Shangri-la – Mt. Tianbao Circuit (gallery)

This trip saw us accompany two families on an attempt to hike from the far side of Mt. Tianbao all the way to Shangri-la. We’ve tried this a number of times and never got all the way to town, and this was no exception. The time was late July, and so for one thing we had the rainy season to contend with. But what finally stymied our team was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth. It wasn’t possible to camp close to Shangri-la and so we had to wave goodbye to our horse team close to Dabao Temple.

It was still a great trip, though. I’ve written about Tianbao previously on several occasions, so this time will give you a photo gallery only…

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Further Exploration of Mt. Tianbao, July 2012

For the last in this summer’s Shangri-la excursions, Yang Xiao trekked into the Tianbao range from the east and circled back to Zhongdian via Lake Abuji.

He found these lovely blue poppies in unusual abundance above the lake. This is my favourite flower.

This trail begins at around 3,600 meters and offers no great difficulties, passing through a number of beautiful pastures where Yi villagers herd yak.

There are also numerous ponds and wetlands: in the foreground here you can see the yellow Primula sikkimensis; in the distance are a number of tall Rheum alexandrae.

The yak are generally peaceful, but Yang Xiao saw two bulls fighting – a gory display which resulted in the loser’s death. The herders couldn’t stop them and had to burn the carcass – while there are wolves on the mountain, they said the numbers were too small and the carcass would rot and endanger the herd if left untouched.

Yang Xiao’s young Yi host Xiao Sha prepares the morning milk.

Shen Niuzhi shows off his collection of freshly collected zhuomuyasha roots, a traditional medicinal preparation that is supposed to even out your blood pressure.

Even two or three wolves are plenty to worry about in calving season. Privately owned weapons are illegal in China, but many of the herders make use of ancient rifles like this to help keep their animals safe.

Home-made bullets.

And more home-made pellets for the wolves.

Lake Abuji.

An alternative view of Lake Abuji.

Now back to the wildflowers, which were still growing in great profusion in mid-July. The names, where known, are in the file data – open the gallery or hover your mouse over the pictures.

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Mt. Tianbao July 2012

Yang Xiao was out and about in the Tianbao range, just south of Shangri-la, during the last days of June/first days of July. It’s not the most favourable time of year for weather, but you have to be prepared for a bit of rain to see the best of the region’s wildflowers. As this is breeding season for the local yaks, this is also a busy time for the Tibetan herders on Mt. Tianbao’s many pastures.

This was the highlight of his journey, a particularly rare (at least in our experience) beauty sometimes known as the Chinese Alpine Lily.

Yang Xiao’s hand gives an idea of the size of this bloom.

The crest of Mt. Tianbao, which rises just over 4,400 meters above sea level, looms in the distance.

I’ve written the names of all flowers into the photo data, so either hover your cursor over these small pictures or click on any one to enter the gallery. There are a couple I haven’t been able to identify, plus a couple of wild guesses. Any improvements and/or corrections will be very welcome, as ever…

This was Yang Xiao’s highest camp, around 4,200 meters up, with Lake Abuji in the background.

This gentleman herds his yaks on a small pasture below Abuji. He is standing with his grandson in a field of Primula secundiflora, I think.

These chaps were herding on a much larger pasture to the north of Tianbao. The fellow on the left is mute – he used sign language to explain to Yang Xiao that wolves roam the mountain in the background, and that they are especially dangerous at this time of year when the yaks are having their babies.

If your yak butter tea has a smoky taste, now you know why…

This is an early stage of the traditional and very sour Tibetan cheese found on the markets of Shangri-la. After the excess fluid has drained away, these are dried over the stove.

A day’s work produces one to one-and-a-half of these cakes of yak butter, which sell for up to 85 yuan each.

Back to the wildflowers, and you have to climb up to near 4,000 meters to find these rhododendron still in bloom.

I’ve never seen this one before. Any ideas?

This is definitely an iris: I’m plumping for a variant of Iris bulleyana Dykes.

And to finish off, a nice patch of what might be another Primula poissonii, but what I’m going to say is Primula blinii.

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