Jingtieshan Travel Guide

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    by mke1963
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Jingtieshan Things to Do

  • by mke1963 Updated Feb 17, 2006

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    I have not seen these, but staff at the glacier managment park insists that there are Mongolian wild asses (Equus hemionus luteus) [or possibly the Gobi khulan - E.h. khulan?]in the southern part of the valley that runs due south from the management office (i.e. NOT the valley that leads up to the glacier).
    Unfortunately, time did not allow me to explore further.

    Now this would seem unlikely as the Mongolian wild ass and the kulan (both sub-species of the Asian wild ass) are not recorded as being in this area, but further north in Mongolia and possibly in northern Inner Mongolia. However, the staff are very insistent and the area is certainly within earlier broad ranges for these animals.

    The confirmation of these Critically Endangered (khulan) and Vulnerable (luteus) animals in this area would be a major, major discovery for someone interested in making a name for themselves! I still remain sceptical, but local peopleoften are the last to be asked by scientists about the whereabouts of wild animals. It would not be particularly surprising that a herd or two had survived simply because these 'hidden valleys' between Gansu and Qinghai have never been inhabited and were only explored in the 1950s. Even the current sparse population of Tibetan and Yugur families have migrated to this area only in the last 35 years or so.

    For more information about these rare and beautiful animals see the ARKive factsheet.

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  • by mke1963 Written Feb 17, 2006

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    I have not seen these, but staff at the glacier managment park insists that there are Mongolian wild asses (Equus hemionus luteus) [or possibly the Gobi khulan - E.h. khulan?]in the southern part of the valley that runs due south from the management office (i.e. NOT the valley that leads up to the glacier).
    Unfortunately, time did not allow me to explore further.

    Now this would seem unlikely as the Mongolian wild ass and the kulan (both sub-species of the Asian wild ass) are not recorded as being in this area, but further north in Mongolia and possibly in northern Inner Mongolia. However, the staff are very insistent and the area is certainly within earlier broad ranges for these animals.

    The confirmation of these Critically Endangered (khulan) and Vulnerable (luteus) animals in this area would be a major, major discovery for someone interested in making a name for themselves! I still remain sceptical, but local peopleoften are the last to be asked by scientists about the whereabouts of wild animals. It would not be particularly surprising that a herd or two had survived simply because these 'hidden valleys' between Gansu and Qinghai have never been inhabited and were only explored in the 1950s. Even the current sparse population of Tibetan and Yugur families have migrated to this area only in the last 35 years or so.

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  • by mke1963 Written Feb 17, 2006

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    The road from Jiayuguan and Jingtieshan join together about 3km south of the glacier park entrance, and follow a broad valley up to the side valey which provides access to the glacier itself. At the gate there is a small management office and a Mongolian-run restaurant in tents.
    After payig a small fee, you drive a further 1km along a graded road to a car park.

    The path up to the glacier starts up an immense flight of steps to a path, turning left and up the south side of the valley. The path is smooth and dry for the most part, but there are a few boggy stretches. The terminal moraine is about 3/4km wide and the snout of the glacier is hidden behind it. The last part is on steps constructed from the boulders and rock scree and is slow-going. Most visitors stop once they get level with the glacier although the path continues - less steeply - for more than a kilometre to where the glacier turns sharply.

    It is advisable not to start the walk after about 3pm to allow time to get up and back again in daylight. Personally, I would want to get most of the way back to Jiayuguan in daylight as well as the direct road is in poor condition as it crosses two passes (although it is being renovated in 2005 and 2006).

    There are two Portaloo toilets outside the management office, but if you get a sudden rush of "the cramps", speak to the warden or one of his staff. There are indoor toilets at the back of the management office; they are kind and friendly people here. Outside the May and October Golden Weeks, there are only a handful of visitors each day, so bringing that day's newspaper from Jiayuguan will go down very well with them!

    If, when you arrive at the gateway and feel uncomfortable (shortness of breath), either ask to be accompanied by a ranger (for a small fee) with an oxygen bag or be happy with seeing the glacier from below at the car park 1km further on.

