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Huashan National Park

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Asia : East Asia : China : Northwest China : Shaanxi : Huashan National Park
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Mount Hua (华山 Hua Shan)is a sacred Taoist mountain located in Shaanxi Province, China. It is one of the Five Great Mountains.

Understand

The 2,154-meter-tall mountain, true to its reputation as the "most precipitous mountain under heaven", is a cluster of five peaks with breathtaking cliff faces and a tough challenge to mountaineers. Hua is popularly known by tourists as the "Most Dangerous Hiking Trail in the World" because even though the climb did not require any technical climbing skills, the hike contains a few steep ascents with via ferrata and narrow passes. The biggest danger to safety is often due to overcrowding in the Summer months. Hua was historically the location of several influential Taoist monasteries, and was known as a centre for the practise of traditional Chinese martial arts. It is also one of the five holy Taoist mountains of China.

Get in

By Train

Huashan Huoche Bei Zhan (华山火车北站)- located in the town of Mengyuan Frequent minibuses between the train station and Hua Shan (华山)

  • Luoyang - takes about 4-5 hours
  • Taiyuan Takes about 9 hours
  • Xian - takes about 30min -3 hours, depending on the train and time. Below is a partial schedule of Apr 2012, taken directly from the Chinese Railway website, that only includes the fast D and G trains and the first and last train:
  1. K1295/K1298 Yinchuan Guangzhou 01:55 03:20 0d01h25m
  2. D1002 Xian North Zhengzhou 08:15 08:56 0d00h41m
  3. D1022 Xian North Luoyang 08:40 09:22 0d00h42m
  4. G2004 Xian North Zhengzhou 09:05 09:37 0d00h32m
  5. D1004 Xian North Zhengzhou 10:00 10:42 0d00h42m
  6. D140/1 Xian North Wuhan 11:20 12:03 0d00h43m
  7. G2008 Xian North Zhengzhou 12:40 13:13 0d00h33m
  8. D132 Xian North Beijing West 12:55 13:37 0d00h42m
  9. D1006 Xian North Zhengzhou 13:50 14:32 0d00h42m
  10. D1008 Xian North Zhengzhou 14:35 15:17 0d00h42m
  11. G2012 Xian North Zhengzhou 16:25 16:57 0d00h32m
  12. G2016 Xian North Zhengzhou 17:40 18:13 0d00h33m
  13. G2020 Xian North Zhengzhou 19:10 19:43 0d00h33m
  14. D1010 Xian North Zhengzhou 19:55 20:38 0d00h43m
  15. 2672 Xian Datong 22:48 00:19 0d01h31m

Ticket Price (2nd - 1st class): Normal Trains (K and Non-Letter): ¥18/$3 - ¥104/$17 D Fast trains: ¥35/$6 - ¥60/$10 G Express trains: ¥55/$9 - ¥90/$15

By Bus

From Xi'an: buses (coaches or minibuses) leave from the East side of the train station's southern parking lot. Buses leave regularly during daylight hours. These are mixed in with buses to the Terracotta Warriors, and other destinations. Ride time is about two hours and costs 33 yuan for one way or 55 for a return. Beware scam buses that try to charge 10x as much. You'll be dropped off in the village near Mt. Hua. From there take a taxi (see the get around section).

Be aware these are independent private companies, or just two guys with a bus. They don't operate on a schedule, but will leave when full of passengers. So For the quickest departure, find a bus already mostly full of people, since if you choose an empty bus you could be sitting in the parking lot a while.

The entrance fee for the National Park is 180 yuan.

Get around

The buses from Xian will drop you off in the village. From here, the only option is to take a taxi (typically ¥10 per taxi, regardless of number of passengers) to the East Gate, which is the ticket office. Buy your entrance tickets here, then board buses that depart to the mountain itself. However the East Gate will be closed at night, thus if you are planning to climb overnight, proceed to the the West Gate. After the bus from the ticket office deposits you at the mountain proper, you have 3 options for ascending the first bit. Note that all start, and finish, almost right next one another.

Watch out for scams, especially if you are planning to climb the mountain overnight to watch sunrise at the East Peak. The only transportation available then are cabs. There will also be unofficial "cabs" (basically normal cars operated by locals) called hei che (black cars) parked near the train station. Drivers will approach you offering to bring you to the entrance for a price of around 30 yuan. On the way, if it has rained recently, they will claim that there was been a slight erosion which has caused a blockage of the paths and thus closure of the entrances. To make the story sound more convincing, some may even pretend to call their "brother" or "friend" on the mountain who will then speak to you to confirm that the roads have been closed. If the weather is good, the driver will claim that the roads are under maintenance. Knowing that you would need a visual confirmation to be fully convinced, the driver will then take you to the East Gate, which is always closed at night. At that crucial moment where you are thinking to yourself that your plans have been spoilt, he will recommend that you stay in a hotel before attempting the climb the next morning, and very conveniently, there will be an "affordable" hotel right next to the entrance, which he will point out. If he succeeds in getting you to fork out money to stay the night, he will earn a commission.


1) Climb the North Peak--main route. Plan for more than four hours to reach the North Peak. There will be plenty of shops by the side of the path selling food and drinks for you to replenish your energy. Eating hot noodles in the cold will be a very pleasant experience.

2) Take the cable car (80 yuan one way, 150 yuan for a return) to the North Peak. Be warned - the line to enter the cable car often last over two hours - so try to arrive early. Thankfully, line cutting is surprisingly rare, and most of the line is blocked from the sun and with water misting, so sans boredom, it's still fairly comfortable even in summer. The cable car is only available from the East Gate.

3) Climb the North Peak--alternate route below the cable car. Called "Solider's Way" - it's the more difficult, but faster of the two hiking routes. This takes an estimated 2 hours, and is nothing but steps. It also contains one section with optional ~80 degree steps, for those who have seen the famous photos online. The steepest steps on the mountain (approaching 90 degrees) are also here, though now chained off in favor of a far more forgiving route.

These three routes meet up again just below the North Peak summit. One can of course, take any of the 3 routes up, and then either of the other two remaining down.

From this meeting area (just below the North Peak summit), there is initially only one route to the other peaks. This passes through the area known as the "Heavenly Steps" (上天梯,literally "ascend heaven ladder", "Sun and Moon Cliff" and "Black Dragon Mountain," the latter called that because it looks like a dragon's wavy back. The route is no more than a meter wide at places. This should take about 2 hours.

At the top of this section is the "Gold Lock Pass." Here the route branches. Paths lead towards the East, South, Center and West Peaks, as well as other points of interest. As most of the elevation gain is done, the final ascent to each of the peaks is not too severe. You likely only have time to climb one (probably the South, the highest) or walk a circuit. In this are there are temples, lodges and other sites. This includes the infamous Changkong Boardwalk.

See

  • Green Dragon Ridge - (Canglong Feng) narrow rock ridge with vertical cliffs on both sides (not for the faint of heart)
  • North Peak - (Bei Feng) the first of the five mountain peaks

Do

  • Watch the sun rise from East Peak (Dong Feng) by attempting a night hike. It won't be as crowded as during the daytime, but you will see other hikers ascending as well. Be sure to bring along a flashlight, spare batteries and warm clothing. Such equipment can be rented from a store along the road leading to the West Gate entrance. Check the weather forecast before climbing because a rainy night will result in dense fog in the early morning which conceals the sunrise.
  • At East Peak, prepare yourself mentally as you ascend the famous yun ding, which are narrow steps half the length of your feet, carved into the stone, and stacked up at an angle so sharp that you are virtually climbing a stone ladder. Experience the thrill of clinging onto the iron chains by the side of the path with your arms, while slowly groping for a foothold on the slippery steps.
  • Next morning, walk from East Peak to the other peaks, where the scenery changes from rock outcrops to lush foliage (in spring). The mist will gradually fade away to reveal a breathtaking expanse of valleys if you look over the edge of the cliffs. Indulge in a sense of satisfaction as you survey the arduously long journey you had completed during the night.
  • With a safety harness (since 2005!) walk out on the 长空栈道 (Changkong zhandao, "Vast Sky Plank Walk"). Climb a ladder that's nothing more steel rods driven into a crack in the rock, and walk on planks a foot wide along the edge of a cliff dropping thousands of feet, and in places put you trust in footholds carved into the rock.

Buy

A golden lock at the golden lock temple and add it to the iron railings as a prayer for your family. Couples also often buy locks and inscribe their names on them as a symbol of everlasting love. While people symbolically place their locks at the golden lock pass, many choose to randomly place them on railings by the side.

A gold or bronze medal that you can inscribe with your name to commemorate your ascent of the mountain.

Eat

Biang Biang Mian (Noodles) Special Shaanxi noodles available on the mountain. The character for biang is a special character with 57 strokes only used in Shaanxi Province. Small shops also sell typical snacks and drinks.

Drink

Be sure to bring enough water for your hike. You may need to buy water on the mountain which will cost you about 5 Yuan (up to 10 Yuan when furthest up on the mountain). If you buy the water before coming the price should be about 1.5 Yuan. Most people will drink Red Bull from small golden cans. This Red Bull is not carbonated and is a little more watery than those available in the United States.

Sleep

Most of the peaks have guesthouses where you can sleep in communal rooms of about 4 to 10 people. The price should be around 60 to 120 Yuan.

For a more authentic experience, sleep by the edge of the cliff at East Peak. The ground slopes upwards towards the edge, thus it is relatively safe to sleep near the edge even though there are no railings. Alternatively, huddle up closer to the metal posts away from the edge of the cliff if you would like a safer place to sleep. Prepare enough warm clothes as the temperature drops close to zero at East Peak, with the wind chill.

Get out


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In Huashan village, minibuses leave from the intersection of Yuquan Lu and Xitong Gonglu, as well as the East Gate that gives access to the cable car station, on a frequent basis. Although some guides say they stop at 7:00, unlicensed transportation continues. In a worst-case scenario a rickety village taxi could surely be persuaded to make the trip back to Xi'an for ¥300-500.

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