2020 Dates: Aug. 4 - 15, Sep. 12 - 23. OR a Private Tour can be fully customized here (Best time to go: July - Oct).
Kangding, Tagong grasslands, Minya Konka west side
Starts and end in Chengdu
The heart of Western China welcomes you as your driver navigates the throngs of cyclists which mix with the rhythm of a modern city. After a rest at your hotel, you're off to dinner and a visit at China's historical Three Kingdoms era Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple and Jinli Ancient Street. An earlier arrival today (or a later departure for Kangding tomorrow) allows for time to visit the world famous ambassador of Sichuan: the Giant Panda.
Leaving Chengdu , today you head out of the Sichuan basin to penetrate deep into the mountains that guard the approach to the Tibet-Qinghai plateau. You enter a cultural change warp on your six hour journey. Everything becomes new: landscape, climate, cuisine, language, customs, and of course, the people. On the first evening in Kangding (elev. 8500 ft.) you'll visit Ngachu monastery, followed by a community dance (feel free to join in!). Distance: 325km.
The first thing you notice the next morning is that everywhere you look goes up! Kangding is perched on the edge of the Tibet-Qinghai plateau. Following breakfast, a three hour hike will afford the best views of Kangding possible and the afternoon will include a fascinating introduction to this new land with a visit to the Tibetan Museum of Cultural History. A stroll through the markets later in the day will also give you an idea of why this town has been a key historical trading center between Tibetans and the Chinese.
After a good night's rest it is an early start today to the staging point for our six day trek around the western side of Minya Konka. Laoyulin (10,200 ft.) is located a short 30 min ride from town. Today's hike will follow a gentle 2-3 hr trail through a forested valley, and upward alongside the Riwuqie river to a high elevation grassland (12,000 ft.). This is a beautiful setting to spend your first night away from civilization, surrounded by the grandeur of Minya Konka's foothills.
Similar to yesterday, today's hike continues at a gentle but steady elevation gain, with a few steeper grades along the way. The relaxed pace will allow for plenty of stops and further acclimatization for the days ahead, not to mention an abundance of photography opportunities. Tonight will be another night spent in the company of surrounding ridges and peaks (13,100 ft.) at the confluence of the Riwuqie pass valley and Panpan Mt. valley. With a small grassland at the base of the confluence, there are numerous nomad encampments tending their yaks in the surrounding area.
The pace will slow a little today as you ascend to a higher elevation campsite in preparation for crossing the highest pass of the trek. Weather permitting, the route will afford views of surrounding 20,000 ft. peaks. Meadows and high-elevation scrub will replace the previous two days of forest as you venture further up and closer to the mountain (14,270 ft.). The campsite tonight is tucked in the bowl of the upper reaches of the Riwuqie pass. For those with energy to burn, there is an optional pre-dinner trek to a high elevation glacial lake, with stunning views of one of the Minya Konka range's most beautiful scenes.
After an early breakfast, it is roughly a three hour hike to the top of Riwuqie pass (16,200 ft.) to afford some of the best views of the whole trek. If the weather is on your side, you'll want to linger at the top and enjoy the surrounding views of glaciers, lakes, and almost more peaks than can be counted. Then it's on down the other side of the pass into Moxi valley. Moxi valley provides a well earned downhill reprieve from the previous days of high elevation uphill hiking. A 3 hour walk through a beautiful forested valley with interspersed meadows and views of surrounding peaks will take you to a yak herder's camp for tonight's rest (approx. 12,000 ft.).
Today's walk continues through the Moxi valley across an undulating landscape of meadows, pastures, rivers, and surrounding rock and snow. There is rhododendron in abundance throughout this area as you navigate several river and large stream crossings. After 4-5 hours walking you'll camp at another lower elevation meadow before beginning a gentle upward trek to Minya Konka monastery in the morning (11,000 ft.).
Today's destination is one of the most isolated monasteries on the planet. Nestled into a steep valley on the western side of Minya Konka, it was built over 700 years ago and, although it endured a period of quiet following the cultural revolution, in recent years it has revived some. The afternoon affords an optional exploratory hike up the glacial valley above the monastery. Tonight there is the option of sleeping in the monastery itself or in an adjacent stone dormitory (12,300 ft.).
This morning involves retracing your steps away from the monastery down the forested slope to the river to continue south to the village of Zemei. After this two hour downhill trek you'll celebrate the completion of your trek and enjoy a short rest at a beautiful local guesthouse (11,500 ft.). The last leg of your Minya Konka adventure is by vehicle over two 4500m passes with stunning views of the main peak to the east. Your 4X4 will meet you at the guesthouse for this 4 hour drive back to Kangding via some beautiful nomadic settlements and trading towns enroute. Hot showers and western food are waiting at Zhilam guesthouse - the center of civilization in Kangding (8500 ft.).
After your best night's sleep in over a week and a belly full of a hot breakfast, it is back to Chengdu in time for your flight the next day.