Passion for Pá Shān

The lesson last week for my year 10 students, sophomores in high school, was Hobbies and Interests. Perfect, I thought, we will have a lot to talk about. I found some interesting videos to show them about different hobbies they might not have heard of  before, and I could share with them all the crazy things I do in Taiwan in my own free time. However, every week when my senior classes roll around I forget one important detail; they don’t speak. So when I told them “I have a passion for pa shan” and laughed to myself, I was met with a room full of silence. Considering my ineptitude for Chinese I thought it was pretty damn clever. Pá Shān  is the Chinese equivalent to “mountain climbing” and yes I have a crazy hot love for it, rèqīn, literally translated hot heart (passion, enthusiasm).

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Yushan, Jade Mountain, has been on my bucket list for some time now, 1 year and 7 months to be exact. Since I have been living in Taiwan. With a makeup of about 70% mountainous area, Taiwan has 100 peaks that are over 3,000 meters, the Taiwan 100. Yushan, or Jade Mountain, is the tallest with a peak at 3,948 meters. Making it the tallest point in all of Taiwan.

In order to climb Yushan you have to go through an application process, which can be found on the national park’s website here : http://www.ysnp.gov.tw/en/

There is a lottery and if your application is chosen you are given a permit for one of the dates you have chosen. They often give preference to foreigners in order to promote tourism. Our small group had both Taiwanese and foreigners so we got lucky and received a permit for March 14-16.

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The typical itinerary is to hike to Paiyun Lodge, a 8.5 km hike with a 400 meter incline, on the first day. It takes most groups anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. Then you set your things down in the lodge and head 2.5 km west to West Peak to watch the sunset.

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I won’t go into detail about the struggles our little team encountered, but I will say we arrived later than expected, mainly due to some unforeseen altitude sickness. However, the walk was still beautiful.

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The next morning starting at 3:00 AM hikers head to the main peak for the sunrise. A further 2.5 km with an incline of 400 meters. My teammate and I left the lodge around 3:15, we went at a steady pace and made it to the peak approximately 5:50, just as it was beginning to get light out.

Hiking in the dark was awesome. We were fully equipped with headlamps down jackets, water proofs, crampons poles and an ice ax (as was required by the national park service in order to receive our permit).

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When I saw the first patch of what I thought was snow I eagerly shoved my hand into it, only to discover that it was ice. I didn’t realize until then how much I missed snow. Aside from our headlamps reflecting off of the icy rocks and made them glitter, we could see the moon over the peak and the rest was darkness.

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There was one other hiker at the peak when we arrived so we took our pictures with the mile marker before everyone else and picked the prime spot out of the wind to watch the sunrise.

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Thanks to my friend’s wife, we had our pre-packed breakfast and brought our stove to make tea (we forgot the tea so it just ended up being hot water). For Yushan, or any peaking, especially over 3,000 meters I recommend having some way to have a hot beverage at the top.

The way down was a little more tricky, we made good use of the chains available and were extremely cautious passing ascending hikers. It took us a little over an hour to get back.

We woke up our companions and packed then made our way to west peak.

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View from main peak on the west peak trail

…and back to Paiyun lodge again. Then we made the long descent back to the car and reality. We made the 8.5 km descent in about 4 hours.

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Yushan is a good starting point for anyone climbing their first over 3,000 meter mountain. It’s not a technical climb, a slow incline with a beautifully rewarding view of Taiwan at the top.

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