Hua Mountain: Cold, scary, and beautiful

 

huaWanting to get away from the cities and smog, I took an overnight trip to Huashan, or Hua Mountain, a few hours away from Xi’an (click for my post there) by bus. It was apparently a central place for Daoism (maybe still is?) and was dotted with temples and other holy sites over its five main peaks. Nowadays it is catered toward the tourist and has food shacks and souvenir shops that are fed by the cable car that skips about 85% of the ascent.

 

I decided to hike all the way up from the town below to save some cash, but the vast majority of tourists (mostly Chinese) chose to take the cable car. I held a fair bit of unnecessary resentment after going up the frequently terrifying and exhausting climb only to see hoards of other tourists gliding effortlessly off the cable car. Even at the low altitudes of the ascent, many of the steep, carved steps were covered with ice and snow on slick granite and

there was only a freezing metal chain to stabilize my balance. In a lot of places the fall was off of a granite cliff a few hundred meters below. I am terrified of heights so I’m sure I remember it much worse than it was, and I’m sure old Chinese ladies do it all the time. Actually, I’m certain it wasn’t that bad in terms of safety.

 

There was a pretty well-maintained path up the mountain, but I was still glad to have a Chinese couple from Hubei province to chat with on the way up and distract me from my own thoughts of falling to a bloody, mangled death smashed in a granite gorge. They thought I was brave for traveling to China alone, but as they were cruising up the steps with no worries, my knees were shaking almost constantly. There was still a fair bit of ascending required to get from the top of the cable car to the best sights, so at least cable car riders had to put a little bit of effort in. With the cable car, you could see all of the peaks in a day, but since I walked up I only saw the Southern and Western Peaks the first day, and crashed in an old, freezing cold Daoist temple/food stand near the Western Peak during the night. I holed up in my sleeping bag and put three blankets over me after seeing on my thermometer that it was well below freezing temperature and waited for dawn.

 

The sunrise was supposedly beautiful on the Eastern Peak, but the day that I caught it there were too many clouds/too much smog over the horizon to make out the sun as it rose, which was disappointing. It was more just a slow increase in light until 9 am or so when the sun broke through the clouds. I eventually returned to where the top of the cable car dropped off tourists and decided to shell out the money to take it down to where the buses leave toward Xi’an. I was contemplating doing the climb again, but wimped out since I didn’t want to relive the shaky knees and exhaustion of the climb.

 

Pictures are below:

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