On the eve of December 23 2010 a good friend and I went hiking in the mountains in Northwest China. I had been planning this trip for over two months and after speaking to a few locals (both 中国人 and expats) no-one was willing to come hiking with me in winter.
The average temparature for december is about -12 degrees celcius so I wasn’t at all surprised at the lack of enthusiasm.
The first hurdle was that I didn’t have a tent or sleeping bag but I focused most effort on finding a sleeping bag as I am 6”7 and I don’t fit into most bags. Much to the amusement of my wife and friends I spent about 2 months searching the web and the local camping stores (which were very few and far inbetween) for a winter down bag.
Eventually I purchased a Mountain Hardware sleeping bag from Paddy Palins in Australia (where Kevin lives) and he brought it across to China for me. Unfortunately I had to pay a premium for the bag because I couldn’t a 7” bag anywhere else on the planet!
Anyway Kevin arrived in China late December and we got some last odds and ends as we prepared to head into the mountains. The elevation here is about 1100 meters and at the top of the mountains it is about 3000 meters.
I had climbed up various parts of the before in preparation for the ‘big’ hikeand wanted to be as conservative as possible considering the risk of freezing / injury, etc. Therefore in theory I was prepared to camp at ‘basecamp’ even though it was pretty low and boring BUT I was also open to ascending further depending on conditions.
As we were entering the park the cashier at the ticket office asked us if we were going to stay overnight - I told her that we would stay and mentioned that we had prepared well, or at least so I thought. The words “我们准备了好!” now ring in my mind.
We started the climb and got to basecamp within an hour or so and had a break - basecamp is about 1600m elevation. Kevin had a little trouble with his breathing on the way up but it subsided after we got to basecamp.
We decided to ascend higher and headed westward to the next peak. In retrospect it would probably have been better to stay at basecamp… To be continued!