The Story of Tiger Leaping Gorge

Many, many years ago, there was a hunter on the Lijiang side of the gorge who was pursuing a tiger. It was a fierce pursuit, down the steep cliffs of the gorge. When he reached the water’s edge, the tiger, in desperation, leaped from the shore to the huge stone in the center of the raging Golden Sands River, and then escaped by leaping again to the Zhongdian side, leaving the hunter empty handed.

Our story begins and ends in Qiaotou (pronounced “chow-two”), at the southern end of the gorge. We hiked along the High Road consistently upwards for a little over two hours to the Naxi Family Guest House, where we had lunch. Then we undertook a difficult, but exhilarating trek up the 28 Bends, 28 steep and rocky switch-backs leading to the highest viewpoint in the gorge, at somewhat over 2900 meters. Then descended almost 600 meters in a couple of kilometers to spend the night at Tea Horse Guest House.

Our original plan called for our hiking to Half-way Guest House the first day and then to Sean’s in Walnut Garden the second day. When we met our Yi guide, Jack, in Lijiang a few days earlier, he looked at that schedule and said it was not workable. Too difficult, given the 2+ hour drive from Lijiang to the trailhead. He gave us a few options that he thought made sense, and this is the one we settled on. He changed all our reservations and fixed everything so that we would have an achievable hike.

The second day started with exciting level hiking on the exposed folded and shattered rock of Haba Snow Mountain towards Half-way Guest House for lunch. Very exposed hiking on narrow ledges, including crossing the pour over of a several thousand foot high waterfall. After lunch, the going got extremely difficult. A descent of over 1000 meters to Tina’s Guesthouse over exposed broken and shattered rock, with lots of loose pebbles, crossing grades of better than 30%. It was agonizing at times, the most difficult hiking I have ever done. So difficult it was, that I now think I can repeat my hike down Grandview to the Tonto in the Grand Canyon, which held the previous record for hardest hike of my career.

Third morning had the option of descending five hundred more feet on ladders and steep trails to the middle gorge. I opted not to go, and we caught our driver after lunch at the last of guest houses. We finished our hike at the National Park at the Tiger Leaping Stone of the story. 500 steps down to the bottom of the gorge from the low road, 600 back up, but a close experience of the power of the water where the tiger escaped the hunter.

The pictures are in chronological order and tell the story better than I ever could in words.


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