I hiked the NianBaoYuZe(年保玉则) traverse south to north in 2 days from Jul. 20th to Jul. 21st in 2014.
NianBaoYuZe(年保玉则) is a 5369 meter mountain peak in Jiuzhi(久治) county, Qinghai(青海) province. It is also in the center of a national geology park with the same name. This 65km (unofficial. I think the actual distance is less than that) traverse hike across the park offers beautiful view of the snowy mountain peaks, alpine lakes and wild flower blossoms.
Travel within this part of China requires some planning. First you need to get to either Aba(阿坝) or Jiuzhi(久治). If you are traveling from Chengdu(成都), Sichuan(四川) province, there is a daily bus service towards Aba at Chadianzi(茶店子) bus station northwest of Chengdu in the morning for around 150 RMB. If you are traveling from SongPan(松潘), there's a morning bus towards Hongyuan(红原) at 6:30am. The bus ride takes about 5 hours. Bus from Hongyuan to Aba also departs in the morning, so you will likely miss that bus by the time you reach Hongyuan. Good news is there are often shared taxis outside bus station. With enough riders sharing the cost, the taxi to Aba costs more or less the same as the bus.
Aba is 3300m above sea level, so it’s a good idea to spend one or two nights to acclimatize. From Aba there’s a scheduled bus service at 6am to Dawu(大武), Qinghai via Jiuzhi. It runs on state highway S101 and passes by both trailheads – the park entrance and Longge(隆格) temple approximately 4 hours after leaving Aba. Tell the driver beforehand where you want to get off. The return bus passes by the two trailheads at around 4pm in the afternoon. Wait on the side of the road and flag the bus. If you are traveling from Xining(西宁), take the bus to Dawu, and reverse the above itinerary.
Beware that after a few terrorist attacks targeting bus and train stations, government has tightened the regulations about restricted items for bus and train travel. Gas canisters are not allowed to bring on a bus, and every bag need to go through an X-ray machine at Chadianzi bus station. Respect the law and don’t argue with the staff. DO NOT attempt to smuggle the canister on board. For this reason, an alcohol stove is recommended. There are few places in Aba or Jiuzhi that sells gas canisters. The only chance you are going to find one is by going hotel after hotel, hoping someone left the canister there after his hike. I managed to find one at the back of a kitchen in Chuanzhusi.
This gps file is obtained from foooooot.com.[map maptype="terrain" style="width: auto; height:400px; margin:20px 0px 20px 0px; border: 1px solid black;" z="11" gpx="http://www.mountain-du.com/wp-content/uploads/nianbao.gpx" marker="no" elevation="no" ]
I did the hike south to north, starting at Longge temple and finishing at the park entrance. IMO this direction is a better option for independent hikers. There’s a lot more traffic at the park entrance as it’s a popular tourist destination. This means it’s easier to find transportation in case you miss the bus. Also there’s a 4350m pass between Demo Cuo (德莫措 Demo Lake) and Shang Rigan Cuo(上日干措 Upper Rigan Lake) that is much easier to attempt south to north. The north face of the pass is almost a vertical climb of more than 400 meters. I am not a weak hiker but when I was looking down on top of the pass in July, I felt so glad that I didn’t have to climb that 400 meters. One final (minor) advantage of hiking south to north is that you can avoid paying the park entrance fee, which is 120RMB. If you are doing it north to south, there’s a bailout option going northeast to Heihe Qiao(黑河桥) if you think the pass is too much. If you decide to hire horses or yaks to carry your gear, that bailout route is the option you have, as horses and yaks can’t climb up the pass.
There’s another pass between Xia Rigan Cuo(下日干措 Lower Rigan Lake) and Yaonü Hu(妖女湖 Yaonü Lake) with an altitude of 4550 meters. But it’s not as steep and doable from both directions.
The trail is generally easy to follow. With the dramatic geographical features, it’s almost impossible to get lost. Just make sure you stay away from the horse trails, as they are quite muddy. I was walking in ankle deep mud for a good 3 km on the shore of Xianü Hu(仙女湖 Xianü Lake), first lake next to the park entrance, before I realized that there was a good trail half way up the hill.
You can skip the 10km dirt road betweeen Longge temple and Xia Wen Cuo(下文措 Lower Wen Lake). The dirt road is passable by motorcycles or high clearance vehicles.
You can camp anywhere you like, but the obvious choices are the lake shores. Watch out for the yaks though. Don’t set camp next to the path of yaks. The sight of a hundred yaks running toward your tent is not fun. Strictly speaking, this is not a wilderness hike. Yak herders live here year-round, and they will charge 20RMB as the camping fee at Shang/Xia Rigan Cuo. Local herders are generally friendly people. I was invited for a chung (wine) by two elderly ladies, and walked together with two teenagers to Aerjia Cuo (阿尔加措 Aerjia Lake).
This TOPO map is created by 大宝. The red dash lines are the trail. The bailout route is the one that runs northeast.
This is overall not a diffcult hike if you are acclimatized with altitude. Average hiker should be able to complete it in 3 days. If you skip the 10km dirt road, the traverse can be completed in 2 days, or even one day if you are a trail runner.
Don’t overlook altitude sickness. Average altitude of the hike is 4200 meters. That’s a significant increase of almost 1000 meters from Aba(3290m). If you already have symptoms at Aba, take a rest and don’t start the hike. Many Chinese hikers ignore this and think they can just “shake off” the sickness. This is very risky and not recommended.
Also note that there are no hiker rescue service anywhere in China. You are on your own. The “check/ok” button on SPOT messenger does work, but in case of emergency, don’t count on the rescue team miraculously showing up.