Monday, October 01, 2007

Huang Shan

Although since the entire mountain is covered in steps, I'm sure it doesn't actually count as the backcountry. However, since the stairs are the only way up and it does offer some of the most stunning mountain scenery I've seen, I thought it would be worth sharing with everyone.

Huang Shan is a mountain about 6 hours southwest of Shanghai in Anhui province. It's a mountain area that's regarded by the Chinese as one of their national treasures and is the inspiration for all of the traditional Chinese landscape paintings showing the misty, jagged mountains with trees growing out of places that blow you away.
I went there as an excursion on a trip to the city of Tunxi which is about 70km away. There are lots of mini-buses that run up there each morning from Tunxi. We got the first one leaving at 6 AM. The buses from Tunxi let you off at the entrance to the mountain. However, its another 10 minute taxi ride to the start of the hike. The best way to do the hike is start from the Cloud Valley Temple and do the Eastern Steps. That's basically a straight shot up about 3600 ft...plan on 1.75-2.5 hrs. The views from this path are good...but the main reason for taking this route is to get you up quick so you can start looking at the good stuff. One of the things you'll notice while going up is that everything is brought up the mountain on someone's back. The local porters carry everything from crates of bottled water to giant pumps to overweight tourists who get tired on the way up. (Note: If you want, you can take a cable car up and down)
Once up at the top, you understand why its so expensive in terms of Chinese prices (200 RMB or ~$27). The views are just incredible. Everywhere you just keeps getting better and better. Most people end up staying the night on top so that they can see the sunrise in the morning. I didn't do that since I had a train to catch for Shanghai later that evening. However, at night the clouds normally come down to fill the mountain valleys. Seeing the sunrise from above the clouds with the mountain peaks reaching up through the clouds is said to be very beautiful.
Unfortunately, we spent a bit too long at the top and underestimated the difficulty of the western steps (~15km of ROLLING hills vice the steady descent as we had thought) to go down. We were literally running down the last 6km of steps and barely made the last bus back to Tunxi. My recommendation is to either stay in Tangkou (town at the bottom) or on the mountain for one night to avoid having to put yourself in a time crunch to catch the last bus (5:30). Although its not included in most western tours of China...its right up there with the Great Wall in my book as far as the top sights to see in China.



Blogger powstash said...

That looks awesome! Does anyone know if there are established climbs in this region? Looks like some incredible rock, with a fair amount of vegitation to contend with.

Great post Doug.

10/01/2007 11:01 AM

Blogger tc said...

I had a trip planned two years ago to climb and photograph a new route here with some chinese climbers from Beijing. It became a huge cluster when a chinese TV crew signed on to film it. The whole thing eventually fell through, unfortunately. We were planning on climbing a 3000 ft wall right in the main tourist area. I'm sure's there's stuff that's been done here but at that time there probably wasn't. Apparently a permit to climb here is needed and the CMA regulates who gets permits. What's funny is that the guys I was climbing and shooting with are the CMA, and they say who gets permits, so that wasn't an issue. What's also funny is some other Chinese climbers I know, who don't care about the CMA told me of plans to go climb there with or without any damn permits! China is kind of a crazy place to go climbing. I totally recommend it!

10/01/2007 11:33 AM


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