22-Aug-2006 -- Our 3rd attempt at 31N 103E during 2006: Peter Snow Cao and I attempted the point earlier in May and June, this attempt was in late summer - a time when the monsoon season seems to be in full effect. We arrived at the previously visited "motel" - which, surprisingly, was in even worse condition than when we stayed at it before. Our hosts insisted on feeding us a double portion of the traditional Chinese breakfast, and after that we set out on the same well worn hiking trail we knew well.
The lower hike through the forest was foggy with much moisture in the air. Rocks slick with mud and water dripping from every mossy branch. We gained the beautiful ridge line where the rhododendrons grow @ 3600m at 1:45pm, but visibility remained extremely limited, where it remained for the duration of our trip. We continued on the contour line trail until reaching the stone house, where we didn't stay long but continued higher to try and reach the top of the ridge @ 4300m where I and Simon had reached on our previous attempt June 24.
About halfway between the stone house and the ridge, I sadly was unable to continue farther. A combination of migraine headache (altitude?), very upset stomach and the fact that our visibility was less than 20 meters. Anything beyond that was PURE WHITE FOG. Peter had the determination and strength to continue, but I couldn't, so we set up the tent next to a small stream, hoping that the weather would change for our attempt the following day.
Opening up the tent zipper in the morning revealed the thick heavy fog had remained. We knew how perilous the climb beyond the ridge (from 2.1km to the point) would be with slick, crumbling stone and zero visibility.
As we packed up the gear, some extremely blue sky broke through the clouds - revealing the 4700m peak next to the confluence. It was exhilarating, but unfortunately the clouds only opened up a few times for a few seconds at a time, before the thick clouds closed in again. One has to respect the weather in the high mountains, and with it changing so quickly I didn't believe it would get better for us, and so we started our hike down to the trail head.
Peter couldn't safely continue without me, and I had mentally resigned that continuing to hike higher was not going to result in success. This confluence point requires a few things for success: 1) at least two very capable and motivated climbers - to assist each other in the dangerous terrain beyond the ridge 2) Good weather - like the conditions we had on 25 June 2006. 3) Time - plenty enough to account for unforeseen events during the attempt (such unforeseen events like Larry's "wild dog" bite during the 15 May 2006 attempt, or the extreme difficulty of the "canyon traverses" encountered by Peter and Rainer during the 31 July 2010 attempt)
Unfortunately, each attempt at the 31N 103E confluence point undertaken by myself and many others has not had all 3 requirements. It will certainly all come together for some fortunate "expedition" (as it seems that this confluence almost requires an expedition!) in the future, and I will be quite excited to see that result!!
Additional Notes: a short Youtube video from this attempt: Includes a clip from our drive to Wolong the night before the hike, and some clips from the conditions we endured while on the trail.