This note was written by Devin Corrigan, a WildChina tour leader & travel consultant who traveled to Mount Haba on an educational trip last fall. Previously, he blogged about the fascinating lore associated with the mountain, the lively and diverse atmosphere he found in Haba village, and a snapshot of the local eats he had while on the trail. To finish this series of posts, he has put together a photo essay that gives a comprehensive look at 4 spectacular days spent on the mountain.
One personal highlight of the trek for me was pulling away from Tiger Leaping Gorge, advancing towards the plateaus, terraces, and valleys beyond, and then watching it all grow tiny as I made my way towards Haba. With this varied and dramatic landscape shrinking behind me, the scene took on a surreal quality, as if I were peering down at a giant topographical map.
What's more grand than watching the Yangtze River pound its way through one of the world's deepest gorges? Not much.
There's something to be said for trekking out into areas remote enough that they are completely devoid of any signs of civilization. But I liked running into these wood-storage sheds; reminders of humanity, yes, but with no indication as to which century we were in.
It's stunning how much you can see from the top of the Haba summit: the three sacred mountains of Daocheng in Sichuan, Mt. Kawa Karpo on the Tibetan border, and countless other peaks stretching in every direction. My favorite view was Haba's neighbor (and brother), Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (5,596m). The mountain sat just to the southeast, with the day's nascent sun rays streaming over the massive Tiger Leaping Gorge below.
The experience of standing atop Haba can't quite be put into words. I'll just say that the feeling of walking halfway up to the cruising altitude of a 747 is one I won't soon forget, and it says something that Xiao He, my guide, still pauses to silently soak in an experience he's had hundreds of times before.
To my mind, there are few emotions more primal than waiting for the sun to come up so you can be warm again.
Black Lake, at 4,200 meters, is true to its name -- from the summit, I could see the menacing dark puddle far below. Up close on a clear day, however, it looks like that Yunnan blue has spilled right out of the sky.
I passed through this stretch of forest after descending from Black Lake. At this point, I've just plunged back below the tree line; all of a sudden my nostrils are filled with pungent pine and my ears the chirping of birds. It was not until then that I realized how effectively the high altitude rid my environment of sounds and smells for the previous two days.
The elderly villagers stroll around Haba, hands clasped, more cracked and weathered than the rocky mountain faces above.
The smell of pine fades, the smell of wood stoves overtakes, and I know Haba village is close. I would not trade my time up on the mountain for anything, but it sure is nice to be back in this warm and hospitable place.
Interested in learning more about climbing Haba? Get in touch at email@example.com.
Climate change often seems like an abstract concept to many of us. But as renowned China scholar Orville Schell writes in “The Thaw at the Roof of the World,” his recent New York Times op-ed, the effects of global warming can be clearly seen in a part of China close to WildChina’s heart: Yunnan province in the southwest.
WildChina recently ran a trip for Orville and a few of his friends from the Asia Society to Yunnan and the Tibetan Plateau so that they could examine these environmental changes up close. As he writes, most people visit Yunnan’s majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain for the beautiful views — unaware that the mountain’s Baishui Glacier No. 1 has receded 830 feet over the last 20 years due to climate change. While in the short run, the melting of the glacier will result in plenty of water, in the long run, it will in fact result in water scarcity – a serious issue, given that the glaciers on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain feed water into the uppear reaches of the Yangtze River, a major water resource for much of China.
Given that water resources are already dwindling worldwide, it’s no wonder that conservationists are drawing more and more attention to the pressing need to solve the climate change problem. It certainly becomes much less abstract when you think about the people and lives that will be hugely affected, for the worse, by the environmental changes.
My month of travel came to close with two more stops in northern Yunnan province: Lijiang and Zhongdian. Traveling with two French-speaking families, I had many “lost in translation” moments (bonjour, ça va and merci can only get you so far).
Fortunately, feeling the power of the local people, their surroundings and their spirituality was a shared experience that required few words.
Our first stop was in Lijiang’s lovely Old Town, which was restored after a devastating 1996 earthquake. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lijiang is considered the “Venice of the East” as it features cobblestone alleyways, arched bridges, weeping willows and canals. Despite the rain, which seemed to be following me everywhere on this trip, we enjoyed our easy stroll through the town’s bustling market and shops.