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Geomorphologic landscape

Glacial landform 

Modern glacier  

Modern Glaciers of Yuzhu Peak

Yuzhu Peak is the highest in the eastern part of Mount Kunlun, at an altitude of 6,178m. The area of glaciers totals 190km2, and the average length 5.7km. There are various types: hanging glaciers, cirque-hanging glaciers, cirque glaciers, cirque-valley glaciers, valley glaciers, slope glaciers and so on. There are more than a dozen large glaciers in the park.   

Modern Glaciers of Yuzhu Peak 

 

 Modern Glaciers of Yuxu Peak   

Located on the west side of Mount Kunlun Pass,Yuxu Peak is the sister peak of Yuzhu Peak at an altitude of 5,980m. Yuxu Peak is named after the legend of the Yuxuan fairy maidens in the Kunlun mythology. It is one of the Taoist centers and the main Taoist temple of the Taoist Kunlun School. Yuxu Peak is surrounded by mountains and towering clouds, and covered with snow all the year round. Modern glacier activities are intense. The glaciers cover an area of 80km2. There are more than 30 glaciers which are distributed on the north and south slopes. The longest glacier tongue is located on the southern slope, which is about 1.3km long and 500m wide. The ancient glacial landform of Yuxu Peak, especially the glaciated landform is also typical. In Wild Yak Valley, there are many cirques, horns, aretes and U-shaped valleys, reflecting repeated intense glacial actions in geological history.   

 Modern Glaciers of Yuxu Peak 

 

Half-moon Glaciers    

The half-moon glaciers are hanging glaciers shaped by the snow on the slopes under proper conditions. Generally, hanging glaciers are in a small scale and do not fall down to the base of hills. They are the embryonic form of glaciers. When the climate becomes colder or snowfall increases, hanging glaciers can develop into valley glaciers. Rare wild animals such as wild yak and foxes come and go here and add mystery to the place.   

Half-moon Glaciers 

 

Glacial Scour Geomorphologic Landscape

Arete and Glacial U-shaped Valley of Wild Yak Valley 

The arete is mainly lithologically composed of the metamorphic sandstone and slate-clump carbonate rocks of the Silurian Formation (about 440 million years ago). The aretes are sharp and the arete strikes about 186°. The U-shaped valleys of the glacier adjacent to each other continue to expand and recede, shaping the aretes between the valleys into knife-shaped. 

There is a U-shaped valley on the northwest of the arete, at an altitude of 4,190m and a width of about 1,100m. The U-shaped valley is also called the glacial valley. It is a wide, flat, U-shaped valley with a cross-section. It originates from the river valley or valley before the ice age. After the glaciers occupied the previous river valleys or dales, the glaciers continuously eroded and abraded the bottom and the valley walls and the rocks on the hillside of the two banks were broken by freezing and weathering, and they collapsed and receded, transforming the original valley into a parabolic cross-section. In this way, the ice can be more effectively discharged, and the valley is called U-shaped or trough valley. 

Arete 

Glacial U-shaped Valley

 

Heigou Cirques 

There are more than ten cirques distributed on both sides and at the end of Heigou Valley. The bottom of the cirque is 4,900-5,000m above sea level, and the width different, generally ranging from 700m to1000 m. The cirque is mainly developed on the basis of snow concave area. It is mainly produced by the glaciers rotating abrasively, etching, and eroding on the bottom and walls of the bucket in the concave area. It works like a carpenter's plane and sickle. The original concave area was gradually eroded into an cirque that was surrounded by mountains on three sides and looks like round-backed armchair. The typical cirque was composed of rock basins, rock walls and rock formations. It was generally produced near the snow line and a main proof for identifying the location and change of the ancient snow line.  

 Heigou Cirques

 

Nanshankou Cirques 

Four large cirques, with the highest point at an altitude of 4,550 m and the largest one about 800 m wide, are on the top of snow-capped mountains extending to the northwest. It is complete in shape, like a round-backed armchair, and a typical form of cirques.  

 Nanshankou Cirques 

 

Nanshankou Horns 

Horn refers to the peak surrounded by several cirques, and the back wall of the cirque continues to recede, making the surrounding peak a towering one. The three cirques and three horns of Yuzhu Peak are visible. The horns are arranged in a row and at a large scale. The highest elevation is 4,950 m. It is sharp and has a typical form. 

Nanshankou Horns 

 

Pyramid (Horn) of Wild Yak Valley  

The horn is about 4,800m above sea level and about 300m high. The horn is eroded by the glacier on three sides and the surface is neat. The overall shape is a squarely triangular cone, like the Egyptian pyramids.  

