Tag Archives: Yang-Ming Shan Mountains

‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ 2017!

It’s Dragon Boat Festival weekend, so we have 2 extra days off – yippee!  So far I’ve spent 2 days up on the Yang-Ming Shan Mountains above Taipei doing the East-West Traverse (Chinese version is here), a 25 km route, which I did in 2 halves – it takes in 10 peaks in total. Each of the 10 peaks has a marker post with a Chinese character on the top, and using a pencil, you make like a brass rubbing in a special book. Together the characters spell out the phrase ‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ meaning ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse Activity’.  So there you have it.

A new challenge. And I always like a new challenge. My good friend, Shiao Chien, who also volunteers at Yang-Ming Shan, gave me the book as a gift many months ago.  It’s taken until now to find some free time to do it!

The weather was wonderful.  Well, for ducks, that is.  And frogs.  Also wonderful for mountain walkers who want to keep cool.  Day one on Saturday started off clear and with a strong wind, but by lunchtime, the mist had rolled in and the drizzle had started.  Day Two was today. Down in Taipei, it was beautiful, all sunshine; but up in Yang-Ming Shan it was dense fog and drizzle virtually all day.  Ah, yes, quite fun!

So 2 days, each with 5 peaks, and each day about 5-6 hours of walking.  This is Saturday’s opening view from Mt Datun …. that’s Sanzhi down there in the distance, yes I could sort of see my house!

And the view from Mt Datun Main Peak… those green mountains are the next destination on the trail, south and west peaks, and Mt Miantian at the end.

Here I am with Taipei down below and my book ready for the first brass rubbing.  If only I knew what to do, and if only I had brought a pencil!  I had assumed it would be stamps with an ink-pad, that’s kinda normal in Taiwan.  But no sign of any stamps and ink-pads. The first man I met had no idea what to do, the second one said I needed to get a pencil. He offered me his chopstick as an alternative, but it didn’t work.  So here I am waiting for something to happen, otherwise I can’t fill in the Chinese character ha ha!  Wait and see….

Anyway, Mt Datun South Peak and West Peak climbs are short but very steep, and have ropes to help everyone get up and down over the mud and slippery rocks!

And so to Mt. Miantian where the large microwave reflector things are visible for miles around.  Just below it is Mt. Xiangtian…

On the way down, came across this stone…. erected in honour of the wedding of Crown Prince Hirohito in 1924…

And down through the bamboo forest….

To the trail head at Qingtian Temple….

This is the trail-head at the western end ~ yes, I’m half done!

Legs ached all weekend.  Arms too, from all those ropes.  Could hardly get down any stairs, it was agony on the old legs.  Serves me right for trying to do 5 peaks in one day.  But still, I was up bright and early to start today’s walk at Xiaoyoukeng where the fumaroles were very busy, spewing out sulphur.  Stinking the place out.  Even though it was 100% fog , we could all smell them!

This is the start of Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail, ah yes, all in the fog and drizzle!

The top is the highest point on the ridge… 1120m

And down to Lengshuikeng where the visitor centre is hidden in the mist.  Cue: coffee on sale here!

My destination was Fengguikou trail-head, still about 6 km away, with 3 more peaks en route.   The first time I’ve ever been along on that ridge.  It’s mostly grassland.  Cows too. Never saw any cows, but plenty of cowpats.  Really amazing ridge walk.  In the fog.  And y’know, it was so cool!   Usually grassland means no shade, and hot hot hot.  But today was great!  This is the Lengshuikeng Pond…

Passed through pines and cedars, remnants of forestry plantations planted by the Japanese in the 1920’s….

And so to my last peak, Mt Ding, yes I was so happy!

And so down to the trailhead…. more mud!

Lots of Nature with a capital ‘N’ – pink and purple thistles, the white-flowers of the ‘Narrow-Petaled Hydrangea’ 狹瓣八仙 (Hydrangea angustipetala) there in abundance, fungi growing on the cowpats and 2 pairs of Chinese Bamboo Partridge 竹雞 which seemed very tame – well, you can see how close I got!

So 10 peaks later, and in case you’re wondering how I got on without a pencil, well, guess what?  There I was waiting for something to happen at my first peak of the 10, and along came one of my colleagues from our university, with her family – these guys turned up completely unexpectedly on Saturday morning at Mt Datun Main Peak while I was there, and they showed me how to make the brass rubbing with their pencil – which they then donated to me to take on the trip. How’s that for a bit of divine intervention eh?!  🙂  🙂

From Fengguikou trail-head, I had to walk down another 2 km to the bus at ShengRen Bridge – the road above the National Palace Museum…. the descent got brighter and nicer and sunnier the lower I went ~ this was it!

