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A frog goes hiking: 奇萊主北 (Qi lai main and north peaks) (Day 1)

posted by Martin Rubli at 07:27

Third time's a charm: After two attempts of climbing 奇萊山 (Qi lai shan) that got canceled because of bad weather the third time finally worked out. And it's well worth to wait for good weather. For one thing the view is obviously only as good as the weather and for another 奇萊山 (Qi lai shan) has a reputation for being dangerous in bad weather conditions. As a matter of fact, it has even received the nickname 黑奇萊 (black Qi lai), not only because of the dark appearance of its cliffs, but also because it has claimed numerous lives over the years.

We stayed the night before in the 合歡山 (He huan shan) area, so that we could start early without having to get up too early and still have enough time to make it to 奇萊北峰 (Qilai north peak) and back to the 奇萊山屋 (Qi lai mountain hut). For the second day we had planned an early return trip to 奇萊主峰 (Qilai main peak), followed by the return journey.

One of the things that make 奇萊山 (Qi lai shan) feared amount hikers is the fact that there's a valley between the trail head and the peak. This means that on both ways you "lose" about 350 meters of altitude that you then have to hike back up. Also, water is rare near 奇萊山屋 (Qi lai mountain hut). Luckily we had organized a helping hand who helped us put up the tents and prepared dinner. That easily took a few kilograms off everyone's backpacks.

A word of warning: 奇萊山屋 (Qi lai mountain hut) doesn't lend itself as an example of good hiking infrastructure. It is small and therefore notoriously hard to book, the "toilet" doesn't deserve the name and is more of a big pile of excrement that drives everyone into the bushes, and there's no such thing as rain water collection. It's sadly obvious that the Taroko National Park administration funnels most of the money into Taroko Valley. Bottom line: If you plan to hike 奇萊山 (Qi lai shan) prepare to be on your own.

After a little more than six hours of hiking we finally found ourselves relieved at the top of the Qi lai ridge. That's a good place to switch to light backpacks and attack the last kilometer to the peak. It's about a two-hour round-trip from there to 奇萊北峰 (Qilai north peak) and once you get back you're only left with a relaxing 15-20 minute walk to 奇萊山屋 (Qi lai mountain hut).

The weather was good for most of the trip, but unfortunately the fog reached the summit around the same time we did. Despite the lack of view climbing the peak involves a bit of climbing fun. And we still had the outlook of day two, with a slightly better weather forecast ...


Overview


(Click the image for a larger version.)


Elevation chart


GPS track


Hiking log

(As always, the altitudes are approximate.)

0750: Departure from 奇萊山登山口 (Qilai trail head), 3040 m
0940: Break at 黑水塘山屋 (Hei shui tang mountain hut), 2735 m
1000: Continue
1050: Break at 成功山屋 (Cheng gong mountain hut), 2860 m
1140: Continue
1230: Break at 叉路 (Trail fork), 3160 m
1320: Continue
1425: Break at 嶺線 (Ridge), 3440 m
1455: Continue
1550: Arrival at 奇萊北峰 (Qilai north peak), 3607 m
1630: Departure from 奇萊北峰 (Qilai north peak)
1715: Break at 嶺線 (Ridge)
1725: Continue
1740: Arrival at 奇萊山屋 (Qilai mountain hut), 3350 m


Photos

松雪樓 (Song xue lou) with 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak) in the background, our destination for the day.

松雪樓 (Song xue lou) with 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak) in the background, our destination for the day.

The trail head is right next to the 滑雪山莊 ("Skiing mountain hut"). Of course it's been a long time since anyone has been able to ski in this area but the name has stuck.

The trail head is right next to the 滑雪山莊 ("Skiing mountain hut"). Of course it's been a long time since anyone has been able to ski in this area but the name has stuck.

The trail head. From here it's around 7 kilometers to the top of 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak), a little less if you hike directly to the 奇萊山屋 (Qi lai mountain hut).

The trail head. From here it's around 7 kilometers to the top of 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak), a little less if you hike directly to the 奇萊山屋 (Qi lai mountain hut).

In order to get to the other side you have to hike down into the valley first, a fact particularly dreaded on the way back.

In order to get to the other side you have to hike down into the valley first, a fact particularly dreaded on the way back.

Looking back towards 小奇萊 (Xiao qi lai).

Looking back towards 小奇萊 (Xiao qi lai).

The area is filled with beautiful 山杜鵑 (Rhododendron), here mostly with purple ones but in higher altitudes with white ones, too.

The area is filled with beautiful 山杜鵑 (Rhododendron), here mostly with purple ones but in higher altitudes with white ones, too.

黑水塘山屋 (Hei shui tang mountain hut) near the bottom of the valley.

黑水塘山屋 (Hei shui tang mountain hut) near the bottom of the valley.

The inside of 黑水塘山屋 (Hei shui tang mountain hut), which is now rarely used except as a weather shelter.

The inside of 黑水塘山屋 (Hei shui tang mountain hut), which is now rarely used except as a weather shelter.

3.7 kilometers from the trail head and 1.1 kilometers to the next stop ...

3.7 kilometers from the trail head and 1.1 kilometers to the next stop ...

... 成功山屋 (Cheng gong mountain hut), the nicest and most convenient place to sleep. A small creek flows right next to it, so water is readily available.

... 成功山屋 (Cheng gong mountain hut), the nicest and most convenient place to sleep. A small creek flows right next to it, so water is readily available.

This is where the trail forks off in two directions: The right one directly heads to the 奇萊山屋 (Qi lai mountain hut) while the left one brings you closer to 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak).

This is where the trail forks off in two directions: The right one directly heads to the 奇萊山屋 (Qi lai mountain hut) while the left one brings you closer to 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak).

The view back towards 合歡山 (He huan shan).

The view back towards 合歡山 (He huan shan).

The trail from the junction towards 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak) starts off easy ...

The trail from the junction towards 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak) starts off easy ...

... but then rapidly becomes challenging.

... but then rapidly becomes challenging.

Flowers like these make the steep hike a little more enjoyable ...

Flowers like these make the steep hike a little more enjoyable ...

... especially when there are entire patches of them.

... especially when there are entire patches of them.

Finally on the ridge. Behind this little hill awaits 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak).

Finally on the ridge. Behind this little hill awaits 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak).

Even though it's only 1.2 kilometers to the north peak we switched to light packs. There's quite a bit of climbing on the last few hundred meters, so it's a lot safer and less tiring that way.

Even though it's only 1.2 kilometers to the north peak we switched to light packs. There's quite a bit of climbing on the last few hundred meters, so it's a lot safer and less tiring that way.

This is where the ascent to the top of 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak) starts.

This is where the ascent to the top of 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak) starts.

Almost there ...

Almost there ...

Finally at the top. Enjoy the view because ...

Finally at the top. Enjoy the view because ...

... just a few minutes later the fog had taken over and there was little else to be seen than gray and a bit of sky.

... just a few minutes later the fog had taken over and there was little else to be seen than gray and a bit of sky.

The north side of 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak) is a precipitous cliff.

The north side of 奇萊北峰 (Qi lai north peak) is a precipitous cliff.


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