Hailuogou red stone beach: Scarlet rocks under glaciers
There are 145 snowy peaks with elevations above 5,000 meters clustering in the heart of southwest China's Hengduan Mountains. Among them is the highest peak, Mount Gongga, 7,556 meters above sea level. The difference from the foot to the top is 6,200 meters.
Hailuogou, meaning "conch gully" in Chinese, sits on the eastern slope of Mount Gongga. From the giant conical peak down, 74 mature glaciers extend in all directions into dense forests.
The region is famous for its low altitude modern glaciers. The lowest point is just 2,850 meters above sea level.
The huge icy waterfall in Hailuogou Glacier, or No. 1 Glacier, measures 1,100 meters wide, with a drop of more than 1,000 meters.
Glacial avalanches are a normality in the area. It could bring down glacial ice of several million cubic meters at a time.
Besides the glaciers, there is also a one-of-a-kind spectacle that is worth exploring.
The surface of the rocks here manifests an amazing bright red. They are seen almost everywhere in the valley at the end of the glacier.
The color comes not from the mineral, but from a rare lichen complex. With optimum conditions, the lichen spreads across the rock's surface like a scarlet carpet; thus, the red stone beach shows various hues according to the weather and seasons.
The lifespan of the lichen is only about five years at maximum. Once being taken away from their habitat, they could turn black and wither quickly. The growth pattern of the special lichen is yet to be thoroughly explained.
(Cover image a still from the video)
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