Thursday, August 28, 2014

Plan B: Cizhong to Dimaluo via the She La

Although I am supposed to be doing the Kawa Karpo kora next month I am tempted to go for Plan B - cross from the Lancang to the Nujiang via a more southerly route (and one that Rock took on his first trip) - via Cizhong and the She La pass, not to be confused with the Sho La further north, on the Kawa Karpo circuit. The She La is known in Chinese as the 蛇拉腊卡垭口 (Shelalaka Pass).

I have found a few Chinese trekker blogs with some good pictures of it, and I have also tracked down the actual location of the pass via latitude and longitude - not easy! The pass was suggested to be in three different places by three different people. I tracked down the real location from a photo that a Chinese trekker took of his GPS on the pass.

Anyway, the crossing seems to involve a long slog up a wooded valley just to the south of Cizhong, up to the last steep section up to the She La. On the way there are several cabins and pastures that serve as lodgings. Over the pass it seems to be a steep zigzag down into the Sewalongba valley. This looks like a very marshy place and many people have described it as a leech zone. Some trekkers even tape up their ankles and cuffs to try keep the blighters out.

Through the Sewalongba the next stage is to the Balagong Pass (巴拉贡) - Rock called this the Doyonglongba. Some people have stayed overnight in cabins in lower parts of the Sewalongba at a place called Chuka Muchang (pasture) or 初卡牧场. From the Balagong pass it is a fairly straightforward descent through forest to my old haunt of Baihanluo and its Catholic church, just above Dimaluo.

I am thinking of doing this trek and then heading up north beyond Bingzhongluo to Chawalong, from where I can make the crossing back to the Lancang and thus to Deqin.
For those who are interested the co-ordinates for the She La are:  27°59'53.46"N,  98°47'32.70"E.
And for the Balagong Pass:  27°57'30.70"N,  98°45'10.02"E.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Starting to (over-) prepare for the next Kawa Karpo kora

Darren doing the Doker La lightweight. My kids in the background.
As usual before heading off on a big walk I tend to fret too much about little things which turn out to be inconsequential once I get on the trail.

At the end of September I will be flying to Lijiang and then heading up to Deqin to do the Kawa Karpo kora again. I've already done the East-West bit, but this time I won't have the kiddywinks in tow (yes I took my two children last time and they did it easier than me), so can hopefully complete the circuit and do the West-East section. I'm in two minds about whether to go lightweight or to take the full kit of tent, stove and food.

The lightweight option is do-able, as shown by our intrepid Canadian companion Darren on the last trip (see above). Darren did the whole circuit as if it was a walk in the park, armed only with a sleeping bag and a bit of heavy duty polythene sheeting to act as a groundsheet/raincover. You can get away with that because there are pilgrim rest stations en route, which have a bit of shelter ( a dirt floor with a bit of flattened cardboard if you're lucky) and a fire to make hot water on - and there are basic shops that sell drinks, smokes and noodles. Darren also took a brolly, which doubled as a walking stick. All you need, really, if you're confident and lucky with the weather.  Admittedly Darren was an experienced climber and glacier guide based in the Rockies, so for him the Doker La was probably a piece of piss.  I'm of a mind to emulate that and just rock up with the same few bits and pieces.

On the other hand ... the control freak/cautious side of me wants to do just the opposite, and take every bit of possible gear that I might need. I've already been trying out the Gore Tex waterproofs in Sydney's recent torrential winters downpours. I've also been  fiddling with the MSR stove and giving the lightweight pots and bowls a clean. Will I need them? There are log cabins en route that can serve up pot noodles, but do I want to try live on them for 10-12 days?

As usual, I'm also agonising about what cameras to take. I'll definitely be taking one of the medium format film cameras: I'd prefer the wonderful Rolleifex 3.5F but it can be a bit temperamental. Might have to settle for the simpler Rolleicord instead.  For the first time I'll probably be taking a digital (Sony A7) instead of a film 35mm film camera. This will be my back up camera and will relieve me of the burden of taking loads of film. It will be a pity not to be taking my Leica M2, but I will still be using the Leitz lenses on the digital body.

I picked up my China visa today, so now it's just  a case of counting down the next five weeks before I head off. And trying not to get too obsessed about preparing. So if you see a flustered 50-something bloke striding round Sydney dressed inappropriately in trekking gear and carrying a backpack - it's probably me doing a bit of practice.