After a very cold and miserable day at the monastery, the monks eventually relented and let us sit near their fire for a couple of hours. We spent a bit of the evening trying to thaw out before they gave us the boot. Vowed there and ten to get out as soon as possible! IN this picture you can see one of the female Buddhist nuns.
In October 2013 I tried to repeat my Gongga Shan trek of 1996. I trekked back to the monastery from the Yulongxi valley via the Yulongxi Yakou (pass). Unfortunately this time the weather was terrible. It started bad and just got worse. On the day we arrived it was misty and raining and very cold. Over the next two days the snow started and got heavier. We didn't get any view of the mountain or even of the surrounding valley and glacier. The whole trip seemed to have been jinxed - I must have upset the mountain gods. Here's a pic of our long suffering horses (mules?) having a feed just after we arrived at the monastery.
It was boring at the monastery after the first day. For hours on end we would sit in the room trying to keep warm by sitting in sleeping bags and waiting until the next meal from our meagre supply of food (thank goodness we brought stuff to eat - nothing at the monastery whatsoever). This is Monika from Poland, who did the trip at the same time as me - she had quite bad altitude sickness. You can see the cooker I brought with me on the shelf. The room was draughty and freezing cold.
Had a very dull two day stay here at the monastery! There's only so much you can see and do at this place after the first few hours of looking about the rooms. The cloud was thick and there was absolutely nothing to do from waking up (early - it was chillingly cold and damp) to going to sleep early. It was too cold to just sit about, and yet there was nowhere to go in the fog - too easy to get lost. I tried walking up on to the ridge above the monastery but turned back after an hour, fearful that I would lose my way in the thick fog and increasingly heavy snow covering my tracks. This was no longer the isolated, quaint monastery that I had visited in 1996. The monks were bored of dealing with hordes of trekkers and were not interested in talking to us once they had collected the accomodation fee and park fee. They wouldn't even let us sit near their fire to get warm - a real insult by Tibetan standards!
After a very long and knee-pounding descent from the Yulong Xi pass, we finally arrived at the Buchu river and crossed at this bridge - then it was a long slog along the river gradually ascending to a shoulder a few hours away where we met the track from Tsemi, turned left and went up to the Gongga monastery. When we came back this way three days later the whole landscape was under snow (see earlier photos).
After a loooong descent from the Yulongxi Pass nto the Buchu valley we came to this hut, which was said to have a great view of Gongga Shan in clear weather. It was described as an 'eco-hut' was was actually just a bare shell - colder in than out!
Gongga Shan is hidden in all that cloud. This was the best view we got - and the weather was closing in very quickly. Within half an hour we'd descended into that white mist and didn't see the sky again for four days!
This is a picture that I took with my Rolleiflex 3.5F using slide film (Fuji Portra I think), at Yulongxi, before setting out on the Gongga Shan trek. This is the 'guesthouse' where we stayed - in reality it was just a farmhouse, next to some hot springs. We were driven over in a small van from Kangding by a 17 year old kid, who was the son of the farmer. This is the grandtaher of the family, who apears to be a part time monk.
Dr Joseph Rock was an Austrian-born American botanist who explored the Tibetan borderlands of Sichuan and Yunnan ins the 1920s and 30s. This is a blog of my travels to revisit the amazing places he described in the National Geographic magazine.