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A frog goes hiking: 雪山 (Xue shan) (Day 1)

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:07

Apparently my 雨神 (rain god) spell has been lifted. This was the second hike in short succession that I had great weather on a multi-day hiking trip! And this wasn't just any mountain - it was 雪山 (Xue shan, or Snow mountain) which had been on my list for quite a while.

After gathering in Taipei on Friday night we drove to 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm) where we stayed in tents for the first night before starting the actual hike the next morning.

This was my first time joining a more organized hiking group. Now, if you know me you know that things can't be too organized for me, but on the mountains that's a whole different story. Hiking single file at snail's pace on a well-established trail isn't exactly exercise, so after a little back and forth with the guide we were finally able to walk at a more natural pace. That has the added benefit of being able to take photos anytime it's worth it without stopping the people behind you dead in their tracks. With the sunny weather and the awesome scenery that was most necessary.

The only goal of day 1 was to get to the 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) where we would spend the night. On the way, however, you can already climb the first 百岳 (a name given to Taiwan's 100 highest mountains), namely 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak).

We had to get up super early the next morning (ordinarily I would call it "the same night"), so after dinner I went straight to bed to catch as much sleep as possible. If I've learned anything from the last hike it's that sleep is probably the most important thing while hiking, so I was equipped with my trusted inflatable sleeping mat and earplugs. Even the latter ones worked well this time, and while I didn't sleep quite as well as the first night (I blame the lack of a good pillow), I was comparably well-rested the next day.

This post covers day 1. Day 2 is here.


Overview

The red track is the first day, the green track is the first half of day two before returning along the red track.


(Click the image for a larger version.)


Altitude graph


(Click the image for a larger version.)

GPS track

Hiking log

(As always, the altitudes are approximate.)

0600: Wake up
0715: Departure by bus from 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm) to the trail head, coffee break near the campground
0750: Arrival at trail head
0840: Start hiking at trail head, 2139 m
0945: Arrival at 七卡山莊 (Qi ka mountain hut), 2506 m
1005: Departure from 七卡山莊 (Qi ka mountain hut)
1135: Arrival at 哭坡觀景台 (Ku po view platform), rest break, 2976 m
1205: Departure from 哭坡觀景台 (Ku po view platform)
1245: 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak), 3201 m
1435: Arrival at 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut), 3140 m


Photos

The night sky over 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm). Well, either that or maybe it's just sensor noise.

The night sky over 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm). Well, either that or maybe it's just sensor noise.

Tearing down our night camp in 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm).

Tearing down our night camp in 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm).

Bears welcoming visitors to the 雪霸國家公園 (Xue Ba National Park). In reality you're much more likely to ...

Bears welcoming visitors to the 雪霸國家公園 (Xue Ba National Park). In reality you're much more likely to ...

... encounter these little creatures.

... encounter these little creatures.

The campground in 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm).

The campground in 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm).

Preparing for the hike in front of the 雪山登山口 (Xue shan trail head) at 2140 m altitude.

Preparing for the hike in front of the 雪山登山口 (Xue shan trail head) at 2140 m altitude.

The view is already beautiful before you start hiking.

The view is already beautiful before you start hiking.

I actually thought this butterfly was fake but was reassured that it's really just asleep - and that it's a moth, not a butterfly.

I actually thought this butterfly was fake but was reassured that it's really just asleep - and that it's a moth, not a butterfly.

A water tank right at the trail head. This was previously used for watering the plantations in the area and is now one of the campground's water sources.

A water tank right at the trail head. This was previously used for watering the plantations in the area and is now one of the campground's water sources.

It's nice to see the sea of clouds coming in as long as you're on the upper side and not hiking down.

It's nice to see the sea of clouds coming in as long as you're on the upper side and not hiking down.

桃山 (Tao shan), another of Taiwan's highest peaks in the area.

桃山 (Tao shan), another of Taiwan's highest peaks in the area.

(untitled)
The so-called 哭坡 (Ku po), freely translated the "Slope of pain".

The so-called 哭坡 (Ku po), freely translated the "Slope of pain".

But luckily walking up isn't half as bad as the name suggests. I am therefore renaming it the "Slope of slight discomfort".

But luckily walking up isn't half as bad as the name suggests. I am therefore renaming it the "Slope of slight discomfort".

