Minya Konka is also called Mount Gongga or Gongga Shan. It is one of the most popular trekking destinations in China. Minya Konka is 7556 meters’ tall and the highest mountain in Sichuan Province and also the easternmost 7 thousander in the world. Minya Konka is located in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan within one day’s drive from Chengdu. Minya Konka is a holy mountain among local Tibetan People.
A trekking trip to Minya Konka normally needs about a week and it is a serious camping trekking. In a Minya Konka trekking, you can see the many snow-capped peaks including Minya Konka, alpine views of Tibetan landscape, nomads Tibetan people, glaciers and Tibetan Monasteries.
A trekking trip to Minya Konka usually starts from Chengdu. So you need to arrive in Chengdu first. Minya Konka is located 300km west to Chengdu. By driving it usually takes about 7-8 hours. Driving is a popular way as it provides different views on the way and a longer time of acclimatization for hikers. There is also a flight every morning at 9:00 that departs Chengdu and arrive at Kangding Airport before noon. The airport is 2 hours’ drive away from the town of Kangding. And from Kangding, it is another half hour’s drive to the usual trekking terminal at Laoyulin. Minya Konka trekking usually ends at Tsemed Village, where it is about two days’ drive away from Chengdu.
“When you are in the mountain, you never know the weather.” Indeed the weather changes quickly in Minya Konka as the elevation of the trekking are very high, up to 4800 meters. Generally the trekking season is from late April to early November each year. Each season you have the possibility of unpredicted weather conditions. Late April, May and late October, early November are cold as the temperature drops below -10C sometimes during night time. From June to October, you have fewer possibilities of unpredicted conditions due to bad weather. The best trekking season is summer in July and August as it is not very cold but the rivers are high, so you will need to cross some small rivers where necessary. Elevation of the campsites ranges from 3500 meters to 4100 meters, so at night time it is very cold and windy. At Minya Konka, the temperature/weather changes quickly in a day especially after midday, the difference between highest temperature and the lowest temperature is up to 25C. Even at the same time it is cool in the shadow but warm or even hot in the sunlight. trekking at Minya Konka one will usually experience windy weather especially by the pass.
Duration and Transfer
It is normally 8-9 days to do a Minya Konka trekking. In this 8-9 days of adventure, you will spend three and a half days by driving and the rest trekking/camping. You can always use flight where available to get to the closest to Minya Konka. Other transfers you will need to use ground transfers including driving on backcountry bumpy road for hours right before and after the trekking. Because normally the best views are difficult to access and the comfortibility is relative. At Minya Konka, you have the experience of using different methods of transfer, including riding a horse by choice.
First time travelers to Minya Konka or even experienced hikers all have the risk of getting Acute Mountain Sickness due to change of altitude/Temperature and air pressure. Elevation in Chengdu is at about 500 meters, Kangding is at about 2500 meters and elevation of the trekking is between 3500 meters to 4800 meters. Acclimatization is necessary and precautions are essential. Precautions for trekking in Minya Konka: Drink more water than you need everyday. Wear more layers to avoid getting a cold due to elevation/temperature/pressure change. Eat properly (no alcohol and be careful of local street food) and do try to have enough time to sleep. Try not stress yourself both physically and mentally. A little physical preparation beforehand is always helpful. Prepare medication for AMS, cold and diaries in case. Symptoms of mountain sickness include loss of will to do things, don’t want to eat and get tired easily, headache, sometimes vomit, color of your lips turn into purplish. A more serious level may result into a total sworn up of your face.
Minya Konka is a serious trekking. Hikers to Minya Konka need to be adequately fit to do it. Minya Konka trekking involves walking at elevation over 3500+ meters and the highest place being 4500+ meters. There are in total 6 days of trekking in a Minya Konka trekking tour. Each day the walking distance is about 15 km and usually takes about 6-7 hours. You have to consider your fitness before you decided to do a Minya Konka trekking. A little physical training may be helpful. Travelers who have never been to this height before are suggested to consult with your doctor before you go.
Luggage and Porters
A Minya Konka trekking starts from Chengdu and ends in Chengdu. So you can always leave your luggage you don’t need for trekking at your hotel in Chengdu and come back to collect them after the trekking. It is better to keep your packs the most economic way and not bringing things you don’t need for the trekking. Kangding is a second option of leaving your things you don’t need behind. In the recommended itinerary of a Minya Konka trekking, travelers will go back to Kangding after the trekking. So you can leave gears and things you don’t need at your hotel in Kangding as well. While on trekking, you can use porters to help with your big pack. At Minya Konka, they use Tibetan horses to carry the bags. These horses or mules are quite short. Maximum weight a horse can carry is about 50kg to 60kg. So please consider this while you do your packing. The horse usually comes with a horseman.
Minya Konka Packing list
trekking boots, trekking hat, Jacket/windbreaker, Base layer/T-shirt, Walking trousers, Thermals, Fleece, Socks
Backpack, -15C down Sleeping bag (mummy), Water bottle, Walking poles, Bum bag
Waterproof, Sunglasses, Sun block, Flashlight/headlamp, Insect repellent, Toiletries
Camera, Cell phone, Charger, batteries
First-aid kit, Personal medications
Minya Konka trekking is open to everyone. There is no age limit for hikers but generally you need to be fit enough to do this trekking. Hikers between 7 and 70 years old are able to do this trekking generally. Minya Konka trekking involves long ascent and descent on steep trails, multiple days of walking at high elevations and a 5 consecutive nights of camping. Some people do the trekking for training and some people train to do this trekking. Keep reading and find out if this is the right trekking for you.
