Archive for the ‘Moxi’ Category

Camp No.03 at Hailuogou Glacier

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
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On October 08, 2015,  we get on the first shuttle bus leaving at 7:30 am from Moxi Town for Camp No.03 up at Hailuogou Glacier (海螺沟三号营地). Yesterday afternoon we visited Camp No.04 and fortunately viewed the Firn Basin and the Grand Ice Cascade of No.01 Hailuogou Glacier. But we are not contented with a distant glimpse of the glaciers, instead we would like to traverse the glacially carved valley, seeing, feeling and even touching the bright and crystal glacier ice as we’ve long expected. It is said that there is a walkway starting from Camp No.03, which finally leads down to the glacier valley where we are able to find glacier caves, glacier ladders and more glacier wonders.

With that aim in mind and without any idea on the hard efforts ahead involved, we again buy the tickets for admission and shuttle bus for Camp No.03. In this case, we have some complaint about the ticketing policy on the part of Hailuogou Glacier Park Administration. The entrance tickets should be valid for 2 or 3 days, allowing travelers to fully enjoy Hailuogou Glacier’s pristine forests, hot springs, rugged mountains, and spectacular glacier. In addition, the lengthened entrance admission would stimulate the local food and hotel industry.

One hour later, a busload of us disperses on Camp No.03 at the sea-level of 2940 meters. It is a rainy and gloomy morning. We put on our raincoats and start hiking up along the one way 1.8km boardwalk. We are supposed to walk for 1.8 km from the 2940-meter at Camp No.03 along the boardwalk up to the 3200-meter altitude observation deck, then walk down to the glacially carved valley at about 3000 meters sea-level, roughly a total 5 km round trip walking.

Hailuogou Glacier Boardwalk

Walk along the boardwalk from Camp No.03

The boardwalk goes through the dense dark coniferous forests, allowing you to have zero contact with the natural environs. But walking for 5 km ups and downs at about 3000 meters sea-level turns out to be an enormously hard job! With heavy backpacks loaded with cameras, water, snacks and emergency kits, we trudge up step by step. We don’t know exactly how many times we have to stop for a break and balance our breath.

For each break, we don’t take off our backpacks, which otherwise would be very stressful.  We just stand leaning on the wooden handrails with our backpacks perched on a rail. I feel much warmer and unbutton my jacket due to excessive sweating, which later proves to pose a serious problem for me. I catch a serious cold in the glacier valley, and the cold almost keeps on for my whole self-drive trip!

Glacier Walkway at Camp No.03

We just stand leaning on the wooden handrails with our backpacks perched on a rail.

Scrambling along the walkway for nearly two hours, we finally get to Glacier Observation Deck at 3000 meters altitude. By the observation deck, there is a wooden toilet and a wooden restaurant, a kind of service center for hikers on this walkway. The whole glacier valley is heavily shrouded in fog and clouds. We decide to continue to walk along the walkway down to the glacier valley.

Glacier Vally shrouded in fog and clouds

The whole glacier valley is heavily shrouded in fog and clouds.

We start to walk down to the bottom areas of the glacier valley along the walkway from the observation deck. The walkway down to the valley bottom is poorly managed, largely due to the restricted geographical conditions and the frequent changes in the climatic and geographical patterns.

We have to walk down along a narrow and steep stone-paved road flanked one side by the sheer cliffs with potential risk of falling rocks.

Glacier Walkway Hailuogou

a narrow and steep stone-paved road flanked one side by the sheer cliffs

The walkway down to the valley bottom is poorly managed.

The walkway down to the valley bottom

The walkway down to the valley bottom is poorly managed

In the course of struggling to balance ourselves going down the steep and rickety boardwalk and stone-paved walkway, we are happily distracted by the autumn hues that cling to the hillsides above the galcier valley – mosses, wild flowers, unamed grassess, autumn leaves, fir and cedar trees.

The autumn hues in the glacier valley

The autumn hues in the glacier valley

Landing safely on the bottom of the glacier valley, we are temporarily disconcerted. I confess that what is in sight floors me! Under the low visibility of clouds, we see only a bottom of gravel and boulders!  Where can we find the clean, crystal and transparent glaciers? Yes, the glaciers are under our feet, covered with gravel and these boulders. But we unlikely dig out the cryastal glaciers instantly.

