Australian Hiker Reported Missing in Minya Konka, Sichuan

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Clem LindenmayerAndrew Clem Lindenmayer, a 47-year-old Australian freelance travel writer for the travel guidebook company Lonely Planet, has disappeared while hiking near Minya Konka ( also known as Gongga Shan) in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Ganzi in southwest China's Sichuan Province. 

Mr Lindenmayer last had contact with his family on May 2 and was expected to resume contact eight days later, according to a message posted by family members on a Lonely Planet website.

His brother, Peter Lindenmayer, and nephew Tim Lindenmayer, left Australia late last week to help Chinese authorities in their search.

The missing man's father Graeme Lindenmayer, who lives in Melbourne, said his son was a highly experienced hiker who had done similar treks before. He liaised with international police agency Interpol to investigate his son's disappearance. Consular staff and Interpol are involved and have alerted the Chinese police. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has told the media that they are involved in the matter.

However, as of this morning, the police had nothing to report.

A Lonely Planet spokeswoman yesterday said Mr Lindenmayer was not on assignment when he went missing, however its staff were aware of the situation and were in touch with his family.

She said he had written for the travel publisher for more than a decade and his last book for the company was Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes, published in 2003.

He had also written Lonely Planet Walking in Switzerland and contributed to various country guides.

Mr Lindenmayer's wife lives in Switzerland, where the Lonely Planet website says he has made his home "on and off" for almost 20 years.

Sydney resident Michael Woodhead, who is a frequent visitor to the Minya Konka area, yesterday said an experienced hiker like Mr Lindenmayer should have had no trouble with the terrain. He said exposure and altitude sickness could pose problems for people trekking in the sparsely populated region, but a more pressing danger was posed by roaming gangs of bandits.

However, the editor-in-chief of Hong Kong-based Action Asia magazine, Steve White, said the area's unstable terrain was more likely to be a factor in Mr Lindenmayer's disappearance. He said the remote region had a lot of unclimbed peaks and did not have the safeguards of more established climbing areas.

Two well-known American climbers, Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff, were reported missing after attempting to climb a nearby mountain late last year. The body of Mr Fowler was found in December. 

Original source: theage.com.au & news.com.au, consolidated by ChinaTrekking.com


Tracking Reports:

1. Beijing time 17:30, Jun. 5

A guide and a traveller said...

Recommended by a Sichuan outdoor enthusiast, ChinaTrekking.com called the experienced guide Duoji (Dorje) in Laoyulin, one of the trekking springboard to Minya Konka. Duoji said, he got 3 photos of Clem from Kangding. Most of his fellow guides have seen Clem's photo now. Not much useful info.was provided. A local aweto-digger did see a foreign backpacker passing by between May 3~4, but he hardly noticed the backpacker's face at that moment. Though provided with Clem's photo, the local still couldn't confirm whether it's the same person. 

Duoji also said, from Laoyulin, there are 2 trails to Minya Kongka - the west Panpan Shan trail and the east Riwuqie trail ( ref. minya-konka-trekking-map ). During the golden week of May 1-7, many Chinese hikers took the west trail to Mt. Konka, while very few walked along Riwuqie due to the difficulty caused by snow. But the river between Panpan Shan and Riwuqie is easy to cross. As the last time the local saw the tall guy was near Panpan Shan, Duoji said that maybe the guy crossed the river from Panpanshan to Riwuqie, or else, so many hikers on Panpanshan route should have met him in the coming days.  Duoji was very sure that the "very small river" had less water in early May, it's hardly possible for an adult to be flushed away  by the current.

Also, a user of Auly.com claims that she saw a tall foriegn guy climbing Panpan Shan (Mt. Panpan, 4670m) at around 11am May 4, a few other locals who were digging awetos around also saw this guy. But no one could confirm whether that was Clem.

2. Beijing time 23:50, Jun. 5

Clem's Stay in Kangding

ChinaTrekking.com provided the phone numbers of the above-mentioned witness' to Australian Beijing Embassy per a PM request in Lonely Planet forum.

Also, ChinaTrekking.com got a reply from a member in 517sc.com forum, which said that the only thing he knows is, the last place Clem stayed in Kangding before hiking is Black Tent Guesthouse. We called the G/H, one of the staff said that, as there were so many guests during the golden week, they didn't remember any special one. The registration book was already handed over to the local Police.

3. Beijing time 13:30, Jun. 6

Two searchers were sent to Rewuqie

Laoyulin Guide Dorje called ChinaTrekking.com to advise that, a local aweto-digger saw a foreigner in upper Rewuqie during the early May golden week, but he couldn't remember the exact date either. Kangding official is aware of the clue and assigned 2 experienced local man to search in upper Rewuqie.

According to Duoji, the 2 searchers are his relatives, one is his nephew, who has been apprenticing Duoji for about 20 years as a guide, the other one is his niece's husband. They left for the destination about 2 hours ago, with tents, foods and other gears on horsebacks. There is hardly phone signal in upper Riwuqie, any progress may be updated by locals who come back from the place. Duoji said he will call us at the first second if he gets anything new.

4. Beijing time 13:50, Jun. 7

No hotel record shows Clem's stay in Kangding

Clem's father Graeme's newest post in LP forum at 1:18pm today is "So far no hotel records investigated in Kangding show evidence of his stay. Our family have been travelling further around the area also, together with an official party arranged by the Australian embassy. Interpol is still awaiting the results from the Chinese authorities concerning their investigations into any possible use by Cleem of email or cash withdrawal.
Graeme"

Chinatrekking.com is trying all means to reach the user Xiaowei of 517sc.com, who replied to the searching post that (s)he knew the last place Clem stayed in Kangding was Black Tent Guseesthouse. Xiaowei is a new user registered on May 30, 2007 in 517sc.com without any personal contact info. Two public and one private messages with questions about the source of his/her info. were addressed to Xiaowei. Hope the user can turn up with some updates soon.

