42 N – 117 E Hebei (河北), China
Line Hunting Date: February 3, 2006 or the 6th day of Lunar New Year or Spring Festival
Spring Festival Ray-Charles Expedition: the 3rd Freezing Point - How to keep GPS and camera alive!
The first two confluence points were done with risk of frost bite mainly due to the intense wind. Not too far from the 2nd point (42E 118E), we found lodging in the capital city of Wei Chang (围场) County. We decided not to venture to a smaller town closer to this confluence point because along the way we had found that all businesses were shut down for the holiday.
65 Km from the Confluence Point
Wei Chang put us 65 km GPS distance from this confluence point. Throughout the night, the intense wind, better known as Siberian Express, was rattling the window continuously. We headed toward the point at 7.30 am as sun came out.
2.6 km from the Confluence Point
By 9.20 am we had reached the closest point from the CP on an unpaved and icy highway leading toward the nearest township from CP – Lao Wo Pu (老窝铺), and it put us 2.6 km northeast from our objective. From this location we had to cross at least one snow covered range about 300-400 meters high which would be too arduous. Also the gusty wind made the few moments outside the car to check out the route unbearable. We continued onward and hoped for a better approach.
2.3 km from the Confluence point
We reached Lao Wo Pu and headed south on another highway. About 1 km down the road we reached the closest point to the CP on this highway – 2.3 km in a southeast direction. From this location we saw an open valley leading toward the direction of the CP but there was no obvious road leading toward the valley since everything was covered with snow. As we were just about to take a couple photos and reluctantly declare this hunt as an incomplete visit, Baolin noticed a small bridge across the frozen river about 200 meters away suggesting there could be a road under the snow.
1.6 km from the Confluence point
We drove off the highway and managed to cross the makeshift bridge made with birch tree trunks and dirt. On the other side of the frozen river we found a track leading toward the valley. We managed to push the jeep to 1.6 km from the CP when it became too steep to climb further. Charles and I took off on foot under brilliant sky and wind appearing to be subsiding.
750 meters from the Confluence point
The first part of the hike up the valley was a gentle incline of grassland partially covered with snow and ice. Very pleasant walk until we reached the point about 750 meters from the CP where the slope became steeper. At this point it became somewhat slow going for Charles so Ray, the hardcore line-hunter, pushed on.
400 meters from the Confluence Point – GPS started to fade
Going up the steeper slope with mixed ice and snow was slow and tedious. Ever meter was hard fought and I often needed to hang on to a tree branch or trunk to keep from slipping backward. The average speed was about 10 minutes for every 100 meters – a real crawl. Halfway up the slope with about 400 meters further to go, the GPS indicated “low battery” and starting to fade! This resulted in a heart-sinking feeling because extra batteries were left in the car. The only option was to shut the GPS off and place it on top of the head under the heavy PLA (People Liberation Army) hat (Photo #10) for a warm up and hoping the low battery was the result of low temperature. The slow climb continued toward the general direction of the CP.
180 meters to go – Camera stop to function
A minor ridge was reached after 15 more minutes of uphill climbing without the guide of GPS. At this point, it was a great relief to see the rewarmed GPS came to life again - 180 meters south of the CP. However, an attempt to take a photo at this location found the camera no longer able to turn on – another victim of the cold. Now the camera battery joined the GPS to be resuscitated under the PLA hat for the next stretch of the climb toward the main ridge near the CP.
56 meters from the all zeros point – Mission accomplished
The main ridge was 120 meters from the CP which was located on an equally steep slope with northern exposure hence more snow. The down climb was not difficult but the idea of inching back was not very enticing. The hunt was declared a success at about 65 meters north to the all zeros point. After regaining the main ridge, the return trip pretty much followed the main ridge as far as possible. The views on both side of this ridge were spectacular. It took less than half an hour to reach the car. The round trip took a little over 2 hours to cover less than 4 km of distance. One of the harder line hunting trip so far. A pair of ski poles would have made a big difference.
The PLA hat save the day!
The real challenge of this hunt was not the slow and strenuous track on a slope covered with ice and snow. It was the loss of battery function due to long exposure of the GPS and camera to the cold. Bringing spare battery and keeping them warm was the lesson learned from this trip. The heavy duty PLA hat saved the day by keeping the essential gear for line hunting operational.
Beijing - the tropical paradise!
The 240 km return trip to Beijing was uneventful and we found one small restaurant open for business 80 km north of Feng Ning city (丰宁) and had a well earned late lunch of dumpling and beer. When we reached Beijing city limit, even though the temperature was only about 2-3 degree above zero, it felt like tropical paradise in contrast to the cold and windy conditions we endured during the three freezing hunts. This expedition made this Lunar New Year – the year of the dog – a very memorable one.
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge: 4– The last 750 meters was a strenuous climb on a slope covered with snow while the GPS and camera stopped functioning due to the cold (1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 4– great vista of winter scene under brilliant sky (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)