Getting to the top of Jade Mountain....just like that! (Part 3)

By Josie Wu & Leif Hansen
Translated by Ann Lee

Editor's Note: This concludes a three-part account (see www.taiwanfun.com for parts 1 and 2) of a climb up Taiwan's highest peak, Yushan Mountain (3,952 meters).

An excruciating climb followed next, through the forest itself that had wrapped itself around the trail, which itself had begun to have gradients of around 75 degrees straight up! Only a few times were there arranged stones or "steps" cut into vertical logs that assisted us up. Gone for a while, too, were the rather cute metal "bridges" and wooden-planked walkways that helped us. Knotted and exposed tree roots, twisted logs, mesh upon mesh of broken rock , and an ever-enclosing forest had finally, finally given way to the sight of the Paiyun Mountain Lodge nestled on a steep ridge. There were now people coming and going, and notably, aboriginal workers lugging up supplies to the lodge. I even saw a few carrying furniture and an entire door up the mountain, all with harnesses of course, but what a strange sight!

We were at 3,402 m. elevation, and found it hard to believe we had really only trekked one kilometer 'upward'! The lodge was extremely minimal, having just a few pre-reserved bunks for the two-day trekkers, a stove, a few benches outside (no central, indoor meeting place), two rancid squat-toilet bathrooms, and one water tap for washing dishes and hands. Only these amenities to service the 50 or so people that were there. The tap was near the ground, and quite disgustingly, next to a man relieving himself nearby. Regardless, it was a place to sit down, rest, heat some instant noodles and wait for our two friends. It had taken us nearly 5 hours to get here and a break was needed.After an hour or so, Bohdan and Leif appeared, pretty worn out.

Our group then re-checked and re-adjusted our clothing. It had been recommended (especially by Bohdan) to have three layers of clothing for optimum performance in mountain climbing: a base layer of clothing consisting of polypropelene material (nothing cotton, as that would catch the sweat which could give you dangerous chills later), a mid-layer of fleece for warmth, and an outer layer of a breatheable, water-proof jacket. Bohdan, in his signature trait ("always late") of checking, re-checking, and re-re-checking his gear and supplies (his MacGyver pack!), eventually followed Daniel and me for the next two hours up far past the tree-line into an unfamiliar world up now-brown slopes, the trail aided by a wooden path that seemed patch-worked together, bolted and hanging off the steep mountainside.

A few times, the path seemed to disappear and we had to look for orange painted markers to lead us. At the very end of the trail we then had to use not only our feet, but also our hands to climb up and over the last piles of rocks and soil, until finally (!) we reached the summit! This last part, where we had to use all our effort to lug our bodies over to the top, made us feel that we were truly tackling Nature. At 3,952 meters up, a stone marker with Chinese characters marked the elevation and the name of YuShan and we quickly took our various flags out and took pictures. Looking around, we could see we were high above the cloud cover, and the entire country seemed lost under all that white, with a few peaks of other mountains jutting out.

It truly was a glorious sight to behold and worth the daunting effort to get there! Most people camp down at the lodge for the night and try to be here for sunrise, but even at past mid-day, the view was celestial! We sat down on the pile of stones near the marker and took our first full breaths at the top of this beautiful mountain. The air was cold here and we could feel it in our ears. As this was the beginning of winter, there had been the chance that it could have snowed here, one of the few places on this island to occasionally have such. There was a calmness up there that only the wind shared with us.

We were far beyond exhausted now, though, and knew we had all the way to go down again, so we stayed but briefly. When we arrived back down at the lodge, we could only rest a short while. We knew we would have to blaze down the mountain to try and use as much of the remaining sunlight left. We hadn't even time to share the dinners that the other hikers there were starting to prepare. We all desperately wanted the hot food as the smells wafted over us, but we began our laborious, though swifter, trek down.

Darkness plummeted quickly, and through the forest we could see the black horizon, with its streaks of orange and purple looked as if we were skimming the atmosphere of an alien world. We were nervous about the (turned out to be-) light rain, rock faces, and treacherous precipices that we couldn't see anymore, even with our head-lamps. Now it was a hypnotic march downwards, we being mesmerized by the light shining for hours near our feet, stone after tree after stone. It took several more hours to accomplish, and by the time we reached that moonlit valley again and the stone pillar at the entrance, we couldn't really fathom how far we had trekked. It started raining heavier then, but by a stroke of luck, a park ranger / police SUV cruised by and mercifully saved us from another hour or two trek down to the main road. Our pre-arranged taxi was waiting for us there, and we sailed off backed to civilization, 18 hours after we had begun.

PS1>> From March, 2009, if you plan to climb Jade Mountain, you are required to: a) Apply for your Mountain Entry Permit from the National Police Agency, Ministry of the Interior; b) apply for a Park Entry Permit from the Jade Mountain National Park, as well as receive a lecture on mountain hiking safety, field skills and emergency response. Attending this lecture prior to your climb will get you a "Climbing Jade Mountain" learning certificate and allow you to pass through the park entrance. Or you can sign up for this information online via the Jade Mountain National Park Administration website (see link below). Once you have completed the test, you will receive your online learning certificate.

PS>> Jade Mountain was recently chosen as Taiwan's sole nominee to the "New 7 Wonders of the World" category list, compiled by Switzerland's "New 7 Wonders Foundation". The Jade Mountain National Park Administration is encouraging Taiwanese citizens to go online (see website below) and vote for their mountain, in hopes of helping Jade Mountain stand out among the list of 261 destinations nominated.

Mountain Entry Permit applications:
Jade Mountain National Park official website:
Sign-up for Jade Mountain safety course:
Jade Mountain National Park Administration: