‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ 2023!

The start of the Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse

When life gives you mountains, as they say, put on yer boots and hike. Don’t just stay home looking at ’em from a distance and dreamin’. GO! Get out there. And especially if you live in a big polluted city like Taipei, built in a river basin surrounded by mountains on 3 sides, and especially when the public transport system is so good, and the weather obliges. Make the most of it. If you go with friends, that’s great. If you go on your own, that’s great too. I often like to go hiking on my own, that way I can walk at my own speed, go where I want to go and stop when I want to stop. It’s fun! The mountains are calling, and we must go. So GO!

Mt. Qixing from the Balaka HIghway, heading to Mt. Datun

Just north of Taipei City are the Yang-Ming Shan 陽明山 mountains, and the ones that are open to the public are a long ridge of 10 summits, volcanic in origin, mostly very steep and some oozing sulfur from the fumaroles (that’s what you can see in the above photo ~ the sulfur smell is very strong)! All 10 are within the Yang-Ming Shan National Park 陽明山國家公園, with well-maintained paths and the summits all marked with posts. On the top of each post is a Chinese character in metal which can be rubbed with a pencil (like a brass rubbing) or photographed, and together the 10 characters form the phrase: ‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ translated as ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse Activity’. This is the official name of the hike, and Saturday was the day! The photo below shows the 10 posts, in order from east to west, left to right, with 2 extra posts, one of which is the post on top of the highest mountain on the traverse, Mt. Qixing, 1120 m.

The other extra post is Mt. Zhugao 竹篙山 which was part of the traverse until 2019, when the cattle at nearby Qingtiangang 擎天崗 attacked someone so the authorities enclosed the cattle and so closed off Mt. Zhugao, and relocated the summit marker to Jixinlun 雞心崙, where it remains until now. Mt. Zhugao is beautiful, and now that the path is reopened, I like to include that summit too ~ that way, it feels more like 10 real mountains, and the views are stunning on a clear day, so do include it if you can!

The view from Mt. Zhugao towwards Qingtiangang and Mt. Qixing

The 10 Chinese characters on the summit markers are Mt. Ding (“陽”), Mt. Shiti (“明”), Jixinlun (“山”), Mt. Qixing East Peak (“東”), Mt. Qixing Main Peak (“西”), Mt. Datun Main Peak (“大”), Mt. Datun South Peak (“縱”), Mt. Datun West Peak (“走”), Mt. Miantian (“活”), and Mt. Xiangtian (“動”).

And so there I was, on Saturday April 29, 2023 setting off at 5:20 am heading for the Yang-Ming Shan Mountains. Living in Taipei City, I can now get to the bus stop at Jiantan MRT Metro Station – opposite the new performing arts centre (see photo below) – in time for the M1 (市民小巴1) minibus that leaves at 6:30 am going up to Fengguizui 風櫃嘴, for the start of the walk at Fengguikou 風櫃口. The bus was packed out, and I was nearly the last person on, so I had to stand all the way up that very steep and very winding road – the road was full of very energetic cyclists. Don’t miss that bus – the next one is 10:10 am, so if you miss it, the only real alternative option is to get a group together for a taxi.

New performing arts centre opposite Jiantan MRT Station

That early bus is the reason why I’ve never before even tried to do this traverse from east to west, I’ve always done it west to east. When I lived out on the NW coast beyond Tamsui, the buses there didn’t start early enough to get me to Jiantan for that M1 bus at 6:30 am, it was just too early. So all my previous experience of this hike is from west to east. My reports here (in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) all start from the western end at Qingtian Temple 清天宮 and end at the eastern end at Fengguikou 風櫃口. Ending at Fengguikou you have the challenge of getting through the hike in time for that last bus from Fenguizui down to Taipei at about 6:00 pm – if you miss it, you’ll have to walk another 2 km further down the hill to Shengren Waterfall bus stop. In contrast, the S6 (小6) bus from Qingtian Temple down to Beitou MRT Station in Taipei runs far more frequently and until late in the evening, so it feels a bit less pressured to do the hike from east to west.

