Preparations are in full mode here in Shangri-La to ascend to the sacred Tibetan high altitude ‘White&Black’ sister lakes, here in northwestern Yunnan. Known in ancient times as bodies of water where divinities resided, the lakes were consulted by locals in times of need. The lakes are now remembered by only a few ancients. They also remain upon a long forgotten stretch of caravan route…thus my obsessed interest.
As always it is the human element that will give this journey life, and make the expedition marvellously unpredictable. Our team, originally scheduled to be 5 strong has now been cut down to just 3 of us due to cold temperatures and timing. It is late in the year and temperatures will be stark and daily reminders of where we are going at 4,000 metres. We will be led by the incorrigible Aniè (uncle) who remembers the route…at least that is what he has led us to believe, and be joined by resident ‘iron-man’ Ngaba. I will complete the party. Aniè the other day told me to be more concerned for my own body than his, when I wondered aloud whether his almost 70 year old body would endure in the now frozen mountains.
We’ve been told that taking mules will be risky not only from the mules’ health point of view, but for the horsemen themselves, and they will not risk their precious mules’ wellbeing on ice, or with temps well below zero. So, it will lie with Aniè and his memories of the lakes and of how to get there, that we will depend upon. It has been over a decade since he made his last journey ‘up’.
These days sun bolts out of the sky and winds above a whisper carry the force of the Himalayas to our northwest. It is the nights that we must prepare for.
Updates to follow…