With three high mountain trips coming up, it’s seriously time I got back in shape and get trained in carrying a heavy backpack, get the hiking boots trodden in again and check if my other gear is up to the job. With that in mind I came up with this slightly ambitious project to ‘bag’ all the main peaks (and a number of the lesser summits) in Yangmingshan National Park before setting off on the first of the trips, in the third week in November. The list I’ve drawn up includes the 22 main peaks in the Datun range, plus a couple in the smaller neighbouring Wuzhishan range. I’ve been up all of them before, but the idea of climbing them all in a short space of time seems pretty cool for some reason, and a good spur to get fittened up for the high peaks further south.
I’ve left a major assault on Yangmingshan a little late in the year, as the northeast monsoon is beginning to affect the weather in this area of Taiwan already, but I’m a born optimist, and hope we can get them all done before the end of November. Any left-overs can be left for a good-weather day in December, and if the weather does its worse and the whole plan goes pear-shaped, well at least we tried….
Below is a rough (and I mean ROUGH) plan of action. Weather conditions will affect when (and if) we bag the toughest summits (Huangzui, Xiao Guanyin and, the hardest of all, Mount Zhuzi), so if you’re coming along please realize we’ll have to be flexible as to where we go on any particular day on the weekend trips. The weekday hikes are simpler (in that they’re mostly on stone paths and steps) and unless the weather is truly horrendous, they should be going ahead to plan.
This brings me to a question of fitness. Please note all of these trips are designed as get-fit trips, so we’ll be keeping up a reasonable pace. A heavy-ish backpack will slow me down somewhat, but please be clear that these are serious hiking trips, not casual jaunts and we have to keep up a minimum pace. I also have to work afternoons (around 4) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so these midweek hikes will be EARLY starts, I’m afraid. The weather is generally at its best and clearest then (if it’s not raining), though, so that’s a good reason to wake up early.
I’ll be sending out more info before each hike, so there’s no need to let me know if you’re coming or not until after I send out meeting details. If no-one has said they’ll be joining me the evening before a trip, I’ll either head out on my own or (very likely) give in to laziness and lay in, so if you’re free on weekday mornings and can join me, if even for only part of the trip, your company will be much appreciated.
THE YANGMINGSHAN PROJECT: THE PLAN!
THREE WEEKEND HIKES
Three weekend hikes are described below, in order of priority. The order of two of the hikes is completely dependant on the weather; if the weather on 12th or 13th is good, we’ll hopefully head straight to Mt Zhuzi, if not, we’ll try for it the following weekend. We need to get permits for Mount Huangzui in advance, so I’ll have to set a day and we’ll simply hope for good weather. More on that soon. The three free days I have are:
Sunday 6th November (possibly Saturday 5th instead)
Saturday 12th November
Sunday 13th November
1). Mount Zhuzi:
Just one summit on this long hike: the second highest summit of Yangmingshan (1,098 meters, second only to the two peaks of Seven Star Mountain). Mount Zhuzi is by far the hardest summit of Yangmingshan to climb. We don’t actually reach the summit itself (that’s within a strict military zone), but we get to the ridge very close to it, and that’s an amazing feeling, believe me!).
We need private transport to get to the trailhead of this one, which is in the middle of nowhere (an hour’s drive from Danshui!). If anyone that wants to do this has a car, please let me know. I should have wheels and 4 spare places myself on November 12th and 13th.
Don’t even think about bringing a big or an especially heavy backpack on this one. It’s very, very steep and very, very overgrown (elephant grass) near the summit. The whole hike is 6-7 hours, plus rests, but it’s a tough one, for experienced hikers only!
2). Mount Huangzui, Mount Dajian and (possibly) Mount Donggua:
Mount Huangzui lies within a strict nature reserve, which means we have to get permits to enter, so I’ll be organising them soon, probably for the 12th or 13th. A relatively tough one, the hardest bit is the way to the summit of Mount Donggua, which is extremely overgrown. Experienced hikers ONLY.
3). Mount Xiaoguanyin main and west peaks, (Datun Stream Old Trail), Mount Caigongkeng, Pillow Mountain and Datun Main Peak:
One of the finest hikes in Yangmingshan National Park, Datun Stream Old Trail forms the harder of the two routes to the three summits of Mount Xiao Guanyin, with some overgrown and very steep trails. After the peaks those with energy to spare will continue on to summit the two attractive small peaks nearby, and hopefully finish off with an ascent of Datun Main Peak before either catching a bus home from Datun Nature Park or walking down to Beitou, which would mean we’d have crossed the whole National Park in one day (tiring but certainly possible!) .
These are mostly (but certainly not always!) on Yangmingshan’s stone paths and steps, and are simpler than the three big hikes above, and less dependant on the weather, so it’s easier to stick to dates. If the weather is atrocious we’ll cancel, otherwise, short of injury or unavoidable conflict in schedule, these dates are confirmed:
1). Datun West and South Peaks, Mt Xiangtian, Mt Miantian and Mt Zhongzheng
Tuesday 1st November
Ascending from the north, beyond Danshui, and heading down to Beitou at the end, this route includes a lot of uphill climbing, but makes up for it with several of the finest peaks in Yangmingshan National Park. On a mixture of dirt and stone step paths. With an early (before 7 am) start we’ll be down early afternoon.
2). Seven Star Mountain (main and east peaks), Mt Zhugao, Mt Chigu, Shitiling and Mount Ding
Thursday 3rd November
We’ll take the shortest, most attractive route to the twin summits of Seven Star Mountain, as there are a lot more summits to bag today! Mount Chigu, rising above Lengshuikeng, is a rarely climbed summit with a featureless plateau of thick undergrowth at the top. Mt Zhugao is easier and has a marvellous view, after which we follow the ridge walk over Shitiling and Mount Ding summits, to either descend to Fengguikou at the east end of the ridge or the more interesting route to Pingdengli in the south.
3). Mt Shamao (from Tianmu)
(Tuesday December 20th)
Hat-shaped Mount Shamao sits apart from most of the other peaks in the National Park and is difficult to combine with any of them into a meaningful hike, so I’ve planned to make it the high point of a loop hike from Tianmu. We won’t be taking the obvious route, the Tianmu Steps, this time: there are two much nicer routes (the Banling Trail and the White Cloud Trail) which we’ll combine together to get us up to the trailhead for Shamao. A mix of dirt and stone paths again, with two attractive waterfalls and some surprisingly unspoilt countryside, considering we’ll be close to Tianmu much of the time. Will be down around lunchtime if we make an early start.
4. Mt Wuzhi, Mt Dawuntou, Mt Dawunwei
(Date to be decided)
These, the three main peaks in this part of the Mount Wuzhi range, aren’t part of Yangmingshan proper, but the first is on the border of the National Park, and there’s some lovely hiking here, so it’s worth lumping them in if weather, energy and enthusiasm allow. The plan is a loop walk starting in Waishuangxi (beyond the National Palace Museum), and finishing a bit further up the road, at Saint’s Waterfall.
Well, that’s the plan, so fingers crossed: here’s hoping for some good weather over the next few weeks!