Report by Hans Schaefer,
November 2011, with updates until March 2018.
This report covers different hiking routes around Kangding, Moxi and Gongga Shan (Tibetan: Minya Konka), from east, west and north.
The Minya Konka (chinese:
Gongga shan) mountain area is located in western Sichuan in
China, about 29 degrees north, 101 East. This mountain range
is small, like the high Tatra in Poland or Vest-Jotunheimen in
Norway. However, it contains Minya Konka, 7556m altitude, and
about ten peaks above 6000m. This area is far away from the
usual tourist areas, and maps and information are not easy to
get. Below is a contribution towards more information.
Please take your trash out of the
area! It looks horrible, it pollutes the environment and the
animals die from eating plastic and other trash! Yaks eat
plastic and everything that smells salt and they may
die from suffocation or starving. Trash they have eaten does
not come out in the other end!
You need to take a bus
through Kangding, from Chengdu.
From Kangding (2500m), Sichuan, China, take the bus towards Jiulong. It passes Zhe Duo La mountain pass (4200m). Take it to the 99km mark of the highway (alt. 3352m pos. N29.45270 E101.44876). From there you need to get local transport up the valley towards east. There are minibuses (baoche, 150 Yuan) as well as motorcycles (100 Yuan) up the valley via LiuBa (also called Gonggashan city) to Shangmujč. The road has partially concrete surface until Gonggashan xiang town, alias LiuBa (贡噶山 ), alt. 3462m, pos. N29.47265 E101.54013, then it is a badly maintained gravel road, passing Liuba to Shangmujč ( 上木居). This place has many guesthouses. I stayed at the lowest one, in the hamlet called RiLaKa, marked with a roadside sign ËShangmujč, YongtenË (alt. 3689m pos. N29.47669 E101.63931). People at this place are extremely helpsome and friendly and will organize further transport and advice for you. For any transport they organized, the drivers arrived before the agreed time. There was no trouble waiting. The drivers never took more money than agreed before.
Shangmujč consists of many
small settlements about 4 km along the road. The area is about
3700m đ 3800m high.
The uppermost hostel in Shangmujč is called Dengba shanzhuang / hotel and has phone # 13990460621.
Further 10 km up the road is Yulongxi (alt. 3830m, pos. N29.57169 E101.66944). The valley floor broadens there.A sight worth to see is Quanhuatan (see later).
About 6 km above the
guesthouse at Shangmujč (alt 3794m, pos. N29.52280
E101.66135), a road starts up the mountains to Zimei
4555m high (pos. N29.51785 E101.72145), leaving the valley
over a bridge to the right. An improvised plate with Chinese
characters shows the two destinations. It winds up a side
valley for ten kilometers. Sometimes, the old horse path is
still visible and usable along the road. From Shangmujč to the
top it takes nearly one hour by motorcycle. This costs 150
Yuan. A sketch map is displayed below, in Norwegian, the
guesthouse being southwest, Zimei Yakou east. The blue line is
the road to Zimei Yakou, as it actually runs, the road as
diplayed was copied from a larger scale map. In 2016 there was
even another gravel road from the pass, about one kilometer
towards north, just for sightseeing.
At this pass you have a
great view to Gongga Shan, its glaciers and its western
precipices. Towards northeast, there are many other white
mountains above 6000m. Towards north, south and west, all
mountains look like easy walks, but due to their altitude
(above 4500m), the walk may be a bit strenuous. At Zimei
Yakou, there are prayer flags and there is a mobile phone
relay, driven by two wind turbines. However, it was not
working any time I visited the pass (2011 - 17). Thus, no
mobile phone coverage here and further east! During the first
week of October, due to National holidays, the monastery sets
up tents up here for tourists to stay at night. (From autumn
2017 they may have a new tourist accommodation at the
monastery, more expensive than before).
