Rilong and Siguniangshan (Four Girls Mountains), June 10-17

We took a car to the small town of Rilong, situated at an altitude of 10,000 ft, to explore the area around these beautiful mountains in the Aba Tibetan Prefecture. We waited out a rainy day, checked the weather forecast, and then headed into the mountains. We had two days of gorgeous weather, and the rest of the time, it rained. We planned to spend seven days backpacking here but left after five because of the incessant rain. We climbed the Second Girl (17,300 ft) and explored the Haizhugou Valley beyond the Four Girls.

Along the road to Rilong, we stopped at a 1000-year old monastery that suffered damage during the Cultural Revolution. It's being restored now.

Door knocker.

In Rilong, a common restaurant style was to have all the fresh vegetables out on display, and when you chose vegetables they were stir-fried over very high heat with different sauces. This was great for us, since usually our ordering method involved saying or showing the words to "I am a vegetarian" and then waiting to see what food would arrive (in one horrible case, what we now are pretty sure was congealed blood of some animal; at the time, we thought it was dark colored tofu).

It was cold in Rilong.

We had no maps except simplistic tourist maps, but luckily, we found the trails in the Four Girls Mountains easy to follow.

A horse eyes me warily.

The skies parted only briefly on our hike up, just enough to snap this photo but not enough to get a picture of all four girls. First girl is on the right, second (the one we climbed) is the middle of the three, third girl (which apparently has a short technical section) is on the left, and the much taller fourth girl is off the picture to the left and hidden by clouds.

The faintest peak at the fourth girl, 20,500 ft.



A white chorten, which is a Tibetan Buddhist religious monument.

An adorable calf with long red eyelashes.

Aaron hiking as the weather gets worse.

As we hiked, it rained a bit, but after we made it to basecamp for the Second Girl it cleared up. We got a nice view of the Second Girl.

Morning light.

Several parties were camped at a lower basecamp, and they got a much earlier start than us; we were just crawling out of the tent at this hour.

There was some morning fog in the valley below, but the sky was beautifully clear.

Views as we're hiking.





The huge, sheer Fourth Girl mountain.

Amy and Aaron at the summit of the Second Girl, with Fourth Girl in the background.

Aaron descending into a temporary fog.

Looking down my feet at a glissade I'm about to do.

Aaron glissading.

Pretty alpine succulents.

Aaron herding the caks and yows back at the basecamp.

Aaron and I ate a leisurely lunch, but it was still early in the day and we had some energy, so we decided to try to hike the First Girl mountain from the basecamp of the second.

Amy hiking along.

Aaron looking towards the summit of First Girl with Second Girl in the background. Eventually we came to see that our passage to the summit of the First Girl would be blocked by a small cliff band, so we headed down.

Aaron heading back to camp.

Amy taking a nap.

There isn't much of a leave-no-trace ethic in China's backcountry yet. This is a campsite left with trash all over it. We found batteries by the stream from where we'd been getting our water.

Aaron hiking around.

Amy sitting down to take some flower pictures.

Flower picture.

Aaron in contemplation.

Evening light on the mountains on the other side of the valley.

A pretty waterfall.

Caks in an idyllic mountain scene.

The valley floor.

We headed up the valley, staying high from base camp and attempting to contour the valley's wall...alas, it didn't work and we ended up on the valley floor anyway.


Amy taking a picture of the Fourth Girl.

The Fourth Girl, again.

Amy fording the river.


We kept looking for lakes---that was the driving force (for me) in going further up the valley. I was disappointed.

Our plan for the next day, originally, was to head up to this area and climb one of the couloirs visible in the picture. We changed plans when it rained that night.

Aaron making our favorite new dish---noodles with seaweed, served with nutritional yeast. It makes the water a witches' brew green. It doesn't sound gourmet, but it's actually pretty good...nutritional yeast tastes kind of cheesy.

We decided to hike up to a pass to see if we could catch a nice view, but it was very foggy.

A fossil?

Amy hiking up with the foggy valley in the background.

Aaron punching through knee-deep snow towards the pass.

Looking down on a lake (we finally found one).


Sharp talus.


A family, perhaps.

Aaron makes a friend.

More lovely weather.

We hiked out the next day, our fifth in Haizhugou Valley, when we awoke to another rainy day.

The valley.


There were several ranches in the valley; here is a rock-fenced corral and some pigs. Everyone was very friendly and we were invited in for tea at every house.

A cabin with a roof made of rocks.

Horses on the valley floor.

Amy with two of the valley's ranchers. The two men display very different fashions.

The muddy trail, torn up by the horses.