|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||31.07000°N / 102.91000°E|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Oct 21, 2015|
Our trip started from the Chadianzi bus station in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. We wanted to ride a public bus to Rilong, but it was already sold out, so we arranged with a driver to take our crew of four out to Rilong Zhen (Rilong town). Some Chinese language skill was needed to negotiate the price in this instance (as is typical for Southwest China). The ride took about 6 hours.
Upon arrival in Rilong town, we directed the driver to take us 300 meters up the hill to Rilong village. The government is currently making repairs/improvements to the village to further develop it for tourism. We stayed at Kalsong Metok Hostel. The owner, Paulie, helped us out with a guide service and equipment rental (i.e. tents, sleeping bags, gloves, etc.). After a 45 minute meeting with our guide (all in Chinese), we had decided that San Feng (3rd sister) was the peak for us, and we made all the arrangements, such as pack horses, number of guides, and technical equipment rental (ropes, harness, repelling device, ascender, helmet).
Day One: Our guides met us at our hostel around 9:30am. We first signed a liability waiver, sealing it with our thumb prints in red ink. Then were taken into Rilong town and registered with the governing authority there. Then were taken to buy bus tickets and park entrance tickets. Then rode the bus up into the park where our guides met us with our bags. Pack horses were loaded, and we started our hike up the valley, directed by the guides. We got off around 11am.
We had reached the noodle house for lunch by 1:30pm. It was 10 CNY for unlimited noodles. We learned to eat them with a bite of raw garlic. After lunch and a short rest we were on the way again, heading up to the base camp. BC is nested at roughly 14,000 feet -- higher than any of us had ever slept before. We setup our tents, had a brief orientation, then had an ascending and repelling training. As darkness fell on our camp the Tibetan guides spotted a herd of wild rams, and we were made aware of their presence by the hoots and hollers of the guides.
Day Two: We rose at 2am. One of our party members was not feeling well and decided to stay back, sleep for a while longer, then head back down straight away. After heating water, drinking coffee and having a bit of a snack, we were off by 3:15am. Slow but steady progress was made along the single track trail up the mountain. “Be careful here, a little dangerous,” said our guides (in Chinese). That was right about the time I had noticed the chasm of darkness off to the left. While the area off to the right of the trail was fully illuminated by our headlamps, the left side remained completely black. What is going on over there? I was thinking. Never mind; keep moving.
We took brief breaks every 20 minutes or so. Some members of our party of five climbers were moving slower than others. It was apparent that we were moving higher in elevation with every step, as breathing became more strained and temperatures continued to fall. After about 4-5 minutes of rest one could really feel the cold setting in. By 6:15am the coldness had just about chilled us to the bone. The wind picked up over the small pass from the valley to the main summit ridge as the sun was just beginning to bring faint light into the sky. Keep moving. Stay warm.
By 7:15am we had reached the bottom of the final slope to the summit. As we watched the sun rise and cast beautiful, golden gleams over the surrounding snowy slopes, the guides were setting ropes above us, and we were getting harnesses and ascenders rigged. There was no snow on this slope, nor much on the trail below, so crampons and axes were not needed. The only hazard thus far was the icy section of the trail below where the guides had told us to “be careful.” We climbed the slope using ascenders for safety, one in front of the other. The slope is 4th class scrambling, but the consequences of a fall could be deadly. We were all glad to have the back up, especially at that elevation.
We stood on the summit by 8am. There was not a breath of wind and no clouds. The Tibetans insisted that we each be tethered to them as soon as we came off the fixed ropes on the summit, though they wore no harnesses at all. After about 25 minutes on the summit we headed back down, one by one. The repel was pretty fun. We were all off the ropes and back on the hiking trail by 9am. One member of our party began getting altitude sickness by this point. He couldn't get back down to base camp fast enough. There was an ice cave about half way down the trail, just at the top of the valley before the summit ridge.
Getting back to within 25 minutes of the base camp it became evident why our head lamps had not picked up any features of the trail on the left side on the way up: there was nothing there. The single track trail (completely iced over on the way up) gave way to a severe slope on the left. Good thing the guides told us to “be careful,” as if that was enough. Though we were tired, the views on the way down were nearly as spectacular as what we saw from up on top. We got back to base camp by 12:30pm, broke down our tents, had a quick snack, loaded the horses, and continued down the mountain on foot.
We were all the way back to the park entrance and bus stand by 5pm. Our rest was sweet and well-deserved that eve; we had made it to the summit of 三峰(San Feng) of the Four Sisters range.