I would like to introduce you to a phenomenal trip we
took, trekking in Western Sichuan, China up the highest peak in Sichuan
named Shan Gongga. In Chinese language "shan" means "mountain".
This Shan Gongga is 7,550 meters high or 24,764 feet high. Before I mislead
you, we did not climb, or even attempt to climb to the summit of this
mountain which would be a highly technical climb with oxygen assistance
needed. But, the mid level heights of this mountain have allot to offer
traditional "hikers" or trekkers [non technical] adventurers.
In October, 2007 I [USA Citizen] traveled to China for two purposes- two
weeks of business and on this trip a week long trek in the Western Sichuan
Mountains of China. I had partnered with other Chinese hikers, and we
had researched where, how, who questions of trekking in China. Our research
focused on either hiking in Yading area of far Western Sichuan or the
Shan Gongga region which is a bit closer to Chengdu (two days by car,
not three days). At the time Yading was closed as the villagers were having
a dispute with the Chinese government over development of the region.
So our decision was easy, we would focus on Shan Gongga region. Our online
research led us to two partnering organizations, expedition guides: Roland
Zeigler of Western Sichuan Tours, and Matt and Apple Liu Xuen of Dragon
Expeditions (see references and contacts below).
Located at a height of about 4000 meters up the side of Gongga Shan [13,120
feet] there is a simple Buddhist Monastary named Minya Konka. This Buddhist
Monastary doubles as a destination point for hikers. One can hike to,
and stay in this Buddhist Monastary. Don't be too excited by the existence
of these accommodations; as they are basically a one level upgrade to
camping outdoors. The Buddhist Monks will provide you with a shared room
with 4 walls, two hard beds to lay on with your own sleeping bag and a
candle. No electricity, no plumbing, no heat. The bathroom is an outhouse
50 meters down the hill, and you must make sure you empty yourself prior
to laying down for the night, as it is quite a feat to get out of sleeping
bag at 3:00 AM in darkness and 25 degrees [F] cold temperatures to hike
down 50 meters to a dark outhouse, and back to bed. Around the monastary
there are one or two rooms that have wood stoves for cooking, and if you
stoke the stove full enough with wood you can take some chill out of your
body before retiring to your cold bedroom. Also, beware the Monks chant
their prayers constantly, and this chanting can be heard through the thin
walled construction from almost all rooms.
From Minya Konka monastary one can hike higher for 3 hours [assuming your
body is acclimated to height] to the big glaciers of Shan Gongga. If the
weather is clear, this is a recommended goal.... unfortunately when I
was there, I was sick all night with a pounding headache from altitude
sickness, it snowed and we were buried in clouds and overcast the whole
time. So hiking to the glaciers served no purpose except to wear our bodies
out further and to further enhance the altitude sickness that had set
into my body.
More details about the itinerary of the trip are as follows: See complete itineary details Click Here. Our trip began by flying to
Chengdu, a small Chinese city of about 10,000,000 people. This is the
last gateway city to the Western mountains, the last city with an airport
to access the mountains. It is not however all that convenient, as it
is 8 to 16 hours away from most of the desirable mountain ranges. Thus
the need for secondary transportation, and expertise on how to "get
there", the ins and outs of traveling into the back regions of China,
etc. Therefore, all of your professional outdoor mountain shops and/or
guides are usually found in Chengdu.
From Chengdu we piled into the back of Matt Ryan's Beijing Jeep (Matt
Ryan from DragonExpeditions) and left the city about 9:00 AM. We traveled
that day until after dark, whereby we pulled into very small inns in the
city of Yajiang. Again, Apple's ability to pre-screen some of these inns
or small hotels for the most suitable were most appreciated, things like
"don't stay there, their carpets smell like puke, it is filthy, you
cant use their towels" makes life a bit more comfortable knowing
you are staying at the "best available". Still don't expect
much including the commonly found "all in one" "shower
and toilet combination" where your toilet is a hole in the bathroom
floor and the shower head is right over head- you stand over the toilet
to take a shower". On the way to Yajiang, we made 3 stops. The first
was in the Town of Yaap which is famous for the most beautiful girls in
China and its fish from the river. We pulled up to a very local Chinese
sidewalk shop- where Apple and Ling Dong got out and purchased some famous
breakfast dumplings to snack on. They knew from experience this very local
shop, that no other out of Town tourist would ever find- benefit of experienced
We made other stops is Luding tourist town with famous bridge over river,
and then again in Kangding. Kangding was very interesting "trade
center" for region, you could tell it was a central city for the
more rural regions to travel to- to trade their goods and buy necessary
supplies found in the outer regions. Allot of hustle and bustle, and great
central market with all fresh foods, vegetables, fruits, yak meats, and
many foods I did not recognize.
The next day we traveled by Matt's Beijing jeep to small village [end
of access road] of about 5 houses, named YuLongxi. Click Here for More.
Other Web Pages:
Gongga- Minya Konka & Buddist Monestary
See Detailed Gongga Shan itinerary
Gongga-Public Images & Maps
Detail Reference of Matt Ryan and Apple [DragonExpeditions]
Pay for Guide, is it worth it?
|The peak of Shan Gonggal
rises over the approach mountains, you cans see its white peak
over ridge on the right hand side.
|After going over the Yulongxi
Pass, the Moxi valley is below, then up to Shan Gongga. Here
its peak is hidden in the clouds, but you can see some of its glacier
|Gongga's Peak rising over
approach ridge, as viewed from above Yulongxi
|Minya Konka Temple, but
this is not the Monestary [it is next to the Monestary] located
at 4000 meters high.
|Gongga Range and Shan Gongga
(right) from range behind Yulongxi