Jizhi Pass Route (鸡枝垭口路线)
Region: Jizhi Valley
Itinerary: Round Lake—Jizhi Pass—Jizhi Valley—Qiaotou Town
Distance: 23 km one-way
Duration: 2 days one-way
Altitude in Meters: Start 4,250. Max 4,330. End 1,850
Elevation: Gain 200 meters. Loss 2,500 meters
Hiking Times: Round Lake to Jizhi Pass 30 min. Jizhi Valley aqueduct 5:00 hrs. Qiaotou Town 10:00 hrs.
Please read the explanation of hiking times, distances, altitudes and rating levels.
This rugged route begins near Round Lake (圆海), elevation 4,250 meters, and ends at Qiaotou Town (桥头镇), the starting point of the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡). From the high point at Jizhi Pass (鸡枝垭口), elevation 4,330 meters, the route descends through the valley of the same name.
This is an area of spectacular scenery, with superb views of Haba Snow Mountain’s western flank. Whereas the ascent to the summit on the north attracts beginner mountaineers, the massive western wall awaits world-class alpinists. Please note the lengthy descent of 2,500 meters. Your feet and knees will feel it!
This route is usually hiked as part of a 3-day trek from Haba Village (哈巴村) to Qiaotou. On the first day trekkers spend the night at Kentahua Meadow (肯塔花坪), Black Lake (黑海) or Base Camp (大本营). On days 2 and 3 they traverse the Jizhi Valley (鸡枝山谷) down to Qiaotou. Hiring a guide is recommended. For an account of trekking the Jizhi Pass Route, read this two-part article: Part 1 and Part 2.
Round Lake to Jizhi Valley Aquaduct (5 hours)
To reach Round Lake, hike 1 hour from Black Lake or 1 hour and 20 minutes from Base Camp. Both approaches use the Base Camp Route (大本营路线).
Starting from Round Lake or vicinity, ascend the valley south to Jizhi Pass in 30 minutes. Cross the pass and descend through the Jizhi Valley, camping one night in the valley.
When I made the trek, our group camped near the upper end of an aqueduct half-way down. A short distance across the valley lay a tungsten mine (钨矿), toiling away non-stop. Noisy! Every few minutes a monster truck topped with ore roared down the valley into the abyss. We were pleased when operations ceased at dusk. In 2019, the provincial government shut down the mine.
Just above the aqueduct, a section of trail frightened me far more than anything I ever encountered in Tiger Leaping Gorge. The narrow and downward sloping foot bed forced me to slow down and step carefully, since a fall might have serious consequences. I advise against traversing this section under wet conditions.
JIzhi Valley Aquaduct to Qiaotou (5 hours)
For a straightforward descent of the lower valley, trace the aqueduct just mentioned for 10 kilometers. Note the bridge spanning the valley lower down. That is the Lijiang-Shangrila rail line, due for completion in 2021. Pass through the hamlet of Haibaluo (海巴洛村). After the aquaduct turns a corner, the Haba summit is no longer visible. Then, with Qiaotou visible in the valley below, descend to the Chong River (冲江河). Cross the river on a bridge near a factory and walk for another hour on the Shangri-La (香格里拉) to Lijiang (丽江) highway to reach Qiaotou.