Pyramid (Horn) of Wild Yak Valley 

 

Glacial Deposition Landform Landscape

Moraine of Wangkun Glaciation

Moraine refers to the debris that the glaciers carry and accumulate. They are mainly produced as the ice sheets are eroded during the movement of glaciers. Kunlun Mountain Pass has three major ice ages in the Pleistocene. Wangkun Ice Age, one of the oldest, occurred 500,000-700,000 years ago. Now around Kunlun Mountain Pass, the eroded and accumulation landforms of this glacial period have been significantly reconstructed and destroyed by the later geological activities. Only a small amount of moraines are distributed on the mountain top platform on the west side of Kunlun Mountain Pass, where granitic gneiss and quartzite pebbles are mainly seen. From afar, there are some huge glacial boulders scattered on the top of Kunlun Mountain Pass. The moraine is incompatible with surrounding rocks, which is amazing.

Moraine of Wangkun Glaciation

 

Periglacial Landform Landscape

Frost Heaving Mound in Jingxian Valley (The Mound Erupts like Volcano) 

Frost Heaving Mound in Jingxian Valley is 140m long, 45m wide, and 20m high. It is more than 1,000 years old. It is a large-scale frost heaving mound on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The frost heaving mound is formed in this way: the underground water with runoff under tundra for many years is accumulated from the place with large freezing pressure to that with small freezing pressure upon the deadening of frozen layer on the top or along the fault structure and constantly upwells; as a result, the deformation and uplifting of earth surface lead to the hummocky terrain, namely the frost heaving mound. Since the frost heaving mound often generates fissures due to frost heaving in the swelling process, and the mud mixed with the underground water and soil often erupts along the fissures, the frost heaving mound is also depicted as "The Mound Erupts like Volcano". 

Frost Heaving Mound in Jingxian Valley (The Mound Erupts like Volcano) 

 

Frost Heaving Grass Mound 

Frost Heaving Grass Mound is located in the marsh in Wild Yak Valley. Because the groundwater is obstructed by the frozen ground and the permafrost below, it freezes and swells in the weak zone, and the surface grass hill rises and bulges, forming the frost heaving grass mound. 

Frost Heaving Grass Mound 

 

Rock Glacier in Jingxian Valley

Rock Glacier in Jingxian Valley is distributed on the top of mountainous terrain on both sides of Jingxian Valley where Qinghai-Tibet Highway and Qinghai-Tibet Railway run across. There are 18 in total, including 16 on the western side of the Mount Kunlun Tunnel and 2 on the east side. The rock glacier can find its source about 4,900m above sea level, which is connected with the cap-like mid-Pleistocene and Pliocene frost-weathered debris.

Rock Glacier is also known as Rock River. That in Mount Kunlun is rather special. It consists of the ancient alluvial gravel layer and the glacier boulders originally on the top of the mountain. Under long-term freezing and thawing, the gravels cluster along the valley, or entirely move, or see plastic flow, push and thrust, which is similar to glaciers, hence known as Rock Glacier. It is a special type of frozen landform in the high-altitude permafrost zone of Mount Kunlun. 

Rock Glacier in Jingxian Valley

 

Censer Peak

Censer Peak in the Wild Yak Valley is a debris slope in the periglacial landform. The mountain is generally khaki-coloured, but it reveals a pure black siluric rock formation at the top of the mountain. Due to the strong erosion and weathering of the top of the mountain and the intense frost weathering, abundant rock debris is produced. With the participation of freeze-thaw and melting water, the debris slope creeps and covers the top of the hill. It seems to cover the mountain with a black veil and be covered with black dust, hence named Censer Peak. There are four peaks in the park: East Censer Peak, Huge Censer Peak, Middle Censer Peak, Small Censer Peak.

Censer Peak

  

Rocky Landform

Granite Landform

Kunlun Lion (Pictographic Rock) 

It is a Variscan (405-250 million years ago) grayish yellow-light red long granite. Due to long-term weathering, a large-scale pictographic landscape is formed, resembling a mighty lion squatting on the ground and looking to the east. It is a mythical animal guarding Mount Kunlun Global Geopark.

Kunlun Lion (Pictographic Rock)

 

Practicing Taoism at Kunlun (Pictographic Rock) 

This point reveals the porphyritic and monzonitic granite in the Yanshan period (205-135 million years ago), with strong weathering effect. There is a rock on the top of the mountain standing like an old man standing sideways, dressed in a Taoist gown with a wide sleeve and a belt, with his hair in a bun and standing gently. Lao Tzu seemed to be discussing the law governing all things. It also resembles Master Keung asking the immortals about how to administer the country. Mount Kunlun is holy in Taoism. It is a Taoist image and thus named “Practicing Taoism at Kunlun”. This Pictographic Rock results from the joint action of granite joints and spherical weathering. 

Practicing Taoism at Kunlun (Pictographic Rock) 

 

Golden Toad (Pictographic Rock) 

Golden Toad is formed from the fallen granite rubble, which is about 1-1.5m high and about 1m wide. It is like a toad looking up at the mountainside, so vivid and lovely. 

