A Month in China (Part 12): Huashan


After traveling traveling around western China for nearly a month, this was one of the last photos I took. I decided it was a good idea to strap myself in and go for a walk on some wooden planks attached to the side of a mountain 3,000 feet above nothing. How did I get to this point you ask? Well, let's go back...to the day before.

Huashan Plank Boardwalk in the Sky

We left our little apartment in Xi'an and headed to the train station where we got on the first train to the town of Huashan. The town sits at the base of Mount Huashan one of the Five Great Mountains of China and one of the five holy Taoist Mountains of China and our destination for the next two days. Huashan is comprised of five peaks, one for each of the cardinal directions and a central peak. Each peak has various temples, shrines and even guest houses for travelers who want to spend the night atop the mountain.

Once in the town we went through our usual rigmarole of figuring out how to get a ticket (you need tickets for everything in China) then how to get up to the mountain. From where we were, there were two way to get up. You could hop in a cable car and ride up (about 20 minutes) to the top, or you could be crazy and decide that walking up the mountain, on stairs cut into the rock itself was the way you wanted to do it. We chose the latter. Living in Colorado I have done my share of tough hikes, but this was by far the most grueling hike I have ever done. Once at the top we sat around trying to catch our breath and estimated that we climbed somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 stairs, but I am getting ahead of myself.

We made our way to the base of the stairs and started walking. Along the way we saw more people that I actually expected. There were people of all ages and I feel a little bad now complaining about how tough it was when I think back the the 60 and 70 year old men and women who were trudging up just like us. There are a few highlights along the way, such as the nearly vertical, four to six inch deep stairs cut into the cliff at one point. I believe the story goes that there were two armies, one at the top of the mountain with the high ground and one trying to get up to them. The path up was blocked, so the second army carved this set of stairs so they could sneak up and attack while the enemy wasn't looking. There are also golden padlocks all over the place. These are supposed to be a symbol of health for your family.

Huashan Soldier's Path

Huashan Locks

Once at the top of the first and most daunting section you are at the North Peak. You would assume this is the top but no. The other four peaks are another two-ish hours of stairs up. Hooray!

Huashan North Peak

The North Peak of Huashan.

Fortunately we weren't in too much of a rush. Our plan all along was to stay at one of the guest houses at the summit so that we could watch sunset and then sunrise from the top of the world. We took our time and took in some of the sights.

Huashan Door Handle

Huashan Rays of Light