Holy Hua Shan - 25th June 2008 @ 9:19 pm «   »

Location: China, Shaanxi Province : Holy Hua Shan

On Tuesday we had a lazy morning at the hostel in Xian and after getting up fairly late, we spent a bit of time on the internet (free at the hostel) before making our way to the long-haul bus station for a local 2 hour bus to Hua Shan.

The bus stopped at a little hotel in the village and everyone on the bus (all Chinese tourists) went directly inside where the bus driver started a lecture on the trek up the mountain (this being the only reason people visit the village). We were offered accommodation and as the price was very competitive we checked in straight away. The room was very basic (and not the cleanest we’ve seen), but with great mountain views on the top floor.

In preparation for the big hike the next day, we had a quiet dinner in a local restaurant across the road from the hotel and picked up some food supplies at a little corner shop. We met an American couple who were planning on climbing the mountain at night to make it to the East peak for sunrise. We learnt that most of the Chinese do this trek at night and the idea is to start at around 23:00, which is definately the cooler option, and after watching the sunrise from the peak, make their way down.

Hua Shan is one of the 5 sacred Taoist mountains in China with 5 peaks – north, south, east, west and central. From town it is a 6km hike to the north peak from where a route towards the south leads to a cluster of peaks – the east peak being the first on a circuit of about 5km covering the remaining peaks. 

We started the climb at 08:15 and the first 4km were relatively tough (just a few steps, but serious inclines) and it just got tougher from there.. We reached the north peak after 3 hours and then started making our way further towards the higher peaks. The south peak is the highest at 2160m, but all 3 rear peaks afford great views. We were blessed with the most amazing day – blue skies and almost no wind, even at the very top. This was the second day since we’ve been in China, that we’ve experienced such beautiful weather and from the top of the peaks we could literally see for miles.

This is by far the most scenic and hectic climb we have ever done. The route is very strenuous with a lot of near-vertical steps, several narrow and almost vertical “bottle-neck” sections and a few places where the trail runs along ridges with impressive sheer cliffs on either side. “The scenery is simply spectacular with twisted pine trees clinging to ledges, knife-blade ridges and vast, transcendent panoramas of green muontains and counryside strecthing away to the horizon.” (quoted from the Lonely Planet)

At 16:00, after 8 hours of climbing, we reached the final peak and then realised we still had around 8km of serious downhill steps to burn through before the end of the day. Originally we had planned to take the cable car down from the north peak, but to our dismay it was not running that day! The vast majority of people do the entire circuit over a 2-day period, spending the night in one of the small hotels on top of the mountain, but with the cable car not operating and pre-booked train tickets the next day, we had to do it all in 1 go.

At this stage our legs were very tired, our knees killing us and most of our snacks already finished.. As expected the way down was very hectic on the legs but we made it down to the village at around 19:15, which made for a total of exactly 11 hours.

As we walked into town, we went straight to the previous night’s restaurant and placed the same order (it was very nice, but also partly because it was the easiest thing to order from the Chinese menu).

Hua Shan was an awesome experience and definately made it to our top 10 list!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Comments are closed.