Monday, December 07, 2015

Yading Big Kora - trekking in June 2016

They say you should never go back, but after a bit of thought I've decided to revisit Yading and do the outer kora of the three peaks again. I did it in 2010 (as you can see at this blog entry with photos) but I've always wanted to go back and 'do it properly'. The reason being is that on my first circuit we did it in a rushed way, taking five days to do what should have taken seven or eight. Part of the problem was that we were trekking blind, into unknown territory without decent maps and thus reliant on local guides to show us the way. They insisted on haring round the circuit - and they didn't even know the way too well themselves. We had some great weather but were too knackered and worried about minor hassles (such as our guides not having brought any shelter and having to sit round a fire all night on the mountainside)  to really make the most of the trek. This time around I'm going to take it 'easy' (relatively speaking) and go more slowly. This time I have the advantage of knowing the way and knowing the problems and the unknowns .. so I can focus on what I want to do, at my own pace. I also have the advantage of much better mapping via Google Earth, which now provides ridiculously detailed topographical info for the whole circuit. On our previous circuit we had only vague outlines of the mountains to guide us.

So my plan is to hike around the three peaks in mid June. I'm going to do the full seven passes over about eight days, so this will mean carrying a lot of gear to be self sufficient (there are no villages or shops en route, it's all up in the mountains). That means a tent, cooking gear and food for seven days. I hope to hire some local guides to carry my pack - if I can find them. May-June is the season when locals go fossicking for chongtsao fungus - a lucrative herbal remedy, and most of them are not willing to give up a week of their time to carry backs round the hills for 300 yuan a day. I'm not that fit, but I still reckon I can get my pack over the passes if need be and if I take it slow.

So if you're in the Sichuan area in June and are up to the challenge, let me know at: beijingweek-at

Here's my itinerary:

Day 1. Yading village-Chonggu monastery, ascend to below the First Pass, where there is a crude stone shelter in a hollow. Great views of Shenrezig.
Day 2. Shelter - First Pass - Chanadorje glacier.
The slog up to the first and highest pass is across some bleak rocks. The descent is equally bleak at first, but grand scenery. There is a small 'village' of temporary shelters at the bottom of the valley where Tibetans camp to pick the fungus worm chongtsao. From here you descend into a steep forested valley and turn 90 degrees left to hike up to a magnificent open space with awesome views of the south face of Chandorje, where there are great spots to camp.
Day 3. Over the Second Pass into a steep valley around the back of Chanadorje that leads up to a daunting rock wall. This is not as bad as it looks can be scrambled up to cross the Third Pass, known as Yaka. Best to camp before crossing the pass as the next day is a long one.
Day 4. Over the Third Pass and descend round the back of Jambeyang, over a scree slope and to the edge of yet another sunken valley, where you turn into a spectacular ampitheatre below the south west face and glaciers of Jambeyang. Good camping spot.
Day 5. Tough day, following the 'cliff walk' beneath the rock face to reach a shoulder that marks the Fourth Pass, where you turn north. Up a rocky bleak valley in the shadow of Jambeyang, many alpine lakes, then cross a small pass to descend to a grassy clearing where you can camp at 'Rock's rock' - a massive cube of rock where explorer Joseph Rock once camped.
Day 6. A gentle ascent to the Fifth Pass, where you gain views of Shenrezig, and descend steeply to Snake Lake. Can camp on the shore or ascend to the Sixth Pass, below Shenrezig - this is where many day trekkers walk up to from Chonggu monastery so you are back on the beaten track. Descend to tarn and shelter.
Day 7. Final day, on the route of the mini-kora, descend through woods round the back of Shenrezig and then up to the Seventh Pass. Long descent to Chonggu monastery.

[Might do a detour to some alpine lakes at this point to make it an eight day trip]