Hiking Mount Huashan in China
By: Elena Nacheva
TRAILS AROUND THE WORLD presents
Hiking Mount Huashan in Xi’an, China
Mt. Huashan is known as “The Number One Precipitous Mountain under Heaven” and one of the five sacred mountains in China.
Buses from Xi’an to Hua Shan leave the parking lot of the train station frequently throughout the day. The trip takes about two hours and should cost around 25RMB. Buses come back to Xi’an from the village at the foot of Hua Shan throughout the day for around 25RMB. Admission to mountain is 100RMB (in China you always have to pay entering in National parks and natural sights – different prices for Chinese and foreigners. The ticket booth at the base of the mountain is open 24 hours a day.
The most popular way to experience Hua Shan is climbing the mountain at night to see the sunrise in the morning. Climbing to the top of East Peak requires 4 to 6 hours, depends how fast you hike. It is not easy because it is incredibly steep and the darkness does not help. Thousands of Chinese people climb the mountain every night…Needles to say that my 2 friends and I were the only not Chinese I saw during the hike.
We started at 10 pm and with a few breaks we were there at 4 am. It is quite steep, mostly stairs, assisted by the iron chains along the way. At the time I didn’t have proper winter clothes since my plan was to follow the summer on all continents. I was wearing all my warm clothes but it was not enough, especially in mid September. While you are moving it is fine but once you stop, the cold gets into your bones. At the top, there is a small platform that cannot fit even 10% of the people so everyone is trying to get there as early as possible to get a good spot when the sunrise breaks the darkness. But if you are too early, then you risk freezing to death until the sun rises… After the first half an hour atop, everyone was jumping and rubbing their legs and arms in order to get some warmth.
As I lay down shivering atop the East Peak waiting for the sun to rise (way to cold and windy to be able to fall asleep), I understood why so many people had warned me about the hike! One of the craziest hones I’ve ever done. Countless times throughout the trek up I had to ask myself why I am doing this to myself – I couldn’t believe how steep and dangerous it was. The sunrise was nice, not the best one I’ve seen for sure, but kind of rewarding after all the effort. Going down was supposed to be easier but it seemed as difficult to my fatigued body that has been climbing stairs for hours., my legs were shivering from exhaustion but somehow we made it to the bottom, jumped on the bus to Xi’an, went “home” (home is any place you spend more than 2 nights) and slept forever.
Do I recommend it? Of course I do…But be prepared…warm clothes and thousands of stairs to climb… But its history, its scenery, and the triumph of reaching the apex of Hua Shan’s summit are unparalleled by any other hike I´ve done in the world.
Elena is a female solo traveller, that has been to more than 80 countries and blogs at Gone With the Backpack… “Travelling makes me feel alive, it is not a holiday anymore, it is my life now!”