Minya Konka and its glaciers

Most people think that glaciers can only be found at polar areas. I saw one at low-altitude and low-latitude in the region of Gongga Mountain (贡嘎山, also called "Minya Konka" in Tibetan language, meaning mountain with white ice). It is one of the most formidable mountains in China and the highest mountain (it peaks at 7565m) in western Sichuan, sitting in the range of Daxue Shan (大雪山). Even though Mt. Everest reaches the top of the world, Mt. Gongga is more difficult to conquer (photo credit goes to Flickr.com. You have to be patient and lucky enough to have this shot).

Starting from Chengdu, one takes Cheng-Ya (成都-雅安) highway and then
switches onto Route G318 (国道318) at Ya’an to Luding. Route G318 goes
from east to west, penetrates the entire Ganzi Tibetan perfecture and
leads into Tibet. It is a tough however heroic road. It only takes about 7 hours driving from Chengdu to Hailuogou (海螺沟), a touring base for one of  the Gongga Mountain’s glaciers, which makes it one of the modern glaciers that are so close to urban areas. Hailuogou belongs to the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Perfecture (甘孜藏族自治州) and is in the region of two well-known cities of Kangding (康定, 康定情歌每一个人都听过) and Luding (泸定,泸定桥,红军过大渡河的地方. Now it costs a tourist 10RMB to walk on it, which produces some mild revenue for the local government).

Gongga Mountain stands high and its glaciers reach deeply into forests. Facts — the glacier tongue is at 2680m and coexists with the surrounding forestry. It spans 14 kilometers in length, 150 meters in width and 100-200 meters in depth. The glacier looks mighty and mysterious, as my friend put it. (photo credit goes to Flickr.com. Unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera).


Because of the climate change, the glaciers have been receding at an accelerating rate. For the example of Hailuogou glacier NO.1, in recent years, its tongue receded on average 15 meters per year. Glaciers are important reservoirs for fresh water and crucial for a sustainable ecosystems. For the science of glacier and glaciation, one can refer to its Wikipedia entry here.

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