The four girls mountain

My last stop in the Sichuan mountains is going to be Siguniang Shan. The four peaks, referred to as the “fours girls”, are not mentioned in my guide book, but I heard about them from other sources. I am ambivalent about this, as the place could turn out to be a foreigner-free heaven or a dodgy den for Chinese tourists that I’ll find difficult to come to terms with after the latest experiences. As I have a few days to spend before Chengdu, I may well take the risk, for I’d rather stay in the mountains than in the muggy plains.

The mountain elevation ranges from 5,355 to 6,250 m with the highest peak (the youngest of the “girls”) a year-round snow-capped summit unconquered to date. Nicknamed the “Queen of Sichuan's peaks”, it will make a worthy epilogue to my highland roaming.

It is a rainy day today. In the bus I meet an adorable couple of young nuclear engineers also going to the park. We get to know each other, firstly with some small talk in Chinese which they are so thoughtful as not to interrupt, even if their English is considerably more potent.

We get a room together in Rilong, the village from where the exploration of the three gullies can be made. The weather is rather cold and doesn’t look like it will clear up by tomorrow, so that our hike is in jeopardy.

If the weather is rainy or even only cloudy, it would be pointless to stump up the hefty entrance fee for seeing nothing. Yes, because there are no tourist attractions that are free of charge in China and it angers me all the more that this is a natural park in the open air and still we’ll be made to fork out about € 10 to enter each and every separate valley. It’s just unheard of from my viewpoint.

The friendly hotel dining-room is draped with red and yellow banners scribbled by the mountaineers who conquered the summits. We’re all set to go for our long hike tomorrow. We buy provisions for a package lunch and keep fingers crossed for the meteorological conditions.


The sky looks passable today with only thin clouds at low altitude; there are hopes it will clear up soon. From the visitors’ centre we take the bus that toils up for 5 km to the beginning of the trail. On board there is a group of very noisy Chinese tourists who sound particularly obnoxious at this early hour of the day disrupting the quiet of the mountains. They behave like schoolchildren laughing for any silly remarks and only when the guide starts speaking, do they all hush and listen to the lesson on the microphone.

Inspecting their gear, I see they look quite unprepared for a mountain trail, especially the women wearing high-heel shoes. I harbour the secrete hope that this will hinder their going and let us go undisturbed.

We start walking on a quaint wooden gangway that crosses a beautiful forest. There are streaks of moss and lichens hanging from the branches and lush undergrowth. We follow a stream and cross several rivulets. As the clouds drift and disperse, the mountain tops emerge in all their splendour. When I see the fourth “girl” come into view I feel as if I was touching heaven.

About halfway through, the gangway stops and the trail continues directly on the soil, but most visitors choose to ride a horse. A few hours later we get to a wide area just below the mountain. We are dwarfed by the soaring peak and another perfectly pyramidal summit.

The extraordinary landscape makes hike very rewarding, but when I get tired on the way back I find some distraction reading very entertaining Chinglish signs.


The descent to Chengdu is a sad farewell to the beautiful highlands. The bus crosses the last of a long series of high passes that have featured my Sichuan exploration and lets me appreciate the last verdant mountains. Down in the plains the temperature is very different, but what impacts on me most is the re-encounter with the artificiality of the modern Chinese city.

I have the unsound idea to escape this, only to fall victim to the tourist trap of Pingle, an ancient Silk road way station all but turned into a hideous theme park. It’s a complete disappointment.

The only advantage of Chengdu is the good hostel and the Sichuan opera show I attend. With an early morning flight to Shenzhen I will start my return to Hong Kong, but my real the trip has ended here, even before I leave China. The only consolation will be finding my friend in Kennedy Town.