Stakes at 2 km intervals were installed in January 1997 and remeasured in February 1998, January 1999, January 2005 and during the 2007/08 austral summer along a 1248 km traverse route from Zhongshan station to Dome A, East Antarctica. Based on topographical parameters, meteorological features and the records of ∼650 stakes and six stake arrays, the route is divided into five zones. We find that the snow accumulation rate decreases with increasing altitude as one progresses inland, except in the zone 800–1128 km from the coast, where the average annual accumulation rate is higher than in the zone 524–800 km from the coast. The Dome A zone (1128–1248 km) has the lowest accumulation rate (35 kg m−2 a−1, 2005–08) due to having the highest elevation and being furthest from the coast. The surface mass balance in the region 202–1128 km from the coast exhibits no temporal change from 1999–2005 to 2005–08, but there is a change in the accumulation distribution. The zone from 202 to 524 km shows a decrease in surface mass balance from 84 kg m−2 a−1 in 1999–2005 to 67 kg m−2 a−1 in 2005–08, while the zone between 800 and 1128 km shows an increase from 67 kg m−2 a−1 in 1999–2005 to 75 kg m−2 a−1 in 2005–08.