodapp. 

Silver Sol - I wrote about this stuff here. And while the jury's still out on whether this stuff actually works, I can tell you that we put this stuff in a small spray bottle and used it on cuts and scrapes, and sprayed it in our mouths when eating food of suspect hygiene.  So far, so good... This will be a standard item in my packing kit until proven otherwise.

For more photos on the climb, please visit my Flickr site.