trekking

The Chilean Traverse - The Plan.

I know I've been quiet. I'm working on this huge upcoming project. Here's a quick update!

In February 2018, I was searching for my next big mountain after a few exhilarating treks in China where I climbed my first above 6,000m peaks. I wanted to go for my first 7,000m peak. Naturally, I turned to the Himalayas but for some reason it didn't feel right.  In my search for the next project, I ran across an image from NASA of Llullaillaco that stayed with me and I decided that I would instead head down to Chile. 

NASA - Llullaillaco from space.

NASA - Llullaillaco from space.

Llullaillaco is the tallest archeological site in the world. It's a volcano that sits between Argentina and Chile in the Atacama desert with an incredibly fun name to say as fast as possible. A few hours in the depths of Google, I was sold on Chile. I would climb Llullaillaco before the year was over.I

I knew I'd graduate from UCLA in the summer and I decided I'd do a once in a lifetime trek around this climb. I decided to try to merge my skills in scientific research, mountaineering and photography into a single job position. Bringing 3 differently skills together into a position that doesn't really exist is tough and it has proven very difficult to sell to those who sponsor this type of trips. But I do believe traveling could be done in more meaningful and useful ways. I've never been unemployed. I've always has a job in physics since I was 17 years old. For the first time in my life I will be unemployed and freelancing as I attempt to make this new job a reality.  

 I pitched the idea to the Access Collective campaign ( http://www.getaccess.co/ ). This is group of Nat Geo photographers, athletes, models and all sorts of traveling talents which I've been lucky enough to be a part of.  This group is all about meaningful travel with the help of  'soft' branding. The trips and stories are not built around the brand. Instead the brands partake in more meaningful endeavors that go further than "bucket list box checking" trips.  We are now working on the biggest trek I've yet to do both physically and mentally. 

 The itinerary is a work in progress but I will be traversing Chile starting in the desert of San Pedro de Atacama, climbing Aconcagua and heading down to Patagonia. I'll be there for 4 months bringing photographic content, science articles in conservation and virtual reality experiences! 

Here's a draft of the itinerary:

Chilean traverse itinerary plan

Chilean traverse itinerary plan

Currently, I am working in finding sponsorships and science research. We're still in much need of help. Any recommendations or contacts will be greatly appreciated! 

 I'll try to keep you more updated. Much love,

Eylene.  

PS: I'm sorry I deleted all the comment sections. There's a weird stalker that has been harrasing me so we can't have nice things. :)

Mount Siguniang - Maybe Helpful Logistics.

I have been diving deep on the internet looking for information on Mt. Siguniang for nearly all of December. Heard of it? Few have. Your first challenge will be finding the actual useful name of these places to ease your upcoming adventure. Most of these easy-to-say names only come in handy when speaking to other foreigners which typically are as lost as you are.  Preparing for this trip is difficult due to the lack of consistent and concrete information out there. The trekking in China is very "chinese". You always feel a little bit lost, unable to communicate, and you will certainly test your travel skills.  Some of you enjoy this kind of torture. To those,  I recommend leaving the logistical details up in the air and embrace the chaos. But this blog post is for those who want to know the very very basics of Mt. Siguniang.  

 I wish you the best of luck! 

What? Where?

Mt Siguniang is a national park in the Sichuan region of China, only a couple of hours away from Chengdu. The region is named after the Siguniangshan mountain which has 4 peaks: Yaomei Feng (6250m), SanFeng (5355m), ErFeng (5276m) and DaFeng  (5025m). The park also contains 3 popular valleys: Changping, Haizi , and the Shangqiao valley.  With several frozen waterfalls, Ice climbing is popular here.

 

Pictured below in order: Tibetan horse caravan in Haizi, Ya Feng, Shangqiao Stupa, Shangqiao curly trees,  Somewhere in Changping, Changping's Stupa.

The Getting there:

I assume you are starting in Chengdu. Your first task is to get to Chadianzi Bus Station. Chengdu has a nice and easy Metro system but there are TWO, conveniently named the same,  Chadianzi stations. You want to get off at the Chadianzi Exit on Line 2 of the Metro. 

About the Metro: Liquids, army knives, lighter, or anything in spray form can be taken away. They scan your bag every time you get on the metro. Lighters will be taken away immediately. Leave your sprays and liquids easily accessible in your pack so they can inspect them quickly.

The bus route you need is Chadianzi to Xiaojian. The town you are going is called Rilongzhen. If you go up to the information desk at the station and tell them you're going to "Mt. Siguniang" or " Rilong", they will just stare at you. Keep the names of these places written in Chinese characters otherwise they won't know what you're talking about. (Mt Siguniang = 四姑娘山, Xiaojian=小尖镇 ).

