How about that time when we almost got stuck at an altitude of 2.160 meters?
Huashan Mountain – China. One of the most dangerous and terrifying hikes in the world. A very cold day and rain approaching in the distance. In mind a single thought: “I don’t care if we get stuck here, but we will not leave without climbing the planks!”
Life was going well, until we entered the briefing room, where we realized the enormity of what was about to come.
Google didn’t prepare us for this!
Allow us to explain:
It all started in Macau, upon preparing and planning this trip. We were going to Xi’an! Somewhere on all the research we did, we discovered someplace along the way with this fantastic mountain with one of the craziest hikes and footbridges we had ever seen. (Among some other heavier topics – see here). Conclusion: we had to go!
We made our research and got all the necessary info. We were prepared!
The real adventure began in Xi’an. We arrived at the train station at 8 o’clock in the morning. A sea of people trying to get into the station and many more queuing at the ticket office. With some cost we got in the front of the ticket office, where they told us that the tickets were all sold out, but there would be more on the next day.
But we couldn’t wait for the next day, as we were leaving for Beijing early in that morning.
So we started looking for second options and we went around and around until we were told that there were buses to the Mountain. We ran to the designated place and imagine the following situation: the place was a bus parking lot. Without any information or indications, we wandered through the hundreds of buses parked there, until we noticed one with pictures of a mountain. Between buses, someone decided to set up a table and sell tickets. We thought it “should be here” so we stoped in front of the desk. The Chinese stopped talking and looked at us with a face of “What the hell do you want?”, to which we only verbalized “Huashan?”, receiving an affirmative signal. We tried to understand conditions, but the more English we spoke, the more they sent us into the bus. We paid and entered.
Once inside we got in silent for a while, each one of us processing all that happened so far. Was this a good idea? How long would the trip take? But then a group of young people begins to take selfies with the purpose of taking photos of us (at these remote places, foreigners are still aliens). Ana saw the perfect opportunity to exchange information for photos!
After more than 2 hours inside the bus and traveling deep inside China, we finally arrived to the mountain area – and here we go back to the briefing room we told you at the beginning. We were guided to a building and seated for what appeared to be a presentation. No English, of course, and there were no more foreigners. We asked for help to a Chinese couple and they give us the general guidelines of what a man (climber-like) spoke and gesture for more than 15 minutes pointing to a huge mountain map posted on the wall. We get to understand that there were several entrances to the mountain, which we should choose depending on the time and what we wanted to do. Our goal was clear: to walk on the plank walk! Apparently we needed to catch a cable car that was in other foothill than the one we were in, thus we had to catch two buses. We did a quick calculation just to understand where did we stand in terms if timing and we realized that it would be difficult, but we accepted the challenge…
Arrived at the foothill… we came upon with a climb made up of hundreds of steps, those of Chinese size you know? They are great to kill your leg’s muscles… and no, they weren’t only those you can see on the photo below!
The cable car was waiting for us at the top of this climb. It was the highest and lengthy cable car we’ve ever been on. It took more than 30 minutes and balanced along with the wind… but the landscape (though foggy) looked like the tapestries and Chinese paintings.
Upon arriving at the top, we just run to the Plank Walk. Not knowing how long it would take to reach there and praying to be on the right direction, we headed to the highest mountain with the rain on our faces, occasionally stopping to take a few photos.
And we successfully reach the Plank Walk!
English? No. Instructions? No need. Locker? No, but you may leave the bags on the floor.
It was pay and go! They gave us simple climbing stuff and dumped us on a queue.
What else could get worse? Nothing. Wrong.
We realized that, contrary to our belief, the path was round-trip and not one-way, so the tiny and tight space at 2.160 meters of altitude would have to be shared with people going and those returning from the track…
This was the moment when I start to have second thoughts… but Ana did the favor to shake me up, turn me in the right direction and push me to go!
By the way, the right direction was this one:
The Plank Walk Hike is made up of three parts!
Staircase: We started by descending on a staircase-like thing. Basically it is made of iron bars placed between two huge rocks. Have we already told you that the path was round-trip? So while we were descending, there was lots of people climbing back, which is extremely problematic when you want to put your foot on the below step and there is a hand trying to climb…
This is the moment where Ana started organizing everyone! It seems that they had never been taught that stairs should not be descended from the back (check picture above).
Holes on Rock: Once in the stair’s bottom, we passed to man-made holes on the rock. Do you remember this is round-trip path, right? So imagine when you want to put one foot in the next hole and you find the other’s person foot! How about when we had to pass by each other with our bodies touching like subway at rush hour?
Plank Walk: And at last the most famous wooden boards nailed to each other with nothing more than rusty nails. The story goes that a Taoist Hermit Master had a divine revelation on the mountain, eventually establishing himself at this peak and creating this passage.
In the end everything went well and the most important thing is that the goal was accomplished!
We continue our trip to Beijing satisfied with this little adventure and truly happy that we visited this fantastic place, which is both natural and mystical!