Golden Toad (Pictographic Rock) 

 

Kunlun Holy Deer

Above the mountain peak in the north of Yuxu Peak Temple, the gray and white monzogranite formed at the foot of the late Caledonian movement (about 400 million years ago) was dendriticly infiltrated in the metamorphic sandstone, slate of the upper Silurian (about 440 million years ago). The lithology of the surrounding rock is developed and the intrusion boundary is very clear. The main reason for this is that under the collision and compression, the crust materials in different layers are melted to form magma and eventually invaded in the Silurian wall rock. The invasion of the veins reveals an unusual pattern, as if a galloping deer were to break through the walls, lifelike and breathtaking. 

Kunlun Holy Deer

 

Granite Landform of Wild Yak Valley   

The granite in this area is medium-grained monzogranite. It was formed in the middle period of Variscan movement and the primary joints developed. The main shape is 180°∠45°. Granite is a deep magmatic rock, which is formed by the thermal condensing of the hot magma deep underground. The condensation site is generally less than 3km from the surface. Granite magma condenses into rock and rises up to form the current landform. 

The granite surface was exposed and then weathered. In view to its prominent edges and corners, it was easily weathered. At the corners, it was weathered in three directions. The edge was affected by wind in two directions, and the surface was only weathered in one direction, so the edges and corners gradually decrease. Finally, it becomes spherical, hence called spherical weathering. After the weathered detrital material is stripped, the spherical rock remains and is called stone egg.

Granite Landform of Wild Yak Valley  

 

Clastic Rock Landform

Dragons out of Sea (Yardang landform)

Dragons out of Sea is the Yardang landform beside West Queen Jade Pool. Yardang, originally a Uygur word, means a steep mound. It is a combination of geomorphological features with intertwined wind erosion mounds and wind erosion pits (grooves) formed by the function that semi-cemented lacustrine sediments of West Queen Jade Pool intermittently scours and wind erodes. The individual ridge is 30cm-40cm high (relatively short). It is at the primary stage of Yardang Landform. The ridges are 2m-4m apart. Yardang Landform has an exposed area of about 5km2. It looks like a group of small white dragons entrenched beside Jade Pool and eager to fly off. 

Dragons out of Sea (Yardang landform)

 

Sand Deposition Landform

Xidatan Barchan Dune 

There are two crescent-shaped sand dunes on the north side of Xidatan Highway, and the western dunes are about 300 m long and about 30 m high. The east dune is about 180 m long and about 25 m high. The two sand dunes are crescent-shaped as the most basic form of mobile sand dunes. The slopes of the sand dunes are asymmetrical. The gentle slope is the windward, and the steep slope the leeward. The dune wings extend along the wind direction (southwest direction) and the dunes are strongly active. Through comparison of aerial photographs, it was found that the two sand dunes had been divided into two parts in the course of moving to the northeast. Among them, the dunes in the west had moved by 29.4 m in the north wing and 88.4 m in the south wing in 20 years. 

Xidatan Barchan Dune 

 

Yidaogou Sand Dune 

Yidaogou Sand Dune is the largest dune landform in the park. It stretches about 4km from east to west and about 3km from north to south. It was formed by the accumulation of sand under the action of wind during the Holocene (about 10,000 years ago). It was formed earlier than Sand Dune at Wenquan Valley. With the changes of seasons, the surface of the sand dunes is covered with a sparse layer of green grass. The sand is uniform in size, and excellent in roundness. Concerning the degree of dune flow, it is fixed. The shape of the sand dunes is mainly honeycombed and formed by the mutual interference of two winds that are nearly orthogonal to each other. The wind-swept sand sea looks like the sea waves, and it stretches to the hillside. You can also see the glaciers in Yuzhu Peak in good weathers. 

Yidaogou Sand Dune 

 

Sand Dune at Wenquan Valley    

Sand Dune at Wenquan Valley is a small sand dune at the mouth of Wenquangou. It covers an area of about 1km2 and extends about 860m from east to west. It was formed by the accumulation of sand under the influence of wind during the Holocene (about 10,000 years ago). The sand dune is small in scale and has no vegetation on its surface. It changes in form from time to time, sometimes turning into a cake, shield or crescent. However, it remains basically unchanged geographically and is thus a semi-fixed sand dune. The sand is uniform in particle size, excellent in roundness, and dazzlingly golden in the sun. The peaks of the distant green and black mountains appear extremely vibrant.

Sand Dune at Wenquan Valley

 

Erdaogou Sand Dune

Erdaogou Sand Dune is located on the the mouth of Erdaogou. Like the Yidaogou Sand Dune, it is also formed after the end of the last glacial period, by the accumulation of sand under the action of wind forces since the Holocene (about 10,000 years ago). The sand sea is 2,600m long from north to south, 1,500m from east to west, and about 3km2 in area. The sand dunes and the marsh in Wild Yak Valley in the north add radiance and beauty to each other, with golden sands and green grass. What a tranquil image on the plateau.

