Finally, after 2 long days, I’ve done it.
Conquered Jade Mountain (3,952 kilometers above sea level), that’s what!
Yes, after walking almost 22 kilometers (21.8 kilometers to be exact) at a total of almost 16 hours in just 2 days carrying our heavy packs with at least 2 day’s worth of water, our team of 11 people have successfully scaled Jade Mountain and back!
Was it easy?
Would you recommend it to anybody?
Are you freaking nuts?!
But if you’re the type who loves challenges…
gets a kick from scaling the tallest mountain in Taiwan and Northeast Asia…
don’t really mind not taking a bath for 2 consecutive days…
don’t have a serious fear of heights…
have relatively good knees for what seems to be a never-ending walk…
and have around NT$4,750 spare cash to spend…
then hiking up Jade Mountain may be the ideal way to spend a weekend.
Few people think that going on a trip to Jade Mountain is easy.
All you have to do is gather your friends, set up a date, and start climbing.
It’s not as simple as that.
An ascent to Jade Mountain requires a class A mountain permit at the closest police station. This can be obtained at the Yushan National Park Headquarters at No. 300, Jungshan Road Sec. 1 at Shueili Shiang, Nantou County (Tel: 049 773 121). Groups must have a minimum of 3, one of which is a certified guide. Don’t make the mistake of taking the trip without the permit. If the ranger catches you climbing without one, he’d order you to walk back, even though you’re already half-way there!
Check out this website: http://www.ysnp.gov.tw/ for more information you need in getting a permit, and yes, the application’s pretty confusing to me as well. Kindly note though that you’d have to apply at least 7 days to a month in advance, and don’t expect to get a permit as soon as you apply.
There are too many people who want to climb Jade Mountain that they allocate out permits via lotto system instead. We got ours on our first try, but we had somebody in the group who had applied 5 times since April before getting a permit!
The easier way was our way — finding a travel agent. Ours was: http://www.yushan3952.idv.tw/ and all we did was submitting the necessary documents (e.g., passport and ARC copy) and they did all the work for us! Wohoo!
Why break your back when you can just get somebody else to do it.
Our package was NT$4,750 all in, and included transportation to and fro Taipei, accommodation, food (save for one lunch), and licensed guide. What more can you ask for? Haha, do note however that this does NOT include a gopher, so you’d have to carry your bag yourself.
Fortunately, we got a slot on our very first try! So off we go, going on to Jade Mountain from September 1 to 3!
First day: Still in civilization
Our trip started at 6:30 pm where our bus picked us up outside the Guting MRT station. It was a mini bus, just enough for the size of our group.
I looked around, growing more and more alarmed as I saw how big my bag was… compared to the bags of my 2-day compadres. Compared to them, my bag was freaking HUGE! And to think I’d have to carry it for 2 whole days trekking along perilous mountain cliffs was crazy. I ate the snack I stole from the office — a Chinese beef burrito — and slept the whole way to FenQiHu, a 5-hour dizzying bus ride.
I woke up once we got there. Ah, the wonders of being an easy bus sleeper (e.g., I sleep almost immediately I step on a bus. Perfect way to prevent being car sick).
“Sleep well tonight,” our guide said. “You’d need it especially since accommodations aren’t exactly comfortable up in the mountains.”
The hotel was the exact same place where CL and I went for their famous bento when we visited Alishan. Ha! What a small world.
I took my final bath that evening, and as expected, slept soundly.
Second day: The horror begins
We woke up at a comfortable 6:00 am, had a traditional Chinese porraige (zou) breakfast at 6:30 am, and was on the road come 7:00 am. I bought some strawberry-filled bread from the nearby 7-11, especially since the guide told us that there won’t be lunch served on the last day.
As usual, I slept on the bus.
We arrived at the Yushan National Park Headquarters a little over an hour later where we were asked to watch a short video, briefly informing us the various stages of our trip. After which, the police checked our permits, so please bring an original copy of your ARC when you climb. No ARC, no climbing (Taiwanese ID for citizens).
Afterwards, we took a brief bus ride to the Yushan entrance, taking pictures on the magnificent scenery before lugging our backpacks and starting off:
The first stage was a lot of loose rocks, looking like a site where a landslide just happened. A person on our team, Jenny, was so afraid of heights that she just froze in the middle of the road, endangering those around her. Good thing, our guide whose aptly named Ferrari, managed to appease her fears and we continued to set off.
The 8.5 kilometer walk to Paiyun Lodge is no piece of cake. Lugging all your gear makes it a lot worse. There are 2 official bathroom stops on the way, as well as 2 rest stops, but aside from that, all you see are trees, wooden bridges, steps, rocks and greenery.
You can take all the rest you want, but mostly averaging 3 minutes. You can’t really rest long because you’re just prolonging the torture. The more you rest, the more tired you get. Hence, you have to move on until you get to the lodge.
