Monday, April 18, 2005

"I could not help exclaiming for joy ..."

minya konka glory, originally uploaded by jiulong.

To reach Minya Konka, Joseph Rock had to travel for several weeks with his mule caravan from Lijiang via Muli and through the mighty Yalong canyon. This was an adventure in itself, and I will describe that part of the journey in a separate section. You can read a bit about it in a previous post in which I described my own Yalong canyon trip.

The same picture taken in 2004.

After his epic crossing of the canyon, Rock rested at the small town of Jiulong, on the eastern side of the Yalong canyon. He then had to cross the Chiprin pass [now known as the Jizu or 鸡租山]to the north, to reach the Minya Konka range. Leaving Jiulong, he ascended through thick forests of birch, spruce and pine, struggling to manage the unruly yaks that gored one of his escort.

At times it was idyllic: "Ten miles below the Chiprin pass, we pitched our tents among some willows along a stream, with snow peaks glistening in the evening sun and hemming in the valleys on all sides."

jiulong dawn
View from below the Chiprin Pass [鸡租山]

As with most passes he crossed, Rock hit a snowstorm, which he describes in his usual dramatic style:

"On we went over a pathless landscape, over fallen logs, in a driving blizzard, unable to see even a few feet ahead. It was like going into a wall of impenetrable white, ground and sky being one."

They managed to struggle over the pass in a raging blizzard, only because a Tibetan farmer and his wife driving more yaks had recently crossed from the other direction and ploughed a trail through the deep snow.

"As we ascended the snow increased in depth and the blizzard in fury, for now we were above the timber line. We could see nothing but a purplish white wall and I seemed lost in whirling mass of white. Up and up we climbed until finally I saw through the haze of snowflakes a few sticks which denoted an obo or cairn. Never did I exclaim more heartily with my Tibetans: "Lha rgellah, Lha rgellah" ("The gods are victorious') - the accustomed shout of every Tibetan on a pass."

Nowadays there is a good road over the Chiprin pass, and a bus service runs daily across it between Kangding and Jiulong.
Chiprin Pass
The Chiprin Pass [鸡租山] in better weather

Rock descended from the 16,000 foot high Chiprin pass into a different landscape - quite barren, unlike the forested southerm slopes, and populated by "happy go lucky" Minya Tibetans who lived in fear of robbery and plunder by gangs of roaming bandits from the Konkaling area (see previous posts).

Resting for the night at Chengtsi, Rock noted how the Minya Tibetans had built their houses like fortresses "like prisons of the Middle Ages" to survive the raids by the bandits. It's a style that persists into the 21st century.

From Chengtsi, he turned east into a side valley known as Yulongsi. This is the valley that trekkers and climbers pass through today from Liuba to visit the Konka Gompa. Rock stayed at a small village called Mudju, where he recruited the local headman, the "jovial Drombo" to show him the best vantage points to view the mighty Minya Konka.
The jovial Drombo in 1929
drombo daughter
Drombo's daughter in 1996
yulongsi house
Houses were built like fortresses to withstand pillaging bandits

Rock noted that the great peaks were not visible from the Yulongsi valley, and that if you did not know they were there you might walk up the valley completely oblivious to the fact that such huge peaks lay just over the crest of the hills.

Rock caught his first glimpse of the Minya Konka from the ridge at 16,000 feet between the Yulongsi and Buchu valleys. He was lucky to have clear weather:

"I could not help exclaiming for joy. I marvelled at the scenery which I, the first white man ever to stand here, was privileged to see."

He then described in detail the majestic sight of Minya Konka and its surrounding peaks, plus the glacier stretching for many miles, that ran off from this extensive snowy range into the Konka valley. I will post some more pictures of these over the next few days.

View of the Minya Konka range taken from the Yulongsi valley in 1929. Minya Konka is at the right.
warming up
A wider angle view of the same peaks from a ridge on the Yulongsi valley
minya woman
Minya Tibetan woman at Mudju
snowy firs
Snowy forest below the Chiprin Pass
Yaks were better carriers than mules at high altitudes, but they were slow and often unruly. One of Rock's escort was gored by one.
Road to Chiprin Pass [鸡租山] from the north.
Chiprin Pass.
Chiprin Pass [鸡租山] looking south towards Jiulong.
chiprin rd
Chiprin Pass looking north.
chiprin bus
Chiprin Pass [鸡租山] in good weather.
At the foot of the Chiprin Pass [鸡租山] at dawn.

No comments: