The majestic Four Sisters Mountains, in Sichuan Province, Mainland China.
On January 19, a rare meteorological event allowed a record cold current from the Arctic to slide south into Mainland China. As the frigid polar air kept many residents indoors, a trio of seasoned mountaineers assembled at a guesthouse in Changping Valley, part of the Four Sisters Mountain scenic area, about 3800 meters above sea level.
We were Icey Tsui from Taiwan, A.M. from Hong Kong, and Deng Lin from Mainland China; and together we were embarking on an adventure to climb the Four Sisters Mountain, reputed as the “Oriental Alps” in Sichuan Province.
(From L-R) Icey Tsui, A.M. and Deng Lin who tackled the summit of Da Feng peak of the Four Sister Mountains (5025m) in Sichuan Province, Mainland China.
The next day after a full night’s sleep, we left the comfort of our guesthouse to take on the 5025-meter Da Feng peak of Four Sisters Mountain.
We paused briefly when the mountain came into view; the clear skies and morning light provided a golden radiance. As we trekked across the plain, the horizon widened, and we approached the outskirts of a Tibetan region within Sichuan. Yaks and horses occasionally strolled across our path as they traversed the plateau.
Nothing hinted at the challenges that lay ahead.
Hiking to the summit of Da Feng peak
On January 21, we set off at 3a.m. Our lights blazed a trail across the snowy landscape. We climbed non-stop against an unrelenting icy snowstorm that pounded against our progress. Each step soon became weaker than the last from the constant gusts of wind, as soreness and fatigue set in to our muscles and joints.
When we finally reached the snow-covered platform beneath the summit, the sun had only just begun to break. The darkness was limiting our sight; the heavy snowfall obscured the beauty of Yaomei Feng, the highest peak of the Four Sisters, and hid the clear view of the surrounding mountain tops we had enjoyed the day before.
The summit of Da Feng peak
We managed to make the summit in less than four hours, which we considered fast under such adverse conditions. Then we began the long trek back to our camp.
The climbers spent 4 days on the mountain and reached the summit of Da Feng peak, under -20 degree celsius conditions and in PFC free clothes.
We soon found the return trip would be more time-consuming than we had anticipated. The snow got heavier and quickly piled up, covering the whole mountain and slowing our descent to a crawl.
As we continued, the Arctic Oscillation brought mounds of snowfall to the lowlands around the Dujiangyan irrigation system, a UNESCO site based at the junction between the Sichuan basin and the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. According to local news, the mountains surrounding Taipei also received snow, and sporadic sleet was recorded across the lowlands.
Despite the strong cold current that had dropped to -20 °C during our climb, we successfully accomplished our mission in clothes which were free from hazardous PFC (per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals), proving that PFC-free clothes can withstand the challenges of extreme cold weather at 5000 meters.
PFC-free and going strong at -20°C
There are many explanations for the extreme weather patterns we experienced. Outdoor lovers are still in search for a way to co-exist with the nature while attempting to limit the harm our activities bring to the environment. For our expedition to Da Feng peak, appreciating the beauty of nature in an eco-friendly way was the least we could do.
It is a never-changing trend to eliminate hazardous PFCs from our outdoor gear. Now that PFCs have been discovered to be harmful to the environment and human health, outdoor brands should take the responsibility of putting a stop to their use and helping to restore nature to its clean state.
We have been encouraged by other outdoor lovers who are taking strong actions to demonstrate that clothing free of PFCs, can meet the demands of world-class high mountains. Members of our community want to prove to outdoor brands that they are determined to Detox and won’t accept anything less from them.
Now that PFCs have been discovered to be harmful to the environment and human health, outdoor brands should take the responsibility of putting a stop to their use and helping to restore nature to its clean state.
With this expedition, we wanted to send a message from Four Sisters Mountain to all the corners of the world asking, “What is your dream?” For us, it is to be PFC-free! That’s a dream shared by Greenpeace and the wider community of outdoor lovers.
The expedition team
Icey Tsui is a well-known mountaineer from Taiwan, with over 18 years of mountain-climbing experience and a specialization in mid-level mountain exploration (1500-3000 meters) and high mountain climbing (3000 meters and above).
A.M. from Hong Kong, is a rising star in the world of mountain climbing and the creator of the Facebook page–Yamanaka Yuko–which promotes nature, photography, design and art.
Deng Lin (AKA Zidiyiyang), from Mainland China, has a specialization in ice climbing and ski mountaineering.
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