XueShan or Silvia mountain also known as Snow mountain is the second highest mountain in Taiwan, also in East Asia range, became my first target to hike in Taiwan. About the end of August, I started to look for hiking partner and finally got one about two weeks before my intended plan. To attain permit, I just need to book hut or shelter before other climbers do at Sheipa National Park Website.
As mentioned above, I had to book the hut for main track to summit, which is Eastern Ridge trail. The trail itself is very popular, the closest and easiest path to summit XueShan. after preparing some document, I sent it to the official two weeks before the departure night, and got a reply in the morning (pretty quick though). The reply said that the hut that I was looking was full, and they suggested me to change the day, or change the trail. Since I didn’t have another day to climb, changed the trail is the only option.
There are 6 different trails offered by Sheipa national park website, most of them must be done in several days. After compared them with original plan (East Trail) I decided to take Zhijiayang Trail. I modified the itinerary plan, sent it once again to the official, and got a reply in the afternoon. The reply says that they accepted my itinerary plan and gave me suggestion to add more day in my itinerary since the distance that I have to cover, and no hut nor water in Zhijiayang Trail, it means 4 days 3 nights in their suggestion. Considering the time we had, and looking at the time necessary to finish my trail, I was thinking that 3 days 2 nights should be enough for us. Even though I never had any experience climbing with that much duration, I felt confidence with my ability and had prepared physical activity before it. Hence my itinerary :
Day 0 -> Zhongli (20.00) -> Yilan (23.00) stay a night(07.00) -> Wuling bus stop (10.15) -> Police Station (get a permit) -> Wuling bus stop (11.15) -> Huanshan Tribe (12.00)
Day 1 -> Huanshan Tribe 50min -> Songbo Farm 70min -> Trailhead 150min -> Sailiangjiou Campground 100min -> Piaodan Hut (establish tent, at 18.00)
Day 2 -> Piaodan Hut (04.30) 60min -> Jhihjiayang Mountain 200min -> former site of Syueshan Cabin 210min -> Main Peak of Xue Mountain 140min -> 369 Hut 195min -> Qika Hut
Day 3 -> Qika Hut 50min -> Trailhead of Xue Mountain -> Wuling Farm (14.00) -> Yilan (17.00) -> Zhongli (20.00)
Those time estimations came from sheipa Official website.
departure from Zhongli, took King Bus to Taipei City hall, changed to Capital Star bus to Yilan, arrived there at 23.00 as planned. Sleeping and waiting bus’s departure to Wuling farm in the next morning.
7.30 Departure from Yilan to Wuling Farm. 10.15 arrived, immediately went to the Wuling Police station. after a walk for about 1 kilometer i had a bad feeling about this trip. the map they provided to us was way underestimated. Wuling bus stop to police station was a few millimeter distance and yet I had to walk for more than 1 km and took almost 20 minutes. It means there’s no chance to catch another bus to Huanshan. The Police processed my paper a little longer than my expectation, he also questioned my itinerary to summit XueShan from Zhijiayang Trail nevertheless I convinced him and told him I had enough supply for this trip. Got the paper, went back to the bus top, arrived there at 11.10, and no bus to Huanshan until 14.10. So we decided to walk and try to find a ride to Huanshan. After several tries, there was a car stopped by, I asked him whether he headed to Yilan or Lishan, he didn’t answer my question and asked me back where we want to go. I answered Huanshan, a village located on the way to Lishan, and he let us enter his car. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Huanshan, after thanked him many times, we found out that he headed back Yilan. Ah, what a guy!
12.30 at Huanshan intersection, as planned, we started our trip.
after few meters walked, there was an old man with a motorcycle cart containing beverages asked us whether we want to Huanshan Village, we said yes, he stopped immediately and asked us to ride his cart. It wasn’t that far to Huanshan village, however this old man gave us a nice experience and another impression how kind Taiwanese are. So, here we are, at Huanshan Village, looking for Zhijiayang Trail, and headed to Songbo Farm.
15.00 arrived at DengShanKou after 3 kilometers of flat trail.
an hour behind our schedule, we rested our feet, eat our lunch, filled my water bottles, prepared my backpack for final loads. It was more than 16 kilograms on my back, containing tent, sleeping bag, water, stove, cooking set, gas, food and everything necessary for this trip. At 16.00 we were ready to climb, some climbers discouraged us to depart at this time, since it was too late in the afternoon, and the sun started to fade away, we said no problem and we have our headlamps ready to light our way. Our target was Piaodan Hut at kilometer 7th, we had 3 kilometers already, it means another 3 hours should be enough for us, other wise we will stop at Sailiangjiou campground if we couldn’t make it.
16.30 and here we go, climb!