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Jingtieshan Warnings and Dangers

  • by mke1963 Updated Feb 17, 2006

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    Although the July 1st Glacier is operated as a tourist feature, you are effectively on your own if something goes wrong up here. There is no emergency response plan at the entrance gateway and only the most basic first aid kit. They do have a supply of oxygen at the gate and if requested, someone will accompany you to the glacier. Note that in the event of an emergency, someone will have to go down to the gate (about 3km away) before help can even set off - cellphones do not work in this area!

    Despite local people coming up here in high-heeled shoes and T-shirts, take this trip seriously.

    See Parts II and III for specific safety advice.

    The dangerous area between the glacier and moraine

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  • by mke1963 Written Feb 17, 2006

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    - The oxygen is thin up here, and it is a 600 metre vertical distance up from the car park to the terminal moraine. Allow 90 minutes to walk the 2 kilometres: the last 250 metres seems to take for ever, with stops for breath every 20 paces. Now you know why mountaineers walk so damn slowly and why some climbers simply canot make the last 'ridiculously small' distances from the summit of big mountains. This is hard work!

    - If the weather looks as if it might change, get away and down fast. The temperature can drop by huge amounts in a short time.

    - In the event of an emergency, provide any extra clothing to the injured person and get back to the gate for help. It willtake at least three hours before the person is returned to the gate and there are NO helicopter rescue services here!

    The July 1st Glacier is a spectacular trip, but remember that more than in most situations in China, you relly are responsble for your own safety here. Local atitudes towards safety are ambivalent, and other tourists may even laugh at your precautions, but if something goes wrong (and at 4,500 metres on a remote glacier) caution is essential.

    Group with (blue) oxygen bag as precaution

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  • by mke1963 Written Feb 17, 2006

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    - Wear winter clothing! In mid September the temperature here was minus 7 degrees (it was 32 degrees in Jiayuguan when I set off) with a 20km wind blowing. Wear thermals and proper hiking boots and take a proper hat - not a baseball cap.

    - Do not go alone. If you fall on or around the glacier, you may not be discovered for days.

    - Sign in at the gate, so that the staff know you are there. You have to pay, so when you do, make yourself "obvious"so they will remember you!

    - The terminal and lateral moraines are composed of huge boulders and it is all shattered rock, so extremely sharp. Stay on the path. If you need to go onto the glacier itself (and who can resist this?!), take care cambering over these boulders. It will take much longer than it looks to get to the glacier.

    - Cross the stream at the side of the glacier and get onto the ice surface surface. Flash floods, which can happen if there is a slight change of temperature high up above you, will cause the water to rise from a trickle to a two metre deep torrent within seconds (I have seen this in Iceland and it is frightening to see how fast it happens). You will not survive if this happens: your body will be recovered 30km downstream.

    - On the glacier, stay near the edge unless you are fully roped up and know what you are doing. This is not melodramatic, this is a serious glacier, not a theme park. There are deep crevasses all over. There is a clear downdip about 120 metres from the snout whwre there are almost inevitably going to be crevasses as the ice changes altitude.

    High heels and city clothes on the glacier!

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Jingtieshan Favorites

  • by mke1963 Written Feb 17, 2006

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    Favorite thing: The Jingtieshan topo map here is useful to see the general terrain (and Falling Rain now links to Google Earth), but the glacier is off to the west. (and Jintieshan itself is actually a kilometre or so west of where Falling Rain puts it, in the deep valley).
    The "village" of Liugouquan is closer to the glacier: the glacier is the spike of white almost due south of thered marker for Liugouquan if you switch to satellite view.

    The Google Earth view in the photo (you will need to enlarge it) looks from the west of the glacier so is slightly tilted away).

    The glacier snout is at 97.749704°E 39.251928°N is you wish to mess about on Google Earth for a better view.
    The management office is at 97.717987°E 39.276386°N.

    The valley with the wild Mongolian asses is the valley running south from the management office.

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  • by mke1963 Written Feb 17, 2006

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    Favorite thing: There is an entrance gateway to the glacier by the basic management office. There is a small fee to pay when this office is open (from May to September).

    Note that access to the glacier is available all year, but getting here would require four-wheel drive vehicles and the direct road from Jiayuguan is likely to be closed by snow. The only way in would be via Jingtieshan mine.

    Only attempt this between October and May as a fully-planned expedition-type trip as once you leave Jingtieshan you really will be on your own. There will be no facilities at or even near the glacier (as I believe that the local Tibetan farmers move away from this area in the winter months as well).

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