Free on Kyzyl Asker, China.

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A few weeks ago Sean Villanueva, Stephane Hanssens, Evrard Wendenbaum and I came back from our “Chinajam” expedition in the western Kokshal-tau mountain, China. It was again a very powerful experience and also very different from any other expeditions we have done before. It was a lot more alpine than what we were excepting. There was a lot of that white stuff we don’t have in Belgium… We managed to put a up the first free route on the south face of Kyzyl Asker (5842m).TOPO & LOCATION

After 1 week of exploration and acclimatizing in the unknown of untouched valleys, we found what we were looking for : a steep big wall leading to the top of a beautiful mountain which would keep us busy for a while! We spent the next 15 days surfing on the south pillar of Kyzyl Asker. The climbing was absolutely spectacular with perfect compact orange granite forming sometimes crazy unique hueco shapes. But there was a lot more to fight for up there. The weather was rough with lots of snow storms and temps dropping to -15c by night and -5c at the warmest time of the day. We had to melt snow constantly to have water. While climbing our water bottles would freeze so fast that by mid-day it was just a block of ice. Taking off gloves and wearing tied climbing shoes in these conditions felt sometimes ridiculous. It was a very tough experience mentally and physically. But the unique scenery of all the plastered mountains all around us made up for the suffering and definitely helped us keep going.

On our 13th day of vertical living on this rock face, we made our final push to the summit. Because the rock was too iced up to keep on freeclimbing, we switch to mixed climbing( which count as free I guess) for the last 400m of the wall and this was an exciting new experience for virgin mixed climbers like us! The summit was a lot further than what we had estimated so it took us a lot more time. We ended up reaching the summit in total darkness and biting cold conditions around 10 PM. It was hard to really enjoy this particular moment except for the perspective that soon we could be comfortably tucked in our sleeping bag inside our portaledges and feel complete. In the end when we reached our portaledges Stephane’s toes was hard and cold like a piece of chicken coming straight out of a freezer. He had serious frost bite. Because no rescue was possible in this area, we rushed out of the mountains and as soon as we reached civilization Stephane was sent back to Belgium. The good news is : he should be able to keep all his toes. But he will need about 6 months for total recovery.

Now we are back in Belgium recharging our batteries with some special recovery belgian diet.

Thank you so much to Patagonia, Black Diamond, Five Ten, Julbo, sterling ropes,The belgian alpine club, Petzl, Crux, Nikon, Seeonee, care plus and Belclimb for their crucial support in making this adventure possible.

Have Fun!



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