We started a little before 10 am, took a rest stop to eat at Fenhushan bento lunchbox at around 12:30 pm, before reaching the lodge at 3:00 pm. This is the rest stop where we had our lunch. Check out how heavy some of the backpacks we had to carry!
By the last kilometer, I was already exhausted and my knees were screaming for me to stop. But heck, do you think stopping is an option? A warning to those who underestimate the hike, once you start, you can’t stop.
How can you?
You’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere, and no matter how tired you are, you’d still have to go on.
Finally, we come across the Paiyun Lodge, a welcoming sight, and I immediately took a short nap on the bunk beds out of sheer exhaustion.
8.5 kilometers down, 13.3 kilometers more to go.
The Lodge itself is a simple one-storey house with around 3 big rooms, arguably able to house around 90 lodgers. We fortunately had a room of our own, with a row of bunk beds which everybody had to share.
We were each given a sleeping bag on our own to keep us warm, but understandably, limited space to sleep on.
The Paiyun Lodge is NOT the Four Seasons.
The mat was hard, and even with the sleeping bag, it felt as if you were sleeping on top of the floor. At least it was warm, as it averaged around 10 to 15 degrees C outside, and colder as the night went on.
The water was freezing cold, even colder than your freezer’s. Regardless, we managed to splash our faces with a few, to wash it. I myself used my drinking water to wash my face.
It was THAT cold.
Hence, extra clothing is required. Fortunately (and unfortunately since they greatly contributed to the weight), I brought my turtleneck sweater, another thin jacket and a thick winter jacket, good enough to keep me warm.
Delicious food was served around 6:30 pm cooked by our guide. It was yummy, though a tad oily. There was some Japanese eel (would you believe that?!), sweet Chinese sausages, vegetables, and soup. We ate our fill and by around 7:30 pm were already in bed.
And no showering… yuck!
Sleeping in the mountains
I won’t lie to you.
Saturday night was one of the most terrible nights I’ve had this year. Maybe because of the hard bedding so I kept on tossing and turning, waking up in the middle of the night a couple of times.
Jasmin who lay beside me was having a hard time sleeping too. Finally, she whispered that she needed to go to the loo and asked if I wanted to go.
I was lazy at first, but finally gave in. I had wanted to go to the restroom anyway.
You could have realized my dismay when I saw it was only 9:30 pm in the evening!
All the while I was thinking, “Hao nan guo (How terrible this is!)! I should be at home relaxing at a soft warm bed, instead I am in the middle of nowhere, trying my best to sleep in a hard bed and failing miserably!”
Of course, it didn’t help when a cute friend of mine have invited me surfing that weekend, another friend invited me to his house party at the Honeymoon Bay beach, while Aussie guy has asked me what I was doing that night.
GODDARNIT! I should’ve been there partying with the boys!
Regardless, I laughed at my dilemma — isn’t it ironic when all the hotties are asking you out, you just happened to be in the middle of no where?!
At last, I managed to sleep… ending my senseless debate on why the heck I’m punishing myself for embarking on this trip.
Third day: Nowhere else to go but UP!
Brushed my teeth and washed my face, but still no showering.
At 2:00 am, everybody woke up to have some good Chinese breakfast. I ate a little and washed my eating utensils. Outside, other groups were already preparing for the hike and were stretching in groups.
It was beautiful.
Dotted with stars, the horizon was spectacular. I’ve seen better starlit nights, but looking at the starry sky always lightens my heart.
I stretch a bit, gear up, wore my headlights (thanks JH for lending me yours!) and off we go, carefully yet constantly walking up the mountain. The ground was loose and the path was narrow. It’s not super dangerous, but there are no railings to prevent you from falling. Hence, if you’re not careful, you can fall and seriously hurt yourself.
Imagine 2.4 kilometers of that.
We zigzagged our way up the mountain in the dark. The headlights helped, but only lighting the path 3 steps in front of us. We bypassed other hikers and were bypassed.
Frankly, it felt that this trip would never end.
My friend LS said, “This will be one of the longest days of our lives.”
And despite the 2.4 hike, I still dreaded the hike down, and the 8.5 kilometer hike back to civilization.
But you just have to keep on going.
The last leg of the hike was climbing on top of a rocky peak. The ground was crumbly and dangerous, and one wrong move and you’ll fall. This time, you just don’t get seriously injured. You can actually die.
So you grab on to the metal chains and walk slowly up the peak. “Safety first,” urges the guide.
The last leg to the peak was honestly my most favorite part of the entire trip. I felt I was back in Longdong rock climbing, except this time, the rocks were bigger and the steps were larger. I wove my way across the other climbers, though still being careful.
You can’t really underestimate the dangers of nature. I mean, that’s what the Croc Hunter did and a stingray stabbed his heart.
Reaching the peak was pretty cool. It was super windy and cold. Climbers would be thankful if they brought tons of clothes. It was still dark when we got there, although the sun was already coming out.