To get to Gongga Si (贡嘎寺), the monastery below Gongga Shan, you may either walk or go further by motorized means. Here is how:
The road winds down 38
turns, 12 km length, to Shang Zimei at 3400m altitude. It
takes more than 2 hours walking, or 30 minutes by motorbike or
car. However, the driver may switch off the motor and go down
using only the brakes. This is a bit scary. The foot trip is
more safe and may give you an interesting view of mountain
scenery and grazing yaks. Below 4000m altitude there is dense
forest. Shang Zimei has three houses, and again, people in all
the houses are friendly. You may stay at all the houses
(overnight), get food and tea, and the people there may bring
you up again to the pass on their motorbikes for 150 Yuan, or
with their cars for more. (The owners of the middle and upper
houses have a car, but the price with it to the pass is
200-300 Yuan. I paid 300 Yuan for a taxi from Shangmujč to
Shang Zimei in 2012 and 2017). The road continues down valley
at least to Xiazimei, and a path further down to Bawang Hai
(Bawang lake) and further to CaoKe and Moxi (motorbikes use
this path when it is not in too bad shape).
The path to Gongga Si
starts about one more kilometer down the road below the
village (pos. N29.52920 E101.75517). Walk down the road until
it starts with zigzag down the valley. After two turns, there
is a big sign on the left side and the path starts downwards.
It crosses the river at 3380 m altitude on a wooden bridge.
Frustratingly low, but the bridge is OK, and the path very
visible, marked with prayer flags, prayer sheets put under
stones and thrown away trash. From the bridge it takes about
two hours to get to Gongga Si (alt 3741m, pos. N29.56540
E101.77032). Dense forest with big trees, pine, birch, lark,
fir, a kind of oak and rhododendron. Here is a picture
somewhere in the middle of this path, with prayer flags and
old trees. (The path is also usable by motorbike, even if
First steeply upwards, then less steep. After two kilometers there is a port, probably as a marker that the "holy area" starts here. Here you meet the motorcycle path coming from downwards from the right, from Xiazimei (you may go that way, too). About 1 km further up from this port is a small hut: You may turn north along Moxi Gou / Buchč LongBa, the valley with the river you crossed at the bridge, towards north. To reach the monastery, however, keep northeastwards, straight on. More and more prayer flags. Just follow the path. It reaches a high point about 3800 meters, then slowly leads down to 3700 (the path downwards is even drivable by small tractors). First a camp site, then the monastery. You may stay there for 30 Yuan, plus 20 Yuan entrance fee. The monks (two or three) are very friendly and may provide you with tea and hot water. There is cold drinking water from a spring in the monastery. Sleeping accommodation is primitive, but good enough. They have electric light (230V AC) from their own power station in the glacier river.
The monastery has been here for a long time,
but the ancient monastery was destroyed during the Cultural
revolution. It was rebuilt during the 1980s.
Here is an early morning
view of Gongga Shan, as seen from the monastery.
From Gongga Si there is a path to the glacier, crossing the glacial river on a wooden bridge. It starts right after the monastery, on the same altitude entering the forest. After 20 minutes walk you are down at the river. Following small stone cairns you find the hydropower plant (very small), then 100m further a wooden bridge. You cross the river on this bridge after about 30 minutes walk. You may go up the glacier valley to the Gongga Shan base camp (Tibetan: Rua Duo Me Li), 4400m, following a small trail on the south side of the main river, always near the river. Follow small cairns and horse-shit. At 4100m altitude you may find two nice small glacier lakes, where the two glaciers meet. Be aware that there is ice below all the stones you see on the glaciers! At about 4400m altitude you reach a grassy area where Gongga Shan expeditins use to have their base camp. Pictures below.
There is also a path up
left to the mountains, slightly back from the monastery, into
a westerly direction. Again, follow prayer flags to start
with. The path starts at the middle house on the picture
below. The view of Gongga Shan and its glacier is great! The
path reaches the ridge at about 4000m altitude. You may then
follow the ridge towards northeast up all the way to the top.
