Notes on logistics for climbers. Climbing permits for Sichuan Province are relatively easy to acquire. Contrary to previous reports, no one has ever been declined a permit. Certain parties just refused to pay the fee and hence were “denied.” The climbing fee for peaks under 7,000m is $700, payable only in US dollars (this includes Mt. Siguniang). The permit process takes approximately 30 minutes and is easily accomplished in person at the Sichuan Mountaineering Association in downtown Chengdu, with no prior notice necessary. Once in Rilong, the small village that is the jump-off point for the Qionglai Mountains, there are a few more additional fees. Because the mountains are within the Four Girls Mountains Nature Reserve, there is an entrance fee and a per-day camping fee. The entrance fee was 70 Yuan (about 9 USD), and the camping fee was 12 Yuan (about 1.60 USD) per person, per day. There is a separate permit for low-elevation rock and ice climbing that costs around 30 USD. This permit can be obtained in Rilong.
Chengdu is a full-service city, and it is easy to purchase most of your food here at a number of large grocery and multi-department stores. There are several gear shops where you can purchase camping gear, but climbing gear is limited. In Rilong there are shops where you can buy enough food for a shorter trip, but expect the selection to be limited. Transportation from Chengdu to and from Rilong can either be by public bus or by private vehicle. For public transportation, expect to pay around 100 Yuan (about 13 USD) per person, plus an extra per-bag fee. The bag fee is usually negotiable but can be upwards of 50 Yuan (6.50 USD) per bag. For a private van that can easily hold four climbers plus gear, expect to pay 1,800–2,000 Yuan (240–266 USD). Horses can also be hired in Rilong and run from 200–300 Yuan (about 26–40 USD) per horse. It is feasible to take a single load or ferry loads up to base camp as well. Contrary to what foreign climbers might think, the First “pure alpine” ascents (those climbs that left from the trailhead without the use of horses) were made long ago by the likes of Charlie Fowler, and before him by local climbing guides. Also, yaks pose no threat in the valley and are quite afraid of humans.
Climbing in the Qionglai Mountains of Sichuan Province is going to change dramatically over the next couple of years. The Chinese government is actively promoting the area for tourism, and Rilong is undergoing major changes. The small mountain road from Chengdu to Rilong is being overhauled and widened into a super highway of sorts in order to handle the expected onslaught of visitors. Many of the residents of Rilong are being evicted from their homes in the main area of town, where the government wants to build hotels and other large tourist facilities. Some of the residents’ families have lived in these homes for over 300 years. (Tibetans have resided in the valley for over a thousand years.) Compensation for their homes is minimal. In addition the government plans to build a gondola to a sacred hilltop where there are several stupas that look out toward Mt. Siguniang. Other changes already implemented include the reconstruction and expansion of a 3km boardwalk system that leads into the main Changping Valley. It would not be surprising if this boardwalk one day extended all the way (17km) to the meadow at the main base camp area. The Shuangqiaogou Valley, just west of the Changping, a few years ago received a paved road that leads several kilometers to its head. It remains to be seen how the Chinese will manage the environmental and social impacts of a large influx of visitors to such a small and delicate alpine area. [For further notes on logistics, see the last paragraph of Jon Lane Sullivan’s notes above—Ed.]
Joseph Puryear, AAC