Friday, August 04, 2017

Ha Ling Summer Solstice Summit.

The 21st of June marked the summer solstice—the longest day of the year. We decided to summit Ha Ling Peak for sunset. Myself, Martin, three of our friends and two dogs set off at 6:30pm, knowing the sun wouldn't set until close to 11pm. Despite having already summited Ha Ling in March—in harsher conditions—I was still nervous to start so late, knowing that with a group our size we would likely travel slower, not to mention it would get dark below the tree-line well before 11pm.

The weather was grey and foreboding. Despite it being the start of summer, I prepared for every weather condition, making sure I brought layers for the wind gusts when we reached the alpine zone and became more exposed to the elements. The wind and lower temperature at elevation is what makes the summit of any mountain unforgiving, and not something you're likely to sit and enjoy for more than a few minutes unless you're really layered up. It must have been 4ºC at the top of Ha Ling despite it being around 20ºC-25ºC in the valley, but the incoming hail clouds made it feel far more bitter. We found ourselves wishing we had packed gloves after all, shivering from the exposure.

June is still considered shoulder season around these parts—where many trails are still littered with snowy, icy patches and avalanche risks are high as the snowpacks become unstable and come crashing down. The trails on Ha Ling may have been well clear of snow, but the weather certainly tested our preparedness—we got hailed and rained on for the last 1.5 hours of our descent, performing the remainder of our hike in the dark with only the light of our headlamps and lightning. I was thankful we weren't scrambling down in those conditions, and wondered how the people at the top were faring. We made it back to the carpark at around 10:30pm, starving, cold and wet, but elated and somehow ready to do it again—hopefully in better conditions next time.

See below for highlights from the day.

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