Small cairns are at
every major hill. There is grass, rhododendron lapponica and
small shrubs. It looks like you may return down the
ridge you see on the left side of the picture below and then
follow the glacier river (not verified). However, this
location has more fog and bad weather than in the Shangmujč
Below are two more pictures, of the left (small) and right (larger) glaciers. (Xiaogongba and Dagongba glaciers). (The valley of Dagongba glaciers is called Nyambo in Tibetan). Both glaciers seem to be very little active, ice being added only far back in the pictures. They are covered by debris and probably most of the glacier tongue is dead ice. Between the glaciers, on the moraine, may be two small lakes, or, if it is dry, grassland. Dagongba glacier has retreated about 1000 meters during the last 50 years and its surface has shrunk by about 40 meters altitude.
Here is a record of trips in 1995 and 2009 to the area, in the footsteps of a 1929-expedition by Joseph Rock. It contains a record of a horse-trip from Laoyulin to Yulongxi. It is still possible to do trekking this way, too, not only through Riwuqie valley and Moxigou as described elsewhere in this document.
I have used the hostel about 6 km down the valley from the
crossing towards Zhimei Yakou. Their signpost is here. Outside
Chinese holidays it should not be necessary to pre-book.
You may go to the peaks on
the west side of the valley.
From Shangmujč hostel, go along the street up the valley about half a kilometers, to the first river from the left. Turn left and follow a path along the southwest bank of the small river up the valley. This path will cease at some grasslands about 4100m high. Then turn up left towards some white-gray limestone rocks, about 4370m. Pass these on the north side and head up the mountain as you see the easiest way. You may, after getting to the top, go north along the edge. To go down, use any of the valleys further north, or south, or go back the same way. You may also go up or down the before mentioned small river valley. From the limestone rocks you may also go down to a mountain farm right west, about 4100m altitude, and then down the valley to Xiamujč. You have a great view of Gongga Shan.
To get to the top will take four to five hours. Going down is much faster, probably two or three hours.The picture below shows Gongga Shan from the limestone top, locally called "Bai Shitou".
You may go to the top "Dra Ko", 4710m altitude (pos. N29.50071 E101.68278).
A sketch map of this trip,
in Norwegian, is included below, compiled from GPS data. The
start is on the west side, the mountain top northeast. You may
get my waypoint data or a translation by sending mail to me.
From Shangmujč hostel, go along the street up the valley about two kilometers, to the second river bridge (alt. 3700m pos. N29.49078 E101.65224). There, take right turn up a tractor road along the river for 100 meters, then follow the tractor road over the side valley river (left), then a right turn, again left, until just in front of the entrance to a farm house. Then turn right, round the fence (have it on your left hand side) and follow the small visible path up the mountain towards north. Follow this path as far as it gets you, then head up the mountain, mostly on its edge, towards east. You will have to cross some newly planted firs as well as bush, but most of the way is easy. It gets easier farther up. Along the edge, you may find small cairns. From 4300 meter altitude, most of the ground is covered by grass, plus some small juniper and azalea shrubs. Larger cairns are at 4640m, but you should head up to the top at 4710m in order to have a great view round, including to Gonga Shan. Towards southwest, you can see the high mountains at the border to Tibet. The trip up may take you four hours. You may continue from the top northeastwards to Zimei Yakou, that is about 4 km more, some up and down.
Here is a picture with the view from the mountain top towards northwest, beyond Yulongxi. The light area looking like sand is west of the village called Quanhuatan, north of Yulongxi. A mountain river has left terraces covered with colored sand and moss. This are is definitely worth a trip. From that area you may cross over the mountains westwards to ShaDe.
Quanhuatan (Yu ce dong che in Tibetan) in detail: See the picture below. This is a nice area to visit in a less strenuous day trip.
Here is a picture of the valley below the mountain. The slopes are
passable nearly everywhere. In 2016 there was a new tractor road
leading further up the valley.
