A Day of Hiking HuangShan (Yellow Mountain) in China
Today’s guest post is from Ryan W., a Reach To Teach teacher working and living in Hangzhou, China. Ryan was kind enough to send us this story about his recent trip to 黄山 (Huangshan – Yellow Mountain). We hope you’ll enjoy his story and fabulous photos!
My trip started out on a really poor note, actually. I got to my hostel in Huangshan City (actually about an hour from the actual mountain…) late in the afternoon.
After arriving, I wandered around the fairly disappointing old town (just a few streets of tourist shops selling the same overpriced things) and then returned to the hostel and realized that I’d left my wool hat, which I’ve owned since I was 17, on the bus. And so, already frustrated, I proceeded to plan my trip to the mountain.
As previously noted, I was hoping to go to both Mt. Qiyun and Huangshan. However, after inquiring at the hostel, I was faced with a dilemma: they told me that the weather forcast for the next day was pretty poor, and that it didn’t look so great the next day either. As such, they advised me to wait a day and go see one of the nearby water villages. But I came to see mountains, and had just been in a water village during my previous trip.
Then they advised me to go to the mountain the next day, find lodging in the village at the bottom before starting the ascent, come down the same day, stay in the guesthouse at the bottom, and then go straight from there to Mt. Qiyun. But Huangshan was my primary reason for coming, and it didn’t seem like that’d give me a lot of time, so after some deliberation, I decided to book a (very overpriced) dorm room with just a shared toilet (no bathroom) at the top of the mountain and spend the whole two days up there just in case one day didn’t work out.
So, I left on a bus for the mountain at 6am the next morning. As we got closer to the mountain, I started to notice a thick fog. By the time we got to the mountain, this had become a fog so thick you could chew it (“as thick as pea soup!”) and it only got thicker the higher you got. I made the decision to challenge myself and hike up the mountain rather than taking the cable car: the entire path up the mountain is paved and has steps built in, so it doesn’t sound too bad, until you realized that the “path” is basically a 6.5 km (about 4 miles) long staircase!
This was only exacerbated by the fact that I was carrying my backpack with clothes, food and toiletries (when I reached the top, I was really confused about where all the steam was coming from, until I realized it was rising off my body).
The amazing part is that the entire way I kept running into unskilled laborers hauling supplies up to the top of the mountain on a pole across their shoulders. These men were honest-to-goodness supermen (“with calves like Tour-de-France riders,” to steal an apt analogy) and I really don’t want to know how little they were being paid for that work (see pic #1).
The heaviest-looking load I saw was a guy hauling up two massive kerosene tanks (far larger than the ones you’d use on your backyard grill)! On the way up, you could always tell there was something incredible just beyond the fog, which made for a few beautiful images, but on the whole you could really see next to nothing.
After reaching the top, I went to one supposed scenic location, realized I could see absolutely nothing, and went to find my hotel. After finding it and checking into my spartan dorm room (concrete floor, drafts, beds that consisted of wooden planks with an inch-thick pad laid over them), I tried to go out once again (seemed like a waste to be there and spend the day in my room) but then it started raining and I called it a day in the interest of having dry clothes the next day.
I spent the rest of the night talking with the father of a chinese family sharing the dorm rooms with me. He was really interested in talking with me and far overestimated my ability to speak Chinese, but he and his wife were both very nice people (the daughter was too embarassed to come meet me). We went to sleep with the lights on (I don’t know why he wanted them on, but I figured it would keep the cockroaches at bay) at around 8:30.
The next morning, when I went to listen at the window, it sounded like there was still rain, but my roommate went to check and told me there was no rain, so I hastily through on my clothes, said goodbye, and ran out, hoping I’d be able to watch the sunrise rather than just watching as the fog slowly took on a lighter hue…
So I ran up the mountain at 6 am hoping for the best… and my decisions to skip Mt. Qiyun and stay at the top of Huangshan sleeping on a plank in a cold dorm room: paid off!
I was rewarded with some of the most gorgeous sights I have ever seen, beginning with sunrise over the mountain and the famous “cloudsea” (see pics #1, 2, 3). I spent the rest of the day hiking around the mountain, seeing as many sights as I could (see the rest of the pics), until I realized I had to start my descent in order to make my bus and get back to the hostel in time.
On the way down, I met a couple from California (the guy is also here teaching and his girlfriend was visiting him); it turned out that they were staying at the same hostel as me, and so when we got back (and after showering off two days’ worth of hiking grime), the three of us got dinner together and then stayed up talking and playing cribbage until I accompanied them to the train station to buy their ticket at three in the morning (they were fairly concerned about nobody being there to sell them a ticket and didn’t know any Chinese).
After getting back to the hostel, I slept as long as I could (my feet were right next to the window, and the single-pane glass was doing nothing to help keep them warm), got breakfast, and headed back to Anji.
So, all-in-all, it was a very good trip, despite the few disappointments and mishaps.
Thanks for reading!