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Shipton’s Arch Now Has Easier Access

A special thanks to Josh Summers of Far West China for providing this update and photos.

Shipton’s Arch in China is one of the world’s giant arches and is already described in some detail on the NABS website. What’s new is that a wooden walkway has been built to provide easy access to view the arch. The 3-minute video below shows the new access (note that when the video states the height of the arch is 1500 feet, that does not refer to the opening itself, which is 1200 feet high).

Shipton’s Arch is located in the mountains northwest of the city of Kashgar, part of China’s far west province of Xinjiang. For the first decade following the 2000 National Geographic expedition that re-discovered the arch, foreign travelers began to request a visit to the arch with local travel agencies. Special arrangements had to be made and at first many of the agencies had no idea what the foreigners were talking about—a proper name in Chinese wasn’t given to the arch until the late 2000s (the name is variously transliterated as “Toshuk Tagh“ or “Tushuk Tash“ in the Uyghur language or Ātúshi tiānmén in Chinese).

These pioneering travelers, including Ray Millar of NABS, talk about an arduous climb that included a 4-wheel drive vehicle, a local guide and a number of rickety ladders.

All of that—for better or worse—has changed.

A new road leads from the highway to a new visitor’s center right next to the trail head. Guides are no longer necessary and the ladders have been replaced by strong staircases. The 1.8-mile trail to the arch is still a tiring climb that requires a certain level of fitness from those that visit. However, it’s no longer the dangerous expedition it once was.

The new paved entrance to Shipton’s Arch
The new paved entrance to Shipton’s Arch

Shiptons Arch approachClimbing the stairs up the valley to Shipton’s Arch

Shiptons Arch approach

Shiptons ArchThe first glimpse of the arch during the hike.

To make your own visit to Shipton’s Arch, all you need to do is arrange transportation from Kashgar for the day. This can be done either through a travel agency or by hiring a taxi off the street. For the latter, you can use the local Uyghur or Chinese (Mandarin) name, or bring a photo so you can point to it.

Hired transportation, depending on the type of car and season, can cost anywhere from 500-800 Yuan per day ($75-$120), so it’s best to get a group together if possible.

Once you reach the visitors center, which can take 1-2 hours of driving, you will be required to purchase an entrance ticket. They point you on your way and off you go!

Josh recommends bringing water and snacks since there is no place to stop and buy this during your trip. He also suggests that many tour companies offer the option to either arrive super early or stay late to see the sunrise/sunset and says it’s gorgeous. The only problem is hiking in the dark, so bring good flashlights.

NABS member Josh Summers is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China’s western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future. You can find his original blog on this subject here.

Noyo Headlands Park, CA

By Nick Terzakis

This past Memorial Day, Pat and I drove up to Fort Bragg, CA and stopped at Noyo Headlands Park which is a newly opened park. The city bought the land that used to be the the old Georgia Pacific Lumber Company and made some walking trails along the bluffs with some beautiful overlooks. The first area we visited was the southern entrance to the park which can be reached from State Hwy 1.

We turned west onto Cypress St. in Fort Bragg and parked at the end of the road. We walked the trail west then north to Johnson Rock. On the way is CA-209, Skip’s Punchbowl (10S-429814-4364940, span 15′ x height 20′):
CA-209 Skip's Punchbowl
The last area we visited was the northern entrance to the park which can be reached from State Hwy 1. We turned west onto Elm St. in Fort Bragg and parked at Glass Beach. We walked the trail west then south to Otsuchi Point. Just before reaching Otsuchi Point there are some steps made from logs that go down to a beach.

At the left side of the beach is CA-208, Glass Beach Arch (span 3′ x height 3′):

CA-208 Glass Beach Arch

Back on the trail to Otsuchi Point are 4 more sea arches as follows.

Skeleton Key Arch (span 3′ x height 6′):
Skeleton Key Arch

Island Arch (span 2′ x height 4′):Island Arch
Cavity Arch (left opening span 10′ x height 14″ and right opening span 2′ x height 14′):
Cavity Arch

Otsuchi Point Arch (span 3′ x height 3′):
Otsuchi Point Arch

The Top of the Crown

By Stan Wagon
Silverthorne, Colorado

I learned about Crown Arch (NABSQNO 12S-681690-4333545)  in Mee Canyon (west of Grand Junction, Colorado) from Bob Fagley’s comprehensive site Bob’s Arches, and visited it twice in May 2010 and 2012. As often happens, the very first picture (above) was the best (showing the classic view from below).