Lining up to get on the 6:30 am M1 Bus at Jiantan MRT Station

The weather forecast for Saturday was sunny in the morning, clouding over in the afternoon with possible thunderstorms and rain moving in overnight. In the event, there was no rain, it was just overcast in the afternoon – which was great. This hike is best done in spring or autumn because of the weather, the summer is too hot, and winter can be too wet, so a sunny day in April is ideal! And just a note about the pandemic, Taiwan has lessened its restrictions considerably, and as from today, May 1, Taiwan has downgraded the legal status of Covid to that of a less serious disease and disbanded the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), with its daily press conferences, resulting in some adjustments to the country’s Covid policies. The only places now where facemasks are compulsory are in ambulances, hospitals and care homes, but as the use of facemasks is a health issue here rather than a political one, so many many people are still wearing them, certainly on public transport, in schools and at work, and quite a few even outside. Some were hiking in Yang-Ming Shan this past Saturday wearing facemasks – they will say it’s now become a habit, and there were lots of people on the trails, and that even outside there is still a risk of catching Covid. Just to say, facemasks are here to stay for the time being anyway, that’s just the way it is.

We started walking from the bus stop at Fengguizui – 7:00 am was the time the bus got there, and we all took off from there. Many on the bus were doing the whole traverse, and we kept seeing each other all day long at different places en route. The hike officially starts at Fengguikou (see marker post above), about 20 minutes walk up from the bus stop. An hour later, at 8:00 am, I got to the first summit, Mt. Ding 頂山 (768 m)…

And about an hour after that, at about 9:00 am, so I got to the second summit, Mt. Shiti / Shitiling 石梯嶺 (865 m). What a beautiful day!

This is the area where the famous Yang-Ming Shan cattle live, and we saw quite a few. There are 2 kinds, water buffalo and Tajima cattle (distinguishable by their horns, buffalo have large curved horns in a crescent shape, Tajima have smaller, straighter horns) and they’ve been living up there since the days of the Qing Dynasty. They are now semi-wild, managed by the National Park authorities. The sorry saga in 2020 of how the cattle had become such a tourist attraction over the years that trouble was inevitable – and when someone was attacked and killed by one of the cattle, so the authorities decided to enclose them behind fences. But the space they were given was clearly not large enough and the grass provided insufficient nourishment that an unusually high number of them died that year. So now, there’s a different management policy that has reopened areas to the public, but with large safety notices, bollards to help you escape from any charging cattle, and a big education program to make people aware of the dangers of approaching too close.

Cattle safety bollards

Another hour later, at about 10:00 am, and I arrived at summit No. 3, Mt. Zhugao 竹篙山 (830 m) which is now fully open to the public, but the summit marker has no Chinese character on the top! The big round thing in the photo is one of many in that area, originally built for military defence, like a pillbox. The views are amazing, all over Qingtiangang 擎天崗. This is the first section of the hike completed, yes!

The hike continues to Jixinlun 雞心崙 (763 m), the highest point on the Lengqing Path that leads from Qingtiangang to the Lengshuikeng Visitor’s Center 冷水坑遊客服務站. There were several cattle alongside the path…

The path is very very popular and there were lots of people enjoying a day out in the fresh air. The only thing that would dampen their spirits is that the coffee shops at all the Yang-Ming Shan Visitor Centers are currently closed while they try to find new people to run them all. The visitor centers have water machines for hot and cold drinking water, also toilets and some soft drinks machines, but no food – so take all you need with you.

By the time I got to Lengshuikeng Visitor’s Center it was about 10:45 am, and this is the place to start the ascent of the highest peak on the traverse, Mt. Qixing. There are 2 peaks up there, east peak and the main peak – and both were heaving with people. It is THE mountain to climb! It was midday and very hot and sunny and at the top everyone was lining up for photos at the marker posts. First to Mt. Qixing East Peak 七星東峰 (1107 m)…

This is the view below from east peak towards the main peak – check out all the people on that far-off summit – and the mountains in the distance on the left are the Datun range, also on the traverse, that’s where I’m heading next….

