Our long awaited hike of China’s Yellow or Huangshan Mountain was the last item on our huge China Odyssey tour and definitely worth the wait.
Huangshan is a mountain range in South East China. The range is composed of material that was uplifted from an ancient sea during the Mesozoic era, 100 million years ago. The mountains themselves were carved by glaciers during the Quaternary. The area is well known for its scenery, peculiarly shaped granite peaks, Huangshan Pine trees, and views of the clouds from above.
We started our morning with a 30 minute walk to the bus station and in the heat we were all already sweating a bit by the time we got onto the bus. The bus ride took us up into the mountains on a very windy road with bamboo forests all along the way.
In one of these cable cars we crossed valleys and traveled past mountain outcrops and over forests. It was a breathtaking view and I didnt want the ride to end.
The mist was creeping in slowly, filling the forest and giving everything an eerie feel. As of 1990, there were over 50 kilometers of footpaths providing access to scenic areas for visitors and staffers of the facilities. Luckily there are cable cars that we could use to ride directly from the base to one of the summits.
Once we reached the summit it was nice and cool, perfect weather for hiking in.
The Huangshan mountain range has many peaks, some more than 1,000 meters high. The three tallest and best-known peaks are Lotus Peak (Lian Hua Feng, 1,864 m), Bright Summit Peak (Guang Ming Ding, 1,840 m), and Celestial Peak (Tian Du Feng, literallyCapital of Heaven Peak, 1,829 m).
The vegetation of the area varies with elevation. Mesic forests cover the landscape below 1,100 meters. Deciduous forest stretches from 1,100 meters up to the tree line at 1,800 meters. Above that point, the vegetation consists of alpine grasslands.
The Huangshan pine is named after Huangshan and is considered an example of vigor because the trees thrive by growing straight out of the rocks. Many of the area’s pine trees are more than a hundred years old and have been given their own names. The pines vary greatly in shape and size, with the most crooked of the trees being considered the most attractive.
“To enjoy the magnificence of a mountain, you have to look upwards in most cases. To enjoy Mount Huangshan, however, you’ve got to look downward.“
We planned on doing a 3 hour long hike over the mountains and were geared with water, food and even walking sticks for our big adventure.
The hike was amazing, the scenery absolutely worth it. The mountain top was shrouded in mist and the many peaks appeared to float on the clouds.
Jagged granite peaks clothed in uniquely shaped pine trees create a spectacular landscape of great interest to artists and photographers.
The walkways in Huangshan mountain area are properly engineered 2m wide paved paths over the main routes from the cable car stations and probably on the steps up from the valleys. Handrails and parapets are done well, and that’s a good thing because when you look over the side of some of these paths, you will see a long sheer drop.
Unfortunately the walk included a lot of stairs up and down as we crossed the cliffs and walked through the valleys. These steps ended up being quite hard on our knees so I was suffering a bit by the end of our hike.
The hotels, restaurants, and other facilities at the top of the mountain are serviced and kept stocked by porters who carry resources up the mountain on foot, hanging their cargo from long poles balanced over their shoulders or backs.
After 3 hours of hiking we were all tired and sore. Unfortunately our guide Jay had gotten a bit lost and had to ask for directions. He then told us not to worry, the cable car is just another 15 minute walk away.
This turned into the longest 15 minutes of my life as nearly 2 hours later and countless of steps up and down we only reached the cable car.
We were quite proud of ourselves for surviving this very difficult 5 hour long hike but was in no mood to walk anywhere the rest of the evening. Once we got back to Mr Hu’s hostel we had a shower and mister Hu, the sweet owner cooked us some dinner.
Huangshan is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, as well as modern photography no wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of China’s major tourist destinations. Together with the Yellow River, the Yangtze River and the Great Wall, it has become one of the great symbols of China and I was glad to end my China adventure with this mountain hike.