5. Beijing time 11:40, Jun. 8

The "Black Tent" story was heard from the local police

Finally, the 517sc.com user Xiaowei who mentioned Black Tent called ChinaTrekking.com, though the result is disappointing.

The user is a Chinese traveller arriving Kangding on May 10, she stays in and also temporarily works for Dengba Guesthouse. She heard that Clem stayed in Black Tent from the local policemen who went to the G/H with 2 of Clem's family members for investigation purpose last week.One of the family members speaking fluent Chinese also heard this at that moment, she said.

When being asked since the police knew where Clem stayed, why they still bothered Dengba G/H, Xiaowei was not sure and she said maybe it was just the regular investigation process.

But according to Clem's father's latest update, no hotel records investigated in Kangding show evidence of his stay, which means the Black Tent indication was not proved yet.

6. Beijing time 14:30, Jun. 8

A Chinese hiker confirmed meeting a foreigner near Panpan Shan on May 4

User Beileimao of auly.com, who reported witnessing a tall guy walking alone towards Panpan Shan at around 11am on May 4, replied ChinaTrekking.com's questions this morning in the forum . (S)He said they were walking from Panpan Shan towards Laoyulin at that time and the weather was fine, except the trail was covered with thick snow. The estimted meeting location is around 3 hours to the 4300m of Panpan Shan. The guide Gongbu's phone No. was provided by the user.

ChinaTrekking.com called the guide a couple of times but failed to reach him. The clue was reported to an official Ian J. of Australia Beijing Embassy who is in Kangding now.

7. Beijing time 15:20, Jun. 8

Searchers returned to Laoyulin without any result

Laoyulin guide Duoji called ChinaTrekking.com to notify that, the 2 searchers sent out by Kangding to Riwuqie on Jun.6 (pls refer to 3#) just returned to Laoyulin at around 3pm today without any result. They made hard search around Riwuqie,except digging into the thick snow. 

8. Beijing time 21:00, Jun. 8

More Chinese hikers claimed meeting foreigners in the mountain areahiker

Lonely Planet user wnnews posted in the TT forum that he was trekking in Minya Konka from 2~5th, May. When descending from Tsemei Pass on May 3,  his team met 2 tall foreign guys walking fast towards Tsemei Pass along the trail, with a Tibetan guide chasing behind.  The guide is a student of Chengdu Sports College, he said they walked from Yulongxi and would head for Ganzi after Minya Konka. It was  snowing with rains at that time.

Wnnews said, because all  foreigners look like the same for Chinese, he is not sure whether one of them is Clem. The 2 guys were the only foreigners they met on route during the Gongga tour.

Another user of auly.com who started from Laoyulin on May 2 and passed Panpan Shan on May 3 reported in the forum that, his team of 13 members witnessed afar a "black dot" almost reaching the mountaintop at around 10am May 4, leaving a trail of clear footprints in the snow. But they were not sure whether that was a hiker or a local Tibetan due to the long distance to the  mountaintop on the other side of the river, also he didn't address which moutain.

The picture right was took by the poster on spot and was already sent to Clem's family together with a GPS record of their route in that area.

9. Beijing time 9:00, Jun. 10

A local teenage girl saw a tall lone foreigner on the track at Xia Riwuqie

One of Clem's family member updated in LP TT forum "our search team spoke to a local teenage girl who saw a tall lone foreigner on the track at Xia Ruqi. She asked him in Chinese whether he wanted a horse and he said he didn't. As Clem speaks Mandarin this could well be a positive sighting.

Our search team also reported that in early May a group of aweto diggers saw a lone trekker further down at Xiang Ruqi, going along the river rather than the path. As far as we know, this is the last possible sighting at this stage..."

Plus item #6 and #8, there are total 3 possible clues so far. The guide Gongbu of #6 called the poster Beileimao yesterday to correct him the tall guy they met at around 11am on May 4 was NOT walking towards Panpan shan, but another direction. Also, Beileimao's trekking partner is more certain that the guy is Clem and has reported to Sichuan Mountaineering Association.

Since posters #6 & #8 were at 2 different sides of Panpan shan, if that was the same person, one of them shouldn't have seen him, no matter the mountain in the photo is Panpan Shan or not. The question was raised in the forum but the poster replied that as there are mountains after mountains in that area, they really didn't know the mountain name.

10. Beijing time 12:49, Jun. 15

No more indications after the last possible sighting in Riwuqie

Though continuous efforts has been put in appealing to Clem's searching clue in different Chinese ourdoor forums,  no more new indications of any sighting was reported in the last few days.

11. Beijing time 10:00, Jun. 18

Business English Solutions Int'l LLC offering a $800 dollar reward for information leading to Find Clem

Journeyeast.org - Business English Solutions International, LLC is offering a $800 dollar reward for information that leads to the family finding Mr. Clem Lindenmayer...

Over the past three weeks some searches have been conducted in the area and so far the most positive sightings indicate that Clem took the more difficult eastern Riwuqie track rather than the more populated western PanPan Shan track. The majority of the sightings seem to point to the Shang Ruichi area, Buchela Pass, in between the river and the path, and the lake/glacier area to the left (east) of the Buchela pass.

Full Report: Journey East.org : Help Family Find Missing Lonely Planet Writer

The Laoyulin guide Duoji, who just returned from a Jun.8~17 hiking, said the weather in Mt. Minya Konka area was very fine during those days, temperature was between 5~15ºC. Snow has been melting so quickly that there is almost no snow in Panpan Shan now, Riwuqie's is much less thicker than before, which is a good news for the continuous searching effort.


Link: Discussion in Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum

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