First time in Asia - red tape for mountaineering???

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First time in Asia - red tape for mountaineering???

by Kota506 » Mon Feb 15, 2016 3:24 pm


Myself and a friend are planning a central Asia trip this summer (first time in the greater ranges) to climb some 5000-6000m (ish) peaks. We were looking at Pakistan, China (Sichuan) and Tajikistan; not mad keen on Kyrgyzstan (despite lack of red tape) because teams have been there from our mountaineering club a few times before now and we want to go someplace different! We're open to other suggestions for countries but these are just the ones that we've considered so far. As students, we're skint and certainly don't want to hire guides or liaison officers to go climbing. My assessment of things so far:

Pakistan: Loads of big peaks, nice scenery, mostly stable and safe (from what I've heard, just stay away from borders and Karachi). Fees and requirements (eg liaison officer) vary for different regions, current status unknown
Tajikistan: Relatively unfrequented, don't know much about it except there's a lot of mountains and some should be climbable, but probably long approaches. Some fees, visa required, etc. Details unknown.
China: Loads of peaks in Sichuan that see few, if any, ascents, beautiful scenery, cool stuff to see. Also piles of red tape, fees, rules, etc. and might only be permissible if one of the group is Chinese or something. Not really central Asia this far east, I admit

Just wondering if anyone has more info on any of these areas with regards to rules and regulations for 2016???
Any advice, tips and anything relevant would be helpful.


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Re: First time in Asia - red tape for mountaineering???

by Cloud Ocean » Sat Feb 20, 2016 4:49 am

I can contribute on Sichuan; actually I was climbing there just a few weeks ago! The main issue is language - nobody speaks English. You really need to speak Chinese, or have a Chinese teammate/translator to get anything done. Likewise, research and general planning is going to be very difficult if you cannot read/write at least some Chinese.

That said, red tape isn't *too* intense, although it's definitely a lot worse than, say, anywhere in South America. Rules around here often appear somewhat arbitrary - for example the national park administration made it mandatory for me to hire a local horse driver, and wouldn't allow me to try making the approach unsupported. You are also supposed to apply for permits - I paid about $100 USD for a solo permit to climb a ~5500m peak - through the Sichuan Mountaineering Association. Their website is here:

Sichuan is a big place, and there are a lot of places you could go. Access is tricky, as the mountain communities are undeveloped. You're looking at long bus/4x4 rides to get close to anything. With China the biggest barriers are language, lack of good beta, and pretty much a general lack of climbing history. Many of the mountains there are unnamed, unclimbed.

Feel free to pm me if you have any specific questions. I wrote a trip report on my recent climb, if you're curious and want some more detail. You can find it here:

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Re: First time in Asia - red tape for mountaineering???

by matteo_b » Sat Feb 27, 2016 7:07 pm

i'm planning something similar with a couple of friends as well. We are also young and we want to do it extremely cheap. Don't want liason officer or crazy permit fee. I'm actually thinking of ladakh, there's a lot of unexplored areas and mountain ranges in there.. and i've been to india before for a few months and i have a general idea about how things works there. My second choice is pakistan but i'm having a few issues about finding out what i can do in there and what i cannot do (= where do i legally need permits and guides and officers and where i do not need them). I'm also interested in pamir but i still have do make my homework about it.. i'll do it next week.

i'll follow this thread!

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Re: First time in Asia - red tape for mountaineering???

by atavist » Mon Feb 29, 2016 12:50 pm

FWIW, the term 'Sichuan-style' was coined by local climbers roughly translating as 'don't ask don't tell' to dodge exorbitant permit fees and FA fees. Much red tape can be avoided by discreet climbers.

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