And this was the scene at Tamsui MRT Station.  Just look at that blue sky!

Met loads and loads of people over these 2 days.  Most interesting of all, was the 2 men on Saturday who had parked at Fengguikou trail-head at 6:00 am and were doing the whole traverse, all 25 km and all 10 peaks down to Qingtian Temple, and then back again along exactly the same route.  All in one day!  When I met them, they had done the first 25 km in about 6 hours, so hopefully they got back in one piece!

An amazing route, great fun, beautiful scenery, good exercise, lots of nature and yes, now plenty of aching muscles – but hey, worth every penny and every ache!

PS Thought you may like to see a sign that I saw on Yang-Ming Shan on Saturday….

It’s good news for all Climbing Violators ~ none of them will be reported to the police, ha ha!

Ah yes, punctuation is everything!

Chinese New Year 2016

A sombre, sober and subdued Lunar New Year for all of Taiwan. It started with the deadly 6.4 earthquake early on Saturday February 6 in southern Taiwan, which led to the collapse of a number of high-rise buildings in Tainan, including the 17-storey Weiguan Jinlong apartment complex, where over 100 were killed. Electricity and water outages made the New Year even worse for many, and as High-Speed Rail services were cancelled in southern Taiwan, many people were forced to change their travel plans.

TV and Newspaper reports kept us all focused on the emerging nightmare….

IMG_4934Tragedy after tragedy – as bodies were pulled from the rubble, despair after despair – for those who had survived but with their loved ones missing.  Many moving stories – of those trapped, and those who had survived against the odds. The search and rescue crews were heroes, sacrificing their New Year celebrations to work around the clock to get everyone out. The Red Cross and other relief organizations, including churches, provided support and help.  The damage was intense in those areas where the fallen buildings lay, but thankfully there was not widespread devastation over the whole city and the relief effort was well-managed and organized.  By last night, the final day of the holiday, everyone in the 17-storey complex had been accounted for, and the collapsed buildings had been leveled.

The earthquake was a constant conversation topic throughout the whole week.  The tragedy was foremost on people’s minds.  TV New Year programs were toned down, social media posts more sombre than usual, the atmosphere everywhere subdued and respectful.

In complete contrast – and complete surprise – was the Chinese New Year weather.  After months and months of seemingly non-stop rain and freezing cold, with temperatures in Taipei the lowest for over 40 years, suddenly the weather cleared up, and we had a whole week of hot sunny weather, with temperatures in Taipei up to 28ºC on Saturday.  Chinese New Year in northern Taiwan is usually marked by cold, wet, totally miserable weather. But this year it was absolutely wonderful!

Chinese New Year is all about family reunions, and the main gathering is always on the evening of New Year’s Eve, which was Sunday February 7.  My good friends, Rev. and Mrs. Hsu, just down the road in Shuang-Lien Elderly Care Centre, kindly invited me to join the celebration meal at the centre, with over 100 tables spread for the residents and their families.  The 3 Hsu children, Victor, Anne and Alice had all come back from overseas, and Alice had come from Mauritius with her husband, Bishop Roger and their son, Alexander. Mrs. Hsu’s sister also joined us.  Yes, all my good friends ~ it was so great to see them all again!  Then on the second day of the New Year, which was Tuesday, the tradition is to go to visit the girl’s side of the family, so Mrs. Hsu invited me again, this time for lunch with the family and some friends, also at the care centre.

Yummy yummy yummy!

And then a whole week off!  With such glorious weather, everyone took to the roads and trains in big numbers, for days of sightseeing, eating, and visiting family and friends. Mahjong is a big Chinese New Year pastime, but with such wonderful weather this year, who could resist a day at the beach or up in the mountains, looking at the newly-opened cherry blossom?

And so. Me too!

On Monday off I went to climb Elephant Mountain 象山, Four Beasts Mountain 四獸山, and the top one, 9-5 Peak Jiuwufeng  九五峯, all located at the far end of the MRT line from Tamsui, over beyond Taipei 101.  Amazing views, and being the first day of the New Year, there were not many people – at least until the afternoon, when the crowds came out, everyone in their new clothes and shoes, some even in high heels lol!

Also a quick visit to Taipei 101, looking very festive with all the red lanterns….

