What’s so Hard About Climbing 1840 Meters?
An attempt to hit the peak of the most well-known mountain in China…HuangShan.
Let me start with a brief summary of how the three of us decided to go. During dinner Thursday night at a Japanese BBQ restaurant I asked if anyone wants to go to HuangShan, then shortly after that I passed out due to an unlimited supply of beer. The next morning I was told we’re going toHuangShan on Saturday night and back on Tuesday morning. So it was set.
Saturday night comes and we’re all meeting at the Shanghai Train Station. At 9:45PM (the train leaves at 10PM), all three of us are there except me and Andrew are in the North Square of the station with the tickets and Derek is in the South Square with no ticket. Somehow we managed to run to Derek in the South Square which normally takes 20 mins and made it on the train before 10.
Now the trip officially begins. It was my first time sleeping in the “hard bed” (you can book either soft/hard seat or soft/hard bed). There are 6 beds in a stall, two on top, two in the middle, and two on the bottom. It was quite amusing for the first 58 mins, and the rest was…hard. Nine hours later as we arrive at HuangShan City, a travel agent approached us on the train so we ended up booking the hotel and bus through them but not the guided tour.
What was suppose to be an hour and 15 mins ride to the foot of HuangShan took only 50 mins with the bus driver’s superb honking skill. From afar, HuangShan really does look yellow–bold yellow and wrinkly like an aged tofu. Prior to entering the actual gate of Huangshan, the tour guide prepped a little test for us. It was roughly 900 meters to the gate. Andrew and Derek were one of the first to reach the top, I was trailing (dying) behind by at least 5 minutes.
After entering the gate our guide asked if anyone wanted to hike the next 4 miles or take the cable car, thanks to the test earlier, everyone voted for the cable car unanimously. From getting off the cable car to our hotel was 7 hours of never ending cycle of hike-picture-rest. All the pictures taken by me are of Andrew and Derek’s rears since I’m forever trailing behind them, and their pictures of me are always me leaning on something gasping for air.
Although we didn’t sign up for a guided tour, we followed along with their group. This is a much better method because we can leave on our own at anytime. The formation of HuangShan is breathtaking as is but it’s even harder to imagine how millions of stone steps were build. God made HuangShan and man conquered it. Between the two it’s hard to say who wins the battle…but God probably didn’t shed any blood, tears, or sweat. Very quickly the infinite amount of stairs got to me and I would pass out every ten steps or so. And while I’m bedding on the stairs, Andrew and Derek had a snowball fight with the 0.8 inch snow left from a week ago.
After 7 hours of dragging and gasping we finally got to the hotel in Xihai at a peak, cleaned up, and went to find dinner. A bottle of water (along with everything else) cost 4-5 times more than what they normally would because everything in the mountains are brought up manually by a sherpas. They are amazing people, carrying hundred pound worth of goods and still climb faster than any of us. In my mind they’re on the same level or respect (probably more) as any kung-fu actors on tv.
After dinner we went back to the room to try a small bottle of “bai jio” Derek bought before we entered Huangshan. It’s just rice wine but it seems to hold a special place for Derek and Andrew. It was my first time trying this bai jio, the aroma suggests that it would taste slightly sweet. It lied. It has this terrible after taste. As Andrew continues to stress how bad the after taste is, Derek was demonstrating that bai jio can be lit on fire. While all this was going on, we were watching Victoria’s Secret lingerie show on tv. This’ what happens when majority rules.
The next morning I woke up at 5:45AM to two lazy bums who refuse to go see the sunrise, one of many things Huangshan is known for. They didn’t miss too too much considering that there was no “sea of clouds”, but the short moments when the sky turn from dark to light red then to purple-ish blue was definitely worth 2 extra hours of sleep.
On the way down I couldn’t take it anymore and bought a wooden cane with “HuangShan” inked on it, to find out another 132 steps later it really doesn’t help much. Then we cheated 3 hours of hiking by riding the cable car again (your team is only as good as your weakest link, in this case, me). After 10mins of intense bargaining with a cab driver with “watchful eyes” we met up with our tour group again.
Besides a little scare at the train station because there’s only four soft beds left departing to Shanghai, the rest was pretty chilled. We ate An-hui food, walked around the local streets with people trying to sell us “MA-SA-G” in every corner, played some pool, threw some darts, Andrew taught us a complex card game call Shithead and 8 beers later, we were on our way back to Shanghai.