Pools and Peaks

Trip Start May 04, 2011
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Trip End Oct 08, 2012


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What I did
Hiked to the three pools

Flag of China  , Gansu,
Saturday, September 17, 2011

After learning of Yading Park home of home of three sacred Tibetan mountains - Chenresig (Avalokitesvara,6032m), Jambeyang (Manjusri, 5958m), and Chanadorje (Vajrapani, 5958m), I made a point to take the extra days and take a side trip trekking the park with Kevin and Tina. However, on typical Tibetan time our 8:30AM pick up became 9:00AM with a half hour stop at some local shop to load up with boxes to transport elsewhere, but not before stopping for gas. Meanwhile, we finally hit the road passing local villages and miles and miles of green valley.  Oddly enough the road weaved in and out of paved and unpaved. When I mentioned this peculiarity to Kevin, he suggested it might be dependent on the wealth of the corresponding village; which would mean that the government only subsidizes the roads here. Regardless, the inconsistent road combined with our driver's inability to multi-task, along with stopping to socialize with his buddies in the other vans made for a frustrating journey.

The system is set up so that you first purchase the entrance ticket at a stop five miles outside the park, then you present the ticket at a gate which sits another few miles before the village and even five miles or so away from where the trailhead begins. Tina and I entered the office where I paid my 150 Yuan while Tina pulled out her old Chinese student ID for half the price. Meanwhile I didn’t realize that she didn’t also buy a ticket for Kevin until we were back in the car and Kevin had moved to the back seat. I thought that seemed odd, since as a couple they have been very lovely dove. Well it all made sense when Kevin laid down on the backseat with jackets and bags piled onto him as a way to avoid paying the entrance fee when we passed the check point. I guess he worked it out to pay off the driver for this maneuver but I was feeling a bit like a pawn in this transaction, because without my full price ticket the security probably would’ve done a more thorough check of the car. It was becoming clear that I was struggling with accepting the Tibetan way vs. my American standards but at this point not even the gorgeous glacier in the distance could soothe my nerves.

It wasn’t until I bid good ridden to the driver and started on the trek that I could take in the beauty around me. Tina and Kevin opted to join a local Tibetan girl for lunch but I bumped into them a few times in route. From the entrance to the first view is 2km.  Unlike the Chinese tourist lined up for a horse to take them through the muddy incline I walked among the horse manure at a decent clip. Although the altitude did have an effect as I was breathing really hard.

The white glacier of Mt. Chenresig against the blue sky was stunning. Along the path before reaching the Gonga temple I came across the Mani Stones, symbolic rock piles all in honor of Buddha. There were prayer flags hanging everywhere strung across the wood platform that guides you to the grasslands or lake depending on your course. I proceeded to find the unbeaten path running parallel to the manicured stairs taking in the nature and awe of of the mountains in front of me. I finally arrived at Pearl Lake which stands at 12,300 ft. feeling the intensity of the sun. Here I took a nice long rest while participating in a photography session with a Chinese tour group. One man complimented me on how strong I am as he admired my steady pace.

By 5:00PM I was back down at the base and making arrangements to change hostels to stay with Sophy, an Israeli girl I met up at the lake who was equally thrilled to find another fluent English speaker. We bunked together after feasting with the group of Chinese hikers that she had met that morning in Daocheng.

The hostel we were staying in was basically a Tibetan house and if I tell you the only way we had light was by connecting the bulb to a live socket that was all wired together with the rest of the house. I don’t know why I bothered bringing a towel or change of clothes with me on this overnight excursion, there wasn’t even a shower.

The next morning we started out at 7:30AM as planned even though we weren’t quite sure that we would get a ride because the owner of the hostel doesn’t own a car. But it all worked out and we made it to the electric car by 9:00AM after doing the "shitty" walk, all pun intended as it’s the same train that the horses take. If I had a penny for each time one of the local workers said their version of “Hallo, welcome to Yading,” I would’ve traveled all of China for free.

The 80RMB was the best 80RMB I spent; it saved us 1.5hr each way when we had still another six hours of hiking ahead of us. When I wasn’t in awe of how slowly I was moving due to the thin air, I kept thanking God that it wasn’t raining because the path was basically thick mud.  Finally after two hours of walking higher and higher towards the mountain range, passing a few stones houses and lots of random prayer flags, we reached Milk Lake. A mirage looking milky blue lake was a nice reward for all the hiking but in the exposed valley it was definitely colder. We knew there was another Five Color Lake nearby and after asking some other Chinese tourists that spoke English we took their direction and continued walking toward the snowcapped peak of Jambeyang across unmarked fields. It seemed odd after an hour of walking towards nowhere where the trail would often disappear.

As 3:00PM approached Sophy and I agreed it was best to turn around. We headed back down the hill defeated but more interested in not missing the bus. The Chinese finally caught up with us still convinced that up was the direction to the other pool but Sophy and I used our better judgment and proceeded back down. Of course the Five Color Lake stood only 20 minutes up from the Milk Lake, although you’d never know if you didn’t ask because there was no sign posted. I think the lake would be more impressive if the sun was shining but with the clouds lingering it was more of a disappointment and warranted only a quick photo and a place to catch our breath.

The walk back down to the start was a breeze compared to the uphill, other than dodging the horse dung. Without a set ride back to Daocheng I was left to find a lift. In the end I hitched a ride with some wealthy Chinese tourists who mission was to break record time. Holding on for dear life as we took the curves at 60kmph we indeed made it back to Daocheng just shy of two hours. I got a chance to witness the local dancing in the square before settling in at the Mama’s hostel. 
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