Erdaogou Sand Dune

 

Xiaonanchuan Sand Dune

The sand dunes are made up of quaternary aeolian deposits. They are about 1,800m long and about 1,200m wide. They are honeycomb dunes. The sand dunes are formed under the influence from many wind directions for a long time and are formed in front of mountains or in areas with complex terrain. The vegetation over the dunes is not developed, which make them mobile. It is colorful in the sun with a high ornamental value.

Xiaonanchuan Sand Dune

 

Tectonic Landform Landscape

Homoclinal Mountain

The Homoclinal Mountain is composed of sandstone and conglomerate sedimentary rock layers of ancient and middle Triassic (230 to 250 million years ago). During the long geological evolution, the upper basement folded and uplifted into a mountain due to the impact of the lower basement, and homoclinal mountains were formed on the folded side. The rock formation of this homoclinal mountain is clear, with an overall inclination of about 15°and a tendency of about 260°. In sunlight, different layers show different shades of color, such as: light red, dark red, deep purple, cyan, light gray, and black, like a rainbow on the peak.

Homoclinal Mountain

 

Vertical Stratums

The Silurian (about 440 million years ago) strata in the mouth of Laodaogou is an old one in the Geopark. It consists mainly of metamorphic sandstone and slate. It isis nearly vertical, with an inclination of 70-80°and a trend of approximately 290°,which is basically consistent with the direction of its surrounding fault zone, and the rock stratum is partially bent and deformed, indicating that the formation of Vertical Stratums is subject to the influence of tectonic movements. Due to the uniform thickness of Vertical Stratum, the bedrock is well exposed. From afar, it looks like a neatly arranged book, which describes the changes of geological history and records the vicissitudes of Mount Kunlun.

Vertical Stratums

 

Nangou Valley

The valley extends in a north-south direction and is 4-5km long. The deepest point can reach 50m and the width is less than 3m. Such a large difference in height indicates that there was a significant increase in surface elevation in the area duringits formation. The binary structure can be seen in the river (the lower part is the coarser sediments such as gravel, the upper part is the sandstone and other fine sediments - sedimentary environment of the river is revealed), the gravel is well rounded and moderately sorted. At the turn of the valley, due to the lateral erosion of the river, a half-bell cavity with a width of 2-3 m and a height of 4-5 m was formed.

Yixiantian Valley

 

Yixiantian Valley

The valley extends in the east-west direction, 2km long and 40m deep at maximum. Looking from afar, the long and steep valleys meander like a ribbon hovering around the mountain. The clear water flows endlessly, like nature's "singing." Such a large difference in height indicates that there was a significant increase in surface elevation in the area during its formation.

Yixiantian Valley

 

Fluvial Landform

Fluvial Deposition Landform

Sanchahe Terrace

The Grade IV terraces are developed on the right bank of the Kunlun River near Sancha River Bridge, and the Grade V terraces are partially visible. Grade I terraces are 3m above the surface of the river. It is the alluvial sandy gravel layer with sand lens that has been deposited since the Holocene about 11,700 years ago. Grade II terraces are 5m above the river surface and consist of alluvial sandy gravel layer from the Holocene. Grade III terraces have a 3.5 m profile exposed, which is the alluvial gravel-clad clay and fine-sand lens from the late Pleistocene about 100,000 years ago. The exposed profile of Grade IV terraces is 7.1 m high and consists of gravel layers. The development of Grade IV terraces and changes in the height of terraces at all levels reflect the dramatic uplift of the Tibetan Plateau since the late Pleistocene. There were at least four intermittent uplifts along the Sancha River, each with an unequal rise, suggesting that the crust rises with an unbalanced trend.

Sanchahe Terrace

 

Xueshuihe Terrace

There is a Grade V river terrace developed here. The exposed width of terrace III-V is 4-6m, and that of terrace I-II is 1.5-3m. It is formed by gravel, sand, and clay, among which the gravel occupies more than 50% and the gravel is about 0.5-2m in diameter, with well ground circle and moderate sorting. There are 40% of sand and about 10% of clay, with good cementation. Grade 5 terraces represent at least five intermittent lifts in the region.

Xueshuihe Terrace

 

Yematan

Yematan covers an area about 8km2 . There is a wide alluvial fan with a triangular shape. Alluvial fans are fan-shaped deposits at the mouth of a river. When the river flows out of the valley, it is free from lateral restraints and the material it carries will spread out and settle. The fan edge is about 100m wide, the distance about 50m from its root to edge, and the slope 5-6°. Yematan has a good ecological environment with green grass and groups of wild asses.

Yematan

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