Skate to the Glacier route, Spring 2012, 950Km
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- aclimatizing at 2000m (5/10/2012)
evening, yesterday i arrived in shaxi, after a long day on the busses. i decided to give myself five days rest to acclimatize to the altitude, and i rather spend the extra time in a quiet village than in kunming city or the tourist charade of dali. i’ll skip dali altogether this trip and came direct from kunming to shaxi. one four-hour bus ride to xiaoguan, a motor-rickshaw to the next bus station, a bowl of noodles, another four hours in a smaller bus to jianchuang, then immediately after, into a packed minibus, i arrived after about 40 minutes in shaxi. exhausting, but worth it; i thing my back hurts more after a day sitting on a bus seat than a day skating with a backpack. that is if i remember correctly, how much the pack troubles the shoulders after a day’s skate. that memory will be refreshed soon enough.
this morning out in the fields in the rising sunshine, dark earth caking my shoes, i visited some farmers carrying water to the fields and others, gathering up juvenile rice plants in bundles, to plant in the paddy elsewhere. white wild roses in full bloom, golden rays of sunshine coating the landscape, and the mountains watching all from the east and west, 1500m above toiling villagers and wandering travellers; this isnt quite remote, but it sure is a long way from the city. overall, well worth yesterday’s long haul, to be able to wake up in shaxi.
on the road over the mountains from jianchuang, i scoped out the route i planned to skate, and the minibus followed the awesome mountain road i skated twice last year. measured by the kilometer markers on the roadside, its a good 8km uphill from shaxi, and an awesome 12km downhill back to the crossroads, where i head on towards the yangtze river. i realized that is going to be a hardcore first day out, the very first leg several hours of extremely steep mountain road up! but i would like to set out from shaxi on my skate, and return to shaxi from the other direction, so that’s how it is.
this afternoon i skated 6km up that road and back, got winded awfully soon on the first ascent, and burned up my left shoe footbrakeing on the way down. but i went halfway up the mountain with a couple of short breaks, and felt pretty good after that. on the way down i practiced pendy slides, which i still cant do very well, it always turns into a frontside shutdown slide or with me highsiding on the backside. that’s not on with a backpack though, so footbrakeing it is.
tomorrow i must search the village for a shoe repair guy, an auto workshop, or a tyre dealer, and sort myself some kind of strap-on brake pad. i’ll eventually wear down my shoes, but i ought to prolong that. without my sail in action, my soles wont last long with me dragging them to the bottom of the mountain. the downhill here is always extremely steep, its rediculously fast, and of course, exhileratingly fun. i’m getting stoked to set out after tomorrow!
- stage 1，yangtze river (5/17/2012)
the first day and a half, my road was quite bad, for skating. for trucks and minivans quite ok, and there were a lot of those. after the initial climb out of the shaxi valley, i skated all afternoon in a light drizzle. not enough rain to get me soaked, but enough to make the road slick. i camped out at the edge of a field
and was on the road again early, skating up up to the junction of the lijiang road. from there, it was an awesome downhill to the yangtze river, a brown, swiftly flowing snake of river slithering along a flatland between higher ranges, though not quite high mountains. i averaged 50km the first two days, then it seems i found my stride, and after camping the second night directly beside the river, i continued along the flats.
the road did roll up and down the edge of the mountains, following the river west, but i kept on at a good clip. day four was also more mountainous, but with equal uphills ands downhills, passing into the tibetain areas in the afternoon. this was clear from the architectures, the people, different from the flat along the river.
suprising myself, i made it to the bridge where i would cross over the yangtze and head up into the high mountains. that day i skated 70km and spent the night in a nice lodge at the top of the bridge. next morning, well rested, shaved and fed (on oats with milk and nescafe) i skated my base 50km, to the start of the first real climb of this trip. after a break, i charged on up, pushing, pushing, and in some spots walking it was so steep. up, up out of the gorge, i passed the 3000m mark i would guess, in the early evening.
all the villagers i asked on the way laughed at me, that i was afraid, when i asked about bears in the area. they said, only in the high forests…which incedentally i was passing through at dusk. the road went through really steep gorges, with no flat spot to camp to be seen, except for in thicket beside a running stream. as per bear-protection advice, not a good spot.
sketching out a bit, i kept it up, and was rewarded almost at nightfall, as i rounded one bend 21km up the mountain, finding a little rest area restaurant majong camp, with little cabins. awesome! lucky! and the folks there fed me and quartered me in one of the little cabins, and laughed i should fear the bears. there are no bears in these parts.
in the night, i heard the wolves howling, which made the dogs in the yard go crazy barking and charging on their chains. so, no bears, but aparantly wolves. not so many, jusrt a small pack, by the sounds of them, with a higher pitched wail than north american wolves, a bit more like coyote, but with the same, forlorn, creepy “i’m gonna eat you, skater” feel, i was so glad to be in a cabin!