The higher we climbed the better the view got.

The higher we climbed the better the view got.

The view back.

The view back.

雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak) is conveniently located along the trail. All it takes to reach the top is a 20 meter detour!

雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak) is conveniently located along the trail. All it takes to reach the top is a 20 meter detour!

And from the same point you can already see 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut).

And from the same point you can already see 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut).

Raising the Swiss flag at the top of 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak).

Raising the Swiss flag at the top of 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak).

But because I like Taiwan at least as much as Switzerland I always bring a Taiwanese flag too! :-)

But because I like Taiwan at least as much as Switzerland I always bring a Taiwanese flag too! :-)

三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut).

三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut).

The interior of 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut). Maybe somebody should carry up a new mirror one of these days, but then again, looks aren't the biggest of your worries when you haven't showered for a day or two.

The interior of 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut). Maybe somebody should carry up a new mirror one of these days, but then again, looks aren't the biggest of your worries when you haven't showered for a day or two.

(untitled)

A frog goes hiking: 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) (Day 3)

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:57

If I had to summarize the third day in one word it wouldn't be "exhaustion" but "rain". From the moment we got up until we got into the car it was raining virtually non-stop. Below are the cumulative rain charts for our three days. The little white circle marks our hiking area:

So, as you can see, this is not exactly the best weather for hiking but a great chance to test my rain gear.

At this point I have to make a little advertisement for my Rab Demand pull-on eVent jacket. Worn on top of only a thin, long-sleeved Merino wool shirt it kept me dry for the entire day. My fellow hikers in plastic and Gore-Tex all got wet - either from the humidity building up on the inside or from the rain seeping in, or both. In terms of breathability and water resistance eVent really beats the heck out of Gore-Tex. I've experienced it for myself numerous times and there's research that suggests the same.

Before we get to the photos of the day let's look at a little bird's eye view of the area:


(Click on the picture for a larger version.)

On the far right you can see 雪山 (Xue shan), the second highest mountain in Taiwan. On the far left is our mountain hut. It's entirely possible to attack 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) from the other side, but that would be a much longer and even more exhausting trip.

We had originally planned to go to 雪山 (Xue shan) and 雪山北蜂 (Xue shan East peak) but because of difficulties booking the mountain hut we ended up going to 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan). After all, 雪山 (Xue shan) isn't going anywhere anytime soon.


Altitude graph


(Click the image for a larger version.)

GPS track

Hiking log

04??: Wake up
0600: Departure from 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut), 2699 m, 10 °C
0815: 馬達拉溪登山口 (Ma da la river trail head), break time in the mountain hut
0945: 大鹿林道 (Da lu forest trail), 17 km
1440: Arrival back at 觀霧 (Guan wu)


Photos

Six o'clock in the morning: Ready to leave 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) in the pouring rain.

Six o'clock in the morning: Ready to leave 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) in the pouring rain.

Back down at the suspension bridge over the 馬達拉溪 (Ma da la river).

Back down at the suspension bridge over the 馬達拉溪 (Ma da la river).

Given the heavy rain at the time we didn't want to take the shortcut for fear of having a "one step forward, two steps back" experience. So we walked the 2 km up to the 17 km milestone. When we got there it already looked different than two days earlier - they were doing some construction with a backhoe. With any luck there will be a little hut or at least a rest stop here in the future.

Given the heavy rain at the time we didn't want to take the shortcut for fear of having a "one step forward, two steps back" experience. So we walked the 2 km up to the 17 km milestone. When we got there it already looked different than two days earlier - they were doing some construction with a backhoe. With any luck there will be a little hut or at least a rest stop here in the future.

Five hours, seventeen kilometers, and a lot of rain later we're finally back in 觀霧 (Guan wu).

Five hours, seventeen kilometers, and a lot of rain later we're finally back in 觀霧 (Guan wu).

Can you see the expression of relief in my face?

Can you see the expression of relief in my face?

Joe wringing out his socks.

Joe wringing out his socks.

Ann with the same relieved expression on her face.

Ann with the same relieved expression on her face.

[http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%AF%9B%E5%9C%B0%E9%BB%84%E5%B1%9E 毛地黃] ([http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digitalis Foxgloves]) along the way.