You may go down the same way from the top, or farther north towards Yulongxi, just heading down the grass slopes, or you go down the same way until a pass at 4300m, then turn left, right down into the next valley to the west. You reach it at about 3900m altitude (pos. N29.48604 E101.67158), where you find some fences to collect animals. Crossing the small river in the valley floor should not be a problem. From here, use a tractor road down the valley until you reach the main road. The trip down takes two hours. (Every valley floor here has some kind of path, either made by animals or by tractors or motorbikes.
There is at least one more day-trip from Shangmujč: From the guesthouse cross the river (just below the guesthouse), then walk up the Yak-path towards southwest until it disappears in the forest. Then scramble up into the forest (dense fir/lark forest), keep right, until you reach the ridge. Then follow the ridge south - southeast as far as you want to (the top is at 4700m). From there, head towards any ridge further east and go down again in a northerly direction. You see the guesthouse or its village from above. You may have to make your way through some thick forest on the way down again, but it is always possible. You end up crossing the river at the same bridge as in the morning.
Links to further information:
Below part of a Chinese
map available at shops in Kangding, with possible trekking
routes inserted by Tom Patton. The trekking route from Yulin
(actually LAOYulin) to Konka Monastery (Gonga Si) is
The map below is a
detailed map sketched by Eduard Imhof from Switzerland after
his Sichuan expedition in 1930. A map of the whole area is
published in his book: Eduard Imhof, "Die Grožen Kalten Berge
von Szetschuan", Orell Fčssli Verlag Zčrich 1974. The map only
contains areas the author has visited or been able to survey.
Place names are phonetically written as the author understood
them in his time, using German language phonetics. For
example, "Zi Mei" is displayed as "Tschčmi". Reddo-main is
Leduomanyin, Bu-dschč-longba is the Tibetan name for Moxigou.
Dashed lines are paths, blue areas were snow-capped in 1931.
Since then, the glaciers have considerably retreated, their
ends often more than 1 km. Magnetic deviation in the area is,
for hiking purposes, zero.
Finally a sketch map by
China Trekking, a travel agency. The names have some
alternative spellings. Gonga Shan mountain is here called
Minya Konka (its Tibetan name). This map shows the trekking
routes from Laoyulin (at the top of the map) to Yulongxi and
For longer trips it is
advisable to use local people who will come with you and offer
pack horses and donkeys. People with animals are available at,
amongst others, LaoYuLin (just south of Kangding, near the top
of the map above (Pos. N29.945168998092413E101.962296478450298,
alt. about 3000m), as well as at
Yulongxi and at Shangmujč. The typical price if you hire
people individually seems to be like this:
- You need to pay a daily amount for their full round trip, including people returning home with the horses. This may be up to 9 days for the trip from LoaYuLin to ShangZimei or Bawang.
- The price per man and the price per horse per day are 60-100 each.
- If you are one or two person(s), you need a man and a horse or two, i.e. typically 240 Yuan per day times 9.
- With three or four people you need a horse-guide and two-three horses, i.e. 240-480 Yuan per day multiplied by 9.
- If you join a larger group going anyway, your share may be less.
In order to go trekking,
you need to bring a tent, a camping stove and fuel, cooking
utensils and food for your whole trip. Your main baggage will
be on a pack horse and you go yourself with only a small
backpack with the stuff you need during the day. The horse
people will typically let you go from the camp sites first,
then pass you about at lunchtime (they walk fast!), and then
wait for you at the final camp site. The horse-pathes are big
enough, so you do not miss them. If your horse-people think
you are tired or you told them so, they will return from the
end of the route or any high point (mountain pass) and offer
you to ride a horse (probably for some extra money). You may
also hire an extra riding horse, but parts of the trail are
too steep for riding anyway.
And please, follow this advice: Take care of all you trash and pack it out of the area! (There are enormous amounts of trash along the path and on the campsites. They are dangerous for the yaks and bad for the environment but unfortunately most Chinese tourists are behaving like pigs).
