Hiking around Gongga Shan (贡噶山 ) / Minya Konka

Report by Hans Schaefer, November 2011, with updates until April 2017.
This report covers different hiking routes around Kangding, Moxi and Gongga Shan (Tibetan: Minya Konka), from east, west and north.

The Minya Konka 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, and maps and information are not easy to get. Below is a contribution towards more information.


A remark before anything else: TRASH

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!

Hiking day trips from Kangding (Tibetan: Da Jin Du)

Kangding is the capital of the whole area. There are many hotels, no problem to find a place. But one place is outstanding: Zhilam hostel (binguan). It is run by two americans and their Chinese / Tibetan employees, all English speaking. There are cheap dormitories and more expensive hotel rooms. The good things are:
- the staff speaks English
- all information brochures are in English
- everything works (toilets, warm and cold water, guest kitchen, electric stuff)
- service (they get you taxis, guides, bus tickets, ...)
- wifi
- the possibility to rent all equipment you need for trekking
- they have an excellent guide for trekking: Pachu.

Getting to Kangding: Take the bus from Chengdu, either through Ya'an or through Shimian. A railway and a motorway are planned but will probably not be completed before 2020.  Map see here. From Chengdu, Xin Nan Men bus station, there are many buses throughout the morning. They use 7 to 12 hours, depending on traffic, especially on the G318 Chengdu to Tibet highway. From Chengdu's Shi Yang Chang bus station, there are buses all day long to Shimian, they use the motorway and reliably run less than four hours. The last bus leaves Shimian towards Kangding at 14:40, using four hours. (The route through Shimian is best back to Chengdu).

I have verified the following five hiking routes:
1 - Paoma Shan: The monastery on the mountain is 2800m high and can be reached by cable car (70 Yuan tour/retour) or walking different  pathes or the road. There is an unofficial path leading up the mountain. From the horse-racing area at the temple, take  the southern stairs up towards the highest (golden looking) temple. 20m altitude before the third pavillion you find a small path going 45 degrees to the right (in rainy weather often having water). Follow it through the forest. It leads first past the power line, then leaves the drinking water pipe at 3000m and leads all the way up to 4000m alltitude. At the tree line, 3500m, you have an enormous view. The path was, in 2016, partially cleared and is easy to follow. About 50 meters altitude above the high voltage power line you can also follow the water pipe, more or less horizontally, into the valley toward south. The water pipe has been dug down and the area refilled, so the walk is ieasy. You may find rhododendron with flowers along the water pipe.
2 - Next mountain south of Paoma Shan: Follow the road towardss Paoma Shan until its first switchback. Turn right on a concrete bridge crossing the river. Follow the path about 500m up to a graveyard. Where the path turns flat, turn 90 degrees left and follow a path up the mountain. This path will lead you up in deep forest until 3800m, then above the forest in grazing areas to the top. It should be possible to follow the ridge all the way to Laoyulin (not verified). Here is a photo taken from the top of this mountain. Guodashan is on the right, and the valley towards Erdaoqiao and Mugecuo in the middle.
        fra fjell s┐r for
        Kangding

3 - Julian Shan: The mountain behind Zhilam hostel. Ask them for a map. There are several ways up an down. The most direct way up has been equipped with signs by Zhilam hostel staff. An easy  hike up to 3300m, to some grassland and shepherd's hut, but you may continue to 4000.
4 - The mountain northeast of Julian shan: Follow a tractor road up the valley east of Julian Shan. At the uppermost farmhouse cross the river and follow a horse-track up to the big electric power line. You may go up the ridge to 3000m, you may have a look a grazing Yaks and pigs. Heading down east you  find a path back towards Kangding (heading south). A short trip, but good for acclimatization.
5 - GuoDa Shan: Walk up the old mine road from Erdaoqiao. At the end you find a tunnel through the mountain. On the east side go up to the top. This trip is strenuous and should only  be done when you are acclimatized to altitude.
There are many more possibilities. Kangding has about 100.000 inhabitants. Sports shops sell nearly everything you need for trekking, mountain hiking and easy climbing. Supermarkets sell good enough food for mountain use. There is even an airport, but I do not find it advisable to fly directly to 4200m altitude if your home is low.
You may also go to Mugecuo, even if it is a "tourist machine". But walking down from Mugecuo lake along the river (7 km) is a nice experience. You might do this in bad weather. An excellent and safe taxi driver will bring you there and back for 200 Yuan. Phone or SMS 187 8365 1112.

Trips near Shangmujč

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.

Accommodation is in two-bed rooms with clean blankets. The rooms are not warmed up, thus cold in winter, but the blankets are more than warm enough. There is electricity and electric blankets. In 2011, they had just installed the first solar warming for warm water, as well as showers. I was the first guest to use this, and it worked well, but only after sunny days! They made breakfast and dinner for me, and even provided some food for the day trips, and the cost was 70 Yuan per day in 2017, probably far below the real value. I also left my valuable with them when going to trips for several days, and the reliably kept everything well. There is a small shop at the hotel, run by a nieghbor. The guesthouse people will ask them to open when you need to buy stuff.

