WildChina > WildChina > Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Fuchs’ Tea and Mountain Journals, a blog by explorer, photographer and writer Jeff Fuchs.  Jeff is the 2011 recipient of WildChina’s Explorer Grant.  He and friend Michael Kleinwort are currently traveling through unknown portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai. Below is the last piece from their journey…

Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent
Early morning wind upon an Amne Machin ridge
Looking at the sky we see fierce white monotones and wind’s power, below in front of us on the earth lies a different story.
Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent
A last time for securing our gear on the yak. Our morning of departure

An avalanche’s disintegrating power has rearranged the land in front of us. A brutal black surge of turned earth, stones and newly formed shaped forms that stretch kilometres across the valley. It has only served to enhance in many ways an already formidable scene. Five years earlier Amne Machin released a colossal chunk of itself upon the land below and we are now grinding our way over this ‘reconstructed’ surface. We, for the first time on this portion of our journey, are steadily descending and with this knowledge comes an exhausted nostalgia and a twinge of sadness – we are exiting the main protective body of the Amne Machin range which fades to our right. ‘Civilization’ is coming closer step by step, though admittedly we still have much distance to cover…Michael is feeling this glumness as well. I am doing everything in my limited mental powers to stay in each progressive moment and not to let the mind jump ahead out of the now. I keep wondering at how we came to this point, where we are about to end….

Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent
Our caravan making its way out of the main Nom’sho valley
After packing up our camp for the last time there is a simmering of finality. One of the more masochistic pleasures of expeditions within mountain abodes is that after a time the harsh beauties of the elements reconfigure the body and mindscape and everything in its simple way works. A groove is reached where one can continue indefinitely and this is only enhanced when travel partners are on that similar thread of ability and thought. Michael in his month along this journey has gone from a precisely trained endurance athlete to something more akin to a ‘grinder’. These elements, at these altitudes necessitate a test of the self more completely than any other – this is of course my very bias touch here. In the words of a nomad, “mountains draw the self out”.
Descents are most often when the body’s subtle complaints remind one that they do exist. The charge and blood inducing high of ascending has passed and now the earth and all of its trials and menial concerns beckon one back inevitably. Yes, mountains are an escape, but they are an escape that hit one’s morphology, one’s psychology and that nameless thing in the body that sings of something divine. It is something beyond, right here on earth.

The yaks seem impatient to get home pushing ahead, as strong and steady as ever. Peaks become rounded hills, and the snowline dissipates as we continue. We are descending through a valley that splits the highlands and even the air around us is somehow diminishing in power.

Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent
Our stout mates for the entire trip – no better transport method, anywhere
[Skip to next section of post…]
Gamzon and the yaks cross the ice-cold river and Michael and I must cross the thigh deep flow carefully. Our feet take only a minute to dry in the wind and sunbeams.
Coming up out of the valley we catch a glimpse of the town and it sinks in that this is the end, for now. Sitting in a neat and tidy home thirty minutes later, Michael and I sit opposite one another with a table of biscuits, homemade bread and sweets between us. For the first time in a week we are holding glass mugs again, rather than our ‘do-it-all’ bowls.
Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent
Michael sitting for the first time in a week something other than frozen ground

We are both silent, and I feel in me a longing to bolt back into the mountains’ sanctity. A last night spent in the village with locals and a huge meal….tomorrow begins for us the slow and inevitable return to the provincial capital of Xining and a number of thermoses of tea to throw back, just to stay sane.

Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent
Jeffers trying very hard to remain seated indoors…the urge to bolt was only kept down by the mug of tea in hand

Thanks for following along and hope we were able to provide a little hint of colour to the fabled tsa’lam, the route of salt. I will be posting information about upcoming articles about this expedition in select publications as they become available. More tea and mountain blogs to follow as ultimately, this still remains a site for Asia’s ancient fluid and the peaks.


To read the full post, please visit http://www.tea-and-mountain-journals.com/
Photos by Jeff Fuchs

Leave a Reply