Here is how you go from
LaoYuLin to Shang Zimei:
Take a taxi from Kangding
to LaoYuLin. This ride will take about 30 minutes and cost,
depending on your negotiation skills, 40 to 60 Yuan. The
street passes the new town of Kangding (you may take the local
bus (number 1 or 2 from Kangding) up here for 1 Yuan, then
change to bus number 6 for another 1 Yuan. Bus number 6 runs
every 40-80 minutes.), then follows the Moxi-road. Most of the
way it is tar or conrete (in very bad shape in 2016). I went
to the last guesthouse in LaoYuLin, just before the end of the
village (position see above). The owner's name sounds like Duo
Ji. See here for more trips you may go
from here. This one is run by nice people, and they have
a hot spring 5 minutes walk down by the river where you can
take a bath. There is a river bridge, so you may also do day
trips on the western side of the valley, towards the mountain
range called Jiuhaizi, if you want to. The people running the
guest house will help you get someone with a horse. They own
12 horses themselves. The people with horses are Tibetans and
absolutely reliable and friendly people. Actually, the people
running this guest house made a sketch map for me, which made
it possible to go up the valley farther than DaCaoBa Camp and
back, for a day trip.
Now, the trekking starts in the morning. They will typically organize a taxi for you so you do not need to walk the first 8 kilometers or so, which are 2 km asphalt/concrete and then gravel road to a dam for a hydropower plant. The people with horses have to go up there anyway. From the dam they pack your stuff. Typically on Day 1 you go up the Riwuqie valley for about 20 km, to a camping site called Xia Ri Wu Qie, 4100m altitude (N29.817870017141104 E101.851108185946941). You have to cross the river three times on bridges. There are no real problems along this route. At the second bridge, after about 12 km, where you have to cross from west to east, you have a path junction (Tibetan name: Am Ba Le). (To the right you have the path to Dzhezi La and Yulongxi. To Yulongxi from here is a two day tour). Crossing the bridge towards left (east) you go towards Gongga Si (the route described here). Towards the end of the day, after crossing the river to the west side again, the path will lead through a lot of rhododendron and juniper shrubs. The camp site is easily visible: The only larger grassy area along the path, just after passing a snow peak called "Xiao Gongga", looking like a steep pyramid.
profile DaCaoBa to Xiariwuqie
Day 2 brings you over Ri Wu Qie Yakou, 4950m altitude (4800m on the map above) into Moxi Gou valley. This day is hard, because of the altitude. You will see the 5928m high mountain called "Xiao Gongga" at the starting camp, then cross a small river. If you ride a horse, you climb further up on the east side of the main river, if on foot, you follow its west bank, until Shang Ri Wu Qie camp site (N29.78969 E101.83356 alt. 4300m). Then the path turns up steeply towards southwest. Many people get problems here because of the thin air. The next two snow-capped mountains you pass are "Jiazi Feng (6540m)" and "Riwuqie Feng (6376m)".
You then pass a glacier (Ledomanyin glacier) with a glacial lake at 4500m. There is no vegetation at the pass. BTW you may drink water from the streams coming down from the mountain sides (NOT from the main valley river!). Well: I take no responsibility if you get sick, but the local people and me used that water without cooking. On the top you may have some snow, but typically not much. After the Riwuqie Yakou pass (N29.77154 E101.80646 alt. 4950m) the path leads steeply down, first in stony and sandy terrain, then on grassy ridges. You may also climb along the ridge from the pass, and you may cross the mountains towards west and end up in the Yulongxi valley, but all this without pathes.At the next camp, far up in the Moxi gou valley (N29.73818 E101.80212, 4300m altitude) you see the 6112m high "Leduomanyin", which is possible to climb in an easy way if the weather is good (You would need an extra day or two, but ice-equipment).
