Conquering Huashan


As promised, here is the post on our adventure up Huashan (or “Mt. Hua” in English, which simply doesn’t have as cool of a feel to it, because feelings are everything you know). Huashan is located about about two hours away from Xi’an by bus, and it is quite famous in China: it is known to be the toughest peak to hike among the “five great mountain peaks” of China. It’s also rumored to be the most dangerous hike in the world, but a quick search on Wikipedia finds that to be a questionable claim. Nonetheless, we’ll find out exactly how tough this hike is…

Bro John (from the “Arrival In Xi’an” entry) also decided to join us for this tough hike, as he has never done it before. So, we set off…

First things first, at the base of the mountain, there are vendors selling cheap woolen gloves – almost everyone gets them because parts of the trail up Huashan require you to literally haul yourself up by the chain links along the slopes. As Johncai demonstrates here, they are quite fashionable if worn correctly.

[no pictures for the first five hours, sorry!]

We set off at around 11pm. “What?” you say. Well actually, it’s quite popular to climb Huashan overnight – it’s cooler and you can try to make it up to the eastern peak in time to watch the sunrise. That’s exactly what we did. The flipside: I don’t have any pictures going up the mountain, because landscapes just don’t look good in pitch blackness. However, you can visit Johncai’s blog to see some manly videos of us making the manly night hike.

What I do have is pictures of us at the peak during sunrise and the journey down the mountain. Here goes…

We made it to the top under five hours! We only had to wait about 20-30 minutes before the first hints of sunrise appeared. Here you see slivers of sunlit clouds in the horizon. However, the magical colors have yet to appear in force…

A blurry shot of Johncai and myself at the eastern peak. This photo demonstrates one risk you take by carrying around an SLR camera: hand it to a non-photographer and they may not nail the focus correctly. Oh well.

Now the colors get much prettier. Johncai isn’t one to miss this moment either.

Nice. It reminds me of that song we used to sing, “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth, over and around us lies… Hallelujah.”

After taking in the sunrise, we hiked to the other peaks within Huashan for another few hours. There are rock steps carved into the mountain leading to all sorts of nice vistas along the way.

Johncai and Bro John. Hello there!

Johncai and I chillin’ with the pleasant landscape backdrop.

See, these rock steps are carved right into the mountain. However, the ones we faced coming up the mountain are much, much steeper and harder to navigate compared to these.

Huashan reaches over 2,100m (7,000ft.) above sea level.

It takes the toughest of the tough to make it up here.

We’re starting the descent down the mountain now.

Bro John told me as we were taking this photo, but I forgot what this was again. Anybody know the significance behind the writing on this rock? It has to do with a famous guy from Hong Kong or something. On a separate note, notice the Underarmour longsleeve dri-fits we’re wearing? Apparently, they’re not common in China, because this one lady we talked to thought we were wearing those sleeve-thingys that ladies in China like to wear in order to keep themselves from getting too tan from the sun… she thought we were wearing them for the same purpose, great.

An example of one of the staircases we scaled going up/down the mountain. You can’t tell from this picture, but that an 80 degree slope that extends quite far. We did many, many of these during our journey.

You get major leg-muscle burn from this hike. Ouch.

What’s perhaps crazier is the fact that there are convenience stores lined up along the trail all the way up the mountain, charging too much for water, snacks, and even hot bowls of noodle soup! They’re stocked by laborers who hike up during the day, balancing heavy loads on their shoulders/backs. We saw a bunch of going up during the day while we were coming down. You can’t help but feel sorry for them. This guy was singing on his way up during breaks, singing a very traditional sounding “mountain song.” He was quite good, so we gave him a tip.

Conclusion. So how hard was Huashan? Well, Johncai and I discussed this after the hike, and agreed that it was about similar (or slightly harder) in rigor compared to the Upper Yosemite Falls hike, which more people have done. Overall, it was a much tougher hike though, and here’s why: It was 13 hours long!!! Upper Yosemite only takes five hours, round trip. Huashan takes five hours just to get up, three hours to hike around the top, and then five more hours to get down (which is just as hard as going up). Talk about major leg burn! Alrighty, the cafe I’m at is closing, so I’ll finish the post now.



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6 responses to “Conquering Huashan

  1. jennchen

    That SLR comment made me laugh…you camera geek! Glad to see that you’re having fun in China…I didn’t even know you were gone until Esther mentioned it =P

    P.S. Why has John Cai become Johncai?

  2. andrew

    yo, looks like you guys had a blast 🙂 mt sinai was similar except its only 2.5 hours up and around 2 down. we left at 2am and its pretty funny, there’s very similar stalls and vendors all the way up, many saying they are the last one and there’s no more and charging like 6 bucks a bottle of water. that and its rock/dirt all the way up with tons of camels sitting around to give a ride to those who can’t handle it

  3. Jennifer T

    I heard of that phrase before from a Hong Kong drama, back in the days when I watched a lot of T.V.
    I guess it’s not all bad since it helped with my Chinese… I think it’s a memorial rock for a sword fight or something. The guy who signed it has a funny Chinese name; which literally translates to gold skin.

    P.S. Hey, I heard that your b-day is on the same day as Joyce. Happy Birthday!

  4. That’s just beautiful. What I wouldn’t give to go on a climb like that. Happy trails!

  5. kendchu

    johncai looks like mickey mouse with those gloves!

  6. Steven

    only a man with Caiceps like john cai could have pulled himself up that mountain. Respect.

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