Yushan (玉山 Yùshān) , also known as Jade Mountain or Mt. Jade, at 3952m, is the highest mountain in Taiwan. It has also been claimed to be the tallest mountain in East Asia, but this depends on how one defines "East Asia".
Yushan was called Tongku Saveg by the Bunun, Mt. Morrison by 19th century Europeans, and Niitakayama by the Japanese during their colonial rule.
Flora and fauna
Based on the data shown on Central Weather Bureau of Taiwan, the figure on the right shows the monthly mean precipitation (unit: mm) of Yushan from 1971 to 2000.
Average annual rainfall in the Yushan area is about 3,600mm. It rains an average of 140 days per year, mostly between May and August. From May until the first part of June is “plum rain season” or monsoon season. Taiwan's typhoon season roughly falls between July and September. The peak month is in August. Overall speaking, winters are dry and summers wet in Yushan.
In the Yushan National Park, the precipitation is heaviest at mid elevation on the western side of Lu-lin Mountain and along the eastern bank of the Laku Laku River, reaching 4,200mm per year. Yushan is at elevations of about 3,500 meters. Rainfall is less at this height, averaging 2,700mm per year. Over the past ten years, the annual precipitation in the Yushan area has declined from 3,200mm to 2,700mm.
From September to April, the Yushan area is often covered with frost. However, due to strong wind, the frost level is not high, except in the valleys. At elevations above 2,000 meters, there is snow. At elevations of 3,000 meters or more, there are four consecutive months of snow accumulation. The first snow may appear in October and completely melts by May. Snow falls 24.3 days per year on average on Yushan, which is less than in the previous ten years. At lower elevations,snow may fall only 0.6 days per year. Snow mostly falls in January and February.
There are two basic routes to the top (see also "Get out"):
If you take the main route, you can park in three different places and reach the trailhead differently:
Climbing Yushan requires both a park entry permit from the park authorities and a mountain climbing permit from the police. Online application is available. Here are the steps for online application:
Getting from the Tatajia Visitor Center to the trailhead, a journey of over 2km, can be done on foot, or by a regular shuttle service that costs NT$100.
The hiking trail leading from the trailhead at Tatajia Anbu to Paiyun Lodge is 8.5km long. Paiyun Lodge at an elevation of 3402 metres is located below the west slope of Yushan Main Peak and is an important base for climbing the Yushan Peaks.
As high mountain hikes go, it is relatively easy, with few steep or technical sections. In some sections the trail goes downhill, and there are plenty of level grade sections. The trail is clearly marked, with a distance post every half km showing distance traveled and distance remaining. There are also some interpretive signs on the way, explaining the flora and geology with varying degrees of informativeness. Along the way there's a side trail to Yushan Front Peak, which can be explored by those with the time and energy. It takes 4 to 8 hours to reach the lodge from the trailhead, depending on fitness level.
The trail from Paiyun Lodge to the peak is 2.4km long. It only starts becoming technical around the last half kilometer or so, with the last 200 meters being the steepest and most difficult section...though by high mountain standards, still relatively easy. It takes 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the peak from the lodge.
It is relatively easy for the fit to reach the peak in one day. The process is as follows:
1. Apply for your permit. This must be done a minimum of 7days in advance, even though the permit will be granted before then. The most efficient way to do this is online via the National Park website. To get the permit you have to send a picture of yourself on top of another peak above 3000m and write a short itinerary e.g. "Day 1 - registration at Tatajia police station, overnight at Dongpu Villa Hostel. Day 2: hike Yushan, returning to Tatajia before 5pm." You also need to tell them you have insurance for hiking at this altitude (not checked), tick the box saying you have a GPS (not checked, and your smartphone should count as a GPS anyway) and promise to carry all your rubbish back down the mountain (fair enough). Have a "training plan" made up - e.g. run 5km every other day - although you almost certainly won't be asked for this either.
2. If your permit application is successful you will receive notice via email - similarly if any changes or additional information is required you can amend your application online. Once you have notice of the granting of the permit go back to the National Park website and print it off (printing can be done in any 7/11).
3. Getting to Tatajia - you can take a bus to Alishan from Chiayi or Sun Moon Lake and hitchhike from there (many birdwatchers visit Tatajia on day trips), or take a train to Chiayi and rent a motorbike from opposite the train station. It is approximately 95km/3-5hours on a motorbike to Tatajia from Chiayi, depending on your experience.
4. Bring your permit to the police station for registration. You will need to show your passport and provide a Taiwanese telephone number.
5. Bring your new stamped paperwork to the Visitor Center next door and receive another piece of paper. This is where you may or may not have to watch a safety video, depending on the mood of the employee.
