Only one mountaineering team has successfully climbed the highest peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in China. This stunning massif forms the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge on one side and the views from all angles are worth every step, as Intrepid Express reader Belinda Mortlock discovered…
“As we slowly wound our way up the narrow rocky path through flowery shrubs and pines, I could not believe the drop in temperature compared to when we left the base of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, but even the cool climate could not distract me from the breathtaking views over the countryside looking down to Lijiang rooftops, a beautiful ancient village of the Yunnan province.
As our horses plodded up the well-worn path on the southernmost glacier of the northern hemisphere, we reached the snow line where we stopped for a well-deserved rest. Gazing at the rocky formations it is easy to see how Yulong Mountain retains its name. The snow-covered mountain resembles a jade dragon lying in the clouds, hence the English translation of it name, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
A smattering of small wooden huts held together with all kind of materials, welcomed us with enticing aromas of teas and flavoursome soups. Elderly Naxi women, stirring large pots over hot coals and making fresh bread, motioned for us to perch on the stools around a table to enjoy a small banquet they had prepared for us and the other riders. Filling our cups with green tea leaves and hot water it was great to warm up and escape from the sharp winds that cut through the jagged rocks. Our Naxi guides squatted in the corner, smoking and drinking some kind of homemade noodle soup from jars.
It amazed me how these families lived high on the mountains in the often harsh conditions. Snow, fog, wind and ice didn’t deter them from carrying all their supplies via a minimum three-hour donkey or horse ride from the closest Naxi villages. Old tarpaulins, plastic, rocks and timber blocked any gaps in their dwelling structures. Reviewing the panoramic views and marveling in mother nature yet again, I can understand the beauty and enticement of living on the glacier, not to mention the horse trekking tourist trade!
Descending back towards the Naxi village, the sun warmed our faces as we stripped back down to T-shirts. As we neared the flats, giggling Naxi children with grubby faces and bare feet ran along beside us laughing at our western looks and light hair. Hiding in roadside drain ditches or around corners of the stone walls, they would either shy away or jump out to surprise us.
The many rural villages I passed though on my travels in Yunnan were enchanting. The still-existent ancient culture of the Naxi people was evident everywhere. Their hospitality and curious smiles were intoxicating. If there wasn’t so much of the world still to see and explore, I would return constantly to this charming corner of China.”
* photo by Sarah McNally – Intrepid Photography Competition