My wife Joan Hutchinson and I approached it that first time via a long and complicated route, but exited in a more straightforward way and it is the latter route that I used on the two trips since. In 2012 Jonathan Kriegel, Dave Blakeslee, and I visited Crown and also Two Feathers and Will Minor Arches. These two visits to Crown made me really want to check out the top.

On Sunday, May 1, 2016, Bill Briggs and I went in with ropes and gear to see what might be accomplished from the top of the arch. We had hoped to do this on Saturday, but the road was too muddy due to a huge rainfall on Thursday. It was fine on Sunday after a dry night.

We found the top of the arch with no difficulty after just a little over two hours of hiking from the parking spot at the gate, about three miles before the official Rattlesnake Arches Parking spot. We hiked down the road for about a kilometer, and then turned left on old roads to get to the arch. In fact, one should just beeline it to the old road system from the parking area, and that is what we did on return, which took a little under two hours for the approximately five mile trip.

From the top of the arch the angle looked steep so we decided not to try and go lower and then climb it, but just to work on photography. To that end, I rappelled into it from a solid small tree anchor, but Bill also put me on belay on our second rope so I could stop anywhere for photography. I went down about 70% of the way to the bottom. I think now that this would be climbable from the bottom, but talk is cheap. I had one jumar with me and getting back up with the help of that was a triviality: so much easier than the old-school technique of prusiking.


Bill checks out the top of the Crown:

Crown Arch

Looking down the Crown from the top:

Crown Arch

Looking down from a little below the top:

Crown Arch

The top of the arch is guarded by a pig:

Crown Arch

Looking across Mee Canyon after descending a little bit on rappel:

Crown Arch

A panorama from three frames of the upper part of the Crown. This was the sort of shot I was looking for. It is an unusual view of the Crown’s interior:

Crown Arch

The whole Crown from below:

Crown Arch

Looking up Mee Canyon from my low point inside the Crown:

Crown Arch

Here is our GPS track superimposed on a Google Earth image. The canyon north of “Lap 1” is Rattlesnake Canyon.

Crown Arch route


Arch of Wied il Mielah, Malta

One of the most famous arches in Malta is Azure Window, which has been featured in several movies and in Game of Thrones. A lesser known but quite similar arch can be found nearby, however, known as the Arch of Wied il Mielah (NABSQNO 33S-429115-3993060). Both are near the town of Gharb. Azure window is due west, and Wied il Mielah is the same distance due north. The photo below is by Franklin Camilleri.

Wied il Mielah

900th Documented Arch in France

Our intrepid arch hunter Guilain Debossens reports the 900th arch that he has documented in France: Barri Troué.

This natural arch is located on the lower section of the canyon of Rimouren near the village of Saint-Montant in the Ardèche department of France. The opening has a measured span of 18 feet. Barri is an old Provençal name for a rocky ledge. Barri Troué is named (but not precisely located) on the IGN topographic map Top 25 number 2939 West Gorges de l’Ardèche (pleat B9).

Below are three photos of Barri Troué. About 95% of the arches Guilain has documented in France are on his website.


Barri Troue


Pont d’Arc at Flood

Pont d’Arc in France experienced flooding on April 4, 2016, as can be seen in the two photos below showing the Ardeche River at normal flow followed by a photo on April 4.

Pont d'Arc at normal flow.
Pont d’Arc at normal flow.


Pont d'Arc on April 4, 2016
Pont d’Arc on April 4, 2016. Photo courtesy Guilain Debossens.


A much larger flood occurred on September 19, 2014, as can be seen in the first 30 seconds of the video below.

Guilain Debossens reports that there is an historic plaque fixed on the cliff two meters above the road at the entrance of the Gorges de l’Ardèche. The plaque indicates that the Ardèche River reached the level of the plaque, 55 feet above normal flow, during the historic flood of September 22, 1890. It was the most severe flood since man developed photography, but not of all time of course.

