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Seven weeks in the Kingdom of Nangchen

 

Exploring, trekking, and climbing in the Far East's "Greater Tibet" region with a team of Frenchies
Text and photos by Guillaume Vallot

Snowy mountains

Tibet traditions, language, and culture used to be spread throughout a much greater region than the current Chinese partially “Autonomous Province of Tibet.” Let's call this region, “Greater Tibet”. In fall 2015, I went on seven weeks trekking and mountaineering in Qinhai around Yushu - the province capital – to explore this remote and little-visited traditional Tibetan mountain plateau called “the Kingdom of Nangchen”.

Accompanied by essayist and mountain guide Luc Richard, a specialist in both survival techniques and China, Brice Pedroletti, the Beijing correspondent Le Monde (a major French newspaper), and Carolle Rattaggi, an incredible female alpinist and climbing instructor, I spent an unforgettable time exploring remote valleys and mountain ranges for the months of October and November 2015.

Lyofood products near Campfire

The main goal of the trip was to trek through the area to discover the geography and people, since Luc Richard intends to promote trekking expeditions in this mountainous region. The area looks to be a genuine paradise for multi-day treks, with several Buddhist monasteries and local farmers ready to warmly open their doors, kitchens, and offer a bed for the night to the very few travelers passing through… For many of them, we were the very first Caucasians they had ever seen. Smiling children (and amazingly cute) were particularly fascinated by Luc’s long red hair and beard!

Lyofood products near Campfire

In the breathtaking limestone landscape, I was amazed by the countless beautiful 5000-meter high unclimbed peaks all around us. Some of them were closer to the 6000 meter mark, offering a wide variety of fantastic climbing options: from easy snow routes to the top, to “impossible” 700hundred meter high big walls, or steep icy gullies. The Nangchen and Yushu regions revealed themselves to be an incredible alpine playground yet are totally and completely unknown.

After three weeks and following Luc and Brice's departure, Carole and I scaled two - most likely – never-before climbed peaks. Dza Tsumbo, 5500 m, and Tadzeu Maia, 5900 m, offered pleasant and easy to find snow routes to their summits. We named the second route, “Ni Tu Nali," which translates to, “Where are you going,” in Mandarin.

Climbers

The entire seven weeks of trekking and climbing were done in “alpine” style, meaning that we had no support of any kind, carrying everything in our backpacks, and traveling from one place to another on our own two legs! It goes without saying that every gram saved in weight was critical. This goes especially for our food, clothing, climbing, and sleeping gear. For the three last items, we were greatly aided by Luc’s survival instructor experience and from Petzl, my climbing gear sponsor. For food, LYOFOOD Company's support proved nothing less than a miracle. They provided us with full meals that were not only delicious, but incredibly easy to prepare. We used them during our weeks of trekking as an "energy backup,” and for those cold nights outdoors when we couldn’t find a monastery or a farmer to feed us. These organic and tasty meals also worked perfectly for our high altitude camps, when we spent five days and nights on our own, far from civilization with on the eagles and bears to keep us company. Last but not least, we really enjoyed LYOFOOD's “super fruit vitamin powders," the perfect way to change the taste (and color!) of the somewhat bland Tsampa and fresh yak's cheese (the local equivalent of plain yogurt). I just couldn't understand the horrific and very shocked reactions of the locals when we put strawberry or blueberry powder in their beloved, thousand-year-old sacred Tsampa recipe, transforming it into a flashy pink or blue velvety mix!

Preparing Lyo Powders in the camp

Thanks “LYOFOOD” for being such an important part of the enjoyment and success of our self-sufficient East Tibetan mountain trip!

Camp in the mountains