Xiate lies southwest of Zhaosu, a small traffic town and centre of Mongol & Kazakh Buddhism, on the way from Ili (Yining) to Aksu; this is the mountainous border area between China, Kazakh Stan and Kyrgyz Stan. The Xiate trail starts from the green grasslands at the foot of Halikshan mountain and it is the shortest way from Ili to the south of Xinjiang province. After the modern traffic road was built, this old way from north to south was nearly forgotten. Because of complicated geography, the modern traffic road encircles a significant part of the Tienshan mountain range from west to east and it takes nearly 2.000 km instead of only 120 km span on the Xiate shortcut route.
In ancient times the trail was set up as a short cut from the branched Silk Routes of northern Asia to get to the main northern Silk Route connecting Kashgar with Xian.
The Xiate trail is a most dangerous ancient pass road that heads thru the highest part of the Tienshan mountain range with the surrounding Tenggeli (father of perspiration) peak touching 6.995m elevation. On the way there are glaciers, crevasses, ice channels, glacial lakes and last but not least the tempestuous Muzhaerté river that all pose great threats to the explorers. Its also a physical challenge, as horses cant pass the trail, everyone has to carry all equipment and food in their backpack by themselves.
Beginning : Xiate hot spring in Zhaosu area End of walking : Guang Hui stone pit End of the way : bus via Puo Cheng Zi to Lao Hu Tai village in Baicheng area
The Xiate old way had special functions in military, commercial and communications between people because the traffic is not convenient between north and south of Xinjiang province. Muzhaerté rivershed is an important mountain entrance dating back to the Tang dynasty of China. From southern Xian in central China to northern Ili, the trail is the shortest route.
After it was abandoned until arrival of the Qing dynasty when Ili became the military centre of Xinjiang province and the Xiate trail was reopened. Near the slope entrance at the south 70 families were installed to service the path and cut the ice ladders in the glacier because people cant walk across the sides cliff. Traders and soldiers often used the old way and a garrison was installed to retrieve the proper taxes. At that place there are many huge stones which marked the Uygur languages and also revolutionary badge marks, written in the 1940s when Uygur army launched surprise attacks from here to the Chinese troops at Aksu in southern Xinjiang.
From the mid last century, the dangerous Xiate route was abandoned because the new circular traffic road was built. Only in the end of the 1980s, people realised the special signification and value of Xiate in Chinese history and a Japanese exploration team was mounted to explore the old way for the first time in 1989. The second team to make it all the way was a Chinese team in 2001, but they paid the high price for it as their chief disappeared in the strong current of the ice river. Since that time the Xiate trail has become a famous trekking line of top grade among specialised Chinese adventurers; many tried, but few made it thru all the way.
Kazakh are the main minority of the Xiate valley north of the mountains. South of the slopes belong to the Aksu area and there live Uygur herds people. Only the old generations know still something about the trail; they even walked there when they were young. Young generations know nothing about it. Because the minority sides live separate lifes from the outside modern world, they dont understand exploration travels and they cant speak Chinese language. Dont count on any help from them.