Turning tail on way to Eastern Tibet…

Turning tail on way to Eastern Tibet…

My last two attempts at having fun in Qionglai shan didn’t bring about much fun… let alone a route… Last year I didn’t manage to at least touch the wall i was there for; this year i didn’t even make it into the range! Busy in London with piles of books in the Institute of Classical Studies I was more than happy to let the planning to be someone else’s task. I wanted to climb something but gladly let someone else to worry about the details. Bob (my partner on Transilvania avenue) was happy to do the worrying and he enlisted the Canadians Erik and Jen and i brought in my British friend Eben. With fairly loose plans (Bob and Erik and Jen were looking for some alpine style objectives while I was set on a big wall attempt of a face, most likely with Eben) we were planning to take off on the 26th of January and spend the next three weeks in the mountains.

Then – a mere ten days before departure – Bob injured himself and had to pull out, Erik and Jen were not sure and only Eben and I were still hoping. After lengthy deliberations we realised it was too late to post the gear and the flights were getting too expensive with the whole country on the move for the Chinese New Year. We decided that the only reasonable way to make it there with all our kit and with a reasonable expense was for me to drive our sorry a&%$s from Guangzhou as far as possible up the valley. In the end Erik decided to make this a trip of three and we were supposed to collect him on the way, from Chengdu.

With more than 2500km one way to cover in two days and being the only driver the task seemed a bit daunting but the prospects merry. We set off, Eben and I, on the 26th, as planned did really good progress, stopping at the border between Guangxi and Guizhou provinces, 1200km away from Guangzhou. What we did not expect was that China was to be hit by the freakiest winter in decades, sub-tropical areas being covered in snow and the whole country brought to a standstill with all major airports closed for days, most of the motor-ways and roads going north shut down and with trains derailed or stopped on the lines for days in a row. Somewhere in the passage mountains between Guangxi and Guizhou Eben, myself and my Jeep were caught up in the nightmare spending almost a whole day on a mere 50 km stretch of road just to be told that we will not be moving anytime soon and even if we did the roads between Guiyang and Chongqing will be blocked anyway. With a bit over 1000 km ahead of us we had to decide. The alternative to forcing our way up was a 2000 km extra detour through Yunnan but without any guarantee that the roads will be open. Reason prevailed and we turned tail in the last minute. We struggled to leave the area for the remaining part of the day weaving our way through more road-blocks and 1200 km and 18 hours later we pulled back into my parking lot. Just as well as we saw on the news that night that the worst was yet to come and we missed it by he skin of our teeth.

Taking this whole thing philosophically i am to conclude that it wasn’t meant to be this time either and that it could have been worst with us still trapped on a dirt road in snow, in a long queue of cars, for days and days… Taking it less philosophically all i can say is DAMN! B*^^%R! I’ll be looking for a different playground next time!

So what can I do? The only sane thing to do (and this is quite unlike me) is to shake away the cold and misery by staying away from it, thus I am taking off in two days to discover the limestone cliffs and sandy beaches of the Philippines…



Sorry things did not work out as planned. I am sure the mountain will be there waiting for you the next time you give it a try. keep me posted on your plans to enter the Beijing ice climbing competition next month.

Best regards

This must have been one frustrating trip! (And when I think I could barely enjoy a few lousy snowflakes here, in Kyōto.) Hope the Philippines sun has managed to chase away this bitter memory though!

Stay well,


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