next day, i skated to the crossroads, another 5km straight up, and arrived less winded than i expected i would. this was my break spot, from here i caught a ride to shangrila, where i will rest for two nights. i need to get off the board and chill some, before heading back out to the crossroads to continue my journey on the skate.
here in shangrila (zhong dian) i was met by friends of friends, who stashed me in their guesthouse, and graciously allowed me to write a bit online. i await the use of the washing machine, oh, fresh socks and undies! strangely excited for that.
in the piazza, waiting for my friends, i met a couple of vermont guys, on their way back to beijing. i asked had they seen any camping gear store, where i might find some light sweater, as its a bit colder than i thought it would be at night. one guy, who also lives in beijing, and knew of penghao theatre, offered to loan me his down jacket, which stuffs down to a tiny package. incidentally, a patagonia nano puff jacket, exactly the thing i thought i might acquire before my trek, but funds prohibited. crazy cool, i’ll return it to him when back in beijing, and he was stoked, to art once have a bit more room in his backpack. am very thankful for that, and find it funny, how always i am reminded, so small the world is, that neighbors meet, far from home.
- stage 2 baima xueshan white horse snow mountain (5/24/2012)
ok I made I within sight of the glacier, but only after an ordeal of a mountain, the white horse snow mountain. I caught a ride from zhongdian (so-called shangrila) with a monk in a minivan blasting pseudoelectro Chinese pop music, back to the crossroads.
from there it was an hour or so up and around the bend, then an awesome 40+ km downhill, meeting up with the yangtze river again in the early evening, followed by a leisurely kind of uphill to the village of benzilan. it’s always cool when I ask where I am and find I have skated further than I thought!
overnight in an ok hotel, and the beginning of a 2 day climb, 60km from 2000m to 4500! heavy duty, but the difficult part was that the road is halfway under construction, wih long stretches of dusty gritty stony dirt road full of diggers and trucks at work. basically, it sucked walking my board through a construction site for hours, skating for 20 minutes, then hiking through the dirt again. I broke down and took two rides through the worst of it, about 4km I didn’t actually skate. kind of a letdown as I had wanted to do it all on my own power, but enough was enough!
back on the blacktop, I was in a private bliss again, pushing up through beautiful forests, the rhododendron are flowering now, throwing splashes of fuschia and rose pink upon the oaks and evergreens. simply awesome, even tired as I was from incessant climbing.
I camped above the road looking across to the first snowy peaks leading up to the white horse snow mountain, really sleeping well regardless of the wolves howling in the distance and the dangling bells and munch munch clatter of herds of yak roaming about. yet the presence of free range yak eased my concerns of free ranging bears, as villagers don’t let stock roam if they know of the existence of bears in the neighborhood. anyway I hun my food from a tree 30m disant and off wind from my camp, and I didn’t leave the tent without the bearspray clipped on my pants. call me over cautious but I have had a bit to do with bears in the states, and they make me uneasy.
well, no fending off of bears to report, just another 25km climb the next morning, finally reaching the first pass of 3 above 4200m around mid afternoon.
I spent some time oggling the snow and ice and stone rising up into the sky, stopping at each pass for a breather. the air so thin up there, taking a breather is something of a misnomer.
at the last pass I took dandan’s advice and camped. I worked so hard to get up there, maybe I didn’t want to fly down so quickly. too true, and I met some medicine fungus collectors up there, who fed me rice pork and veggies in their hut, and laughed and ogled themselves as I set up my tent behind their place, surrounded by thousands of praying, fluttering flags.
dawn, and orange sunshine washed over, quickly overcome by rolling banks of fog which smothered everything but the fluttering of he prayer flags untill at least 10. I crawled back into my tent till it warmed up…
downhill, downhill, a little bit uphill, and down again to Deqin. I ran out of food and water abou 2km from the town, not bad for the planning.
restocked in Deqin, overnighted in a tiny village (that’s another story/post) and I was on my way again his afternoon.
10km only, to feilai, where u checked into the first pleasant looking guesthouse with a rooftop room, 30kuai only.
from here I can see the glacier…
come a long way, baby!
this morning heading down down the switchbacks, then I am hiking up to he town, to the ice, and beyond to the lotus temple.
- halfway! mingyong glacier (5/27/2012)
halfway! after an afternoon and a night, a morning viewing the ice floe, listening to the BOOM! and crackle of the ice, watching great blocks of ice break off of the mass and tumble down, carrying boulders and rubble down the slope with a great loud roar…after dinner with gezhen doje, the one monk at the lotus temple, camping, watching the sun rise orange and pink on the ice…i am heading home…but not before i visit the hot springs on the other side of the mountain…first ice, then hot water.