Mingyong Glacier Hike: Journey of Legends

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The best thing about staying at Tashi’s Mountain Lodge in Reringkha, about a half-hour walk from Fei Lai Si, is its owner. Richard has trekked the area quite extensively and has all sorts of unique walks in the area not to mention advice and maps. We had just arrived and were treated to a large feast for 30 Yuan (expensive for China, but not for the area) and then I was picking his brain. As I did so, some of our other new arrivals came and listened and soon five of us were pouring over a map trying to decide what we could see in a rather short time. There’s Yubeng, a Tibetan village one day’s walk from the lodge, sitting at the foot of the mountains and offering nearby waterfalls, glacial lakes, and of course staying with a Tibetan family in a place that is a six hour walk from the nearest road. There’s the Mingyong glacier, the foot of which can be reached by car and a 1.5 hour hike. And there’s a mountain summit just behind the lodge that is a trail rather unique to Tashi’s. With three days, what was I to do?

My plan, eventually, was to do a one-day hike down (and then up and then down again) to the glacier, passing an abandoned village, crossing the Mekong into Xigong village, up along a mountain ridge and down into Mingyong town. There, we’d spend the night, hike up to the glacier the next morning, admire it for some time, and then make our way back to the lodge by car. Mary and Alden (two Americans), Michelle (Aussie), and Malak (Moroccan) were also interested, and so the five of us set off the next morning after breakfast making our way down a knee-wrenching descent from Fei Lai Si to the Mekong. The clouds were unfortunately of a height that they obscured the Himalayas towering over the Mekong but it was special to be, once again, on this river that has played so large a part in my journey. I had thought our travels together completed when I made my way down to the delta in Vietnam and now here I was so near its origins, sharing a wooden suspension bridge with cattle.

We crossed into the Tibetan town which appeared deserted until we ventured further in, and up in a valley before turning up a path to give us a nice ridge walk over the Mekong. On our left, the Himalayas, on our right and far below, the Mekong once more. We soon found ourselves in Mingyong, the glacier town, far ahead of schedule. So far, in fact, that rather than taking an extra day we decided to hike up to the top of the glacier now and we set off. Here, the altitude really affected me and I had to walk quite slowly and stop often which was embarrassing. The glacier was impressive and would’ve been more so if only we could see its top through the cloud, but it was great to sit there and watch it in the late afternoon sun. What was all the better was that because we’d arrived so late – about 4:00 – we pretty much had the glacier to ourselves. It was peaceful, sunny, and cool. We were back down in the town by 7:00 and my knees were killing me, but we had done our two day hike in one and caught a cab up to Fei Lai Si to watch the sunset and grab dinner.

When we returned to Tashi’s, everyone knew of our ‘legendary’ trek from some people we’d run into on the glacier. It was pretty funny to be there and have people slapping us on the back and saying that we were machines but we sat around exchanging hiking stories and Alden, Mary, and myself decided that we would take the day we gained and hike to the nearby summit the following morning. I was apprehensive about my knees, but they weren’t too bad and I went anyway. Thank goodness I did! The prior day’s hike may have made us into legends but the scenery did not feel like anything I couldn’t have seen elsewhere, except the glacier, and that was more ‘sightseeing’ than trekking. The scenery on our summit hike was varied, beautiful, dramatic, and terrifying at various stages.

Mingyong Photos

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