View towards Mt. Qixing Main Peak

At 12:00 noon I got to the main peak of Mt. Qixing 七星主峰 (1120 m), with its 2 marker posts….

The path from Mt. Qixing down to Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Center 小油坑遊客服務站 is steep but beautiful, passing by the fumaroles with all the steam coming out – yes, the smell was terrible!

Xiaoyoukeng is about the halfway point of the traverse, and the path to the start of the second half, the Datun section, goes along below the Balaka Highway – it’s a lovely path, and often the place where I see snakes. There were no snakes on Saturday, but the weather was beginning to change a little, and the heat was lessening. From Anbu, the trail turns left and starts the ascent of the Datun range of mountains. The first (and highest) summit is Mt. Datun Main Peak 大屯主峰 (1076 m), actually the second-highest summit of the whole day. It’s summit No. 6 of the whole traverse, and really from here, you have the feeling that the end is in sight. It was 3:00 pm by now, the sun was gone, it was overcast and the views were hazy. But it didn’t rain!

This section of the walk, Mt. Datun South and West peaks is the most thrilling of the whole traverse, with ropes to help you pull yourself up and down the very steep slopes. The main thing on Saturday was mud, it was oh so muddy – just don’t do this hike in white shoes! Lots of people emerged from the hike covered in mud and very dirty. First though, the hike down from Mt. Datun Main Peak is steep stone steps, and then a nice walk up to the summit of Mt. Datun South Peak 大屯南峰 (959 m).

This summit is the place to get your gloves out, ready for the very steep and very muddy descent of the south peak. It was much too difficult to take more than this one photo, trying to keep my balance and not slide down that slope!

This section is followed by a flat bit between south and west peaks which is all mud, then a steep mostly dry ascent….

And finally to summit No. 8, Mt. Datun West Peak 大屯西峰 (985 m).

It was now 4:30 pm and most of the people on this trail along with me were all heading for Qingtian Temple, doing the whole traverse. A man from Tainan had traveled to Taipei especially to do this trail and he was having problems finding the way, the map and the signposts weren’t very helpful. We ended up doing the last section more or less together – I was going slow, my legs were suffering from all the exertion!

Chinese hydrangea (Hydrangea chinensis) 華八仙 native to Taiwan and China

At 5:20 pm, we reached the summit of Mt. Miantian 面天山 (977 m), with its big microwave reflectors that help with transmitting radio signals. Normally there are great views over the NW coast, but it was dull and overcast. Most of the mountain is forested, so it was quite dark, and the path is famous for being quite slippery after rain.

And so to summit No. 10, the final one, Mt. Xiangtian 向天山 (949 m) at 5:35 pm. There was still a little of the Oldham’s Azalea in flower, a bit of bright red to bring some colour to the dreary weather.

And from there, it was downhill all the way to Qingtian Temple. The final part of the hike is actually lit by street lamps, and there are local people sitting by the path selling vegetables and fruits they’ve grown there. We got to the temple at 6:30 pm, and there was a bus at 6:45 pm. The place is not just a temple, but also a whole village of houses, public toilets, a water machine, and a place to wash boots. And with nice views down to Taipei as the evening lights went on. It was dark as we arrived at Beitou Station soon after 7:00 pm. We were all tired and aching, but exhilarated and grateful to have completed the whole hike.

Yes, 陽明山東西大縱走活動 Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse 2023 is completed, thanks be to God!

Total distance: 26.04 km / 16.1 miles. Elevation Gain: 1,912 m / 6,273 ft (no wonder my leg muscles were complaining!) Elapsed Time: 11.31 hours. Moving Time: 8:15 hours.

Would I do it again? Yes! Highly recommended! What a great day it was, even if I am still aching 3 days later! 😂😂

2 thoughts on “‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ 2023!”

  1. Saw your post, you are one strong lady. Planning to do the path you did. Mind sharing the bus stop at FengGuiZui? I cannot find it on google maps.

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