On The Edge
The most monumental activity so far, was climbing Hua Shan, a sacred Taoist mountain. There are two famous mountains between Xi’an and Shanghai; Hua Shan and Huangshan. If we had gone to the latter, there would have been more tourists, it would have been more expensive and it would have been rainy.
Irrespective, Hua Shan was gorgeous, a beautiful mountain, with fantastic views. And while there’s a cable car to the top, the fun is in climbing, and what a route. Mette and I skipped the traditional path, and went for the shorter, but much, much steeper Soldier’s Trail.
As a matter of fact, in two places, you’re climbing vertical cliffsides, using steps carved into the side, and chains hung down the side (to hold onto).
Though, in this modern China, they’ve built a longer way around, but that’s for weak people (who can’t recognise fun). Making it to the top, after an hour and a half of vertical, or near vertical steps, we we’re at the lowest peak, 1640 metres, with quite a way to go the highest of the five peaks, 2100 metres; walking up a very narrow ridge, clambering past Chinese tourists.
Reaching the higher plateau of the mountain is refreshing, as it’s not as vertical, there are more trees to provide shade, there’s more wind to cool you down and the views just got that much more fascinating. Both because you’re higher (for a more impressive perspective), but most of all, the vistas get wider, overlooking the mountain that you climbed.
We took the peaks in turn, each offereng different, and gorgeous views, but the south peak has, by far, the most interesting activity of the mountain, cliffside trekking. You put on a shoulder harness, with two straps attached; these mean that you always have one attached to the cable running along the route.
The route, starts with a descend, steps carved into the vertical cliffside (and a few metal steps), which turns into wooden planks, knocker into the side of the mountain, with a completely vertical drop of several hundred metres underneath. Walking along this death route (if you aren’t strapped in), you eventually reach a small outcrop, with a few trees and a taoist shrine.
By now, since we had started late, we realised we were in a hurry, and had to rush down in order to try and catch the last bus back to Xi’an. We took a different trail, longer, not as steep, but it leads all the way down (and it offers different views).
Harnessing, so far, little used muscles, and aided by gravity, we made very good time down. It took its toll however, and a little more than halfway down, Mette’s calves started shaking, but only when we stood still, so onwards we trotted. We didn’t stop much to enjoy the scenery, but compared to what we had already seen, there was nothing spectacular about it anyway.
We made it down with twenty minutes to spare, bought water, took off our boots, and relaxed in the secure knowledge, that we are awesome.