Little-known Shizong County (师宗县) is a largely unexplored but bucolic area of eastern Yunnan. It is home to gently rolling mountains, pristine forests and fascinating ethnic minority traditions. On June 18, it will also play host to the first ever Phoenix Valley-Mushroom Mountain Outdoor Challenge (凤凰谷•菌子山户外挑战赛).
The competition takes its name from Shizong County's twin scenic areas. Phoenix Valley is a forested area possessing a collection of cliffs, rivers, lakes, caves and the aptly named and somewhat mysterious Sex Culture Theme Park. Mushroom Mountain is a 50-square kilometer setting featuring flowering meadows, rhododendron groves and an eponymous peak topping out at 2,400 meters.
Phoenix Valley-Mushroom Mountain Outdoor Challenge details
The race is billed as part competition and part team-building exercise. While many of China's similar challenge races focus on inviting outdoor sports stars and semi-professional athletes, the Phoenix Valley-Mushroom Mountain Outdoor Challenge has been designed with amateur athletes in mind.
The event begins with a one-kilometer team rafting race across the lake in Phoenix Valley. This will be followed by a four-kilometer cross-country running course featuring mountainous terrain and caves. The final heat of the event is a 16-kilometer biking course, which ends at the Mushroom Mountain Visitor's Center, 2,126 meters above sea level.
Teams must consist of three members, and include at least one woman. The race has a limit of 100 teams, meaning involvement has been capped at 300 people. Participants ages 16-55 years-old are welcome, as long as they can present a health check —including ECG — not more than six months old, or alternately, prove they have completed a marathon in the past year.
In addition to these requirements, interested foreigners must visit the race website, download an application and present the completed form, a valid passport and a 50 yuan per-person registration fee to the offices of the Kunming Mountaineering Expedition Association by June 15. Each team must also supply two of their own bicycles, while rafting equipment will be provided by event organizers.
The total purse for the Phoenix Valley-Mushroom Mountain Outdoor Challenge is 74,000 yuan, with 10,000 going to the winning team, 8,000 to second and 7,000 for third place. Teams finishing between fourth and eighth will also receive cash prizes.
Orientation day: June 17
• Check-in and orientation from 8am-6:30pm at Shizong County Culture and Sports Radio and Television Bureau
• Race briefing, press junket, final equipment check and lottery to determine team start positions from 7-7:30pm
• Transportation back to nearby lodging begins at 7:40pm
Race day: June 18
• Opening ceremony and final team check-in held at Phoenix Valley from 7-9:30am
• Race begins promptly at 9:30am
• Race concludes at 4pm, to be followed by an awards ceremony and equipment recheck
• Transportation back to competitor lodgings from 4:30-6pm
Travel and accommodation
Participants are expected to book their own transportation and lodging, and there are several options for both. Organizers recommend arranging stays at any of the 20 resorts, hotels and lodges located near the race course. For a complete list of options in Chinese, including pricing options and telephone numbers, please get in touch through the GoKunming Contact Form using the subject line 'Shizong'. Alternately, you can call Jiang Bibao (江碧波) — who speaks basic English — at 18271399692 for more details. Jiang can also assist entrants who would like to mail their bikes to Shizong before the race.
Transportation to Shizong can be arranged by either train or bus. Trains leave Kunming for Shizong each day at 7:30, 8:00 and 10:45am. Ticket prices range between 22.50 and 74.50 yuan, depending on time and seating choice. Buses to Shizong leave from Kunming's East Bus Station approximately once every 40 minutes. Tickets should be no more than 58 yuan, although an extra charge for bicycles may be applied.