Altitude profile from
Xiariwuqie to Moxigou
Day 3 brings you down Moxi Gou (Tibetan Bu Chč Long Ba). After Leduomanyin (Tibetan: Nan Tou Ze), further south are Daduomanyin (6380m) and Longemanyin (6274m). (The party first ascending Daduomanyin has published a nice map in its report). You will pass a lake where a side valley brought so much gravel that the main river has been blocked. Probably there has been a catastrophic flood once where much of the material from the glacial moraine has been swept down the valley. Then you pass two Tibetan summer houses (N29.69520 E101.77681) before crossing the river to its eastern side (N29.69330 E101.77827). You finally reach a camping site at about 3800m altitude called Mu Chang ("winter pasture" on the map above) (N29.64620 E101.75780). In this area, fir, pine and rhododendron forest starts again. By the way the river crossings are usually on bridges. Someone living on the way will ask a small amount of money for maintaining the bridges. Depending on your walking speed you may go a few more kilometers and camp high above the river in Moxigou.
Day 4 brings you to Gonga
Si monastery (Konka Temple on the map above) (N29.56540
E101.77032). The path leads along the steep valley sides,
mostly in forest, sometimes crossing steep canyons with side
rivers. After meeting with the path from Yulongxi Yakou very
far down it leads upwards through dense forest towards the
monastery. The last kilometer or so follows the main access
path to the monastery from Shang Zimei.
profile from Muchang to 1 km before Gongga Si
Day 5 has a short walk down from the monastery to ShangZimei. If you like so, you may rather go to Xiazimei (N29.51709 E101.77795), stay there for a night, or continue to Bawang Hai, Bawang guest house (N29.44886 E101.88217, alt. 2960m) or Caoke (hot springs). Here is how: From Xiazimei, for lazy people, take a motorbike to Bawang Hai, 10km, 150 Yuan, or Bawang guest house, 16km, 200Yuan, or Caoke, 45 km, the last 30km on a gravel road, 300 Yuan. (Not in 2016 due to road damage). If you are less lazy you may go, and your horse people may follow you with your baggage. You just follow the glacial stream downwards. The river is big, and in June-July, very big. Bawang Hai is a lake. The road is OK for cars and tractors the first 5 km, then it turns into a path, sometimes a road again, but along Bawang Hai it is just a path. The lake is quite romantic, but it is being filled up by glacial deposits in its upper half. After the lake, the path leads another 5 km down the valley, mostly in terrain covered by low trees and shrubs. Then you reach Bawang guesthouse, where the horse people will stop and return. You may stay here for 30 Yuan a night on a dormitory. They also have a small shop. Ba Wang lčdian, fixed network phone +86 835 8896 735.)
At Bawang is a dam for a hydroelectric power station further down the valley. From here you have a 30 km gravel road to CaoKe with accommodation and hot springs. 2 hours more down valley you get to ShiMian (motorway to Chengdu).
There is one problem with such trekking
trips: A lot of waste left along the path. Chinese tourists
going up here are used to throwing away all their rubbish
indiscriminately. At all the nice place there is a lot of trash.
A project initiated by Zhilam
hostel in Kangding will hopefully lead to cleanup here.
Read more on their website and support the project!
But trekking this way is a great experience! The Tibetans having horses are very flexible if you want to stay for extra days at campsites in between, just be aware to specify any longer trip before you start, as you and your horse people need food! There is no mobile phone coverage along the trekking route.
Below is a series of pictures of such a trip from Lao YuLin to Bawang
This is the high mountain
visible towards northeast at the entrance of Riwuqie valley
(Tianhaizi or "Lamo-she"
The pasture called DaCaoBa,
showing a mountain 5400m high further south in Riwuqie valley
Crossing the river from east
to west about a kilometer above DaCaoBa. One horse or donkey
typically takes the baggage of two to four people.
Second river crossing from west to east side. On the west side (background in the picture), the path towards Yulongxi starts out.
This mountain is called "Xiao
Gongga" by the locals (called Tschiburongi by E.Imhof) (Tibetan
Ji bu rong yi gongga). It is visible east of the Riwuqie
valley just before Xiariwuqie camp. Altitude 5928m.
View from Xiariwuqie camp to the granite mountains west of the vally further north, probably about 5500m altitude. A thunderstorm is coming in.
The same mountains just
minutes later. The trail is easily visible, leading through
junipers and rhododendron.