This was all but preparation, in fact, for the big climb of the week, on Wednesday, to Yang-Ming Shan 陽明山 Mountains.  11 hours of walking, from Sanzhi 三芝 up to Mian-Tian Shan 面天山, then Datun Shan 大屯山 and Qixing Shan 七星山, and down to Leng-Shui Keng 冷水坑 for the bus home.  The first time I’ve ever done the walk up and 3 mountains as well, but it was well worth it, the views were fantastic, and it was warm but not too hot. The next day I visited one of our beloved church members in hospital in Taipei, and the final photo is the view of Yang-Ming Shan Mountains from the hospital ward, and what a view!

And so to Friday, and a nice gentle amble, along with zillions of others, around Yehliu 野柳, an hour on the bus from here along the coast eastwards.  Yehliu in summer is boiling hot with no shade, and in winter it’s always cold and wet, so a rare sunny warm day, and Yehliu is the place to go for a bit of fresh sea air, stunning rock formations, a small hill to climb, and a few hours well spent!  Met families from Guang-Dong, Philippines, Canada and Taiwan also escaping the crowds….

And then on Friday afternoon, my good friend, A-guan and 2 of her children suddenly decided to come – from St. James’ Church, Taichung.  Always a fun and lively time!  First stop, the beach at Bai-sha-wan to paddle and see the sunset…

IMG_5569Next stop, on Saturday morning, the National Palace Museum. A-Guan’s daughter’s first ever visit, and she wanted to go.  There were about as many people as at Yehliu the day before, it was packed out!  Y’know, walking round that museum is totally exhausting.  Walking 11 hours up and around Yang-Ming Shan is fine.  But 1-2 hours in a museum, and we were shattered. Had to sit in the park and drink coffee to recover.  But we did see the Pope’s red shoes.  As well as all the usual things on display, there’s also a display of things from the Vatican.  Kinda bizarre to see such ornate vestments and altar frontals next to all the ancient Chinese artifacts. And those red shoes are something else!

And finally, one of the highlights of Chinese New Year is always the cherry blossom, which is coming out at lower altitudes ~ spotting the pink trees is always fun….

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And then on Sunday, yesterday, the fine weather finally broke.  The end.  A cold front came, the rain and wind returned, and winter came back with a vengeance.  Then A-guan’s car broke down, and instead of returning home yesterday, ready for work today, they are still here. Experiencing Sanzhi cold and rain, drinking tea to keep warm!

Today is the first day of school for Taiwan’s children after the holidays.  St. John’s University has an extra day off, we start work tomorrow, and the new semester starts on Thursday.

Looking back over this past week, and Chinese New Year 2016 will always be a New Year to remember.  Such unusually good weather, a time to celebrate and enjoy the arrival of spring and the beauty of the countryside, for many to relax in the company of family and friends. But also a week to remember, grieve and pray for the victims of the earthquake in Tainan. So many have lost so much. So many face an uncertain future.  So many worry in case their own homes are now at risk in future earthquakes.  The investigations into the construction companies behind the collapsed buildings are only just beginning.

Ash Wednesday came in the middle of Chinese New Year week.  Lent has started.  A time of reflection, fasting and prayer.  We pray in earnest, for those suffering, the injured, the orphaned children, those who have lost their entire families, those whose homes, livelihoods and loved ones are gone.  We thank God for his mercy, and ask for your continued prayers for all those affected by the tragedy in southern Taiwan.

Snow?! YES!

Unbelievable.  Incredible.  Amazing.

There is snow on the Yang-Ming-Shan mountains!  Not just on the tops, but all over.  A light dusting. Very light.  But it’s snow all the same! And it’s visible from all over this area. And just visible in my photos, taken this morning.

We’re having the coldest temps in Taipei for over 40 years.  4ºC.  Currently my phone is telling me it’s 3ºC, so maybe it’ll get even lower overnight.

It’s cold cold cold, very very cold.  Most people, including me, have no heating in their houses.  This is a sub-tropical country, and summer heat is our main concern.  Not snow. But today it’s freezing.  We’re all wrapped up like we live in Antarctica.  But there’s a certain excitement in the air as tons of people head up to Yang-Ming-Shan to see the snow.

This morning I met a baby snowman.  On the bonnet of a car.  He was born in Yang-Ming-Shan this morning, and is now living down here in Sanzhi.  Proof that there is enough snow up there to make a snowman ~ and that it’s cold enough down here to keep him alive!

America is having a super snowfall as I write.  Falling by the metre and grounding all transportation and normal life.  Meanwhile, we’re having our own little snow event here in Taiwan.

