Hua Shan, Shaanxi, China Week 13 22nd July 2011
Just for a change.


Hua Shan (Hua Mountain), apart from being sacred, is one big block of granite.

No faults. A single mass. A granite intrusion which started about 68 million years ago.

Its a major part of the Qinling Mountain Range. Where the South and North China plates meet. Part of the separation of North and South China.

Like lots of things in China. Granite on a scale I haven't seen previously.

Massive and sheer.

Just as well there's a cable car.

It rises from the valley floor rather abruptly and the valleys are narrow.

Thus, from the car park there is a bus to the cable car.

We caught the first bus at about 07:00.

The "best" times for photography are of course sunrise and sunset.

Missed both of them but took photos anyway.

The weather forecast was a 90% probability of showers.

We figured that a 10% probability of no showers was good enough odds. If it had been lotto we'd have won some money.

Towards the bottom right is a line across the white granite.

That's the soldier's road that we returned on.

The high point is top right of the photo.

The walking has been described in a US website as the most dangerous hike on earth.

We mention this not to elevate our status in the "how many silly things have you done in life" stakes merely to draw the distinction between walking in winter and walking in summer, and to suggest that our many years experience of hiking helps us know when to stop.

Another view of Black Dragon Ridge that we walked up. Towards the left of the photo.

Gazillions of steps.

And people, though not too many at our time of the morning.

From part way along Black Dragon Ridge (don't you just love the names?).

The steepness of the landscape is very evident.

The steps are a bit steep too.

Looking back from near the end of Black Dragon Ridge.

Beginning to sound a bit like a story of pirates and other dark episodes...

Its not as bad as it looks (well perhaps it is ...) but the old "three points of contact" was recalled early in the walk.

Having a degree in Metallurgy, and an interest in most things, I couldn't help noticing the quality of the chain I was trusting part of my life to.

Have a close look at where the two middle links meet.

They are both worn almost through.

My guess, from the hand made manufacturing signs, is very soft mild steel or iron. I doubt it would meet any chain standards I am aware of. Even when new.

This was fairly typical of long stretches of the safety chain.

I must confess to a more than fleeting thought that Doppelmayr (cable car manufacturer) had successfully trained the Chinese operators in safety inspections and planned maintenance. Silly me (I hope!).

Having got an over reliance on the safety chain out of our technique onward and upward.


This is the approach to Zhengue Palace.

Emperor Qinshihuang came up this way on his wonderings.

The mountain is one of 5 very special sacred mountains in China. So lots of temples.

Attached to the bars of the second window from the right on the first floor are two loudspeakers.

Much easier to have an endless loop for the chants than real people.

The people are probably employed by the mountain company - it took 3 to issue the tickets for entry and the bus, and another two to issue tickets for the cable car, plus lots of ticket checks.

There are four high spots accessible from the end of Black Dragon Ridge.

We tackled all four, plus the little one in the middle.

This is the ridge between the West and South peaks.

Yes, its that sheer on both sides. Yes, we were careful.

To put it in perspective we've both walked on snow ridges that are more precarious.

In Thailand we had encountered a wily old woman renting walking sticks to people walking up to a cave. She was very persuasive (though we didn't rent many others did).

We thought it was a brilliant business model.

These walking sticks were on sale at the top of the mountain, halfway round.

There weren't many being sold.

Round the side of the South Peak is a rather spectacular bit of track building.

The nearest we've come to a real plank road.

This bit is taken by Ali. I refused at the first hurdle.

More about the lucky red ribbons below.

Ali also looked down.

Just the photo gives me the colleywobbles (or at least a distinct sense of discomfort).

This was taken with the zoom from further up.

Just to the right of the right most patch of bushes are some planks. Three side by side, each about 250mm wide. Laid on posts cantilevered out of the rock.

Apparently its walkable. The couple that wrote about the most dangerous hike reckoned they traversed it in winter with no safety gear.

There were photos on show nearby of people on the planks. With a bit of extra safety gear.

They weren't of us.

So having flunked plank road walking 101 we retreated.

We were rewarded with a picture of a bird.

It was sufficient reward to actually see a bird up close, the photo was a bonus.

Chain afficionados will observe that this one is in better condition than the one shown earlier.

And a not so good photo of another bird.

It moved a bit quicker but we enjoyed it anyway.

Must have been suffering some sort of withdrawal from birds.

This is sparrow hawk cliff.

Or at least the lookout to be reached by pretending to be a sparrow hawk and launching oneself over a 30m over vertical cliff with nothing but the safety chains and some steps cut in the rock.

We've done similarly silly things in our lives, but figured having an accident in the middle of China may not be wise.

This is also something we didn't do.

Neither did the people attempting it.

They just wanted their photograph taking.

It looked something like climbing up the oversize belly of a seated Buddha. Over vertical at the bottom again.

This was the bit where the intrepid "most dangerous hike in the world" duo knew they should have turned back but kept going anyway.

We took the stairs down.

Some mention is occasionally made of the Chinese disregard for their own safety on the mountain.

The red ribbons are padlocked to the railing chain.

Leaving such charms will bring good luck.

On the soldier's road.

The complete road follows the line of the cable car from the bottom.

We just took the last bit to the cable car.

Not as bad as it looks (or so we kept telling ourselves).

From the cable car on the way down.

The queue of people waiting to go up.

The overflow took the soldiers' road. Several hour walk up almost continuous stairs with the occasional vertical bit.

Difficult to describe how abruptly the massif rises from the plain.

We retired to our car park camp site to admire the view, eat some chocolate biscuits, and reflect on another fascinating day in China.

Han Cheng, Shaanxi, China Week 14 23rd - 26th July 2011

Alan Sat, 23 Jul 11 15:05:28 +1000
I noticed many padlocks attached to the chains on Dragon Ridge, but wondered why they didn't at least use them to couple-up the dodgy links while they were at it!

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