 There are 2 buses that depart daily and most of them will sell out the day before. One leaves at 7am and the other leaves at 12:30pm. If you get there super early and the 7am bus is sold out, you might have a chance at the later one on that day. But it is unlikely in the high season. I recommend buying your ticket the day before. Unfortunately,  the only method for purchasing this bus ticket is in person. Once on the bus, you can relax. The place where you'll need to get off will be very obvious. Sit back and enjoy the scenery while your bus drives on the wrong lane while maniacally honking on narrow cliff side roads.

 The bus ride will take between 4-6 hours. You'll be dropped off at a bridge where you will see a sign for the Mt Siguniang visitor center that you can walk up to.

Cost: 95CNY ~  $15. 

 

The Housing:

Once in Rilongzhen you will have no problem finding a place to stay. The little town has a few streets filled with hostels and hotels. There are a lot of budget options for backpackers. Just ask around or check out Booking.com. Most places will hold your luggage if you're going into the mountains for a few days for no fee or a very small fee.

A typical hotel here has free wi-fi, scalding hot water,  heated beds and a flushing toilet directly under the shower head. At last! You can use the toilet and shower simultaneously. Think of it as a full body bidet. They will cost you anywhere between $15-30.

Hostels have the typical bunk beds with a Chinese style squat toilet and run about $6-15. 

Pictured below: Jade's Hotel which name I don't remember but find her and have her make you coffee!!!!, Rilongzhen's main street.

The fees, permits, etc...

  • Park Entrance:  70CYN (April- November) and 50CYN (December-March).
  • Valley Entrance:

Changping  Valley- (70CYN/pp in the High Season, 50CYN/pp in the Low Season)

 Haizi Valley - (60CYN/pp in the High Season, 40CYN/pp in the Low Season)

Shuangpiao Valley - (80CYN/pp in the High Season, 60CYN/pp in the Low Season)

  • Camping: 150CYN.  
  • Tourist Buses: Both Changping and Shuangqiao have a tourist bus. I did not use it as I came here to trek but you do have this choice. Haizi Valley was my favorite and there is no choice of tour bus.
  • Climbing/Expeditions:

Legally, you need sherpa to summit any of the peaks.  I did see some people approach the base camps without one. This seems to upset some of the sherpas. Not sure how strict this policy is but if you go to the visitor center and tell them you'll be climbing any of the peaks, they will assign you a sherpa. 

Dafeng is 300CYN per person per day. Be ready to pay for 2 days. Typically, you will hike into the Haizi valley until you reach basecamp. You'll stay the night there and wake up at 4am  or before to start the climb to the summit. You will have summit by sunrise and descent by noon. Then you walk back to Rilongzhen. 

 I  reached the summit in less than 24 hours including  sleeping in the camp so maybe you can negotiate with the sherpa if you are a strong hiker. I would have been happy with a very early start into the Haizi valley and reaching the summit by sunset and a nighttime descent but It is quite a long day.  I will post later on the specifics of this trek.

Erfeng is 500CYN per person per day.  They will always sell you 2 days for you to acclimate tot he altitude at base camp during at night.

You can do both peaks in 2 days and I think that's the best choice if you are a strong climber. The Sherpa will bring a horse that carries your pack if you'd like. I even saw trekkers riding the horse when they didn't want to walk anymore. I, personally, do not understand doing a trek where you ride an animal while your sherpa pulls the poor animal. To each its own. 

Pictured below: Basecamp in Haizi, Sherpa freezing at Da Feng, Collapse prayer flags on the summit, Joe in Erg Feng, Basecamp accomodations, Camping in Haizi. 

All the yak in the world:

Food in this region is heavily based on yak. You will be eating yak everything. Yak butter tea, yak jerky, yak desserts, yak cheese, yakitty yak yak... Half of the time it'll be unclear of even what parts of the yak you are eating. If you do NOT like yak, bring some food from Chengdu. 

Booze is common. My favorite spot has a name that I do not remember but I have a couple of pictures so maybe you can match it.  It's a lovely hotel on the main street. A young woman named Jade runs the place. She will be the only person in the whole area who can actually make you some good coffee. 

In the Shangqiao valley, there's the Wang's house. They make delicious local food and I highly recommend it. It is very close to the main Stupa of the valley.  The Wang's kitchen is pictured below with the lovely Mrs. Wang.

Back to Chengdu:

This is easy but completely left to luck. But there is a bus that departs back to Chengdu. You get on at the same place you got off when you got there. The time is kind of a mystery but the consensus is that it is around 9:30am or is it 8:30am? Stand there early and ask a lot of questions. I stood around and then minivans offered to take me. I paid 100CYN for the minivan ride which is only 5 CYN more than the bus. In all honesty, I was more comfortable in the bus and wish I would have taken it. But the good news is that there isn't a lack of rides back to Chengdu early in the day. I cannot speak for late afternoons and night time. 

 

Enjoy the logistics to Mt. Siguniang, or Sigunianshan, or the gang of sisters, or the 4 girls, or whatever it is actually called....