Guilain found the photo below taken during this historic flood. The text written on the back said the flood was so huge that the Ardeche River retook the abandoned meander during this event.

Pont d'arc Historic Flood

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Sea Arches

By Nick Terzakis

A lot of people usually take the boat tour from Munising to see Pictured Rocks but never take the time to hike the area and hence miss out on some nice sights (including arches). I decided to hike the trail to see Vreeland’s 14-2, 14-3 and 14-4.

From Munising drive County Road H58 east and turn left onto Miners Castle Road (H11). Along the way you can stop at Miner’s Castle Falls which is a 1.2 miles round trip hike plus 77 steps to the lower viewpoint.

Miners Castle Falls
Miner’s Castle Falls

Back on Miners Castle Roadd (H11) driving north, turn right onto Miners Castle Beach just before you reach Miners Castle viewpoint (which is worth a stop), then turn right at a “T” intersection and park at the end of the road.

Miners Castle
Miner’s Castle


Walk the Lakeshore North County Trail east as it climbs up the cliffs. On top of the cliffs at over 3 miles is V14-3, Lover’s Leap Arch (NABSQNO 16T-539180-5153408).

Lovers Leap Arch
Lovers Leap Arch

At over 6 miles is V14-4, The Grand Portal (NABSQNO 16T-541282-5155686).

The Grand Portal
The Grand Portal

At over 7 miles is V14-2, Chapel Rock (NABSQNO 16T-543097-5155155).

Chapel Rock
Chapel Rock

One interesting thing about Chapel Rock is that the tree that grows on top is clinging to dear life by its roots which extend to the cliffs.

Chapel Rock root
Chapel Rock root

Also worth seeing are Chapel Rock Falls and Mosquito Falls.

Chapel Rock Falls
Chapel Rock Falls
Mosquito Falls
Mosquito Falls

That day I hiked over 16 miles round trip to Chapel Rock. Another way to reach Chapel Rock is to drive County Road H58 east, turn left onto Chapel Rock Road and walk the trail. A map of the trails is below (click for larger version).

Chapel Basin Trails

Near Munising is a natural window which measures 3 feet in diameter. From Munising drive County Road H58 east, turn right onto Nestor Street and park near Cleveland Street. Look for the trail to Memorial Falls and go down to the falls. To the north you can see the natural window (NABSQNO 15T-513566-5117066).

Memorial Falls Window
Memorial Falls Window

On Mackinaw Island there is V14-1, Arch Rock, and below it to the left is V14-101, Sanilac Arch. The island can be reached by taking the ferry from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace.

Arch Rock
Arch Rock
Sanilac Arch
Sanilac Arch

Some more information about several of these arches can be found in our GIS section.

Norm’s Stargazer Arch

NABS is pleased to announce that we have selected an arch to name in honor of the memory of long-time member and SPAN publisher, Norm Self, who passed away earlier this year. Norm and his wife, Linda, lived in El Centro, CA for many years and Norm delighted in taking numerous friends out to see the arches on “Three-Arch Hill” in Gavilan Wash west of Picacho State Recreation Area in eastern Imperial County, CA. This area had special meaning to Norm and Linda and that played a role in selecting one of these arches to honor Norm.

The three arches located there have been unofficially referred to as Hag’s Tooth (CA-146), Gavilan Wash Arch (CA-145), and Eye of the Hawk (CA-144). “Hag’s Tooth” was aptly used for obvious reasons, and Gavilan Wash Arch was too small (5-foot span), so we chose Eye of the Hawk to honor Norm. Therefore, California arch NABSQNO 11S-707583-3657511 will hereafter be referred to by NABS as Norm’s Stargazer Arch (“Stargazer” was Norm’s old CB handle). Eye of the Hawk (“Gavilan” is Spanish for “hawk”) will be retained as an alternate designation. Of the three arches, Norm’s Stargazer Arch is the largest, northernmost, and highest elevation. It has a span of 20 feet and a height of 7 feet. NABS is planning a visit to these arches at the end of our next Rally.

Here are photos of the three arches by Dave Kennedy:

Norm’s Stargazer Arch:

Norm's Stargazer Arch

Gavilan Wash Arch:

Gavilan Wash Arch

Hag’s Tooth Arch: