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Hua Shan...Is It Really The Most Dangerous Trail?

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya, After reading this blog and viewing the photos ask your self this; Would you be game/stupid enough to walk the plank? Over the past few years most of you along with your friends would have received an email with a PowerPoint display showing an insanely dangerous plank walk that has led to many 'walkers/hikers' deaths after making but a small mistake. Those pictures (above) are of the walking track to the majestic south peak at Mount Huashan which is located around four hours from where I live and where I spent yesterday with my buddy Andrew, his family and several of their friends who are all visiting from Australia for several weeks. Situated in Huayin City, 120 kilometers east from Xi'an City in Shaanxi Province is Mt. Huashan. It is one of the five sacred mountains in China. The other four mountains are Mt. Taishan in Shandong, Mt. Hengshan in Hunan, Mt. Hengshan in Shanxi, and Mt. Songshan in Henan. Formerly the five mountains were dotted with temples but today only a few remain. These days the majority of visitors to Huashan are Chinese youth on vacation. However the mountain routes are still trekked by devoted pilgrims and wandering monk's intent of visiting the sacred shrines. From a distance the five peaks seem to form the shape of a 'flower' (hua in Chinese). It is famous for its natural vistas of steep and narrow paths, precipitous crags, and a high mountain range. It is home to several influential Taoist temples where emperors of past dynasties made pilgrimages and came to prey and sacrifice to the God of Huashan, making Mt. Huashan the holy land of Taoism.

Lao Zi (Lao Tze), the founder and patriarch of Taoism, once lived and gave sermons here. The south peak of this mountain has been named one of, if not THE most dangerous Tourist Hiking Trail in the world. Logic tells you that there is a big difference between mountain climbing and mountain hiking. Mountain climbers have spent a lot of money and time being trained, they then gather experience, and also have all the necessary equipment to go where they choose to hang about for fun. Add to that they all know and choose to take risks they are taking. Mountain Hiking on the other hand is done by people such as you, your friends and even your grandparents (maybe if they were Chinese). The walking tracks and stairs are supposed to be well made, safe and have ropes or chains on either side of the trails. Mountain hiking is supposed to be a nice adventure for the afternoon or for a few days. It also is supposed to allow you to wear your comfortable shoes and normal every day clothes. When you talk to tourist agencies and most of all Chinese people, you are led to believe that a day at Hua Shan is just the above, a relaxing day spent mountain hiking and if you were to join one of their tour groups you would have no reason to doubt this as everyone around you will be dressed for such a day. No matter where you are in China the Chinese will be ready for and dressed for a normal day either at work or for a few hours playing in the park. I could write about my head shaking experiences when I've gone travelling, mountain hiking or whatever with some of my Chinese friends over the past four years but my friend Amy (one of the Fisher girls who I went to Hua Shan with) got it spot on when she wrote the following about her experience on the mountain (I added a few more words and sentences here and there). Set upon the spine of sections of the mountain the actual walking track along with the almost vertical stair cases (carved into the stone) is little over a meter wide. That believe it or not is for people going both up the mountain and down the mountain. On either side of this small track in most places is a sheer drop of somewhere between one to two thousand meters. It just drops straight down and the only thing that stops you falling is a little chain. It is honestly the most terrifying thing that I have done (Amy). It is super, super steep and around forty five to ninety degrees in some places. It is also very hard work especially because there were so many people and we had to walk so slowly. It is safe to say that it would not be allowed in Australia or most western countries. During the walk, we saw four types of craziness; 1: The mothers who carried their babies. 2: The ladies wearing skirts, stockings and high heels. 3: The men in full lounge suits, complete with jacket, tie and patent leather shoes and 4: The penultimate of insaneness were the men building a hotel on the peak who were carrying things such as sixty kilo bags of cement, cement blocks and other unthinkable objects either on their backs or on either end of the famous Asian bamboo pole, this went far beyond my comprehension! (Click here to read Amays day on Hua Shan) Now back to me; Having travelled China for so long and climbed many of the famous mountains, much of the above I was familiar with but what I wasn't familiar with nor was I ready for was the actual mountain itself along with the fact that the walking track was so narrow and how dangerous it was or could be in some places. The climb was difficult but made more so by the fact that you had so many other people around you and the fact that in so many places you had nearing forty five or ninety degree drops didn't make you feel any better. This made it much more difficult mentally. All in all though it really isn't as bad as it all sounds or looks in the photos. I think the real dangers you face climbing this mountain are the crowds of people and the weather. Get caught near the edge of a thousand foot drop and a huge gust of wind comes from out of nowhere, well you pretty much have your own stupidity to blame because you shouldn't have gone over the chain. It is there for a reason. If you walk with caution, don't mess around and take care of yourself and those around you there is no reason for this mountain to be a danger to you or anyone you are with.. But if you play the idiot, rush past other people, become impatient then it becomes just like any road you drive on and someone other than yourself may pay for your impatience with their life. Remember that no one has to do the plank walk, there are other ways to go and for those who do actually want to do the plank walk then they must also understand that Hua Shan had a face lift in 2005 and the plank walk now comes complete with a harness and extra chains to support your weight. To me though, I think harness or no harness I'm much happier and feel more than safe walking on a solid walkway that has a chain to hold onto. Some of the stairs are steep but they also have a chain fence to hold onto. Remember the pictures at the top of the page were taken prior to the 2005 facelift. From what I can gather it still looks the same but with a harness rail and a few more chains. There is now also a super fast cable car that takes you to the top of the north peak and in my views the actual cable car ride is probably the scariest part of the entire adventure. Man that thing zooms up and down the mountain so fast and at such a steep angle. I'm kind of one of those people who has a fear of things like cable cars and carnival rides. When I look at them, to me they are in places and doing things they just shouldn't be doing and it doesn't help that I have no freaking idea how they do the things they are doing either. What would be my advice if someone were to tell me they were heading to Hua Shan? To make it easy, when you are there simply look around you and you will see kids as young as five along with grandparents doing the same walk you are doing. Being Chinese they will obviously be walking around without a hint of fear in their eyes while you will spend more time than is needed worrying about falling off the side of the mountain. I'm unsure how you would fall off the side of the mountain unless you were actually being a total idiot but yes, I spent much more time than was needed looking into the abyss and wondering how to make sure I didn't end up there. For those who have never been to 'real' China before they have a much different view on what fear really is. They are raised with holes in their roads, trenches everywhere, open sewers, man holes with no lids, up to four on a small motor scooter, crossing a more than busy road without ever having been taught to look both ways etc. They just cross and believe that anyone behind them will go around them. Fear I guess is something that is also a cultural thing. Much of what is allowed here in China is not actually 'allowed' so to speak. It is just part of daily life here and always has been. We use the term 'allowed or legal' because we have put an end to it in our own society due to our own fears, judgments and changing societies. Growing up I never had a fear of cables until compensation hit Australian shores in the eighties and now of course everyone has a huge fear of laying a cable of any sort in the wrong place in fear of some idiot tripping over it. I also never used to have a fear of calling a beautiful girl 'beautiful' but things have gotten so bad back home that most people don't seem to know when you can do such a thing anymore and now choose not to just incase she is in search of a quick buck. I grew up being taught to test any water prior to diving in but now it seems even adults need to be parented by the government as to where they can dive into a river (of course without testing it first mainly because they are too stupid to). Then we have children's play grounds and public parks, I still can not believe that a man who was drunk and decided to hang by his knees and fell actually won a compensation claim because there was no rubber matting beneath the monkey bars. I never had a fear of red lights or hook turns until a huge impatient Albanian guy began franticly beeping me from behind. Thankfully I chose not to give in to his impatience because a second later a car sped past me. The Albanian guy didn't seem fazed that I and my girlfriend of the time would have been either killed or very badly hurt because he continued his beeping. When I chose to go (when it was legal AND SAFE to do so by the lights) he cut my car off and spent the next ten minutes beating my window and circling my car trying to get to me to hurt me probably just as much as the other car would have. Thankfully his friends who were just as huge as he was seemed to figure out what probably would have happened if I did go due to his impatience and dragged him away from my car. So I am kind of thinking that road rage, red lights, hook turns and calling a beautiful girl beautiful in big cities are probably far more dangerous and fearful than climbing Hua Shan. For those of you who are continuing to shake their heads after viewing the photos at the bottom of the page of where we climbed now add this to your 'are you stupid' thoughts.....ready.....my girl friend Luo Wei began climbing this mountain at ten in the evening with some friends and arrived at the western peak at three in the morning so they could watch the sunrise. They had only several torches between their entire group but from what I can gather some of the trails do have lighting at night time, but I doubt that they did prior to 2005. In my photos below, the western peak is the photo that has half a pine tree to the left side of the photo. To the right of this pine tree there is a huge rock cliff face and a narrow track leading up to a temple that has a tree covered sloping edge to the right of it. Also check out the group of people who have stepped over the chain and are trying to get a better view of where they will fall if they were to take but a single step more!

Ok I' add the photo here but I have to add it three times or the rest of the page will be out of wack. Sit and stare at the guy right at the edge for awhile.

It makes my stomach lurch just looking at him more so because it is human nature to fight and struggle to survive and if he was to trip or be pushed the first thing he would do would be to grab hold of the person next to him and they would do the same and so on and so on. I would say that nearly that entire group would be gone within seconds. Both sides will take you to complete nothingness until you hit the ground below. For those of you who like meters it is exactly 2087 meters below Or for those who like feet, you will fall 6846 feet, then splat. Now sit back and choose which side you'd prefer. Luo Wei had never been to Hua Shan and I guess if you climbed it at night you would honestly have no idea at all the situation you were in as you would only see a few feet to either side of you. Would I climb it at night? I don't think I would but maybe I would have before seeing it during the day light hours. At night I guess you would think you were climbing an actual 'normal mountain' and not along what has been termed 'the spine of god'. I could only imagine how I'd would feel after sunrise as it would be only then that I would realise the reality of what I had completed several hours prior. Ok, enough of my stupidity, we must end the blog with a laugh. </b> Whilst talking to Canadian Rob last night I was explaining Hua Shan to him and his very direct answer to ever climbing the mountain was 'I'd rather have my teeth pulled'. This almost made me fall off my chair in hysterics. He didn't see the funny side until I explained to him that Andrew is a dentist. Could you imagine if he was with us. We finish the cable car ride to the north peak, exit the cable car terminal and after looking up one of us would say, 'Ok then, lets begin shall we'. Canadian Robs jaw would drop and he'd say, 'What! Are we climbing way up there on that bloody tiny track along the spine of the mountain.....I'd rather have my bloomin teeth pulled! I'm sure if it was a movie, right about here is when every living thing would go silent and only the breeze would be heard. Andrew would then enter the scene in white coat with dentist drill in one hand and dentist needle in the other and say...Ok then, let's begin shall we! Beers N Noodles toya.....shane ___________________________________________ The soundtrack to this entry was by Blue Oyster Cult Don't fear the reaper even on Hua Shan! The album was 'Agents of Fortune' ___________________________________________ The text below my photos (below) was taken from the site that made the South Peak climb at Hua Shan famous world wide. If I was you after viewing my photos I'd move on to this site and read it as it is supposed to be read, with photos, comments, arrows etc. I only added it to the end of my blog so I'd have the information if I needed it. If you don't have much time YOU MUST read the story called A FOOLISH JOURNEY. Its about half way down the page and is about a man and his girlfriend who were stupid enough to make the journey to the south peak in mid winter along the ice covered planks and chains. There are questions as to how 'real' it is but I'd say most of it would have more than enough truth to it http://www.ssqq.com/ARCHIVE/vinlin27d.htm

<u>You Begin at Yuquan Yuan (Jade Spring Temple)</u></b> Usually tourists climb up the mountain assisted by the iron chains along the way and start their tour from Yuquan Yuan (Jade Spring Temple), one of the main Taoist temples in China located at the foot of Mt. Huashan. It has the architectural style of the classical gardens in south China. There is a pond in the center and several pavilions around it. Walking through the Wuyou Pavilion, the Long Corridor of Seventy-two Windows comes into view, and afterwards Qingke Ping where a big rock called 'Huixin Rock' can be seen. It is said that 'Huixin Rock' is a reminder for those who wish to stop their tour at this point. Beside the rock are the precipitous 370 rock steps called 'Qianchi Zhuang' considered to be the primary breath-taking path of Mt. Huashan. When climbing, only a gleam of sky above can be seen, making climbers feel as if they were at the bottom of a well. <u>The East Peak (Facing Peak)</u></b> The East Peak is 2,090 meters (about 6,857 ft) high above sea level. It is also called Facing Sun Peak because the top of the peak is the best place to watch the sunrise. Tour guides may promote climbing the mountain at night to see the sunrise. Climbing to the top of East Peak requires 4 to 6 hours. East Peak has an altitude of 2,090 meters (about 6,857 feet) forming a platform for visitors to view the sunrise. An astronomical telescope is provided here. The reference time for sunrise and sunset is 5:00a.m.-6:00a.m. in spring, 4:30a.m.-5:20a.m. in summer, 5:00a.m.-5:20a.m. in autumn, 5:30a.m.-6:00a.m. in winter. One well-known scenic spot called the 'Immortal's Palm Peak of Mt. Huashan' which is ranked as one of the 'Eight Scenic Wonders of the Guanzhong Area (the plain area in the middle of Shaanxi Province)' is located on East Peak. It refers to the natural rock veins of the cliff which look like a giant palm-print. Legend has it that on March 3rd of the Lunar Calendar a torrential flood erupted, destroying the villages within the Mt. Huashan area. This disaster was caused by the Queen Mother of the West, who held her 'Flat Peach Carnival' celebration that year. She carelessly spilled a little jade wine down from paradise, causing a serious flood below. This news was quickly reported by Deity Shaohao to the Jade Emperor in Celestial Paradise. He gave a prompt order to Deity Juling to go down to tame the flood. When Deity Juling, full of vigor and vitality, descended from the clouds, he arrived at the precipitous cliff of East Peak. At the moment that he laid his left hand on one side and his right leg on the other, he ripped the mountain into two halves and immediately a flood rushed out. This tale adds luster to East Peak. <u>The Middle Peak is also called Jade Maiden Peak. </u></b> Story goes that Nongyu, the daughter of King Mugong (659B.C.-621B.C.) of the Qin Kingdom (770B.C.-476B.C.), was tired of the life in the court. So she and her husband moved to Huashan and lived alone at Middle Peak. Middle Peak clings to East peak and is in the center of East, South and West Peaks. There is a Taoist temple in the peak named 'Jade Maiden Temple'. Legend has it that the daughter of Qin Mugong (569 B.C.-621 B.C.) loved a man who was good at playing Chinese tung-hsiao (vertical flute) and she gave up the royal life to become a hermit who cultivated her spirituality here, hence the name Jade Maiden Peak. Today Jade Maiden Temple and Jade Maiden Basin for Shampooing can be found on the peak. Other scenic spots in Middle Peak include Rootless Tree and Sacrificing Tree which have beautiful stories and add to the supernatural atmosphere of Middle Peak. <u>The West Peak is 2,087 meters (about 6,846 ft) high. </u></b> It is always called Lotus Peak because of its unique shape. This peak is formed by a huge rock. Hence it's very steep. As stated earlier, Mt. Huashan has 5 peaks. The West Peak seen in the pictures above is said to be the most graceful peak. I think "Graceful Peak" is Chinese-speak for 'you don't have to risk your life to visit the temple.' On the other hand, even the West Peak Temple is hard to reach. That said, the view atop the West Peak Summit is breathtaking! Now you see why people make the climb. <u>The North Peak was called Clouds Stand by ancient people. </u></b> Today it is called the Cloud Terrace Peak as it looks like a flat terrace in the clouds. The peak is 1,614 meters (about 5,295 ft) above sea level. An important site on the North Peak is Zhenwu Hall (God of North). Three sides are cliffs that are nearly impossible to climb and the fourth side is the 'ear rubbing cliff'. This route gets its name because there are places on this precipitous path where tourists can climb up only by pressing an ear close to the cliff. Across the 'Qianchi Zhuang' are two similar precipitous paths-respectively called 'Baichi Xia' and 'Laojun Li' above which climbers reach Mt. Huashan's North Peak. There are precipitous cliffs on all sides of North Peak, making it look like a flat terrace in the clouds, hence the name Cloud Terrace Peak. It is 1,614 meters (about 5,295 feet) high. Three sides are cliffs and one side is to the 'Ca'er (the ear rubbing the cliff) Cliff' which is the fourth precipitous path where tourists can climb up only by pressing an ear close to the cliff. In the waist of North Peak trees are luxuriantly green, creating a good rest spot. <u>The majestic South Peak is.....the...... </u></b> With an altitude of 2,160 meters (about 7,087 feet), ancient people called this the 'Monarch of Mt. Huashan' because it is the highest peak of Mt. Huashan. It is also the highest peak among the Five Sacred Mountains of China. The temple for the God of Mt. Huashan is situated on the South Peak. Tourists who summit South Peak are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The famous Yellow River wanders far below and everything seems small. Legend has it that the wild geese returning from the south often landed at South Peak, giving the area the name 'Landing Wild Geese Peak' The South Peak is the dangerous peak at the center of our story. The South Peak is very popular for climbing despite its peril. In the middle of South Peak trees are luxuriantly green, creating a good rest spot. At the top of South Peak, the 'Black Dragon Pool' at the summit and the 'Greeting Pines' on the southwestern cliff are two attractive resorts. Mt. Huashan is famous for its egregious cliffs. Nowhere are the cliffs more difficult to climb than the South Peak. There are rugged cliffs on all four sides of South Peak. A tortuous 15 kilometer stepped path leads to the Black Dragon Ridge (Bilong ji) where other trails lead to the major peaks. In order to reach certain temples and the caves of the sages great courage is needed. The climbers must scale steep cliffs with only a linked chain for support. The most dangerous place is called 'Changkong Zhandao' (a plank path built along the surface of a vertical cliff) which is about 4 meters (about 13 feet) long and about 0.33 meters (about 1.1 feet) wide. Below is the bottomless gulf which makes tourists shake with fear. To fall is certain death. To say the South Peak climb is 'formidable' would be an understatement. Along the cliff of South Peak is a planked path equipped with iron chains. These devices help, of course, but there are few safety features. One mistake and the climber meets eternity. Further up it gets even more difficult. Here there are chains and rock footholds which allow the adventurers to continue on the frightful path past precipitous rock faces and yawning chasms. Always far below, the valley beckons. Only the foolish dare to look down. Furthermore, no one dares to think of the trip back. In some ways, that's even tougher because you are so tired. And don't forget the people coming down have to get around the people coming up. Please keep in mind these climbers are not professionals! Most of them are Chinese college kids here on vacation. They are not equipped with any sort of modern climbing equipment or even the proper shoes. Nor do they have climbing experience. All they have going for them are their hands, their feet, and their courage. Plus they are trapped, once they discover the sheer precipices and overhanging rocks, at this point it is very difficult to go back. If it rains, they are in trouble. If the wind picks up, they are in trouble. If the wood has a slippery spot or a chain comes loose. But always there is the temptation of the magnificent beauty as the scenery changes at every step along this path. The Beauty of the Mountain seems to cast a magic spell over all who pass. http://www.ssqq.com/ARCHIVE/vinlin27d.htm

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family


Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Hua Shan With The Fisher Family

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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