毛地黃 (Foxgloves) along the way.

It looks much worse than it really was, but the bruise explains why I felt pain for the last 9 km of the hike. I probably have some work to do in the shoe tying area.

It looks much worse than it really was, but the bruise explains why I felt pain for the last 9 km of the hike. I probably have some work to do in the shoe tying area.


Back to day 1 or day 2


A frog goes hiking: 大失敗山 (Big failure mountain) (Day 2)

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:34

We are now on the day two, the green part of our hike:


(Click the image for a larger version.)

There had been a short but intense thunderstorm overnight, so the others were a bit worried about the weather. Why not me? Thanks to earplugs and my superhuman sleeping powers I had missed it entirely. :-) Still, I was positively surprised by the clear morning sky and, for the first time in days, actually had high hopes of standing at a mountain top in good weather.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Once the entire mountain range was covered in fog we figured it wasn't worth it just going to the top for the heck of it, so we turned around.

On the way down Max and I still took two little detours to 伊澤山 (Yi ze shan) and 加利山 (Jia li shan). After all, I had come to climb some of Taiwan's 100 highest mountains and I wasn't going to leave without having done so!

It was barely lunch time by the time we got back to camp, so, besides eating and practicing his Chinese with his hiking friends, what can a bored hiker do? That's right: Run around the mountain hut with the GPS around his neck to be able to get a few tracks for OpenStreetMap. Here's the before and after:

Pretty, isn't it? :-)

Below are the charts and photos for day 2.


Altitude graph


(Click the image for a larger version.)

GPS track

Hiking log

0330: Wake up (well, as awake as you can be at that time of day)
0430: Departure, 2699 m, 10 °C
0555: Crossroad to 加利山 (Jia li shan), 3100 m
0800: Crossroad to 伊澤山 (Yi ze shan), 3245 m
0820: 中霸山屋 (Zhong ba mountain hut), 3295 m
0925: 中霸平 (Zhong ba ping), 3400 m
1000: 伊澤山 (Yi ze shan), 3297 m
1145: 加利山 (Jia li shan), 3112 m
1300: Back at 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut)


Photos

Sunrise on the way from 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) to 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan).

Sunrise on the way from 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) to 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan).

A beautiful sea of clouds minutes after sunrise.

A beautiful sea of clouds minutes after sunrise.

The trail up to 3050高地 ("3050 plateau").

The trail up to 3050高地 ("3050 plateau").

Six more kilometers to 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan).

Six more kilometers to 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan).

Views like this (almost) make it worth getting up at three in the morning.

Views like this (almost) make it worth getting up at three in the morning.

The crossroad to 加利山 (Jia li shan), the peak that's easiest to reach from 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut).

The crossroad to 加利山 (Jia li shan), the peak that's easiest to reach from 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut).

The view towards 加利山 (Jia li shan).

The view towards 加利山 (Jia li shan).

And the view back from where we just came from. Luckily people with D-SLRs tend to walk slower (I know I do when I carry one), so it leaves compact shooters more time for breaks. :-)

And the view back from where we just came from. Luckily people with D-SLRs tend to walk slower (I know I do when I carry one), so it leaves compact shooters more time for breaks. :-)

A little snack break at the top of a hill.

A little snack break at the top of a hill.

It would be nice to have a D-SLR to capture the true beauty of the scenery, but 1.5 kg is a lot of weight!

It would be nice to have a D-SLR to capture the true beauty of the scenery, but 1.5 kg is a lot of weight!

Looking back ...

Looking back ...

... and looking south. Near the left border of the picture you can see 北稜角 (Bei leng jiao), one of the highest peaks in Taiwan. It is only a stone's throw away from the famous 雪山 (Xue shan) which lies right behind it.

... and looking south. Near the left border of the picture you can see 北稜角 (Bei leng jiao), one of the highest peaks in Taiwan. It is only a stone's throw away from the famous 雪山 (Xue shan) which lies right behind it.

The impressive peak of 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan). Too bad that neither the lighting nor the fog made for good photo conditions.

The impressive peak of 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan). Too bad that neither the lighting nor the fog made for good photo conditions.

From left to right: 中霸尖山 (Zhong ba jian shan), 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan), and 小霸尖山 (Xiao ba jian shan).

From left to right: 中霸尖山 (Zhong ba jian shan), 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan), and 小霸尖山 (Xiao ba jian shan).

The view back. At the end of the trail lies 伊澤山 (Yi ze shan) that we hadn't climbed yet but which was on the list for our way down.

The view back. At the end of the trail lies 伊澤山 (Yi ze shan) that we hadn't climbed yet but which was on the list for our way down.

中霸山屋 (Zhong ba mountain hut), an abandoned hut that now merely serves as an emergency shelter.

中霸山屋 (Zhong ba mountain hut), an abandoned hut that now merely serves as an emergency shelter.

I forgot to take a picture of that but if you slip here you're unlikely to ever see the light of day again. On the left side the stony slope goes down far enough to disappear in the fog.

I forgot to take a picture of that but if you slip here you're unlikely to ever see the light of day again. On the left side the stony slope goes down far enough to disappear in the fog.

Some beautiful flowers along the way.

Some beautiful flowers along the way.

Finally at the top!

Finally at the top!

Unfortunately it's the top of 伊澤山 (Yi ze shan) and not our original destination. The fog had gotten worse towards the top, so that we only continued to 中霸平 (Zhong ba ping), a great spot for photographing 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan). It would only have been another 40 minutes to get to 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) but without the view it's just not worth it.

Unfortunately it's the top of 伊澤山 (Yi ze shan) and not our original destination. The fog had gotten worse towards the top, so that we only continued to 中霸平 (Zhong ba ping), a great spot for photographing 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan). It would only have been another 40 minutes to get to 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) but without the view it's just not worth it.

Traces of mountain goats in the dirt.

Traces of mountain goats in the dirt.

Taking a break to eat a few carrot sticks and nuts. (Apparently hiking turns me into a rabbit/squirrel.)

Taking a break to eat a few carrot sticks and nuts. (Apparently hiking turns me into a rabbit/squirrel.)

And the second peak for the day ...

And the second peak for the day ...

... 加利山 (Jia li shan). Normally the view from here would be great but not today.

... 加利山 (Jia li shan). Normally the view from here would be great but not today.

By the time Max and I got back to 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) from climbing our two little peaks Joe and Ann were already back down again and resting.

By the time Max and I got back to 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) from climbing our two little peaks Joe and Ann were already back down again and resting.

The kitchen and community room of the mountain hut.

The kitchen and community room of the mountain hut.

九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut).

九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut).

The spartan toilets.

The spartan toilets.

The mountain hut does have some electricity thanks to a huge solar panel.

The mountain hut does have some electricity thanks to a huge solar panel.

Parts of 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) seen from the top.

Parts of 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) seen from the top.

Cooking our well-deserved dinner.

Cooking our well-deserved dinner.

Back to day 1 or continue to day 3


A frog goes hiking: 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) (Day 1)

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:09

My 百岳 trips seem to take place in regular intervals of about twelve months. Last time it was Taiwan's highest mountain. This time it was going to be #27, 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) with an altitude of 3492 meters. It's probably the most remarkable mountain in Taiwan thanks to its square shaped peak.

Climbing it usually takes three days and starts in beautiful - when sunny - 觀霧 (Guan wu). The first day you hike 17 to 19 km along the relatively flat 大鹿林道東線 (Da lu forest trail east section), which is now closed for private vehicles. Then, from the 馬達拉溪登山口 (Ma da la river trail head) it is another 4 km, this time considerably steeper, to the 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu "99" mountain hut) where you stay the night. All in all a little over 21 km.

Day two depends on weather and fitness. From 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut) to 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) it's about 8-9 kilometers with the option of bagging three other 百岳 peaks: 加利山 (Jia li shan, 3112 m), 伊澤山 (Yi ze shan, 3297 m), and 小霸尖山 (Xiao ba jian shan, 3360 m). That's around 23-24 kilometers if you choose to do all of them. Around 17 km if you only shoot for the "main" peak.

Day three is like day 1 but reverse.

To give you a better impression here's a Google Earth screenshot (red/blue = days 1/3, green = day 2):


(Click the image for a larger version.)

Our group was made up of only four people, which means there's a little more to carry for everyone, but it's also more flexible, easier to count, and generally much more fun!

