The Hengduan Mountains offer various degrees of difficulty, and they also hold some of the most rare and endangered species of plants and animals.
Name: Hengduan Mountain Range (Hengduan Shan, formerly known as "untouched Nepal")
Height: 7,556 m (24,790 ft)
Location: Yunnan/Sichuan/Eastern TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region) , China, Asia
Climb Time: around 15 days
Best Time to Climb: October through May
The Hengduan Mountain Range stretches from northwest Sichuan and far eastern TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region) down to the border of Myanmar with Yunnan Province.
The Hengduan Mountains are primarily large north-south mountain ranges that effectively separate lowlands in northern Myanmar from the lowlands of the Sichuan Basin. These ranges are characterized by significant vertical relief originating from the Indian subcontinent's collision with the Eurasian Plate, and further carved out by the major rivers draining the eastern Tibetan Plateau. The rivers Yangtze, Mekong, and Salween are known today as the Three Parallel Rivers UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This mountain range is famous for its vegetation, which includes very common plants that actually first evolved there (geraniums, lilies, and lady slipper orchids, to name just a few). It also includes some very rare plants.
Hengduan is also well known for its drastic altitude differences and also its remote character, and because of that it was also called “the untouched Nepal" around 9 years ago. This might not be the case anymore since Hengduan has become more popular over the last few years.
Some of the mountain groups and peaks of Hengduan are:
- The Kawagebo Group (Meili Xue Shan)
- Jade Dragon (Yu Long Xue Shan)
- Nu Range
- Haba and Tianbao
- Four Girls Group
- Genyen Massif
- Yading Group
- and the most popular Minya Konka and her satellites
Most of these mountains are in the 5,000-6,000 meters range and they offer various degrees of difficulty, but for most of these peaks you have to pay permit fees and register in Sichuan or Yunnan Mountaineering Associations. You will also have to pay entrance fees if you want to enter any preserve or a park.
For some peaks you will also need to go to the locals to ask for permission since some peaks are considered holy (like Kawagebo or Genyen for example).
Warning: These areas are extremely remote. Do carry your own medical supplies with you. Adequate health care or search and rescue may not be available.
One of the must-see places when you visit this mountain range is the Hengduan Mountains subalpine conifer forests. These forests extend within the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) and Yalong River valleys. In addition, a portion of the Anning River valley and Mianmian Mountains near Lugu Lake support the subalpine conifer forests. This region covers northern Yunnan Province, western Sichuan Province, and the extreme eastern edge of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The Hengduan Mountains subalpine conifer forests are one zone in a range of montane ecosystems that transition between tropical and temperate ecoregions along the southeastern fringe of the Tibetan Plateau. The Hengduan forests reach elevations higher than 4,000 m (13,000 ft) and extend to the treeline, beyond which are montane grasslands and shrublands classified as the Southeast Tibet shrub and meadows. The Hengduan conifer forests are separated into two arms by the Shaluli Mountains.
This ecoregion is recognized by environmental groups as being threatened by a growing human population.
One of the easier places to get to is the White Chick Temple, which is located in Shangri-La. From there you can continue to go downhill and go to Benzilan village. Benzilan lodge provides a perfect springboard for explorations of the wild, forested country above it.
But the favorite place for many tourists is the Mekong Valley. Every now and again, visions of ice-encrusted summits would appear at the head of canyons cleaving deep into the mountain’s flank, which provides one of the most spectacular views you will ever see.
As mentioned before, you need permission to climb this mountain. You can get more information and organize the climb itself in the Sichuan Mountaineering Association in Chengdu or in China Mountaineering Association in Beijing.
Warning: Some of the areas are extremely remote. Do carry your own medical supplies with you. Adequate health care or search and rescue may not be available.
Climbing is possible throughout year according to the various beta and depending on location. But generally, dry season is usually from late October through May and wet season is usually June through early October. Minya Konka can be climbed just before or after the wet season, which is mostly April/May or September/October, but even in the dry season the weather can be very unstable.
Minya Konka (Gongga Shan) is the easternmost 7000 m peak, the highest peak east of the Himalayas, and it marks the cultural and topographical boundary between China/Sichuan, with a humid moderate climate in the east and dry highlands in the west.
In total there were just 8 successful climbs to Minya Konka.
The expedition to Minya Konka starts in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. It continues with a two-day car ride via Kangding and Shade to the valley of Liuba. The rest is a two-day trek to the lamasery Gongga Gompa, west of Minya Konka, which is considered a "base camp".
From this area, the mountain is climbed either via NW or the more difficult NE ridge.
Most successful ascents were via NW ridge, and the “normal route” was established by the 1932 expedition, and has three major sections:
Access to the northwest ridge
The first part consists of steep glacier slopes (up to 45-50°) with high danger of avalanches. There are three pillars leading to the ridge, but usually the left pillar is used. The right pillar was attempted by the 1984 expedition and the central pillar was climbed by a 1989 French expedition.
Long section on the ridge with traverse of the "Hump"
The Hump is a vertical ice formation that blocks the ridge at about 6300 m. It has to be traversed by rappelling about 80 m on the other side.
From the base of the Hump the ridge is a mix of ice and rock, and its difficulty is probably not more than II (UIAA).
You can get more information and an example of the itinerary for climbing Minya Konka here.
And if you’re interested in rock climbing in the Yunnan Province, check this link.
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