6. Check in to Dongpu Villa Hostel, NT300/night. It is not signposted in English, but you will see it on the National Park maps - it's down a hill opposite the turn-off for the police station. Midweek there should be plenty beds available here, but maybe better to book ahead at weekends. Chinese required for phone bookings!
7. Wake up early and start your climb. You can take your vehicle (if you have one) and park it in the car park opposite the police station turn-off at Tatajia Saddle, but you will have to walk the 2.8km to the trailhead as there won't be any buses early in the morning. What time you start is up to you, you don't have to show your permit until you get to Paiyun Lodge.
8. Once you return to the trailhead having conquered the peak you can choose to walk the last 2.8km back to the car park or take one of the "shuttle buses" (Mitsubishi Delica vans).
Total distance covered is 27.4km (if you don't catch the shuttle bus), and the elevation change is about 1,400m. There are only really a couple of steep sections before Paiyun Lodge and there are even some downhill sections - e.g. the second half of the walk from the Tatajia Saddle to the trailhead. Without running, a one-day ascent and return to Tatajia Saddle should take between 8-10hours, allowing for photo-taking and rest stops. Once back, you can choose to overnight in Dongpu Villa Hostel again, or move on e.g. to Chiayi.
Yushan is one of the favorites among Taiwanese mountain climbers. It also attracts climbers from all over the world. With panoramic views, overlapping mountains, and deep, plunging valleys, Yushan National Parkis well known for its scenery, sunrises, sunsets, geological features, and views of the clouds from above. Sea of clouds (Traditional Chinese: 雲海, Pinyin: yúnhǎi) often fill the valleys, giving you the impression that you're standing on top of the world. Indisputably, Yushan itself is the focal point of the Park.
If you're content with just seeing Yushan from a distance, the best thing to do is to head over to neighboring Alishan and witness the famous sunrise from there.
Between the months of March and May, visitors have the chance to see processions of butterflies fluttering through mountain valleys.
The North Peak is home to Taiwan's highest permanently occupied building, the Yushan Weather Station, where the occasional visitors are given a warm welcome.
Carry enough food for your hike - purchase it before arriving in the park. The nearest shops are in Alishan, 25km away and you have to pay a NT200 entrance permit to enter the town itself. There is a petrol station on the main road that doesn't require paying the NT200, but the choices there are VERY limited.
Paiyun Lodge offer breakfast for NT150, lunch and dinner for NT300 if you are staying there (April 2014).
Water is available for sale at Dongpu Villa Hostel and Paiyun Lodge, and there is a water dispenser outside the Visitor Center. Be sure to bring enough of it for your hike.
Before going up, you will be shown a safety video in the Visitor Center (edit: April 2014 this no longer seems to happen). Heed the safety instructions presented therein. If you hire a guide (not necessary, the trail is very well marked in both Chinese and English), follow his instructions to stay safe.
Use common sense. Stay on the trail, hold onto the ropes and chains when available, bring food, water, raingear, warm clothing and a flashlight/headlamp, and do not feed the wildlife. Keep updated on weather conditions.
It pays to be in good health and physically fit to take on this trail. To someone who has not done any strenuous exercise in ages, it may be very challenging. Prior training is advisable. But to the moderately experienced day-hiker, it may be quite easy.
Beware of the signs of altitude sickness and take precautions.
Cell phone reception is spotty, but is available on many sections of the trail. In case of emergency, you can call one of several numbers provided on your permit. The numbers are also available at the Visitor Center and on the sign at the trailhead.
After viewing the magnificent sunrise, some people retrace the route down to Paiyun Lodge and Tatachia Visitor Center, while some continue down the other side of the mountain to the hot spring town of Tungpu (東埔). This route involves a walk of about 1 hour along the Batongguan Historic Trail (八通關古道) which was built in 1875.
Leaving the peak, climbers follow a branch of the Batongguan Historic Trail (八通關古道) that leads 6.5km down the east face of the mountain to where it joins the main trail. On the trail leading all the way down to Tungpu, climbers will discover many spectacular scenes including several waterfalls, one of which cascades down the mountain in seven steps and is known as Seven Threads Waterfall (七絲瀑布; also known as 乙女瀑布).
Under to Tungpu is Yunlong Waterfall(雲龍瀑布), which drops 50 meters over a stone cliff, runs under a wooden bridge, and then drops another 70 meters.
The final stop of the trail is carved into the vertical face of Fuzi Cliff (父子斷崖), after which the trail crosses the Chenyoulan River (陳有蘭溪) and leads into the town of Tungpu.