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The ascent of Haba Snow Mountain

2014-03-03 14:23:25

(China Today)


Having reached the halfway point, we came across a hut on the hillside. It turned out to be a rest area that supplied hot water and food. We stopped for a short break. It was a rest area for traveling merchants as well. They looked bored, presumably because they were already familiar with the route, and chain-smoked cigarettes.

Bolstered by the food and the pit stop, we felt much better as we continued our journey. The whole team moved faster than we had in the morning. Though the rain came down again, it did not deter us; we were sheltered beneath our waterproof jackets.

Hours later, on hearing horses’ whinnying and people’s voices, we knew we had arrived at the base camp of Haba Snow Mountain. At 4,118 meters above sea level, this area is desolate and uninhabited except for two rows of one-story houses with blue roofs. The water supplying the base comes from a small lake nearby.

The base was cold and damp, but lively and bustling, the rooms crowded with international mountaineers, tour guides, local coordinators and caravans. The walls were adorned with flags and memorial plates of numerous mountaineering clubs left by previous climbers, as well as graffiti scrawled by climbers from all over the world. Unfortunately, altitude sickness set in and some people suffered headaches, dizziness and nausea.

Climbing up the Grand Slate

When I first saw the Grand Slate, a huge expanse of smooth rock, I could not imagine how we could ever overcome it if it froze. Fortunately, neither the rain was heavy nor the ground frozen. Still, we had to walk slowly and carefully. But for the team members who were less experienced in highland hiking, the steep slope was a challenge and they lagged behind.

We reached a small terrace and found that the Grand Slate continued further upward. The mountaintop was out of sight since it was covered by fog. The bad weather implied a daunting challenge for the next day’s ascent.

A gravel path came after the Grand Slate. We had reached 4,500 meters above sea level, the altitude of the snow line. A light dusting of snow covered the ground. The temperature here was much lower and the rain continued to fall. My hands were frozen with cold.

Stones sometimes fell as we climbed the path and the wind roared and whipped about our faces. We had to lower our heads and climb only inches at a time. The fog was turning increasingly thick. We came across a number of climbers who had turned back before making it to the top due to the harsh wind. On hearing that they were nearly blown away at the height of 5,000 meters, we became even more worried about the success of our climb.

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