To save weight I left my D-SLR at home for once and used my brand new Nikon AW100 waterproof camera instead. The weather forecast looked quite bad and I didn't feel it was worth the weight if there was no guarantee for great pictures. Instead I wanted to be able to memorize our hike even if we had to walk in the rain for three days. :-)

This post covers day 1. Day 2 is here and day 3 is here.


Altitude graph


(Click the image for a larger version.)

GPS track

Hiking log

0300: Wake up
0400: Assembly in 竹北 (Zhu bei)
0500: Departure by car towards 觀霧 (Guan wu)
0810: Start hiking from 觀霧 (Guan wu) on 大鹿林道東線 (Da lu forest trail east section), 2066 m
1350: 大鹿林道東線 (Da lu forest trail east section) 17 km, taking the shortcut, 1891 m
1405: 大鹿林道東線 (Da lu forest trail east section) 19 km, rest break and water refill
1425: Cross the 馬達拉溪 (Ma da la river), 1823 m
1840: Arrive at 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut), 2699 m


Photos

The entrance to the 大鹿林道東線 (Da lu forest trail east section). From here to the trail head it takes a solid 19 km warm-up hike.

The entrance to the 大鹿林道東線 (Da lu forest trail east section). From here to the trail head it takes a solid 19 km warm-up hike.

08:10 in the morning: 0 km

08:10 in the morning: 0 km

The 大霸尖山登山服務站 (Da ba jian shan service station), which seems to be unstaffed most of the time. It was empty when we left and when we got back.

The 大霸尖山登山服務站 (Da ba jian shan service station), which seems to be unstaffed most of the time. It was empty when we left and when we got back.

After almost every typhoon parts of the road are covered with landslides or rocks.

After almost every typhoon parts of the road are covered with landslides or rocks.

There are many creeks and little waterfalls along the road, so at least getting fresh water is not an issue.

There are many creeks and little waterfalls along the road, so at least getting fresh water is not an issue.

View down into the valley.

View down into the valley.

The flora and fauna along the way is quite interesting.

The flora and fauna along the way is quite interesting.

大鹿林道東線 (Da lu forest trail east section).

大鹿林道東線 (Da lu forest trail east section).

(untitled)
Water drainage apparently wasn't a priority when the road was built. Every so often you have to cross a little river.

Water drainage apparently wasn't a priority when the road was built. Every so often you have to cross a little river.

More recently they've been building little picnic sites along the way. Of course a little roof wouldn't hurt cause when it rains they're not very inviting to take a break. (See day 3 ...)

More recently they've been building little picnic sites along the way. Of course a little roof wouldn't hurt cause when it rains they're not very inviting to take a break. (See day 3 ...)

Despite the numerous warning signs we've seen several cars, a truck, and a backhoe safely making it through.

Despite the numerous warning signs we've seen several cars, a truck, and a backhoe safely making it through.

(untitled)
東線瀑布 (Dong xian waterfall).

東線瀑布 (Dong xian waterfall).

15+ kilograms on the back doesn't stop a real photo fan from carrying the D-SLR all the way.

15+ kilograms on the back doesn't stop a real photo fan from carrying the D-SLR all the way.

Tadpoles on the road.

Tadpoles on the road.

One of the mountain huts along the way. This is one of the cleaner ones and it even has an attachment to dry clothes and cook. I'm assuming workers occasionally sleep here.

One of the mountain huts along the way. This is one of the cleaner ones and it even has an attachment to dry clothes and cook. I'm assuming workers occasionally sleep here.

(untitled)
In the hairpin curve right after the 17 km milestone there's a shortcut that trades 2 km of road for 300 m of track and leads directly to the 馬達拉溪登山口 (Ma da la river trail head). It's a great way to save some time and energy on the way down and if the weather is good.

In the hairpin curve right after the 17 km milestone there's a shortcut that trades 2 km of road for 300 m of track and leads directly to the 馬達拉溪登山口 (Ma da la river trail head). It's a great way to save some time and energy on the way down and if the weather is good.

Joe and Ann arriving at 17 km.

Joe and Ann arriving at 17 km.

Going down the shortcut and adding a little show ...

Going down the shortcut and adding a little show ...

Most of the shortcut looks like this with ropes on the side.