Half a kilometer north of
Xiariwuqie camp. The mountains visible are further south.
Glaciers and moraines from Riwuqie Feng are on the left side of
Xiariwuqie camp at 4100m altitude. The shrubs are juniper and rhododendron. There are not many trees above this place.
The Ledomanyin-glacier south
of ShangRiwuqie at about 4500m altitude. The glacier is
retreating, the lake did not exist some 20 years ago. In 1930,
the left and right glaciers combined and covered the lake. The
mountains behind are about 6000m high.
This picture shows the same scenery in sunny weather
High mountains Near
Shangriwuqie glacier with the moraines visible to the lower
left. (Jiazi Feng 6540m (
29í 47' N; 101í 53' E) (maybe Xiao Gongga) left and Riwuqie Feng
to the right, a nice pyramid-looking top: also called Mt.
Grosvenor 6376m (not in this picture, further below).
Below is Jiazi Feng (left) and
Mount Grosvenor/Riwuqie Feng (right) again.
View from Riwuqie Yakou (pass)
at about 4950m altitude towards Moxigou valley, south.
The highest mountain to the left is Leduomanyin, 6112m. Further away is Daduomanyin (6380m). The visible river is easily crossed if you wear boots.
At Riwuqie pass, view towards
southeast, to Ledomanyin mountain.
Moxigou camp (4300m alt.)
after a nightly snow-fall. Riwuqie pass behind.
Daduomanyin as seen from Moxigou.
This is the place where a
flood must have occurred from the Longemanyin glacier and thus
created a small lake in the Moxigou river.
A Tibetan woman with pack
horses in the dense forest near Gonga Si. The forest is full of
rhododendron trees. However, due to rain the path is awfully
Having a bag outside your baggage is well worth. If you don't have it, your bag will be very dirty after such a day.
One of the Tibetan horse guides. His name is something like "Ming Zu", a reliable and friendly guy based at LaoYuLin.
The picture was taken outside Gonga Si in thick fog before packing the horses. In the background you see lots of prayer flags on the temple wall.
Below is the main river from
Gongga Shan and Moxi Gou and one of the houses in Xiazimei, with
some of the forest. It is here you may start your trip towards
Gongga monastery, and even hire a motorbike for the trip. The
trail is visible to the right. You will not lose it if you walk
Bawang Hai. This is a glacial
river lake and the gray islands are sand banks, visible when the
water is low. The path is on the east (right) side.
It is foggy weather. The mountain sides are about 2000m up above the lake, but not visible this day.
This is Bawang guesthouse, at
the end of the path. The dumped baggage belongs to some Chinese
The tent is erected during high tourist season. For else, they have three dormitory rooms. The path towards Xia Zimei starts at the barrier to the left in the picture.
Flowers at 4000m near Shangmujč. See next picture for details.
Flowers at 4300m altitude near Shangmujč. The violet flowers are rhododendron (r. lapponica), which has flowers in April/May, and, in this picture, in October.
The blue ones are gentian. The white ones are called (in German) "Edelweiss" and both are protected in the European Alps.
All these flowers are abundant in the whole area described here. The same vegetation you will find near the glacier lake at Yajiageng.
From Laoyulin guesthouse or Kangding, get a local minibus to
drive you up the road towards Moxi. It meanders up the valley
to a mountain pass, with mobile telephone towers, at about
4000m altitude. At this place you leave the taxi and you are
in the middle of high mountains with many things to do. From
the mobile tower there is a gravel road up another two
kilometers and about 100 meters altitude to a glacier lake
below the two 6000m-mountans Baihaizi and Tianhaizi. Between
these two is a small glacier. If you have a tent, food and
cooking equipment you may be there for days. The lower
mountain tops, around 5000 meters altitude, are all relatively
easy to hike to. There are nice and flat places to pitch a
tent near the glacier lake. The whole area is covered by
phaeochysum, and at least three species of small leaved
variants and at least two more with larger leaves. The Yak
grazing here have made many small pathes through the area,
thus it is easy to get up to the mountains.
