Having growing up in Hong Kong and watching all those old kung fu movies in the 80’s and 90’s, I couldn’t help but to think that visiting a nice mountain in China would be a good idea. Why? Yes, some of the old fictional kung fu movies always featured grand masters training in sacred temples hidden in some magnificent mountains right? And the sceneries were always breathtakingly beautiful, well, at least that’s how I remembered them in the movies. So when we were researching our China trip, I thought, why not try to fit in a mountain hike in our already packed schedule?
There were two mountains that we could visit: Mount Huang (or Huang Shan) and Mount Hua (or Hua Shan). The former was a bit further than we could travel in the East from Luoyang. Mount Hua was a lot closer by comparison and it was near Xi’an. So we decided.
There were only two ways to visit the Mountain. First option would be by public bus/coach, which we didn’t think it wast practical nor it would be a guaranteed ride either. What I meant was that there were only one or two (I couldn’t remember) buses that would leave Xi’an every morning and the same for the returning journey. So it’s impractical if the bus is full. I’d read stories about people missing their trip because of this. Also the journey is fairly far, at least three hours by bus, umm.. that could be painful. Another option was private hire. It’s probably the most flexible and secured way to get to Hua Shan, especially when we had a group of six. So we hired a van, with the same people who took us to see the Terracotta Warriors but this time we didn’t have an ANGRY CHIEF! hahaha.
Because it was a day trip, (which I don’t recommend this option and I will tell you later) we had to set off pretty early. Since we were a group, we needed extra time for preparation. One negative of sharing a holiday apartment was toilet facility. Sharing one toilet among six adults could prove to be problematic. It took almost an hour and a half to get ready every morning! No joke here. So our agreed pick up time was 6:30am but we had to get up around 5am to get ready. Still, we didn’t leave the door until 7am!
I guessed getting up early during holiday wasn’t a bad experience because of the excitement. But as soon as we got into the van, everyone fell asleep. The few hours drive was a little boring but when I woke up after a short nap (I could never sleep in a car for too long), I noticed something rather interesting. Road signs, and there were lots of them. Why would I be surprised to see road signs? It was because they were very pictorial and funny. I took all of the different signs that I could see along the motorway. Really, you have to see them (in my gallery below!).
When we finally reach the foot of Mount Hua, we immediately took the cable car up to the North summit, the lowest of all five peaks. Yes, we cheated because we didn’t have time to hike up. This was the reason I mentioned earlier that a day trip was a bad idea but we had no choice because a few of us weren’t too keen on the idea of hiking up a large mountain through the night nor staying there for a night! Ummm.. but if you do some research, there are lots of people actually stayed at a nearby village overnight and hike up in the middle of the night to see sun rise! I know it would be tough but hey, it’s an experience that will last a life time! I would do it, plus I was reasonably fit (back then).
The cable car was quite and we could see the famous Soldier’s trail from our cabin. It looked dangerous, covered in ice in parts, and scary! The cable car journey to the North summit took a mere 10 minutes or so. But when we exited the station, we were greeted by a very lovely mountainous view. North summit was the lowest peak and at 1614m, we already felt the scale of Mount Hua and I knew the view could only get better! I guessed after Zhang Jia Jie, we had some experience on hiking up high altitude and the rapid change in temperature and weather. So we were all prepared for the worst, but surprisingly we saw many locals wore simple clothings and trainers, one woman was even on high heels!!!! Were we over dressed for the occasion? Well, I’d rather be ready though right?
Mount Hua has five peaks. Centre, North, East, West and South. The South peak was the highest at 2154m. It would be a day hike, with average speed, to visit all five peaks in a day but it’s totally achievable. Hence we cheated with the cable car. However, if you plan to do this in a day, remember to check the last return car from Centre peak. If you miss it, you will either stay at the mountain, which they have hotels up there (Yes!! They do!) or you will have to hike back down in pitch black.
As a photographer, I was never short of gear and I did take a few ‘equipment’ with me for this trip. I had my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II L USM, Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM, Canon 580 EX II flash and a Manfrotto tripod all stuffed in my brilliant and lightweight Kata Bumblebee 222UL. It doesn’t sound alot but I was the only one carry nearly 7 kg of camera gear plus another kilo of personal stuff for a hike like this! That showed how fit I was!! But I never regretted it because of the photos I got that would be impossible from a compact. Hard work but worth every sweat I lost!
Ok, I have so much to cover about Hua Shan so I will end here for my part 1 and stay tune for my next part when we reached other peaks and with some amazing photos! Here’s a teaser!
If you have missed my previous blogs of China travel, here’re the links:
Gallery (Snap shots)
Have a good day!