The mountains north-east of Lao Niu Wan

— Written the 9th of January

It was under minus ten when I started walking this morning, determined to follow the Great Wall along the small river that runs into the Yellow River.

During last night I thought it was a great idea to walk on the river, but when I got close to the edge I saw it would be too dangerous to get ON to the ice. There is a big dam seven kilometres south of this point and hence the Yellow River is a gigantic water reservoir here, rather than an actual river. The level of water had dropped about three metres since the first ice. This left crevices along the shore of the river for about five metres. Usually, these ice crevices were pretty steep and the ice here was insecure. So, although I was certain the flat ice on the water below me would hold my weight, I was alone and didn’t want to take too big chances getting on to it – and also getting off it at some unknown place.

So, I started climbing the steep hill behind me and walked on the inner side of the Great Wall of China. Most of the hills I climbed, up and down, were covered with some snow and ice some places, as they were all facing northwards. Then it started snowing – pretty heavily at times. The snow in itself didn’t bother me as it was light and dry. But it covered the ground and made it impossible for me to know what lay beneath. At one stage I was walking down a steep narrow path to get past a valley and slipped, because there was hidden ice under the snow. With the walking sticks, I managed to keep my balance.

After a few kilometres, the snow got heavier. I got to a high point and looked eastwards. I couldn’t see any more of the Great Wall of China from this point – only watchtowers. It was dark, although only early in the afternoon. I summed up my situation: I was cold, but as long as I moved it was OK. I was alone. The weather has deteriorated the last hour and there was a centimetre of snow covering the ground and ice. I took to my senses and it was a hard decision not to walk on. Instead I headed in a more southerly direction. At the first possible place I tried to return to the Great Wall following a small dirt road.

When I got to the end of it, I asked a guy if there was any chance of getting to the Great Wall from there, but he shook his head. So – I had no alternative but to follow a small untraffickated dirt road a little to the south of the Great Wall. Needless to say, all the walking today was in very hilly terrain. The walk to the ‘end of the road’ that I just mentioned would have been a good days exercise for most people. At least the walk up again with 20 kilo’s on one’s back.

Towards the end of the day I just found a little field hidden from view and set up the tent. It was too cold to start fiddling with the mobile to write a report. I knew I was in for the coldest night so far.

19 kilometres today