The area at the glacier lake is designated as "outdoor sports
area" which means there may be many Chinese people at holiday
times. When I was there in the middle of October I met nobody.
Strangely there is nobody to ask you for an entrance fee.
You may hike straight up the valley along a Yak-path first,
then a small man-made track with small cairns. At about 4400m
altitude you meet a huge moraine, go up its left side,
along a very small path, then follow its northern side.
You may go all the way to 5000m, to what little remains of the
glacier. This is a great day-trip. Towards southwet you see
the big mountains allong Riwuqie valley.
Getting down from Yajiageng again is easy. You can walk down
to Laoyulin in 4 hours, more or less following the road. You
may use some shortcuts, mostly by following old tractor or
animal paths along the power lines. Walking along the road a
car driving down would stop now and then and all drivers asked
me if they could drive me down. But in 2017 they are repairing
the road, and any attempt to walk here will be a very dusty
I did not check out how to get to Moxi, but car traffic
during daytime seems to be good enough to give you a chance to
get a ride.
Caution: At this altitude, sun protection factor 30 is barely
enough, and using sunglasses or glacier glasses to protect
your eyes is advisable.
This is a picture of the glacier lake at 4100m
and Baihaizi to the left, Tianhaizi
(5924m) to the right. (N29.91396 E102.00854)
Here is a picture taken at about 4800m
altitude below the little glacier that remains between these
two mountains. The big glacier has disappeared.
Hailuogou (translated in Chinese material to "conch gorge")
is a gorge from Moxi westwards to Gongga shan. Moxi town is
easily reachable from Luding by minibus (20-25 Yuan). The ride
takes little more than an hour. Moxi is at 2000 meters
altitude and lies on a moraine between two rivers that slowly
eat into the landscape. There are many hotels. A good one with
very service-minded people is Maxi Jinshan hongshi binguan.
You find it at www.booking.com. Hailuogou is a National park
and as such full of Chinese tourist. You also pay an entrance
fee (day fee 92 RMB in 2015, half price if you are at least
60). The only way to get up Hailuogou is on foot (not nice,
along a concrete road), bicycle (good luck driving up 1600
meters altitude) or by the National Park bus. The latter ones
run every few minutes in day time and stops at every major
sight. There are three hotels along the way, open during
tourist season. They are called Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3. There
are warm springs near Camp 2. Camp 3 is at 2900 meters. The
bus runs another 4 km up the mountain to a cable car station,
about 3100 meters high. The cable car costs 150 Yuan (in 2015
and 16) and brings you up to 3400 m where you can see the
great icefall of the Hailuogou glacier and Gongga Shan behind,
if there is no fog. The other alternative is walking up wooden
stairs from the end stop of the bus to a platform and cafÄ at
about 3300 m and see the glacier from there (picture below).
Stairs even lead down to the glacier (blocked by landslide in
2016). Landscape here is unstable and the path was destroyed
partially by heavy floods and avalanches in 2015. You may even
enter the glacier, but it is covered by gravel and stones.
The Hailuogou glacier is nearly 15 km long and officially ends at 2850 meters altitude. However, most of it below 3000m is so heavily covered by stone, sand and gravel that the ice is invisible. As most glaciers in the world, this one is retreating. A 2008-report states: "Data indicate that the glacier has retreated 1 822 m in the past 106 years, with an annual mean retreat of 17.2 m, and the front elevation has risen by 300 m since 1823".
The forest is wild and mostly untouched, with a lot of
rododendron species (the biggest ones at 2800m being
rhododendron decorum, watsonii and calophytum
with white flowers). Wild monkeys can be seen. Near Camp 3
there are several footpathes you may follow.
This is Hailuogou glacier with the cableway to
the left and its high station (3400m) in the distance just
below the clouds.
This is the Hailuogou icefall with Gongga Shan
behind, in 2016. Very little ice is actually arriving at the
bottom of the icefall.
This is Hailuogou valley with fog, as seen
from 3300m altitude