Students continue trip after scare

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 July, 2009, 12:00am

A group of more than 80 students and teachers has continued a study tour along the ancient Silk Road after a hiking scare in a high-altitude area of the western province of Qinghai .

The students and teachers, part of a group of 112 people from two Hong Kong universities and two mainland universities, were safe and yesterday headed for Zhangye in Gansu province .

On Thursday, 45 students and teachers from Chinese University and the University of Hong Kong, and 67 people from Wuhan and Lanzhou universities reached Menyuan Hui autonomous county, Haibei Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Qinghai. They intended to visit glaciers at Gold Dragon Mount accessible only by walking.

They left their vehicles at 2.15pm, and a while later more than 20 students and teachers abandoned the hike early because they had difficulty with the altitude. But more than 80 continued the walk and got caught in worsening weather.

'Dense fog developed really fast, reducing visibility to 10 to 15 metres,' group leader Chau Kwai-cheong, a geography professor at Chinese University, said. 'Then came the rain and it grew darker amid cold winds. The ground became slippery and it was difficult to walk.'

There was no mobile phone coverage in the area, but the group had a pair of GPS devices that helped them find their vehicles after 7pm, more than an hour after they were supposed to have returned.

By then, a worried teacher who came down the mountain earlier had driven to a local police station for help, and the news they may have gone missing spread across the nation.