We did not know what to expect from Mount Hua (or Hua Shan, because actually Shan means Mountain in Chinese). We knew it was one of the five Taoist sacred mountains, where hermits would find shelter in ancient times, that it had five peaks to climb, and that it was described by Chinese tourist agencies as “the most dangerous mountain in the world”!
Trying not to take into account the expensive entry fee (180 Y) that is anyway usual in any Chinese mountain activity, we decided to give it a go, and one morning we took the bus from Xi’an to Hua Shan, 2 hours away. Our plan: ascend Hua Shan to the North Peak, sleep there, and the next day walk around the Central Peak, East Peak, South Peak and West Peak, and go down. There are some cable cars on the mountain, but we did not want to take them!
When we arrived in the city at the feet of the mountain, we bought some food to be autonomous, and at 11am, we started our ascension! It was a tough one… a very tough one… The first 3 km were a steep slope on a irregularly paved road, ok but not the easiest to start.
After 3-4 km, started the stairs… all the way to the top. Small stairs, large stairs, 90° stairs, every possible kind of stairs! It was difficult but we were also happy to enjoy the beautiful mountains around us, under the sun (lucky for us), and the nice temples on the way to the top.
We also went through the difficulty of the path which was a stair of about 300 steps, carved on the cliff itself and almost 80° steep. It was not so difficult because there are chains on each side of the stairs, but it was quite impressive! From the bottom and inside!
After 3 hours, we arrived at the top, on the North Peak (1600 meters high), and the view there was incredible on the peaks around us! The cliffs are so steep, when you look under you see the void. We had never seen such a deep view.
We had planned to stop at the North peak to sleep as there is a small hotel on the top. But it was still early so we decided to carry on our way to the Central Peak knowing that there was another hotel on the way. We did not expect stairs and stairs again, always going up. We went through the Dragon crest, stairs in the cliff with void on each side, impressive but so exciting! Finally, the stairs got us and we arrived exhausted to the next hotel. It was 4pm and we went to bed! (in a 20-people dormitory) We had dinner in our bed and went to sleep at 7pm (but it was not a good sleep because of people snoring…)
The next day, we woke up at 7am to carry on our ascension. We went through even more stairs up. And finally reached Central Peak (not very interesting) and East Peak (much nicer!). After this, we had a few descending stairs to the South Peak and then up again to reach the top at 2154 meters (the highest one). What a view!
Then we happily enjoyed stairs down to West Peak and a bit up on the cliff but it was nice compared to all the stairs we had already climbed.
Then we closed the looped to go back to the North Peak and our way down. It took us 4 hours to do the loop around the peaks. And we walked on the stairs again, this time down, killing the last endurance of our knees. We arrived in town at 2pm, exhausted but happy to have beaten Hua Shan. We recommend it for being an amazing gateway from Xi’an, but don’t expect it to be easy, in total we climbed about 6221 stairs up and 6000 stairs down, and our knees are still angry at us after two days! But anyway if you want to enjoy the view without the effort, the cable cars will bring you up there!
After that we went back to Xi’an, and after enjoying street food one last time we started the great adventure to the West along the Silk Road! No, it was not planned in our initial trip, but in Xi’an we could not resist to the call for camels, silk and desert. See you next in the Taklamakan desert!