Camp No.03 at Hailuogou Glacier

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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

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