by Robert Minor
If you have camped out at the camp area (like we did), you will be able to hike to both peaks and then back to the trailhead on Day 2. However, expect a very long day. We awoke at 3:00am and started hiking by 4:00. Estimate a 2 hour walk to summit the main peak. We left our large packs in our tents and hiked with day packs.
The walk out to the main peak is gorgeous and follows the ridge.
The trail is very clear. We walked it in the dark, but the skies were filled with stars. We couldn't have asked for any better weather.
If you are walking in heavy fog or mist, tread carefully. There are ridge parts that are easy to walk off and slide down.
Below is a view of the trail along the ridge.
The trail to the main peak is not difficult. It is 3 km, but it is mostly flat and easy to walk on.
Below is the final sign pointing you to the final ascent to the main peak.
This final ascent is the steepest part and there are ropes to help.
Atop the final ascent.
We had a gorgeous sunrise that day. It was cold on top (early October), so always bring your Gortex jacket and warm gear. There were actually two guys camping up there as well!
The peak marker of Qilai Main Peak.
You have peaked the main peak, however, you still have the north peak and then walk out left. Better to get going as soon as possible. There is a 2 hour walk back to the camp area.
After we arrived at the camp area, we packed up our gear, took a quick nap and then headed off, with all our gear, towards Qilai North Peak.
Although the distance is only 1.7 km, it will still take you almost 2 hours as the final ascent is quite steep and rocky. See below.
The north peak is quite looming. It is like climbing up a pointed rock. There are ropes and lots of precarious steps. Doing this in the rain, dark, or heavy fog could be quite dangerous.
As you walk from the campsite to Qilai North Peak, you will see an intersection trail marker at about the .06km mark. It will point you down the mountain (a different route than the one you came up) and towards the north peak. We dropped our heavy packs here, grabbed our day packs and water, and headed towards the north peak.
From here, we headed off the trail towards the north peak. When you get to the base of the steep portion, it is almost straight up to the peak. It is a fun climb, actually. Just be careful.
Success! We made it up here at about 11:00am. Already a long day had passed. We still have another 4-5 hours back down to the trailhead.
If you are staying at Chenggong Cabin #1, your day will be a lot shorter. We made it all the way back to the trailhead and were pretty wiped out.(Total 13 hours) We ended up staying at a local hotel along Route 14 and then drove home the next morning. Good luck getting up Qilai, and remember to dress warm and stay safe.