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).

 Getting to Gonnga Si (Gogga Gompa, Gongga monastery) from Shangmujč

About 6 km above the guesthouse at Shangmujč (alt 3794m, pos. N29.52280 E101.66135), a road starts up the mountains to Zimei Yakou,  (子梅山垭口), 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.

 
Map Shangmuju
            to Zimei Yakou norwegian GPS

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).

Gongga shan seen from Zimei
            Yakou

 
To get to Gongga Si (
贡嘎寺), the monastery below Gonga 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 sometimes steep).

The path on the way to gongga si


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.
Gongga shan
            in the morning


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.

Gongga basecamp area

The river did not have water in April 2017.

Gongga Shan west side

This picture show the west side of Gongga Shan with what remains of the Xiao Gongba glacier. Below the ice, there is gravel. However, ice may be below! (At the bottom of the picture).

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 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 valley.

From Gonga Si towards Gongga
            shan glacier


Below are two more pictures, of the left (small) and right (larger) glaciers. (Xiaogongba and Dagongba glaciers). (The valley of Dagoongba glaciers is, in Tibetan, called Nyambo). Both 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.


smaller glacier   bigger west
            glacier

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.

Shangmujč

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.

shangmuju hostel sign

A trip towards northwest from Shangmujč

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".

Bai Shi Tou

A trip towards northeast from Shangmujč


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.

DraKo map
            norwegian from GPS


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.

mountains west of Yulongxi


Quanhuatan (Yu ce dong che in Tibetan) in detail: See the picture below. This is a nice area to visit in a less strenouous day trip.

sinter terrasser 


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.

Here is a picture of the valley below the mountain. The slopes are passable nearly everywhere. In 2016 there was a tractor road leading further up the valley.


  valley floor
            northeast of Shangmuju

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:

A report from September 1995, going to Gonga Si from Kangding by horse.

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 described below.

Kangding area
            map


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.


                                                    Imhof map
            1930

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 Gonga monastery.

Map by China
            Trekking

Trekking with pack horses Laoyulin to Gongga Si

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 "Xia Gongga", looking like a steep pyramid.

Altitude 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.


Altitude profile from Moxigou to Muchang

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.

Altitude 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 n
ight 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" 5924m).

Riwuqie gou ne

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 the valley.



Xiariwuqie camp at 4100m altitude. The shrubs are juniper and rhododendron. There are not many trees above this place.

Xiariwuqie


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
Ledomanyin are 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.
Riwuqie Feng and Mount Grosvenor

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.
Snow in Moxigou

Daduomanyin as seen from Moxigou.

Ledomanyin

This is the place where a flood must have occurred from the Longemanyin glacier and thus created a small lake in the Moxigou river.
below Longemanyin in Moxigou valley

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 wet.
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.

horse in the forest


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.

Guide with horse


Below is Shangzimei with morning fog.


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 along it.
xiazimei


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.Bawang Hai

This is Bawang guesthouse, at the end of the path. The dumped baggage belongs to some Chinese tourists.
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.
bawang ludian


Flowers at 4000m near Shangmujč. See next picture for details.

flowers


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.

rhododendron


Hiking from Yajiageng (4000m)

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 rododendron 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 affair.

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)
Baihaizi

Here is a picture taken at about 4800m altitude below the little glacier that remains between these two mountains. The big glacier has disappeared.
Yajiageng upper level


Trips to Hailuogou

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".


Here is a report by Sean Gallagher about glacier retreat with photos from this glacier.
Here is a summary of the Hailuogou glacier shrinking, with photos, from 2011.

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.
Hailuogou glacier

This is the Hailuogou icefall with Gongga Shan behind, in 2016. Very little ice is actually arriving below the icefall.
Hailugou glacier icefall

This is Hailuogou valley with fog, as seen from 3300m altitude
Hailuogou

Trips to Yanzigou

Yanzigou (translated in Chinese material to "swallow gorge") is a gorge 10km north of Moxi westwards into the Gongga shan area. It is a less known National park and has less tourist. You also pay an entrance fee (day fee 60 RMB in 2016, half price if you are at least 60). The only way to get up Yanzigou is by the National Park bus. The latter ones run every half hours or so in day time and stops at every major sight. There is a hotel along the way, at about 2500m altitude. The bus runs another 4 km up the mountain until the road is blocked (flood damage), about 2600 meters high. There are some pathes here to have a walk, a lot of rhododendron and red stones (some algae make them red). Its main sight (according to marketing) are the red stones. However, such red stones can also be seen in Riwuqie valley, Hailuogou, and probably other places.
It is worth going here for a day, especially on a bad weather day. There are lots of big-leafed rhododendron.
The National Park employees don't like to see you walking down the road, however. They want you to take the bus.

If you have questions or additional information, please contact me: hans.schaefer (at) ieee.org. But please allow some time. I am not reading mail every day.