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Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), Anhui Province, China

3rd/4th April 1999

The trip to Huangshan, in the South of Anhui Province, began with an early (5 a.m.) alarm call on Saturday 3rd April. A short taxi ride to Shanghai's Hongqiao airport saw me meeting colleague Jim Knight just after 6 o'clock. We were soon checked in for China Eastern's 7-15 a.m. flight MU 5112 to Tunxi Airport, Huangshan City. The flight was delayed slightly and arrived at Tunxi at 08-40 a.m.. Sitting on the left hand side of the plane we had a magnificent view of the terraced fields as we came in to land, made all the more picturesque by the bright yellow flowers of the rape seed they were growing.
We had arranged for a local travel agent to meet us and take us to the foot of the cable car at Huangshan Mountain, and by 9-50 a.m. we had reached the arch leading to Huangshan proper. By 10-05 a.m. we had reached the car park at the foot of the East route up the mountain and we duly paid our RMB 80 entry fee and RMB 65 cable car fee. It was at this point that our hearts sank, as we were told that there was a 3-hour wait for the cable car! I remembered that there was supposed to be a "Luxury Waiting Room" for foreigners but the question was where was it and how did you get in? By chance we met a group of four other foreigners, one of whom was Harriet of China Team International who I had met before. Speaking fluent Chinese Harriet did the business and got us in to the Luxury Waiting Room. By 11 a.m. we were at the top of the cable car taking our first photos and getting wrapped up, as there was a cold wind blowing at the top.

Approaching the top of the cable car

We had some discussion about which way to go, but actually on Huangshan all of the paths are slabs of stone or steps, and you rarely have to decide other than by chosing one of two paths.

Chinese dragon with "Locks of Love"

 

Beginning-to-Believe peak

View from Beginning-to-Believe Peak

Our first stop was Beginning-to-Believe Peak and from there we dropped down to the Beihai Hotel to check in and to have lunch. At RMB 80 per head the Behai Hotel's Mongolian Hot Pot is a delight you can do without. The oil in which you cooked the food looked as though it had done 10,000 miles in the sump of a Shanghai bus! Jim was sick later in the evening and whether it was from lunch or the equally uninspiring dinner we shall never know!
In the afternoon we did the lap of the lake, heading towards the new cable car at Pai Yun Tin and round towards Flying Rock. The latter is quite spectacular and you have to squeeze past a narrow guard rail to stand on the base supporting the rock. From there we walked to Bright Top Peak and then back down to the Behai Hotel.

Rock Flying From A Far

 

 

 

 

The Behai Hotel is quite reasonable accommodation, considering that it is at the top of a mountain and everything has to be carried up by porters. Unfortunately they had no bar, so after dinner there was little else to other than retire to bed. Note for the next trip: Bring Food!

Looking down towards the Beihai Hotel from Beginning-to-Believe Peak

We rose very early to see the sun rising over "North Sea", but we were dismayed when we got to the viewing point as half of China had had the same idea! And to boot, the sky was grey and overcast. If the sun did come up we did not see it! After that it was back to the Beihai Hotel for a couple of hours more sleep.

 

All I need now are the porters to carry me!

 

Bright Top Peak

After a coffee in the Behai, we set off at around 10 o'clock for the climb to Bright Top Peak again. Jim was not feeling too good after the dodgy food but wanted to keep his options open. It was either return to the East cable car or to walk to the other cable car at the head of the West steps. By the time we reached Bright Top Peak, quite a stiff climb taking 50 minutes or so, Jim was feeling marginally better and the route on to the West cable car was by then no longer than going back to the East cable car. From Bright Top Peak you get a good view of the next two peaks, Fish Peak (Ou Yu) and Lotus Peak (the highest in the Huangshan range).
The path drops down from Bright Peak Top reaching a rest place in a small valley before climbing up again towards Lotus Peak. Suddenly you are at the head of a very narrow, almost vertical set of steps cut into the rock and there is no other way down!
Not particularly dangerous, but you do need to take care with people pushing and shoving on their way up as you try to descend. With a rucksack on your back it is almost impossible to get past the people coming up.

 

Looking back up the steep steps

This side of the mountain has perhaps the most spectacular scenery and as a side trip you can climb Lotus Peak. As I wanted to climb Tian Du (Heavenly Capital Peak or Celestrial Capital Peak), I gave Lotus Peak a miss on this occasion.

 

Looking back from Tian Du

After this the path skirts the mountain sometimes cut into the rock and other times built as a path sticking out from the rock.

 

 

Fortunately we didn't have to go this way!

 

 

You can just see the steep steps mentioned earlier, like a scar in the centre of the picture

After following the contours for some time we dropped down to the West cable car station. Here I left Jim to take the cable car down and I began the first part of the climb towards Tian Du.

 

Suddenly the path starts descending quite quickly through some really interesting gaps in the rock, a small tunnel and then out in to the open again. From here you get an excellent view of the near vertical steps going up to Tian Du. At the bottom is one of the most famous pines, Greeting Pine, pointing the way towards Tian Du. I was somewhat disappointed to get there and to find that Tian Du was closed, with a metal gate blocking the entrance. I soon realised that people were in fact climbing it so I set off myself to have a go. The climb was quite steep and towards the top of the first stage got a little exposed. Reaching a small flat area I got talking to another climber who told me that you have to come down the same way as the mountain was not fully open, so I did not climb much further. Not knowing how far the peak was, with the mountain being offically closed and being on my own I decided that it would be better to go down and to tackle it on another trip.

Looking back from Tian Du towards Yu Pinglou Hotel

 

 

I eventually reached the foot of Tian Du again, and started the descent proper off the mountain. Oh what agony! It seemed to take two hours or more down quite steep stone steps; at first your legs are OK, but after a while every step results in your thigh muscles burning! The point soon comes when you seriously wonder whether you are going to make it to the bottom, but there is no alternative but to carry on.

The killer steps

After an age the steps give way to small flat paths linked by 2 or 3 steps, a great relief from the continuous steps higher up. Eventually the path meanders down to a small souvenir shop at the bottom. What joy it was to see Jim sitting there and he promptly did the needful upon hearing my cries "Tsingtao! Tsingtao! get me a Tsingtao beer!" Did that first beer feel great! Is the Pope a Catholic! But soon I was starting to get cold as my T-shirt was wet from my exertions and it was already 5 p.m. Changing into some warmer clothes we eventually walked down to the car park to wait for our 6 o'clock pick up. It was nice to be speeding down the mountain knowing that the International Hotel awaited us in Huangshan City, with a soft bed and a bath to soak my weary limbs.

 

 

We returned to Shanghai on the early flight, Monday morning, after what was a very enjoyable weekend. Never mind the aching limbs, it was great to get out of Shanghai and see a bit of "real" China.

Arriving back in Shanghai on China Eastern