41 N – 118 E Hebei (河北), China
Line Hunting Date: February 2, 2006 or the 5th day of Lunar New Year
What to do during Chinese New Year other than eating and drinking?
This hunting trip during the Chinese New Year served two purposes. One is to relieve the cabin fever of staying in Beijing during the week long holiday period. The other purpose is to show Charles what line hunting is all about. Also, for someone in China over 7 years and pretty much Beijing bound, Charles can use some exposure to the rural side of China. Exposure he did get, except it was the cold.
The Confluence Point next to a popular place for the summer
This particular point located almost within the city limit of Chengde (承德), the largest city in northern Hebei and well known for the Summer Palace build during the Qing dynasty. Nowadays Chengde is a major tourist attraction during summer time in part because of cooler weather due to higher elevation in contrast to Beijing. For this trip, it was indeed much much colder than Beijing.
Wish we can drive like this everyday
During normal period, the 250 km drive from Beijing to Chengde required at least 4 hours. During the Spring festival period when most people were home and all commerce came to a stop, there were very light traffic and it took us two and half hour to reach the point or the ”freezing point” , where we started the hunt by foot.
Striking distance from the famous Hammer Rock
The starting point was predetermined during a weekend trip by Ray and Florence (the founding members of the Yip-Bannicq group) over a year ago. During that trip, the only nature vista visited was the Hammer Rock which stood over the hill over looking Chengde. Local research however revealed that not everyone perceives this remarkable rock as “a hammer”! From this remarkable rock, the GPS distance to this confluence point measured 2.5 km toward the east. Because of late hours, Ray and Florence did not attempt the hunt. From this previous visit, it was evident there were villages below such a closer point of start to the confluence point can be reached by car.
Since this suppose to the initiation line hunting trip for Charles, to ensure a more complete experience with a good hike over the hills, we returned to the Hammer Rock to start the estimated 7 km round trip to the confluence point. We did not bother to find the road that can bring us to the villages about 1 km below the Rock.
The Siberian Express and a real chill-out
We reached the parking lot of the Hammer Rock around 10.30 am with not a single car or soul in this otherwise a busy tourist attraction. Within moments after starting the hike along the ridge overlooking Chengde, we experienced gusty winds which at times almost blew us off our feet. Even though we were properly dressed for winter, soon we started feeling the cold and hands started to go numb. Turned out, unbeknown to us, the temperature for northern China had dropped by more than 10 degrees overnight. Combining with the wind chill factor, the temperature was probably below 20 degree centigrade. It took over one kilometers of brisk walk and later reached a less exposed valley we discovered the pure joy of having fingers once again and on both hands.
“The Crown of Ice”-- a new phenomenon discovered by a first-time Line Hunter
We went down the slope where the Hammer Rock located and reached a well paved road with bus stops. We than hike over another hill and found the confluence point located at the back side of the third hill. When we reached our objectives suddenly Charles felt a hard crown of ice on top of his head – the sweat on his head had turned to ice under the hood of his down jacket. Clearly, this was an unusual phenomenon, at least in the history of confluence hunting.
We could have taken the Bus 21 to the Confluence Point
After a few rounds of photos at Charles first confluence point, we took a much easier route back to the car, as often the case in line hunting. We walk though the closest village from the confluence point (750 meters) named Er Dao Gou (二道沟). This village is also the last stop of bus #21 starting from the Chengde Train Station. Evidently, the road to the village would been a cake walk. But it was an honorable decision to take the longer route to combine the hunt with a close encounter with the “Rock”. Even with the unexpected low temperature and strong wind, the hike from the Hammer Rock still the more enjoyable option. If we did not do the long hike, Charles would not have had the “Crown of Ice” experience. Nor would he have subsequently discovered that snowbound Beijing was after all a tropical paradise.
Warm soup and “cold” beer
The entire trip from the Hammer Rock took a little over 2 hours. Afterward we found one of the few restaurants still open during the New Year in Chengde city and rewarded ourselves a nice lunch and room temperature beer which was properly chilled.
After fully warmed up and tanked up, we continued north to hunt for an even colder point of the day – 42N 118E.
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge: 3– We made it hard by taking the long way and unexpected low temperature and wind made it a memorable experience (1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 4– Nice hilly areas always with the famous hammer rock in view (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
Culture-social factors: 2– typical rural villages in Northern China (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)