From Changbaishan resort, we drove to the West park entrance, which is 40 or so kms from the slope of the crater. Insert muttering about industrial tourism here. Park and buy tickets for the bus. Gate fee 125 rmb. Bus fee another 85 rmb. Audible complaints about no winter rates. Where does the bus go? About halfway up. Then what? Buy more tickets to get to the top when you get there - another 100 rmb or so. Ugghhh!!! Said very loudly indeed.
Cheerlessly embarked bus and waited for it to slowly fill. Windows iced over so no views. Thankfully, no sound system on for commentary or music. Off bus at a bleak looking terminal point in the icy cold and not clear where to go next. Some skiing and sledding happening here, and snow mobiles. Entered the ski rental building and there is a huge map on the wall. While we tried to figure out what to do next, a man came in with a bleeding ear, staunched with toilet paper. What???
Managed to buy tickets for the next phase, and the kind supervisor started wrapping my scarf around my face and checking I was all bundled in. Then pointed us to the Snowmobiles. OH!!
Two of us on the back of one, heading straight up the slopes, we were so exhilarated and COLD. All muttering, complaining and objecting rued. Maybe 15 minutes and we transferred to another snowmobile - this time one on the back of each, for the steep last stage. Cloud closed in all around us.
At the end of the ride, a hut for refuge and some steps to the edge of the crater. We could only stay up there for 5 minutes at a time, as the wind was so strong and so cold. So, was the ear frost bite related? No view, but wisps of cloud lifted for perspective glimpses. Imagined we were Hilary and Tenzing for those five minutes. Retreat to hut. One more dash out to the top with camera already out and primed. Retreat. And back down, with hands that could barely hold anything.
Hot dumplings in the cafeteria at the bus stop level, dazed from the cold, but in awe of the conditions. Feet incredibly painfully returning to life.
NB: barely adequate clothing inventory: core - silk inner layer, merino thermals, 2 layers of fleece pants, cashmere sweater, micro fleece jacket, a Chicago-proof down coat. Extremities - microfleece neck wrap, ski face mask, cashmere sweater hood, fur hat, ear muffs, and down coat hood, 3 layers of gloves (inners, thermal, and thick fleece), ditto 3 layers of socks; hiking boots.
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