On my way to Shangri-La, I heard about the Tiger Leaping Gorge upper section hike while staying at a guesthouse in Lijiang. 14 miles long, undeveloped, and takes 9-10 hours, I knew I had to do it. It ended up being quite the adventure...

This was not an easy hike. The trail starts at 6500 feet and finishes 8500 feet above sea level. I consider myself in decent shape, and have done many 10+ miles hikes. I was not prepared for the elevation.
Any warning sign before a hike is a sure sign of a good time. I remember seeing a similar sign before Angel's Landing in Utah.
Along the hike, we crossed many small villages, this particular village had a basketball court with an amazing view of the mountains. Sadly, no one was at the court for me to destroy.
Met some friendly folks from the Netherlands and ended up doing a large part of the hike together! The Dutch sure are a friendly bunch, and they love to travel.
Our first major stop was at the Tea Horse Guest House, we had some tea & snacks before we hit the road again. The views were of course incredible.
A view of another small town along the gorge, with a single road running up the mountain. I've always wondered what the locals did the get by, I saw some farms and a lot of sheep. Many locals are also getting into the hospitality business by opening up restaurants and guesthouses. Marijuana plants grow naturally in the countryside, and we were approached by a few sellers.
The trail it self wasn't actually that bad, there were no scrambling involved or any particularly exposed sections. Being from the Bay Area, my biggest challenge was the elevation.
I ended up staying at the "Half-Way" Guest House. Although it seemed like it was closer to 3/4 of the way. The small town was absolutely beautiful, with a stunning backdrop of sheer rock along the gorge.
We ate dinner at the observation deck on the top of the hostel and parted ways. They were off doing an even crazier hike, I believe they went mountaineering nearby.

Altitude sickness is physical distress from difficulty adjusting to lower oxygen pressure at high altitude. I've never had altitude sickness, and never thought much of it. I will not underestimate altitude sickness again. The night I spent at the hostel in the mountains was probably one of the more difficult experiences in recent memory.

Major symptoms of altitude sickness include: headaches, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. Unfortunately for me, I had all the above. I was tired, but could not fall asleep. Due to a constant shortness of breath, I felt like I could not get enough oxygen. I became dehydrated, and ran out of water at around 2:00 AM. There was drinking water, and all the shops were closed. To make matters worse, I also got diarrhea, which made my dehydration worse. I wanted to hike down to lower elevation, but it was still pitch black. I went back to my room and tried to fall asleep, which was not very successful. When the it finally became bright enough outside, I packed up my stuff and hiked down the mountain. It was quite an experience.

I traveled here during the low season, in late December. Surprisingly, there was no snow on the trail, and it wasn't even that cold. I highly recommend doing this trip in the winter. There was only one other person in our 10 person room. The views from our room was incredible, the picture does not do it justice. Highly recommended.
After the hike, I hopped on a bus from Tina's Guest House (conveniently located at the end of the Tiger Leaping Gorge hike) to Shangri-La. Shangri-La's elevation is over 10,000 feet. I was still battling altitude sickness at the time, and figured that I’d get myself sorted in the comfort of a real hotel room. After all that I’ve been through, I felt like I deserved it. It was fantastic to have my own shower, bathroom, and a real bed. As my body slowly adjusted to the elevation, I felt more energized to head out and explore the town.
Shangri-La was actually originally named Zhongdian County. The name was changed to 'Shangri-La' after the fictional place of Shangri-La in the 1933 James Hilton novel ‘Lost Horizon’. The local government renamed their town to promote tourism. It must have worked, since I made the trek despite my experience with altitude sickness. Shown here is the Songzanlin Monastery, which was modeled after the Potala Palace complex in Lhasa, Tibet.
A view of Shangri-La from the top of Songzanlin (Ganden Sumtseling) Monastery. This was a pretty interesting place to check out. You can climb all the way to the top, where you can see the detailed golden ornaments decorating the roof of the monastery. Songzanlin Monastery still houses over 700 monks today, and you can occasionally hear them chanting as you wander around the complex.
Because I went during low season, there were very few tourists there, which was good. However, because it was low season, many shops and restaurants were closed. Luckily this particular restaurant was open, and they hooked me up with a delicious yak dish. I've never had yak before, I remembered it being chewy.
This was a common site at many monastaries. I'll let the internet explain this one: "The deer are peaceful animals considered to represent compassion and peacefulness. One is male and the other female, indicating harmony, happiness and fidelity. These particular deer have a single horn and are known as the Tibetan unicorn. It is a magical deer which only manifests in the presence of great teachers. The deer gaze up at the Dharmachakra symbolizing the aspiration for the Dharma." -

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