Ice climbers reaching new heights

Updated: 2015-01-10 07:28

By Erik Nilsson and Yang Yang(China Daily)

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Ice climbers reaching new heights

Ice climbers reaching new heights

Ice climbing enthusiasts descend from a 30-meter-high ice wall in suburban Beijing's Yunmeng Valley. Photos by Wei Xiaohao / China Daily

Xing Zhiyuan believes ice climbing is more exhilarating than conquering the world's highest peak. He should know.

The 42-year-old surmounted Qomolangma - called Mount Everest in the West - in May. But he says scaling ice has taken him to greater heights at lower altitudes.

"Ice climbing is more difficult and exciting," he explains, clasping a hot cup of tea after descending from a 30-meter-high ice wall in suburban Beijing's Yunmeng Valley.

"I climbed Qomolangma the traditional way. You just ascend slowly and adjust to the elevation. No hurry. It's not very hard, although I couldn't sleep or eat at 6,500 meters.

"This is totally different," he says, pointing toward the ice wall.

"You need skills and practice. You must learn how to use picks, draws and screws."

He says he couldn't find thrills in schlepping 8,848 meters to the top of the "roof of the world".

He expected the expedition to be jaw-dropping - yet not in the way a yawn is. "But you can't help but get excited when ice climbing. You feel high," he says, laughing.

The ice he'd scrambled up earlier was at least 30 centimeters thick.

Climber Lang Wo shouted from below: "Relax, man! Put your right leg under your body! No! A little to the right! No! Under your body! Yes! Sink your pick a bit above you! Good!"

Xing and Lang were among 23 climbers who rang in the New Year with the Jan 2 excursion. Ice chunks tumbled beneath the climbers and exploded like crystal grenades.

"Be careful, guys!" Kai Yi shouted from the ground. "Don't be rude to the ice! This wall is rare!"

Many routes are frozen waterfalls. But this ascent was up a manmade pane, created by piping water from a spring at the precipice's furrow to its apex.

Three climbers started a fire over the ice at the top to boil hotpot at noon. The aroma of scalding mutton, beef and cabbage impelled a dog's hunger to trump its fear. Flowing water could clearly be seen beneath the glassy sheath. The canine tiptoed to the cauldron to snap up a lamb slice. It was a lunch of champions.

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