Photo Friday: Northwest China’s #1 Glacier

In February 2016, the government in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region announced that tourists would no longer be permitted to stand atop its retreating glaciers. According to the memo, tourism was a direct cause of glacial retreat. China is home to 46,377 glaciers, and the government has a particular reason to be concerned with the state of its glaciers in this region: comprising 1/6 of China’s land mass, Xinjiang is home to 18,311 of them.

The Tian Shan Glacier No. 1, which has existed for a reported 4.8 million years, is expected to disappear within 50 years. Though the glacier is only accessible via roads that would give Indiana Jones pause, it remains a popular tourist destination. Josh Summers has been living in Xinjiang since 2006 and runs a well-regarded travel blog that provides hard-to-find information for foreign tourists interested in visiting the far-away region. Today, we travel to Xinjiang to see this glacier before it disappears.

The two sections of the No. 1 Glacier were once joined together (Source: Josh Summers/Far West China).

 

One of the better-paved sections of road leading to the glacier (Source: Josh Summers/Far West China).

 

A view from the pass (Source: Josh Summers/Far West China).

 

Watch Josh’s drive from Urumqi to Tian Shan Glacier No. 1 via ‘Highway’ 216:

 

A Kazakh yurt and the entrance to the glacier viewing spot (Source: Josh Summers/Far West China).

 

The spoils of an unsafe drive (Source: Josh Summers/Far West China).

 

We weren’t kidding. Do not try this at home (Source: Josh Summers/Far West China).
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