Three big Baiyue 百岳 mountains in one day ~ Nos. 34, 35 and 66 of THE list! The Baiyue list refers to the list of the ‘100 Peaks of Taiwan‘, the 100 were chosen from among Taiwan’s 260+ mountains which are over 3,000m, and were selected for their ‘uniqueness, danger, height, beauty and prominence’ ~ an ambition for all those enthusiastic about mountains. So we did 3 of them on Saturday. Impressive, eh? Ah, but looks deceive!
In fact, these 3 peaks in the Hehuanshan range are considered by far the easiest of the Baiyue Peaks, mostly because the main road across Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range from east to west coasts goes right up to the saddle, Wuling at 3,275 m – which is right there at Hehuanshan. So, none of these peaks is more than an hour’s walk from the main road, and none are considered too strenuous ~ though the high altitude and weather means visitors still have to be well-prepared.
Meet my good friends, Jasmine, and her husband Kenny ~ photo taken on Friday at Nina’s Chocolate at Ching-Jing Farm (yep the chocolate is amazing, as is the decoration!)….
Jasmine kindly invited me to join her family group for the weekend in Nantou County, central Taiwan ~ and to spend this past Saturday climbing some of the mountains in the Hehuanshan range, our annual mountain trip. In June 2016, we went up Hehuanshan North Peak and the never-to-be-forgotten killer hike to West Peak (see that blog post here) – but until now I had never done the Hehuanshan Main Peak or East Peak. So for 2018, this was our challenge!
This is Hehuanshan Main Peak, viewed from East Peak, with the saddle / carpark at Wuling ….
Actually there were 10 of us in the group, and on Saturday everyone did different combinations of mountains in the Hehuanshan range. Jasmine’s amazing 77-year-old mother, husband and daughter started with the smaller – but very steep – Hehuanshan Jian Peak 合歡尖山 (3,217 m), which unfortunately is not on the Baiyue list. There were lots and lots of people on that mountain!
We all started off together at the car park below Jian Peak, near the Song Syue Lodge 松雪楼, Taiwan’s highest hotel (run by the Forestry Bureau) and looking towards Chilaishan 奇萊山 Mt. Chilai (known as Black Chilai). Our path started behind that hotel…
We climbed Hehuanshan East Peak 合歡山東峰 (3,421 m): No. 35 of the Baiyue. The ascent takes about an hour, and is really spectacular. Loved it! This is East Peak, taken later in the day, by then with its summit just in the clouds….
Mornings are the time for mountains in Taiwan, by the afternoon, clouds are rolling in and it often rains. We spent the morning on the East Peak and it was glorious, hot but with a cool breeze. This is the view from East Peak – looking west to the Hehuanshan road that we had driven up that morning….
Hehuanshan is a busy place all year round. In the winter, people go up there to see the snow, and in the summer they go up there to escape the heat of the plains below. Always crowded!
It is a major cycling challenge to ride up to the saddle at Wuling (3,275m). And so it was that the area was even busier than usual this past Saturday with the summer edition of the Taiwan KOM Challenge (King Of the Mountains), a cycling race of 105 km from the east coast at Hualien up to Wuling, starting out at 6:30am. Rather amazingly, it so happened that we were on the top of the East Peak about 11:00am right as the first rider reached the finish line, we could hear the cheers going up as he got nearer and nearer. Spot the winner below…
Until 1980, Hehuanshan was a military base, and the remains of the barracks are still there – see all those buildings in rows – a bit dark and gloomy down there!
On the East Peak is the remains of what used to be a ski lift – used by the military and elite, it was closed in 1985. But these days there isn’t enough snow anyway. Fascinating to visit the abandoned ski lift building….
There’s also lots of flowers….
In the afternoon we went to Hehuanshan Main Peak 合歡山主峰 (3,417 m): No. 34 of the Baiyue, where there’s a working weather station, also the remains of military fortifications…
And a road winds it’s gentle way all the way to the top. It takes only 30-40 minutes to get to the summit, and lots and lots of people make the trip every year. It’s almost a rite of passage for Taiwan youth groups, families and even toddlers. The place was full of people ~ including us!
And finally 5 of us went to climb Shimenshan (Mt. Shimen) 石門山 (3,237m): No. 66 of the Baiyue, which is considered the easiest of all the peaks in the area…
I had climbed this mountain a few months ago in the fog. And it wasn’t much different this time. This was the descent just before that big bank of cloud came rolling in!
By the time we finished, about one minute from the car ~ it started to rain. We’d done it in time! YES YES YES!
By then it was 3:00 pm and we sat in a traffic jam in the rain, not moving for over 30 minutes, as we arrived at the Wuling saddle just at the end of the KOM race, and all the vans loaded with bikes were departing down the mountain…..
On a good day, Hehuanshan is about 30 minutes drive above Ching-Jing Farm and resort area, and we had stayed there the night before, fortifying ourselves for the mountains ahead with Nina’s Chocolate, ha ha….
Earlier that day, Friday, we had had lunch at Tarowan (塔洛灣) looking down on Bihu 碧湖 Lake Bi, (also known as the Wanda Reservoir 萬大水庫) below…. how’s this for a lunch-with-a-view?
Anyway, as well as a chocolate shop, Ching-Jing Farm also has a new skywalk – so we tried it out….
There’s a great view from Ching-Jing….
We even saw rainbow colours in the clouds….
And dawn and sunrise the next morning were good too!
By the time we got to Hehuanshan ready to start walking on Saturday morning, it was already almost 10:00 am, but hey, it meant we got to see the winning cyclist of the KOM!
Thank you to Jasmine and all our lovely group of people for a great weekend, and especially to our 2 amazing drivers, Kenny and A-Kuei. Mountain climbing in Hehuanshan 合歡山 needs not just energy and strength to climb the mountains – but also skilled drivers with plenty of patience to find parking spaces! We finished our trip in Taichung, and Jasmine and I even managed to attend part of the morning services at St. James – her first visit. Then we went sightseeing in Taichung! And here we all are…
Got home about 5:30 pm. Thanks be to God! Such amazing scenery, good company, safe travels, and wonderful mountains!