Over a year ago during our chaotic trip planning period, we came across mount Hua Shan – a 5 peak mountain with the “World’s most dangerous trail”. We saw enough on Google images to warrant it a place in our itinerary.
Sacred Hua Shan is also known as, get ready for this… ‘The number one precipitous mountain under heaven’, it is home to several important Taoist temples where emperors of past dynasties made pilgrimages, now however it is mostly celebrated for its dangerous hiking trails the most notorious being the cliff plank, but we will come to that later.
We arrived at Hua Shan town by late afternoon after a surprisingly comfortable 20 hour sleeper train from Chengdu (where we saw the Pandas!). As we exited the train station we were greeted by a bubbly Chinese couple who wanted to share a Taxi into town or base camp. During the taxi ride we learned that the couple ‘Sally and Peter’ decided to hike up Hua Shan during the night in order to reach the summit for sunrise, something we had not considered. It sounded exciting so we made the snap decision to join them.
We found some accommodation (for our luggage) above a dingy restaurant along the main road leading up to Hua Shans entrance, the location was ideal the room was not. The toilet did not flush, there was no hot water, the pipes leaked and the room smelled like old boots. But it did have a PC (a first for us) and wifi.
After a disappointing and over-priced dinner of soggy eggplant and greasy fried rice in the restaurant below, we went shopping for some snacks for the night’s adventure. Shops lined the street selling and renting coats and backpacks, torches and grippy gloves all of which at that moment seemed very necessary so we filled our rented rucksack with two head-torches, two pairs of climbing gloves, a padlock or ‘lovelock’ engraved with our names, 4 big cans of redbull, 4 litres of water and high energy foodstuffs. We were more than prepared and very excited!
Since it was a Saturday night during the May holidays the small town was busy with hordes of young Chinese vacationers getting ready for the night-climb up Hua Shan, the atmosphere was energetic and exciting. I would recommend walking on the weekend when it is busy, its far more fun. We set off around 10pm with our new friends Sally and Peter; a very comical twosome.
After paying Hua Shan’s entrance fee (£18 each), we walked up into the darkness. Up, up, up, what seemed like a trillion steps. For the most part the ascent was steady and we were able to rest often at the many rest areas along the route, but as we neared sunrise peak, the steps – now shallow indents chiseled into the cliffs edge – became near vertical and we were literally climbing our way to the summit. The temperature had dropped considerably, we were cold but sweating, our noses were dribbling and our eyes were now very heavy but we pushed on, sunrise was only an hour away and we didn’t want to miss it, not now, we were too close!
Colour was appearing on the horizon, a slather of orange and yellow stroked the sky. We sat huddled on a large rock, impatiently watching and waiting for the star of the show to make an appearance. Sure enough it did and the many spectators applauded its entrance. It was beautiful. The orange tinted scenery was spectacular and the 5 brilliant white stone peaks of Hua Shan saluted the sky. It looked like something from James Camerons ‘Avatar’.
The morning was spent walking from peak to peak along precarious trails – one slip would be fatal. The most exciting section of the trail is the ‘Plank path’ the famous pilgrim’s path that leads to a Buddha stowed in a cave chiseled out of the cliff-face. For this part you need to wear a harness, the young lad (who speaks no English) straps it on you then shows you how to use the equipment- then you’re on your own! The narrow wooden planks are nailed together with thick 5 inch nails and bolted into the precipice, it was sturdier than it looked but the view below was unnerving to say the least!
The Golden Lock Pass was also a highlight, the chain fencing that provides security alongside the pathways between each of the peaks is weighed down with millions of padlocks and red ribbons. Couples come here to secure their engraved padlocks before throwing away the keys in the valley below. We found a quiet spot for our lurvelock, it’s located on east peak so that every morning it will face the rising sun: D
After a demanding schedule of Panda tours followed by a 20 hour overnight train from Chengdu followed then by an overnight mountain trek leaving us 33 hours without sleep, we were now exhausted. The walk down was hazy and the planned celebratory beers were put on hold since sleep was top priority!
Thanks for all the comments folks! We love sharing our stories with you 😀
T & J xxxx