合歡山 Héhuān Shān; Feeding the Central Mountain Range Addiction

As my Chinese is progressively getting worse (as is my English), my Taiwan geography is slightly getting better. The more times I see the central mountain range, the more of an obsession it becomes. The more of Taiwan I see I realize there is so much to see on this one small island, you could spend a whole lifetime exploring and still not see it all.

Hehuanshan is a popular Taiwan 100 mountain. Within the boarders of Toroko National Park, It is located in Rén’ài township of Nantou county and can be easily accessed via Hehuanshan road. The trail head to the North peak can be found directly on the roadside, and there is an information station for camping or a rest stop before or after hiking. The North, West, and East peaks can all be done as day hikes.1358654508-67068071_n

From the Hehuanshan road entrance to the north peak (just past the information center), is a little over 2km, from there the West peak is only another 5.4 k. another reason for its popularity is the climb itself. The path to the north peak is not technically challenging and the first kilometer or so is littered with stairs and there are even ropes in some spots for assistance. Making it a good hike for beginners. Among the many hikers we saw a few families with elementary school aged children.

If you are not in good physical condition however, the first 1.3 kilometers is a challenge. It is a steep and rapid ascent, we did it in about 40 minutes making my knees ache. Because it is such a fast incline, after the trail flattens out at the top it is a good place to stop and take a break. Hehuan is a good introduction to mountain climbing because of this. If you have symptoms of altitude sickness after the first kilometer then you know to be cautious when climbing higher, more challenging mountains. In the winter Hehuan is one of the few places in Taiwan that does get snow.

 

The North peak (main peak) is 3,422 meters high. From the peak you can see the central mountain range. The same mountains you can see from the top of Nanhu, but on the other side. I was able to pick out a few mountains by their shape and location in the central range.

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The same mountains you can see from the top of Nanhu, but on the other side. I was able to pick out a few mountains by their shape and location in the central range.

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We had a good view of Qilai and Central Range Point (friendly Mount Doom) and could make out Xueshan (snow mountain) in the distance.

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Mt. Quilai

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Central Range Point

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What I formerly refereed to as “5 Rock Mountain” in my Nanhu post, but the name is actually Ganshu.  It was a really beautiful feeling to look at this mountain from a distance and know that a few weeks ago I climbed over it and beyond it. To look to the limits of your horizon and know you went beyond those limits.

Hehuan is very bare, so the peak and parts of the trail to west peak have no cover and are extremely windy. Many do not take into account how dangerous wind can be. It is a huge factor in cold and dehydration so be prepared even if it looks like a beautiful sunny day.

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The trail to the west peak is a little tough, a fast downhill, then uphill, then downhill, then uphill. Parts of this trail also have ropes for assistance. We planned to go to West peak but because of a time constraint we only made it just past the 5k mark.

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We stopped to take a rest and I fell asleep. There is no better sleep in the world than an afternoon mountain top nap.

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Though it is notorious for its bad weather, we lucked out and the rain held off until right after we got to the car. Driving down (or up) Hehuanshan road in the rain and fog is an adventure in itself. We dodged fog, rain, fallen rock zones and tourist traffic, all the way back to humid Taichung. With enough time in the evening to prepare for the next days adventure.

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