Hailuogou Glacier valley

A bottom of gravel and boulders

Mr. Chen, a very positive man, tells me that we should walk further on and will definitely find cleaner and brighter glacier ice. He continues to inspire me, saying the Sun will appear! Walking on gravel and boulders is dangerous and uncomfortable. Fortunately my hiking boots ( made in Canada ) never fail me, greatly increasing my confidence in walking in the wildness.

Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses (冰川裂隙), seracs (冰塔), and other distinguishing features. We finally find some of these glaciers in intriguing forms, crystal and a bit azure. Much to our pleasant surprise, at 12:30 am the Sun appears with a small portion of blue sky surrounded by white clouds! Later we get to know we are the only few people having seen the sunshine and blue sky among the hundreds of tourists going down to the valley bottom for the same whole day.

We lose no time shooting the various forms of glacier we can find on the brighter valley flanked by sheer cliffs with autumn foliage.

The valley is flanked by sheer cliffs with autumn foliage.

Hailuogou Glacier

The valley is flanked by sheer cliffs with autumn foliage

Looking at the glacier crevasses.

Hailuogou Glacier

Looking at the glacier crevasses

A happy couple ( Mr. Chen Wexiang and Chen Ya )

Chen Wexiang

A happy couple

I cannot resist taking a picture with the glacier. Touching icy glacier is my maiden experience!

Daniel Li

Touching icy glacier is my maiden experience!

In less than half hour, the Sun disappears and the valley back to darkness. It gets much colder and I think I have caught the cold at this moment. We start to retrace along the same walkway. On the way back, we order some snacks for lunch at the service center near the observation deck.  We are back to our parking lot at Moxi Town around 3:30 pm.

Any questions,  just drop a line.

Add-on: Camp No.03 of Hailuogou Glacier
Camp No.04 of Hailuogou Glacier

Night View of Moxi Old Town

Monday, November 2nd, 2015
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Moxi Town (磨西镇) is a gateway community for Hailuogou Glacier Park. Now the town has become a logistic base that caters for travelers experiencing Hailuogou Glacier’s pristine forests, hot springs, rugged mountains, and spectacular glacier ice. It is located 64km to the south of Luding County (泸定) and 133km to the southeast of Kangding (康定), the seat of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the West Sichuan.

It is also a booming town with some newly built hotels, inns, restaurants and shops largely lined up along the only wide and modern street that runs about 400 meters from the higher north to the lower south. Periodic Tibetan-style buidings remind you that this high altitude town is mainly inhabited by Han, Tibetan, Yi, and Qiang ethnic minorities with a long history. “Moxi” literally means “A Promising Land ” in ancient Qiang Language.

Nowadays Moxi Town is a buzzword mainly due to the establishment of Hailuogou Glacier Park that opened to the public in 1987.  But Moxi Town’s fame dates well back to the ancient Sichuan Tibet Tea and Horse Road ,or chamadao (茶马古道川藏道) that started in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 ). Moxi was an important old town along the world famous network of the Tea and Horse Route.  Kangding (康定) was the main site for Tea Horse Trading in Kham, which connected the hinterland of China and Tibet together.

Tea produced in Sichuan, or much in Ya’an in particular, was carried by mule or horse caravans, or very often even by men for the horse trading business with Tibetans. Tea does not grow in high altitude areas, but in relatively lower altitude areas, such as Sichuan and Yunnan. Tea was introduced to Tibet during the Tang Dynasty (618A.D.-907A.D.) and Tibetans have enjoyed “tea” as an indispensable part of their life, breaking down fats and helping digestion.

The Tea and Horse Route has become a cultural relics. The over ten-day strenuous hike along the ancient Tea and Horse Road from Moxi to Kangding in the past has been shortened to a few hours by the highway between Moxi and Kangding via Luding. In addition, the local Moxi people take pride in two more things – 1) the old Catholic Church 2 ) Chairmam Mao’s former residence, which both are located in the Moxi  Old Town.

