A Difficult Journey
We arrived at Kongbair,the leading edge of the Tomur Glacier in the Tianshan Mountains,on the afternoon of September 23,2004. Kongbair at 3,200 meters above sea level was the starting point for our arduous trek to climb the final section of the retreating glacier.
0ur route was complicated by the piles of till and many crevasses on the surface of the glacier, both products of glacial movement and melting. We followed the guide very closely,taking careful steps on the glacier,experiencing a dread that can hardly be put into words.On the high plateau,you have to be unhurried,taking steady steps SO as to conserve your physical energy.Walking over the till gave every one of US blisters on the feet and, with backpacks weighing over 20 kilograms,every step forward was made at a great cost.The September daytime temperature on the glacier was only about 5 C.After less than five minutes rest.I was freezing all over and had to press on.
At 7 a.m.I stepped out of my tent.What excitement to see the glaciers intertwining on the horizon. beneath a perfect blue sky-like silver dragons dancing in a deserted valley.
The temperature was about 20 C .Even inside the tent a thin film of ice had formed and outside the biting wind lashed cruelly at our faces. Around 8:15 a.m.the snow-covered summits were suddenly bathed in the red glow of morning sunshine.
Today's itinerary was to take US further along the northern slope towards the heart of the glacier. I had assumed that this section would be easier going,but it was by no means the case.We encountered a dozen or so U-shaped stony gullies on the way,all a dozen meters deep.Walking over the rocks,weighted down with our backpacks.was immensely difficult-it was a terrific struggle to go on.
The glacier stretched upwards towards 3,800 meters altitude.Seven hours after our morning departure,suddenly,from a wonderful perspective,the glacial landscape unfolded before our eyes.
In these snow-capped peak surroundings,glaciers wiggled and curved their ways on the snow mountains like flying jade dragons. Under the rays of the sun,ice peaks glistened and glaciers surged. Such a world of power and wonder!
This group of glaciers looked as majestic as the Great Wall of China,as disciplined and orderly as a military phalanx. I was totally moved at the sight of them.
Facing the Peak,l Am Moved to Tears
Our journey was yet over. The next day,we continued towards a section of the glacier where we could enjoy a view of the summit of Mount Tomur.Waiting for US on the way ahead were fathomless open and concealed crevasses,and glacial tills blocking the way;the hidden river gurgled on beneath our feet and from time to time the Sound of collapsing glaciers reverberated in our ears. Every spine-chilling step forward made my hair stand on end!
Two and a half hours later,we finally arrived at the center of the glacier's leading edge.It was a soul-stirring moment when the magnificent Mount Tomur finally came into view.The white cloud over the summit drifted off, lifting the last veil.Rising erect into the sky, it mirrored the far distant Hantengri 6,995 meters above sea level.It gives birth to the Aksu River, the largest tributary of the Tarim River,and is the life source of the Aksu oasis.
With boundless sky above and limitless ground below,this stunning mountain stands proud and defiant in its pure white world of ice and snow. radiant,lustrous,brilliant.
I knelt and kowtowed to this vast world.There and then l left behind my frivolous youth and lack of reverence for nature.