Most of the shortcut looks like this with ropes on the side.

Taking a little rest because the real tough part begins here. On the other side of the bridge is the trail head that leads up to 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut).

Taking a little rest because the real tough part begins here. On the other side of the bridge is the trail head that leads up to 九九山莊 (Jiu jiu mountain hut).

The suspension bridge over the 馬達拉溪 (Ma da la river).

The suspension bridge over the 馬達拉溪 (Ma da la river).

Remember the expression. You'll want to compare it with the one on day 3 at the same location ...

Remember the expression. You'll want to compare it with the one on day 3 at the same location ...

Taking a break after 0.9 km of steep uphill. I took a picture of my face here but it's scarier than a ghost, so I went for the one with the backpack only. Luckily there's still network coverage here, so you can share your pain over the phone. :-)

Taking a break after 0.9 km of steep uphill. I took a picture of my face here but it's scarier than a ghost, so I went for the one with the backpack only. Luckily there's still network coverage here, so you can share your pain over the phone. :-)

In the afternoon the weather started to turn.

In the afternoon the weather started to turn.

As if the steep slope wasn't enough places like this force you to do the Limbo - not an easy task with a heavy backpack.

As if the steep slope wasn't enough places like this force you to do the Limbo - not an easy task with a heavy backpack.

Ann and Max arriving at 3 km. One kilometer to go sounds easy but it would take us almost an hour.

Ann and Max arriving at 3 km. One kilometer to go sounds easy but it would take us almost an hour.

Never have the words 歡迎光臨 (Welcome) sounded so good ... After over 10 hours of walking we've finally made it to our mountain hut.

Never have the words 歡迎光臨 (Welcome) sounded so good ... After over 10 hours of walking we've finally made it to our mountain hut.

You see pure happiness on everyone arriving here.

You see pure happiness on everyone arriving here.

Beat and happy: 4 hours, 4 km and 880 m of ascent after the trail head. It really doesn't sound like much, but with the 17 km of forest trail in your legs you just want to lie down.

Beat and happy: 4 hours, 4 km and 880 m of ascent after the trail head. It really doesn't sound like much, but with the 17 km of forest trail in your legs you just want to lie down.


Continue to day 2 or day 3


A frog goes hiking: 單攻玉山 (Yu shan one-day trip)

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:48

It's been just about a year since my last hike to one of Taiwan's 100 highest mountains.

This time's challenge: Climb Taiwan's highest peak and come back the same day. The trail head starts at an altitude of around 2600 meters and 玉山主峰 (Yu shan or Mt. Jade main peak) stands 3952 meters tall. The distance to the top is about 12 km and the entire trip generally takes around 12 hours.

It's certainly not an easy hike, but very doable, at least if you don't go over the top with packing your backpack like I tend to. We stayed the night in 東埔山莊 (Dong pu mountain lodge), which is conveniently located about 2-3 kilometers from the 塔塔加登山口 (Ta ta jia trail head).

Unfortunately we had rather bad luck with the weather. The first five hours of ascent were largely dry but near the 排雲山莊 (Pai yun mountain lodge) we entered the fog and drizzle set in, which got worse as we hiked up to the peak.

A few hundred meters before the top I decided to leave my backpack at the side of the road and continued with nothing but a bottle of water, a small waterproof camera, and the Swiss and Taiwanese flags that I carry an all these trips. The heavy backpack had really worn me out and with the weight off my shoulders advancing was much easier.

We spent only a few minutes at the top to take the obligatory peak photos. After all, the fog was so thick that there was nothing else to take pictures of unless you're an artist who's heavily into gray shapes on gray background. Besides, it was too cold for eating, so we postponed lunch for a few hours half-way down.

Finally at the bottom, exactly 12 hours after we had started, we sprung for the shuttle back to the parking lot and headed home to recover our sore muscles and aching joints.

On the way home a strange feeling befell me: It just didn't feel like I had just been to the highest mountain in Taiwan. Hiking without a view is just not the same for the brain. Conquering the physical challenge was great but I'll definitely have to go back for the view and the feeling!


GPS track


Hiking log

(The altitudes may be a little off as I hadn't calibrated my altimeter.)

