Black Lake

Black Lake

Black Lake (黑海)

Black Lake (黑海)

Region: Alpine Lakes Region
Location: 7 km west-southwest of Haba Village; 2.5 km west of Base Camp
Altitude in Meters: 4,100

Black Lake is one of the most scenic natural features of the Haba massif. Perched at an elevation of 4,100 meters, it is by far the largest of several alpine lakes lying on the northwest slopes of the mountain. The name derives from the waters’ appearance, the result of the depth and composition of the lake bed. From the shore you can enjoy extensive views of moor and mountain at every turn. You can briskly walk around the lake in 45 minutes, but a more leisurely stroll allows the outsized scenery to soak into your soul.


Best times to visit

Best times to visit

May and especially June present the prettiest time of year at Black Lake, with rhododendron trees blossoming on surrounding slopes in shades of white, pink, yellow and blue. Following the summer rainy season, autumn brings cooler temperatures. That’s when leaves of the Yehuajiaoshu tree (野花椒树, wild flowering pepper tree) turn fiery red, a flash point of color around the lake. Several of these trees dot the northern shoreline. The best time to view the trees is in the second week of October.


Fauna

Fauna

Black Lake is said to be home to the critically endangered Chinese Giant Salamander. In favorable environments it grows as long as 1.5 meters, making it one of the largest amphibians in the world. The salamander found in the lake and nearby streams is likely NOT the giant variety, however. According to one scientist who examined photographs, the variety found on the Haba massif is a species of smaller Asiatic salamanders belonging to the family Hynobiidae. The nearest habitat for the giant species may actually be situated some distance away near the Yunnan-Sichuan border.


Some Haba Village residents eat the high country salamander for its reputed health benefits. They call it Wawayu (娃娃鱼), after the sound it reportedly makes resembling the wail of a crying baby. One time at Black Lake, my guide walked along the shore turning over rocks. At last he found a small amphibian about 10 centimeters long. We had paused en route to another destination, and it dawned on me he intended to eat it later. He plunked the animal down, covered it with a rock and tamped down. I protested, to no avail. When we returned hours later, he turned over the rock to discover the critter had vanished!


Night skies

Night skies

Dark sky, bright star, nighttime at Black Lake. At 4,000 meters, the Milky Way shines. This is a rare treat, since most of us put up with street lights blotting out the firmament. Only on the southern horizon does one detect the faintest hint of civilization, the wisp of a glow emanating from Lijiang.


Communication

Communication

To use your phone at Black Lake, ascend the low ridge to the north of the outlet stream. From there you can see Yi Village in the valley far below and can usually get a signal. A path from the ridge descends to Yellow Lake in just a few minutes.


Best practices

Best practices

Several huts populate the shores and surrounding slopes of Black Lake. Most are locked by their owners, residents of Yi Village (彝家村) or Longwangbian (龙汪边) in Haba Village (哈巴村). These buildings and their owners should be respected.

During busy periods such as the first week of October, Haba guest houses erect tents for clients on the north shore of the lake. These are for paying clients and not available to all trekkers. A primitive latrine is situated nearby for use by anyone.

Sadly, visitors and locals alike don’t always respect the environment. Here and there trash, pumps and machinery lie abandoned on shore or in the lake itself, detracting from the natural beauty of the area. Tent platforms excavated on the shoreline serve clients during high season. Hopefully appreciation for the land will take hold in the future, and these scars on the earth will become memories.


How to get there

How to get there

Three trails give access to Black Lake. Lanhua Meadow Route (兰花坪路线) offers a more remote and secluded journey than the others. The Jianshan Route (尖山路线) passes near a 40-meter waterfall half way up. The steep upper section makes it the most strenuous approach. The popular Base Camp Route (大本营路线) is a veritable thoroughfare of mountaineers shooting for the summit, but relatively few proceed past Base Camp to the lake.


Info

Please read the explanation of hiking times, distances, altitudes and rating levels here.