Back from Camp No.04, we check into the hotel by the right side of Hailuogou Service Center with a good bargain thanks to the non-peak tourist season. After a short break and before dinner, I persuade Mr. Chen to have a stroll along the old part of Moxi Town, having a glimpse of the legendary church and Mao’s former residence as well as practicing some digital night shooting skills with his help and you know, Mr. Chen is a photography enthusiast.

Built on a tilting platform surrounded by the mountains on its east, north and west, Moxi is still a two-horse town despite of years’s fast development. At its south entrance, Moxi has two roads: one leading to Mount Gongga on its west and the other to Kangding on its east.  The main street runs from the higher north to the lower south, 10 meters wide and clean, lined with 2-3 storey houses and several massive Tibetan sytle buidlings. Not so many people on the street, partly due to the shoulder season and partly the dinner time.

ibetan sytle buidlings in Moxi Town

Several massive Tibetan sytle buidlings in Moxi Town

Walking off the main street, we enter the east-west side street. Very soon we see the old stone flagged street! The original construction of this old street area dates back to the end of China’s last Qing Dynasty ( 1644 -1911) and the early Nationalist Era in China ( 1927-1949 in Mainland China ). Walking on the slab-paved street flanked by the old wooden two-storey buildings brings you back to the old days.

The old part of Moxi Town is only left with one old and narrow street, which reminds me of the red-lantern streets in Lijiang Old Town (丽江古城). I don’t think any local residents still live on the old street. Doing business by operating the street-front stores is a good way to keep and preserve the old street. Like other old streets elsewhere, the old Moxi street is a good place for a night out for visitors, drinking, eating and shopping, relaxing after a day of sightseeing.

Putting up the tripod to support my camera for the night shooting with the guidance of Mr. Chen.  Brightly lit red-lanterns hanging high above the two-storey wooden building.

Moxi Old Street

Brightly lit red-lanterns hanging high above

The old street flanked by 2-3 storey wooden buildings selling local products.

Moxi Old Street

The old street flanked by 2-3 storey wooden buildings

The riskety street-front store sells yak meat.

The riskety street-front store sells yak meat.

The riskety street-front store sells yak meat.

A silver store sells many kinds of hand-crafted silver ornaments.

A silver store in Moxi

A silver store in Moxi

A zoom-in picture of the exterior of a bar known as ” Tribe”.

A zoom-in picture of the exterior of a bar

A zoom-in picture of the exterior of a bar

This bar is called ” Little Dimple”.

Moxi Town Bar

The “Little Dimple” Bar

Very soon we find ourselves at the end of the old street where we see the Catholic Church! The church was originally built in 1918 with a blend of Chinese and European styles.

the Catholic Church

the Catholic Church

Maybe it is too late and we are not allowed to enter the compound attached to the church where Chairman Mao once stayed overnight in May, 1935 before he led his red army seizing Dadu River. He and Zhude held the important Moxi Meeting in the catholic church. The meeting set up the strategic target for the next step on the Long March. (October 1934 – October 1935), a military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China before taking over the whole China.

Chairman Mao once stayed in Moxi Catholic Church

Chairman Mao once stayed here in the church before seizing Dadu River.

Any questions on Moxi Town,  just drop a line.

Camp No.03 of Hailuogou Glacier
Camp No.04 of Hailuogou Glacier

Camp No.04 at Hailuogou Glacier

Sunday, November 1st, 2015
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Getting off the “Sky Road” – Yaxi Expressway, and passing through the downtown of Shimian County (石棉县),  we steer our four-wheel drive vehicle north along the provincial road offcially known as “S211”.  It is a mountainous road with two lanes total ( one lane for each direction ), on the side of steep cliffs with frequent sharp turns and curves, and possibly falling stones and rocks. Much experienced Mr. Chen is  definiltey the right person to rein and tame his own white horse steadily on the road full of potential risks.

Shimian Moxi S211

A mountainous road with two lanes total on the side of steep cliffs.