0300: Get up, eat breakfast
0330: Set out by car to the parking lot close by
0345: Start hiking from the 新中橫公路北側平面停車場 (New central traversal highway north side parking lot), 2595 m
0427: 塔塔加登山口 (Ta ta jia trail head), 2598 m
0503: 孟祿亭 (Meng lu pavilion), 2783 m
0633: 西峰觀景台 West peak view pavilon, 2988 m
0810: 排雲山莊 (Pai yun mountain lodge), 3406 m
1033: 玉山主峰 (Yu shan main peak), 3952 m
1040: Descent
1156: 排雲山莊 (Pai yun mountain lodge)
1330: 西峰觀景台 West peak view pavilon, lunch
1400: Continue descent
1545: 塔塔加登山口 (Ta ta jia trail head)
1556: Shuttle back to the parking lot


Photos

The 塔塔加登山口 (Ta ta jia trail head), the most commonly chosen trail for climbers of 玉山 (Yu shan).

The 塔塔加登山口 (Ta ta jia trail head), the most commonly chosen trail for climbers of 玉山 (Yu shan).

View southwest from the 玉山群峰步道 (Yu shan many peak trail). There are no particularly well-known mountains visible, but since I went to the trouble to look them up: The tallest one of the four round peaks about a third from the left is 南面山 (Nan mian shan). The one in the middle in the far back is 新望嶺 (Xin wang ling). And, peaking into the view on the right side, is 棚機山 (Peng ji shan).

View southwest from the 玉山群峰步道 (Yu shan many peak trail). There are no particularly well-known mountains visible, but since I went to the trouble to look them up: The tallest one of the four round peaks about a third from the left is 南面山 (Nan mian shan). The one in the middle in the far back is 新望嶺 (Xin wang ling). And, peaking into the view on the right side, is 棚機山 (Peng ji shan).

One of the few short sections of the 玉山群峰步道 (Yu shan many peak trail) where you need to watch your step.

One of the few short sections of the 玉山群峰步道 (Yu shan many peak trail) where you need to watch your step.

Most of the trail is in the forest and leads over solid ground ...

Most of the trail is in the forest and leads over solid ground ...

... or simply over rocks.

... or simply over rocks.

This probably would have looked better against a blue sky background, but the barren trees with their interesting shapes make for good views.

This probably would have looked better against a blue sky background, but the barren trees with their interesting shapes make for good views.

Dramatic clouds over 嘉義 (Jia yi) and 台南 (Tai nan). Not surprisingly we did get a little taste of their load later on.

Dramatic clouds over 嘉義 (Jia yi) and 台南 (Tai nan). Not surprisingly we did get a little taste of their load later on.

The trail is constantly subject to landslides and other dangers.

The trail is constantly subject to landslides and other dangers.

Because there was fog further up this section was really all the mountain view we saw that day. Nice, but not exactly why you go hiking the tallest mountain of the island!

Because there was fog further up this section was really all the mountain view we saw that day. Nice, but not exactly why you go hiking the tallest mountain of the island!

The famous 大峭壁 (Big cliff). It is very impressive when you look up but fortunately the hiking trail runs safely at the bottom of it.

The famous 大峭壁 (Big cliff). It is very impressive when you look up but fortunately the hiking trail runs safely at the bottom of it.

The 排雲山莊 (Pai yun mountain lodge), which is currently being renovated and expanded and should be finished around July 2011. Until then the only options are camping somewhere in the area or doing a one-day trip like we did. At least this way the amount of people at the top stays reasonable. In normal times you don't want to be there when a few dozen people are fighting for the best place to see and photograph the sunrise.

The 排雲山莊 (Pai yun mountain lodge), which is currently being renovated and expanded and should be finished around July 2011. Until then the only options are camping somewhere in the area or doing a one-day trip like we did. At least this way the amount of people at the top stays reasonable. In normal times you don't want to be there when a few dozen people are fighting for the best place to see and photograph the sunrise.

The other way of being virtually alone is going up when the wind is strong, the fog thick, and the view zero. Apparently I'll have to come back another day to take the photos I was hoping for.

The other way of being virtually alone is going up when the wind is strong, the fog thick, and the view zero. Apparently I'll have to come back another day to take the photos I was hoping for.

Update (2011-05-14): I've uploaded the GPS track to GPSies: 單攻玉山 (Yu shan one-day trip)