Haba Xue shan (Haba Snow Mountain ) 5396 m stands in Yunnan Province in Southern China East Himalaya region 120 kilometers to the southeast of the Zhongdian county and approximately 100 km north of Lijiang.
The famous Hu Tiao Cha (Tiger Leaping Gorges) are located between the Haba Snow Mountain and the Yulong Snow Mountain. The vertical drop is 3800 m from the top of Yulong to the bottom of the gorges making it close to twice as high as the grand canyon....a very impressive sight!
"Haba" means golden flower in Naxi language. Legend has it that Haba Snow Mountain and the Yulong Snow Mountain are two brothers, the Jinsha River is flowing between them, thus forming the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
The normal route to Haba Xue Shan starts from Haba village ( Haba Cen) located at 2700 m about an hour drive after the exit of the Tiger leaping gorges on the way to Zhongdian.
The nearest airport is Lijiang and most flights to Lijiang are starting from Kunming which has an international airport and frequent flights from major Chinese cities such as Shanghai Beijing etc...
It takes approximately 5 hours to reach Haba village from Lijiang. The road goes to the village of Qiaoto then through the Tiger leaping gorges ( fantastic views!) before reaching Haba village. If you have a bit more time, there is a nice two-day hike going from Qiaoto to the end of the gorges where you can spend a night in one of the Naxi villages on the way and then get transportation to Haba Cen.
It is important to get some information in Lijiang on road conditions before embarking on the trip as the road is frequently cut in the gorges by massive landslides. The road gets repaired usually quite fast by the locals but it is advisable to rent a 4W drive vehicle if a landslide just took place as some section of the roads are becoming impassable with a normal vehicle.
If the road is cut then getting to Haba village can become a bit more challenging as you have to reach the village through Zhongdian which creates a very long detour (9 h from Lijiang!) or you need to reach from Lijiang the village located at the end of the gorges (downstream of the landslides area), then walk down to the river to cross it on a boat and walk up to the road on the other side to find transportation to Haba village.....
There is a fee to pay to go through the gorges and another one to enter the area of Haba Village which is a nature reserve. The fee is 50 yuan per person for each of them.
Here is a typical Itinerary for the Haba Shan climb including some acclimatization time. This is the route our party followed:
Timing: 29 September to October 3, 2007
Team members: Benoit Le Chatelier, Thomas Rechatin, Pascal Rechatin
Day 1: Arrive in Lijiang (2400 m)and spend the night there. Lijiang is becoming very touristic ( although still very nicely preserved) so there is a multitude of hotels to chose from.
Day 2: Drive to Haba Cen (2700m) in 5 hours. Night in Haba Cen. There are a couple of hotels located on the main road or some of the villagers can offer a room for the night. The typical price is in the range of 60 to 100 RMB per night per person. The path to the base camp is quite confusing to find and unmarked so it is recommended to get a guide in the village (100 RMB per day) you can also easily get horses to carry your bags (80 RMB per day per horse)
Day 3: Hike to base camp. Base camp altitude indications vary depending on whom you ask but we found it to be at about 4150 m so this is a rather long day and the path can get very muddy. Use good waterproof boots. The walk will take 4-6 hours and is mostly through the beautiful Yunnan forest apart from three meadows that you will cross on the way.
Day 4: We spent the day to acclimatize in the base camp. Some Chinese climbers and web sites are recommending Camp 1 at 4900 m just before getting on the glacier ( a small pond/lake is located there) but it seems most people do the climb in one day up and down from base camp. This seems to be the best solution especially if you can spend one day to acclimatize in base camp. There is a nice 4 h walk going to black lake and back from base camp if you chose this option.
Day 5: The Haba Shan climb is not difficult but requires the use of crampons for the last 500 m climb on the glacier. The glacier has only a few crevasses and the slope does not exceed 40 degrees but a rope is still recommended for the upper part. The only section that requires some precaution is the ridge between the two summits especially by foggy weather as there can be some cornices and the drop on the other side is vertical. As Haba Shan is one of the first relatively high mountains in China coming from the south it is quite exposed to very high winds and one accident already happened on the summit ridge for that reason.
The ascent from base camp to summit will take 5 to 7 hours. People typically leave Base camp around 3-4 am. It is recommended to recognize the area on the previous day. You can find a small path between the two huts at the base camp (to the left of yellow lake)that goes down around a small water pond and then crosses the river about 100 m further (5' from base camp). Go up on moraine debris on the way to the large grey slab that has been left by the latest glacier retreat.
After 45-60 mn you will reach this huge grey slab very visible from the base camp. Go up directly on the grey slab, from the base camp this slab looks a lot steeper than it actually is and the rock has excellent adherence even when wet. Approximately 60-90 mn later you will reach a plateau before more morainic debris on which a path becomes again visible. It seems the glacier has retreated in multiple steps leaving several zones of moraine.
Follow the path up the 2nd moraine and you will reach another grey slab just before the glacier where you can put the crampons on. Note the place for camp 1 if you want to use one is situated just before this second grey slab near a small pond (water available) 60-90 mn. On the glacier climb directly the slope directly above the 2nd grey slab until you reach the area just below the lower summit of Haba Shan. You will then follow the ridge ( watch out for wind and cornices) that is presenting a characteristic and beautiful curve in this area to the main summit that can be reached about 30 mn 60 mn later. Total 5-7 hours
The descent uses the same itinerary (2-3 hours). It is possible to go down the same day to Haba Cen but most people spend one additional night at base camp and go down on the following day
A new hut has recently been added to the 'historical one' these huts are still pretty basic with sod floor and open walls on the outside but the largest and most recent one can offer shelter to about 30 people while the oldest one is much smaller ( 8 max). Sleeping in the hut is on a wooden plank and acceptable although it seems most people still prefer the camping solution.
The base camp is located at the edge of the forest so ample wood supply is available and a very clean river stream flows nearby. Two hut guardians are now staying at base camp and can provide basic cooking and even some drinks ( coke etc...) The charge for one night in the large hut is 15 Yuan. Camping at base camp is comfortable and free in a very nice setting plus you can take advantage of some of the hut facilities. In rainy weather, however, the ground becomes very wet and it is difficult to keep the tents dry.
Camp1 is located just before the 2nd grey slab at about 4900 m. We did not stay there but from what we could observe it seems quite unconfortable due to the very rocky and uneven surface. A small pond nearby provides water.
Here are links to several Chinese web sites providing more information on Haba Shan and the attractive region around the mountain. Some are in egnlish and some in Chinese.
One tip if you do not read Chinese and still want to get some information on Chinese sites: use the automatic translator from Google. They have a pretty decent ( and free!) beta version from Chinese to English. You will not get very well worded translations but this is good enough to collect good climbing routes information. The other alternative....get a Chinese friend!
Google automatic translator
Pictures from Haba Shan climb. English text climb
China highlights web site in english general information on Haba Shan
Iguide web site in english general information on Haba Shan and Haba Cen
More pictures from Haba Shan climb from Shangri La adventure. In english
Chinese web site with maps of the Haba Shan area. In chinese
Very complete description of various routes on Haba Shan.In chinese