Around 12:00 noon, October 07, 2015, we finally get to Moxi Town (磨西镇), safe and sound from the risky, not-easy-to-control provincial road “S211”. With our vehicle running into the streets of Moxi, we are a bit amazed at the sight of the mixed-style buildings flanking the streets, Tibetan and modern Han, clean though a bit touristy, slightly different from “the old Moxi Town” in our minds. Much delighted the town is the gateway to Hailuogou Glacier. So here we are!

Moxi Town

Moxi Town

We drive in the direction according to a huge signboard pointing to the “Hailuogou Service Center” where we are supposed to buy our today’s entrance tickets. With our vehicle parking in front of the service building, we lose no time in grapping a bite to eat and drink bottled water, then stride to the ticketing office.

Inside the service building, bombarded with Hailuogou tourist information, flyers and brochures, soon we find out a half day is far from enough for a highlight trip to Hailuogou Glacier. Apart from its magical glaciers, Hailuogou Glacier Park is well known for its pristine forests and hot springs. There are four viewing camps to visit in the park and shuttle buses are linked to Camps No.01, No.02 and No.03 while Camp N.04 is accessible by cable car starting from Camp No.03. Camp No.01 and Camp No.02 are mainly designed for viewing primeval forests and bathing in hot springs.

So we decide to go up to Camp No.04 (海螺沟4号营地) this afternoon and forget Camp No.01 and Camp No.02 since our aim is to see and touch glaciers. But we have to leave Camp No.03 (海螺沟3号营地) for tomorrow, which allows people to have the chance to be immersed in the real and magical glaciers, quite different from Camp No.04 where you are only able to have distant views of the glaciers.

Entrance ticket: 92 yuan; shuttle bus: 70 yuan and cable car ( from Camp No.03 to Camp No.04): 150 yuan ( return). Tomorrow we have to purchase again the tickets for entrance and shuttle bus ( No more cable car ). A bit exorbitant, right?  Yes, domestic admission fees rise year on year in many places!

Hailuogou Entrance

Hailuogou Main Gate and Shuttle Buses

The shuttle bus ride from the Service Center to Campsite No.03 ( where we change for cable car up to Campsite No.04) is much longer than we expect, almost one hour driving along the zigzag 30km road ascending from Moxi Town at 1600 meters up to Campsite No.03 at 2980 meters. Our local shuttle bus driver is very much adept at controlling the bus like a toy in his hands, quick and safe encounter with other buses at turns and curves.

In the course of the one hour drive, I flip over the flyers and brochures on hand to get aquainted with the basic knowledge of Hailuogou Glaciers (海螺沟冰川). Hailuogou (literally Conch Gully ) is situated in the southeast of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province, on the east slope of Mount Gongga (7556 meters ). Hailuogou Glacier is regarded as a low altitude modern oceanic glacier.  Also known as No.1 Glacier, Hailuogou Glacier is 14.7 km long ( the longest among the 71 glaciers on Mount Gongga) with highest height of 6750 meters and lowest 2850 meters.

Hailuogou Glacier ( No.01 Glacier ) has three cascading steps from high to low: 1) The First Step – Neve Basin (粒雪盆), or firn basin, granular snow, the upper part of the glacier, where it has not yet been compressed into ice; 2) The Second Step – Large Ice Fall (大冰瀑布),  500 to 1100 meters wide and 1080 high grand glacier cascade which is the highest and grandest icefall in China;  3) The Third Step: Glacier Tongue (冰川舌),  6 km long and penetrating into the pristine forest, forming a rare natural landscape with the mix of glacier and forest.

Camp No.04 Hailuogou Glacier

Our bus comes to a stop on the flat and spacious ground at Camp No.03

Our bus comes to a stop on the flat and spacious ground at Camp No.03 and a busload of us disperse. After a short break ( using a toilet or stretching a little bit ),  some go on hiking on Camp No.03 to look for the real and crystal glacier ice; others like us continue to take cable car up to Camp No.04 for a glimpse of the Grand Ice Cascade and Neve Basin on the top of the 14.7km long Hailuogou Glacier. We choose the latter and leave the search at Camp No.03 for the glacier ice for tomorrow.

