Distance Travelled: 9562 miles
Date: 29th – 30th July
Huashan is one of the five sacred Taoist mountains of China and is found roughly 120km outside of Xi’an- a 2.5 hour bus ride away (in China, that’s a short bus ride. If I hadn’t made it clear earlier, China is big). I had been advised that getting to the top for sunset was the thing to do. Sunrise is traditionally a big deal, and so the mountain would be crowded, and besides, who wants to be awake on the top of a mountain at four in the morning?
With this in mind, I arrived at the base of the mountain at half three, armed with three litres of water and a coat. This is a terrible arsenal for climbing mountains; that much water is really heavy, especially carried in an unstable, shoulder-strap style bag. And from the fact that I needed a coat, you can easily surmise that the weather was not exactly at its best. It was drizzly and cloudy, which would change into raining and foggy as I ascended into the clouds.
This update will be largely in pictures, as there isn’t all that much I can tell you about the mountain.
That evening, I only ascended to the North Peak, the lowest of the five around the mountain, arriving sometime around half seven. Once there, I discovered I had a problem. I’d foolishly only brought enough money to pay for accommodation at the top or a cable car down, but not both, and there was an inconsiderate but unsurprising lack of ATMs at the summit. Considering how steep it had been coming up I was loathe to climb down again, but on the other hand I didn’t want to stay up all night. I also didn’t want to go back down before exploring and it was getting dark- plus by the time I’d got to the bottom again there wouldn’t be any way to get back to Xi’an.
Sleeping rough was not an option, although I attempted it for a while, as the only covered area I could find (an unused restaurant) had clouds blowing through it.
I eventually capitulated and got a space in a dorm for the night. At RMB100 (about £10), this was the most expensive dorm I slept in while in China, and the worst by quite a margin. Despite being tired from the hike up, I didn’t get to sleep until 3:30. There were 20 people crammed into a small room, and no one else seemed to have any plans to sleep before the sunrise. The noise that 19 middle-aged Chinese people can make – chatting, eating, playing games on their gameboys – is quite impressive.
Given that I got to sleep only about half an hour before dawn, I decided that I couldn’t be bothered to join the masses watching the sunrise, especially based on what I remembered of the weather the previous night, and stayed in bed.
By the time I got up though, the clouds had lifted and it was a beautiful day. I had thought that the North Peak was basically at the top, but this turned out to be dead wrong. It’s only 1614.9m high, with the South Peak towering over it at 2154.9m. As context, Ben Nevis is a mere 1344m high. I visited the South, East and West peaks, although left out the lower Central Peak.