This being Taiwan, some things never change, not even in near-freezing temps and with snow falling all over.  I’ve counted 10-20 people today dressed up for winter in big coats, hats and gloves, and yet walking around and driving their motorcycles in flip-flops, with no socks.

Yep, unbelievable, incredible, amazing ~ 4ºC and NO SOCKS!!

Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山 ~ you can never have too much of a good thing!

After weeks and weeks of rain, suddenly the most beautiful weather for the weekend ~ and the whole of Taipei spent yesterday on Yang-Ming Shan Mountains!

Mega-long walk, 4:00am start from Sanzhi  三芝 via the graveyards – 5 hours to the top of Datun Shan 大屯山 (1092m), then 2-3 more hours to Qixing Shan 七星山 (1120m), finishing in a free foot-bath at the Lengshueikeng 冷水坑 Hot Springs and bus back at 2:00pm…..

Typhoon damage on the roads and paths meant some are still closed, and vandalism to the summit pillar on Qixing Shan means that it is currently all wrapped up in plastic…

As well as millions of people on the summit of Qixing Shan, there was also an ‘Asian Giant Hornet’ (虎頭蜂 ‘tiger head bee’ in Chinese) sitting there awaiting us…

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Despite it’s name, it wasn’t too giant, and fortunately there was only one of ’em, and this one kindly posing for photos – without getting angry!

Thanking God for such an amazing range of mountains so close to Taiwan’s capital city, so well-traversed with paths and trails, so well-managed by the national parks authority, so accessible for cars and buses, and so well-used by so many ~ such a blessing!

Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山國家公園 ~ Escaping the Heat!

Today is Dragon Boat Festival and so yesterday was a day off too – yippee!  So up to the Yang-Ming Shan Mountains to escape temps of 37.1°C recorded in Taipei City….

We had sun and clouds and fog, on and off all day ~ good for walking, but not so good for photos!  First to Erziping 二子坪, then up to Mian-Tian Shan 面天山, Datun Shan 大屯山 and finally along to Qishing Shan 七星山 via the fumaroles at Xiaoyoukeng 小油坑 ~ that’s 3 mountains and quite a way in-between, finishing in a foot-bath at the Lengshueikeng 冷水坑 Hot Springs!  It’s the Yang-Ming Shan Butterfly Season, so there were flowers and butterflies all over, and people too ~ bumped into our good friends right on the top, incredible!

The highlight just has to be the fumaroles at Xiaoyoukeng 小油坑 ~ photos can never do them justice! The noise is one thing – all that smoke billowing out is really noisy – but the smell of the sulphur is just incredible ~ do go there if you get the chance!

Yang-Ming Shan 陽明山 ~ Lengshuikeng (冷水坑) to Qingtiangang (擎天崗)

A glorious day yesterday, and this was the view of Yang-Ming-Shan Mountains from St. John’s University (SJU) ~ looked so inviting ~ so go there we must!

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And so happened that today was the day that the SJU student fellowship organized a big morning walk – and invited the church members to come too, at least partly so that cars were available to save hours of time on buses ~ and Rev. Lennon Chang came to send us on our way and pray for us all….

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And off we went – collecting a few more people including 2 lovely children on the way – to Lengshuikeng (冷水坑), on the east side of Qixingshan (七星山), which meant a long winding road all around the mountains, ah, but well worth it!

After plenty of fun and games, we set off with our national park guide – along to Qingtiangang (擎天崗), past the milk lake, over the suspension bridge, past the pillbox defence towers, by millions of caterpillars and flowers.  And so to the lava terraces and the grazing pastures full of cows, who seem well used to people walking up to them and posing for photos right beside them – including university students celebrating their graduation who were up there all kitted out in their gowns and mortar boards for DIY photos with selfie sticks, plus brides and grooms posing for their wedding photos.  And all the while the cows, were, well just munching away… like cows do.

Such a beautiful day ~ and so many people everywhere enjoying the cool breezes and mountain views, and of course the hot springs….

Ah yes, I ♥ Yang-Ming Shan!

Easter Eve on Qixing Mountain 七星山 ~ Us ‘n the boys!

This morning up bright and early to take a group of lovely SJU students, all boys, plus Shu-Jing, one of our SJU chaplaincy staff – all of them on their first ever visit to Qixing Mountain, the highest in the Yang-Ming Shan Mountains…..

Foggy and full of sulphur smoke from the fumaroles – all added to the atmosphere – great weather for walking in!

Most appropriate for Easter Eve as we wait for the celebrations to start later tonight….

And back mid-afternoon in time to get ready for tonight’s Easter Vigil ~ one of the boys is to be baptized ~ YES!