Hailuogou Cable Car

A 6 seated cable car

Carrying our camera backpacks, we walk to the ropeway station. The 3500-meter long alpine ropeway, one of the longest of this kind in China, spans the core zone of Hailuogou Glacier,  crossing the glacier valley and allowing us to see through the transparent alpine  cable car and view the endless primeval forests and the surfaces of glaciers covered with dirt, dust, sand and river stones.

Hailuogou Glacier viewed from our cable car

Hailuogou Glacier Valley viewed from our cable car

A little bit disappointed at the somewhat black surfaces of the glaciers valley, covered with dirt, soil and other materials. The “glacier” comes from the French word “glace” ( glah-say ), meaning “Ice”. A glacier is a huge mass of ice that moves slowly over land.  There are two kinds of glaciers: alpine glaciers and ice sheets.  Hailuogou belongs to alpine glaciers that move from mountainsides downward through valleys.

Getting onto Camp No.04 shrouded by fog and clouds,  we suddenly realize that viewing the Grand Ice Fall or Firn Basin is contingent with weather conditions! In the case of inclement weather ( rain, fog, overcast), the top two steps of the glaciers – Firn Basin and Great Ice Fall are shrouded in fog or clouds, sometime even the whole glacier valley submerged in clouds!

Observation Deck at Camp No.04 of Hailuogou Glacier

Observation Deck at Camp No.04 of Hailuogou Glacier

Upon our arrival on the observation deck at sea-level 3600 meters, we find most of the glacier valley and the top firn basin and the great ice fall are partially covered by clouds. What we can do is to wait for clouds to disperse or the sun to appear. Though a slight chance, we don’t give up and try to grasp any moment to have a  glimpse into the true faces of the glaciers.

Suddenly the sky turns a bit bluer and brighter, and the clouds over the second step of the glacier are lifted and the Great Ice Fall appears!

Grand Ice Cascade

The clouds over the second step of the galcier are lifted

I lose no time changing for my long-range zoom camera lens and shoot a clear photo of the Great Ice Fall.

Hailuogou Grand Ice Fall

Zoomed-in photo of the Grand Ice Fall

Shortly the top part of the clouds over the Firn basin also thins out and the Firn basin becomes transparent with sunlights passing through the clouds. Good luck follows us and we are able to view the top part of Hailuogou Glacier – the Firn Basin,  granular snow, the upper part of the glacier, where it has not yet been compressed into ice.

Firn Basin of Hailuogou

A zoomed-in picture of the Firn Basin and the Grand Ice Fall


A zoomed-in picture of the Firn Basin

A zoomed-in picture of the Firn Basin

People make use of the momentary blue sky to snap multiple pictures and do selfie as well. Within less than half hour, clouds come close again and gradually blanket the Firn Basin and the Grand Cascade Icefall. It again looks grey and gloomy.

I see  a lot that I cannot see clearly with my own eyes thanks to my long-range zoom camera lens.

Long-range zoom camera lens

My long-range zoom camera lens help us a lot

Pointing at the glacier valley below,  I zoom in the glacier ice for a close-up view,  glacier mass ice and ice caves. It is said that Camp No.03 is the ideal place to find clean and crystal glacier ice.

 glacier mass ice and ice caves

glacier mass ice and ice caves

People do selfie with a backdrop of white clouds and blue sky.

Selfie on Observation Deck at Hailuogou Glacier

Selfie on Observation Deck at Camp No.04 in Hailuogou Glacier

We are much luckier having viewed the Firn Baisin, the Great Ice Fall as well as the glacier valley while quite a number of tourists see nothing due to the heavy fog and clouds capping the whole Hailuogou glacier valley.  Content with what we have seen,  we take the cable car down back to Camp No.03 where we change for shuttle bus again back to Moxi Town.

Just an anecdote about Mr. Chen, my self-drive travel buddy ( a former English teacher at a military academy ) : He looks a bit confused, carrying three cameras.


Mr. Chen, my self-drive travel buddy

Any questions on Camp No.04 of Hailuogou Glacier,  just drop a line.

Add-on: Camp No.03 of Hailuogou Glacier.