Published: July 22nd 2012July 22nd 2012
Ominous names for places to go for sure. Both of which lived up to expectations. I arrived to Heaven Lake late in the afternoon (sun goes down at 10pm or so, so its not a problem). I rode in on the bus from the city to the national park. City became desert, desert became hills of sand, hills became alpine mountains, and up and up we went. Getting off the bus, I hiked in to the lake and was greeted with awesome views: deep torquoise water, alpine mountains all around. With no particular place to stay, I had heard that their were yurts around the lake, so I hiked to the far Eastern end (the direction of the BIG mountains and my destination for the following day). Upon reaching the eastern edge of the lake, I found no yurts, but housing for a new construction site. Another hotel probably, just what Chinese national parks need. I asked for room and board and was turned down. I kept walking. I found an old man and he invited me over to meet his wife who was cooking dinner outside beneath the trees using a wood burning stove. They offered dinner and a place
to sleep. Their food, their house, their land. Pretty cool. I slept without waking up until the next morning. The nice couple asked me for 100RMB for the room and meal. Can't anyone just be kind? We settled on 30RMB. Come on, one meal, no flush toilet nor shower? Its all good. Cheaper than anywhere else.
The following day (yesterday) was quite a day. I hiked allllll day; starting at 8am and stopping at 8pm. I hiked up and up and up. The pine trees became shrubbery, shrubbery to grass, grass to rock, rock to snow. Over 15,000 feet up. The peak was 18,000+ feet. I didn't make it... It started to rain (there's something new) and I was at least 8 hours away and had no intention of returning. So, on the way up to the peak, I had passed a cabin that had been vacated. I decided to seek refuge inside. Inside I found another wood burning stove, blankets, a wool jacket, and a big tea kettle, and, most importantly, a large stack of dry wood. By this time the rain had worsened and temperatures dropped. Not below freezing, but getting there. Took me a while, but
I finally got a fire going and water boiling and then I cleaned up the camp. Disposed of cigarette butts and trash and folded the blankets and things. I had brought my sleeping bag and used a few of the blankets as padding. I ate the food that I had brought: naan, peanut butter, banana chips, raisens, and some calorie bars. Delicious! After eating, altitude sickness set in... Too bad! I never really had it before and I don't know why it took so long to develop and I had decreased altitude before getting to the cabin. Anyway, I had read that one of the effects of high altitude was sleeplessness. I couldn't sleep. It was raining and you could hear the river rushing down below, some light wind blowing, and not a soul for miles in every direction. Perfect sleeping conditions really. I was warm and comfortable but my heart was racing. I wasn't dizzy, but my mind was not working 100%. Stupid songs got stuck in my head and stupid Chinese phrases. I finally fell asleep around 5 or 6am as the sun started to rise.
Today I woke up at 9am in the cabin with a
Note: this is NOT where I slept, but it was very near to the one I slept in.
pounding headache. Very disappointing I couldn't at least attempt the summit. I knew I would never make it, but I would love to get to 5000 meters. I felt terrible, packed up and went back. Still have the headache but it is getting better. The hike back was very pleasant aside from that. I kept telling myself, "hey man, you should be enjoying this! Suck it up!" Mind over matter. So now I am back at the same guesthouse in Urumqi. Very pleasant place. I am looking forward to a big hot meal at the street market and maybe one of those cold mugs of beer. Most importantly, I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep! More adventures await! Off to the desert tomorrow.
There are more photos below