The trail was harder than I thought, so steep that we had to climb it with ropes, huge ropes with knot almost the same size with my closed palm, not only once, but many times! Some climbs almost have 20 meters length rope, and we had to climb it with headlamp as our only light source. Combination of steep climbs and heavy backpack took my breath away after few steps upward, my heart was beating hard, I could even heard its rhythm. After hours of climbing, we decided we can’t make it to Piaodan Hut Campground, thus, SailiangJiou campground is our only option to stop by the night. About 9pm we arrived at SailiangJiou Campground, there were 2 tents already established there, and we set our tent next to solo climber’s tent (later we found out he also headed to Xueshan). We set our tent, boiled some water had a dinner and we started to sleep.
We started our second day of climbing at 7.30, we met many climbers there, however Zhijiayang is their only destination. We were hours behind schedule, there’s no way we can make it as original itinerary, many climbers also suggested us to take a rest at Old Xueshan Campground this night and do the summit on the next morning, and we took the suggestion.
10.06, we arrived at a junction before Piaodan pool, another overestimation from sheipa website, it says from Sailiangjiou to Piaodan Campground would take 100 minutes, and yet after 150 minutes we were hundreds meter away from it.
11.17 we made it to the top of ZhiJiaYang Mountain, took a rest, some pictures, and had a lunch on top of the mountain before continuing our journey to Old Xueshan Campground. The path to the campground after Zhijiayang was a lot easier than before, relatively flat trails compared to all hikes we had been through. The trail’s view was amazing even with the hazes, we still able to enjoy the grassland, juniper trees, and dwarf bamboo forest, until the entrance to the black forest.
13.02 entering black forest area, from here the trail starting to get dangerous, small path to track, with a deep ravine to our left side, small mistake could lead us into trouble, beside that, thick vegetations worsening the path to make it slippery. Most of the trails inside black forest were flat, only the ravine keeps our step slow enough for extra precaution.
15.30 we made it to the Old Xue Campground, set the tent, boiled some water for drink, took another supply from the creek about 200 meters from campground (beware of humid and slippery trail to the creek). We slept early to prepare our final hike on the next day, beside the humidity, the campground was well protected from the wind at 3400 m altitude.
We woke up around 2 am, after prepared some meal and boiled some water, we finished our preparation for summit attack at 4am. The trail was dark and our surrounding was hazy with drizzle started to make my shoes soaked. At some point we were stopped with confusion whether we took correct path or not since the last marker points to the river of rock slide / scree. In our hesitation there was the same solo climber we met at Sailiangjiou, and he pointed the scree was the correct path. Surprised with the condition of the trail, it was so steep, some of them have 70-80 degree elevation, without anything to support but our poles. From here the only path leads to the XueShan’s peak was the scree.
08.31 we made it to the ‘Entrance’ of the main peak up to this point, the distance from the peak was 600 meters. Nothing visible beside the shadow of the Xueshan’s peak and the river of the scree, the elevation was brutal (most of them have 70-80 degrees elevation), the wind and the drizzle also worsening our climb. The only thing came out to my mind “There’s no way we to get back, the only way to home is to reach the top” I kept my self repeating those words, considering ZhijiaYang was a lot further to descent rather than the East trail as in our plan.
10.17 Peak of XueShan. Finally we made it, after series of dramatic climbs, without proper knowledge of Zhijiayang trail, really grateful we made it alive (T_T). The drizzle and the wind prevented me from using camera to take picture, thanks to my waterproof cellphone which still able to save us in this situation. There was no one beside us at the peak of Xueshan, we owned the statue alone :).
10.30 started to descending via East Trail ridge. After series of ‘extreme’ climbing, we found out the Eastern ridge was too easy to climb. The path was way wider than our previous track, no wonder this track is the most popular track. the distance to cover from the peak to the trail head was 10.9km, at 7th km (3.9 km from the peak) lays 369 hut, the most popular hut on XueShan. The track inside black forest surprised me as well, beside the wide track, there’s no ravine as we found previously. The itinerary suggestion from the peak to 369 hut was 100 minutes, however the 369 hut visible in our sight at 14.30, and we made it to the hut after 15.00. We took a rest, lunch, and had some conversation with climbers over there. All of them were surprised when I said we were descending from Zhijiayang trail considering we are foreigner without proper gears nor a guide.
17.00 the rest on 369 took more time than I thought. Qika hut was 4 km away from 369 hut, glad there were no significant climbs between the huts, most of them were downhill tracks with tolerable elevation (including the crying slope), we made it to the Qika Hut after 21.30. We took a rest, dinner and slept like never before.
2 kilometers away from trail head. We made it 50 minutes as suggested itinerary (this is the only trail where we can make it as the suggestion), as there was no bus (as what i thought), the way to get back to Wuling farm is walking, or asking some one whose heading to Wuling to pick us both, and we chose the latter.
End of Journey :).