Elevation and Walking Distance
Total walking 6 days. Average altitude of Minya Konka trekking is about 3870 meters with the highest at 4900 meters. Total elevation gain is about 1800 meters during the trekking. Total elevation loss is about 1500 meters during the trekking. This 4900 meter is at the pass after an 800 meters’ ascent from the campsite. The walking distance each day is between 12 and 15 km. Normally the sun rises at 9am and it is also the time of starting your trekking each day.
Landscape and Trails under Foot
The trail of Minya Konka trekking is a frequently used horse trail by local nomads Tibetans. Most of the trails are easy to recognize but trails crossing the passes are difficult to identify. The seasonal climate change may also result into changes of rivers hence changes of trails in different seasons. Basically the trails are easy with your walking boots but trekking in summer time you may need to cross some rivers when the bridges are flushed away by the water. The rivers are not big but the water is extremely cold and the current flows fast. Normally the water in the river is as deep to your knee but you can always use horses to assist you to cross the river. Walking trails of Minya Konka are basically safe. They lie in open valleys but under raining weather it can be a little slippery due to the rocks in the trekking trail.
Whilst on trekking, there are no permanent huts or shelters made available for hikers. You may see some nomads’ tents or huts at campsites like Upper Riwuqie or Reddomain Camp during herding season but they are not used for hikers. Considering comfortibility and privacy you are suggested to use a camping tent for yourself. Most of the campsites are very good campsites considering the easy access to water and they are quite flat. You can always use the flat patch used by former hikers but normally you need to move the yak dunes before you set up your tent. There are no deadly insects found in Minya Konka before while a bigger worry is usually from the yaks while camping. The yaks are almost everywhere and they like anything that contains salt. And they have very good sense of smell. So you are suggested to keep your food covered or sealed and choose a toilet farther away from your sleeping tent maybe at least 20 meters. The yaks do not attack people and they are scared of humans too but you certainly don’t want to be woken up by the snuffling yaks at your tent while you are sleeping. Other animals found at Minya Konka include wolves and snow leopards but not big in numbers. They are afraid of humans and they usually don’t come close to the human campsites.
Making a camp fire is never a forbidden while trekking at Minya Konka. Half of the campsites you can hardly find any woods to make fire but when you do, remember to put it out before you leave. If you are trekking with local horsemen or horsewomen it would be a very interesting experience for you as the local Tibetans are all very good singers. Activities during and after a dinner reveal the other side of Tibetan life.
There are no cell phone receptions or internet access during the whole trekking at Minya Konka. You will have your temporal loss of contact with your friends and families for a few nights. There are also no electricity or shops along the trekking trail although during busy trekking season (normally first week of October), there maybe local Tibetans selling bottled water and instant noodles by some of the campsites. But for other seasons, you are trekking in the total wilderness.
Eat and Drink
Drinking directly from the stream or river is not recommended as it may result into a serious diarrhea that may ruin your trekking. You can always use water purifier but normally we use boiled water for drinking. That is why a big water bottle is necessary. Prepare enough water before you start trekking if you are a heavy water-drinker. As of eating, you can always bring your own instant mountain food but if you go with local porter team, they will cook fresh veges and meat for you including rice or noodles. In Kangding you can buy fresh fruit and veges and even fruit jams and peanut butter in the big supermarket. Local bread is a very good option as well. There are a lot of things you can purchase in Kangding including some basic gears and other food.
Over 10 years ago, traveling to Minya Konka or around may have the risk of getting robbed. At present this kind of incident is rare. It is one of the good results of modernization of Kangding. The police can be helpful if you have troubles in terms of robbery. But be aware if you are staying at local guesthouses that you need to lock your door every time you leave your room. The guesthouses may not as secure as the hotels. While on trekking, keep your valuable items in your day pack while walking and don’t leave your gears outside of your tents during camping, then it should be fine. Negotiations with Tibetans are popular but also have the risk of offending them.
If accidents happen during your trekking, you need to find solutions quickly. For serious mountain sickness, you always go lower. For injuries you need transfer to a hospital probably using the horse as a start. Do not believe what your insurance company told you that they will use helicopter too rescue you if you are in serious trouble. In Kangding or Chengdu there are no commercial-running helicopter rescue services. Everything here when you want a helicopter in the air has to be done by military people, which is heavily censored and usually takes a long time, making it useless. In the trekking tour provided by us, our staff will have a satellite phone at hand to use in case of emergency.
Departure: Private Tour / Flexible Date
Route: Chengdu / Kangding / Gongga / Chengdu
Have the authentic experiences which follows the off-beat horse trails in Gongga Shan. Visit ancient and back country Buddhist monastery Gongga Gompa. Adventurous hiking to watch snow peaks and glaciers at Gongga Shan. This 9-day Mount Gongga Shan hiking brings you to view the highest mountain in Sichuan Province.
"There is a pilgrimage trek around this mountain, passing through dramatic and fantastic scenery. We trekked from Kangding to Minyak Gongkar, crossing the 5100 m Bu Chu La (pass). We only saw a couple of Tibetan herders and a couple of Chinese trekkers. When we turned the final corner and saw Gongga Mountain it was like a revelation. Absolutely stunning! This was a trek I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life!" ---JornBerg
"The Gonga Shan trek is a nice little trek. Nothing too fancy about it, but still a pleasant one. Different options given the time you have. The nomads camping in this area are very nice people. The only thing here is the weather. Seing the top of the mountain is difficult. So many clouds ... " ---seb