ICE CLIMBING IN CHINA: FAQ
if you havent been to China before get ready to be surprised. whilst Japan is refined, orderly and bristling with novelty, China is a vast expanse of organic complexity running on what seems to be chaos. after a while you get a handle on things and travelling in China starts to make sense, but before then here’s what you need to know to go climbing there:
the majority of our trips are based from Chengdu in Sichuan. Chengdu has lots of connecting flights to the east coast cities, as well as a few regional international flights to places like Bangkok and Tokyo. Trains run to Chengdu from across China, connecting to the coastal cities, Lhasa, Kunming and Xian amongst others.
you will need a visa before arriving. they are not hard to get UNLESS you mention Tibet or Xinjiang on the form – so don’t.
Shuangqiao valley is the most well known ice climbing area but all down western Sichuan theres ice, including the valleys around Kangding and Danba.
permits for climbing in China constantly change. sometimes the authorities care, sometimes they don’t. we will sort it out but please understand that dealing with authorities in China requires a degree of ‘creativity’.
gear for ice climbing in China is similar to ice climbing gear for Japan. the main difference is you will want a warmer insulating layer.
gear for ice climbing is not reliably found in China. Beijing, Shanghai, Hong kong and Chengdu have outdoor stores with some stuff, but dont rely on them. bring anything you will need with you.
Food to take climbing is easily available everywhere, though things like gels and recovery powder may be hard to find.
there exists the option to join trips from elsewhere in Sichuan or China. Urumqi, Kashgar, Kunming, Kangding, Xining and others are all possible rendezvous places depending on the nature of the trip.
Rescue in China is near non-existant.
Maps published in China often have strange things added and omitted. Big Brother IS watching.
Some access roads to climbing areas in China go to very high altitude (one road in to the Shuangqiao valley goes to around 5000m). we can usually allow for a moderated ascent, but understand this will require an extra day or two.
theres not much snow in western Sichuan in winter. due to this and the high UV ice breaks down fast, resulting in a short season even with very cold temperatures (-25 at night). it’s normal to have clear blue days with strong sunshine and UV, but it’s still way below zero in the shadows.
in the Shuangqiao valley we stay with local families who have housed climbers for years. they are good-hearted people who work hard for the extra income over winter, though their knowledge of life outside their valleys is very limited. allow a large buffer of cultural difference if misunderstandings arise. they already get a dubious deal under communist party rule, so be sensitive with issues that elsewhere may be normal dinner conversation. it’s still the wild west out there