Journeys, &c

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Tag: bivvy

The High Cliffs of Huangyukou

With Ben (l) on top of the cliff at Huangyukou

^ With Ben (left) on top of the cliff at Huangyukou

Most navigation arguments have little real consequence. “You missed the exit!” “That was the exit?” “I told you to get in the right lane!” You might be late, but you won’t have to sleep outside in the cold.

But on the side of a cliff in failing light, they take on a different complexion. So it was in Autumn 2013 near Huangyukou.

There were four of us, but really we were two couples. My regular hiking partner Ben and I on one hand, and my German friend Chinoook and his hiking partner Hin on the other. A simple but understandable error with GPS had left us beating a path up a steep, scrubby and rocky slope as the sun sank inevitably towards the ridgeline.

Finally, it was crunch time. “We should turn around”, I said. “Well, I think if we continue across this face we can probably make it to that tower”, said Chinoook. I looked up. Far across the valley, on a high ridge, a beautiful tower glowed yellow in the setting sun. It was hours away, even if we could traverse the rocky wall ahead – much of which we couldn’t actually see from here. I have had some unpleasant experiences on steep Great Wall hillsides at night – I had no intention of doing it again.

“The sun’s setting”, I reminded everyone. Chinook consulted his GPS. “The sun doesn’t set for three hours”. At that moment, I lost my patience. “Look at the f****g sky, man. Use your eyes. We have ninety minutes of light, max. You do what you like. I’m going down”.

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Memo for Next Time – Bring More Water

If your Camelbak crumples with a demoralising gurgle, you know you’ve run out of water. It’s a particularly disappointing realisation when you still have several hours of climbing ahead and it’s getting hotter by the moment. Such was my predicament on the Great Wall above Sancha a few weekends back. How I got through it is a short tale of “adapt and overcome”, sprinkled with the never-exhausted “kindness of strangers” that makes life in China much easier than one might think it is. Click through for more on my solo overnight microadventure, and discover how I got from here to beer:

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