Day 8 – Mount Hua – Stairway to Heaven

Challenge Team Report By Advisor John Wong

Mount Hua or Huashan in Chinese, is one of the five sacred mountains of China. The original trail was built and used by Taoist monks over 1000 years ago. Now, it is a major 4-star tourist destination for locals and foreigners alike.
Mount Hua consists of five peaks with the highest South Peak at 2161 meters. Normally, the preferred method is to spend two days to climb from the very bottom, go to the East Peak to stay overnight to watch the sunrise, and then complete five peaks before going down the second day.

Because our crew has only one day, our challenge is to finish all five peaks in 7 hours starting from the top of the tram.

Well, May 16 was a perfect condition, with no rain, cool 12-14 degrees C, some wind, and without the weekend crowd.
Our 30 scouters were separated into 4 teams. Our challenge team of seven people started from the top of the tram at 9:30 am. We quickly reached the North Peak beside the tram. It was great looking directly south to see the Heavenly Stairs, Gold Lock Pass, East and West Peaks — places we would be visiting in the next few hours.

It was a steady climb to and up the Heavenly Stairs to the Gold Lock Pass. From there it we veered towards the Central and East Peaks. There was a nice forest canopy with many beautiful sounds of birds chirping. It was enchanting. When we got up to the East Peak, we peered down and saw the most iconic Chess Playing Pavilion. However, the only way to reach it was using the harness system due to the precipitous vertical drop. We all took the challenge and reached the pavilion and experienced how the monks and poets pass their time in ancient times. This became the highlight of our climb. We spent a whole hour just doing this short side trip.

After that, we quickly covered the South Peak. The vertical stairs with with three chains was amazing. One part was actually convex, leaving us hanging on to the chain for dear life. Happy to report all made it. Just before the peak, we took a photo of us curved up to form the word “Persist”. At the top we saw the beautiful Sangong and Sanfeng Peaks beyond.

Now the final West Peak. It was easier and fast from the South Peak. En-route, we came across an old man carrying a heavy load going uphill and playing a beautiful folk song using the traditional Chinese flute. We were instantly transported back to an ancient time. It was quite remarkable that he had constant breath and melody given the taxing condition. On top of the West Peak, we could see the valley and plain below. It was a long way down.

At a rest area below the Peak, we had a quick 15 minute late lunch. We bought some delicious crepe from a vendor. Snack places and toilets were well placed the whole way. Afterward we rushed down to the tram without stopping except when the workers with heavy loads blocked the passage.

When we got back to the Visitors Centre, the total time was 6.5 hours meeting all our objectives of both distance and time. It was a very good day! We set a high standard and met it. Our management and leadership training paid off.

Despite the rush, we still had time to take many photos and savor the many vistas and moments. At the same time due to the time constraint, we did not have further time to look for the famous and scariest Plank Walk. However, 11 members of our other two groups did managed to do it because they did less peaks.

For this trip, everyone now understands why it is the #1 rated hike in the world. It was a good physical break between the two intense mental challenges of Xi’an and Shilong.
Moreover, in entering a sacred place such as Mount Hua, we feel the spiritual sense presented by the natural world, the temples, the sacred symbols, and ancient writings. It makes us reflect in what is important in life and the Oneness that is. It is truly a refuge from hectic and sometimes stressful, chaotic life around us. We now understand why the Taoist monks carved such a precipitous path away from the maddening crowd to seek stillness and clarity of mind.

There was another team who undertook the infamous plank walk at Mount Hua.  Read about another team’s challenge across the infamous plank walk here!

Statistics for the 5 peaks and our specific clockwise route:

Peak heights: North Peak = 1615m; Central Peak = 2040m; East Peak = 2100 m; South Peak = 2161m; West Peak = 2080m.

Total distance travelled = less than 10 km

Total elevation change (hiking up and down) = 1600m or 1 vertical mile (excludes tram)

Total time including all sightseeing, photo ops, rest, eating, and bathroom stops = 6.5 hours

The challenge team: Kevin, Karina, Simon, Hazel, Nick, Eric & John.


Nick Pearson

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