Getting to the top of Jade Mountain....just like that! (Part 2)
By Josie Wu & Leif Hansen
Translated by Ann Lee
Editor's Note: In last month's Part 1 of this article (see www.taiwanfun.com), the writer overcame a variety of challenges to assemble a group to climb Taiwan's highest mountain and make proper arrangements. After driving from Taipei to the trail entrance, they were ready to begin their hike.
It was still before dawn at 2800 meters of elevation, and now that our party of four was facing the stone pillar that marked the entrance to Jade Mountain (YuShan), we were ready to start the actual climb. It had taken us about 45 minutes to get here in pitch dark from the main road, as it had been too early to do it by shuttle bus. It'd been a paved road, yes, but uphill on most parts, and two of our team were already groaning from the warm-up. A rearrangement of our clothing was in order now, to make sure we weren't sweating too much and thereby, catching a cold. Thick socks and "sport shirts" that help getting rid our sweat were put on under our regular clothes.
The way immediately began to slope upward, as we traversed the pebbled-strewn path along a ridge that soon became very steep. The stars and all the familiar constellations were in full bloom, a sight rarely seen in the big cities, and the moon was shining brightly. So bright, in fact, we could see the other side of the valley on our right, a beautifully serene image. The steep slope that plummeted to the chasm below, though, made us sure that our eyes were focused on the trail ahead, though, which by now had become barely wide enough for two feet side-by-side. Ever-so-slowly, the morning light began filling the sky, the valley and the mountainside and, eventually, we turned off our head-mounted flashlights and started using the available light. We were wary not to use up our batteries, as it would be that same night that we would have to return. This unfortunate limitation of time (normally, it's a two-day hike for this particular trail) was partly due to two typhoons earlier in the autumn, which had bumped us down on the waiting list for a cabin. It would also cause this trip, we'd find out later, to be extremely difficult to do in a day!
With the birds chirping and a fresh breeze blowing, we trekked in the otherwise silent morning for the next few hours with the mountainside and foliage still on our left and beautiful valleys, chasms and other ridges on our right. At times, an exposed rock face appeared, and with massive two-story boulders hanging off by who-knows-what over our mortal selves, we passed them quickly but deftly. Those parts were Wile E. Coyote's turf! They were particularly tricky as there were no bolted-in guard chains to hold onto and the trail itself we were walking on began to slope sideways, towards the abyss!
It was 8 am now, several hours into the hike, and time for a rest. My Australian, American and Canadian friends were all in different form. Daniel (Dalaipi) and I were the fittest and began taking photos and really admiring the scenery. Bohdan, for all his bravado and pride at being an ex-soldier and survivalist expert was panting heavily. Leif (dubbed 'the Thief' for a penchant of stealing a friend's cola and replacing it with whiskey as a prank), was resting on a rock, breathing heavily. He then confessed to not having slept for two days prior, due to his writing work, but we highly suspected it was his partying. We were also at a small entrance to a trail that led up to a lower-elevation peak of the mountain, that he tried unsuccessfully to convince us to go on instead. Daniel and I decided to go on ahead to our scheduled destination at our brisker pace, while Bohdan and Leif took their time. (To be continued next month.)