Because of the clouds, we didn’t really see the full glory of the sunrise. But counting our blessings, we were just glad that it didn’t rain at all during our trip up the peak. Still the sunrise was beautiful as you can see at the pictures below:
The hike down was more dangerous than the hike up, mainly because it was light and you can see how far you can fall if you’re not careful. Regardless, every one of us had a sense of lightness in our steps.
“It’s not as scary,” JH said. “After climbing the mountain, you’re immune to the feeling of going down an extremely high mountain.”
Still, the hike down was not as easy as people think. However, it wasn’t that bad as people are still high upon reaching the peak. Hence, it didn’t seem as torturous as it seem.
We reached the lodge again at around 7:30 am
Overall, that’s 4.8 kilometers of hiking up and down, for 4.5 hours.
You can’t imagine my joy after our first sight of the lodge:
Alfie our other guide prepared some nice hot noodles for us, a welcoming treat after the chilling climb up the peak.
Ferrari urged us then to pack our bags as we were leaving again to hike back down to civilization in less than an hour. I took a short nap. I was tired.
Then, a little before 9:00 am, we were off again, this time for another 8.5 kilometer torturous walk. By this time, my knees, my thigh and ankles were already complaining. But what other choice do you have?
Admittedly, I complained on the way down, and no I am not embarrassed to admit it. Keeping your mouth shut when every part of your body is aching is more torture, and no, I reserve the right to complain.
But still, I have time to joke, “This is indeed a one in a lifetime experience! Meaning, this will be the first AND the last time I’ll ever take a hike this long.”
Call me a Princess. I don’t care.
Let’s see how you’ll react if you climb Jade Mountain yourself.
I’ll treat you to an extremely nice dinner if complaining thought don’t even enter your mind.
If you think it’s easy, you’re WRONG. It’s not. But then again, that’s why there are people who are as crazy as me who still do it.
Because it is a challenge.
And we like challenging ourselves.
Going down was pretty unspectacular, except that finally, it slightly drizzled and we had to outfit ourselves with our rain gear.
“5 more kilometers left to go…”
“2.5 kilometers left to go…”
“When will this ever stop! 2 more kilometers left to go…”
1 more kilometer! 🙁
The longest kilometer of my life!
But finally, Andy helped me finish the whole course.
He helped me massage my ankles and small thighs when we rested, which makes things a bit easier. In addition, he was patient to wait with me even though the group went ahead.
We looked at our watches, we have been walking for almost 5.5 hours.
Finally, it’s over. We had a great celebratory dinner, and of course, I tiredly slept most of the way before we got back to Taipei at 7:30 pm.
I thought that was the end. Boy, was I wrong.
My knees and ankles hurt, my ENTIRE body hurts like crazy right now.
Yesterday, I walked like a penguin. Today, I walk like an old woman.
And from what I heard, it’s supposed to get worse for a few more days.
Ever felt you’re as stiff as a corpse? That’s how my body is aching right now.
The big question is, was it worth it?
I’ve said this earlier, and I will say this again, “Climbing Jade Mountain is worth it only on hindsight. However, the process itself you’ll hate and your body will scream. But looking back, you realize that it is indeed a great achievement, and you’ll be glad that you did it.”
I was right.
I’m not kidding you, the whole process was torturous.
Even for a fit person like me, Jade Mountain is no walk in the park.
It’s doable, but it’s hard… so think long before you embark on a trip like this.
It’s not for the weak, and there’s no room for quitters, unless you’d like to stay up the mountains.
Was it fun though?
The people were nice, but most of the time, you’re just too exhausted to socialize and mingle. During your free time, you just want to reserve as much energy as you can. Up in the mountains, it’s every man (or woman) for himself and that’s a sobering thought.
For example, with water, you bring your own water. Run out and it’s not as easy as to ask people for water that they themselves carried and you yourself chose not to.
With your luggage, you bring your own bags. I was berated for asking a friend for helping me carry some light stuff up the way to the peak. For most, you bring it, you carry it type of philosophy.
And I guess, that’s the test of friendship.
It’s not really giving when you have tons to give.
It’s in giving at the expense of yourself.
But it was indeed a learning experience.
After conquering Jade Mountain, what else can you not conquer?
For brief moments, you feel that you’re queen of the world and you can do anything.
And it’s true.
Pushing yourself to the utmost limit has a way of boosting your confidence, of making you believe that nothing can stop you now. It also has relevance on how you deal with life.
*stop reading if you think me philosophizing about Jade Mountain is a lot of bullsh*t*
Lao Tze said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a simple step.”
Maybe it’s a new job, a new relationship, a new anything…
But once you start, how can you just put the brake on and stop?
For the cowards, you can.
But mostly, you just have to keep on going on, laboring and sweating every single step till you reach your goal.
Jade Mountain taught me that — that sometimes, you just have to go on even though it seems that you can’t go on anymore.
I’ve been fortunate to have such moments in my life…
My Business Management experience at the Ateneo…
Leading a huge social organization and facing bankruptcy if a project fails…
Finding a purpose to stay in Taiwan even though all odds are against you…
My first few weeks at the current company I’m working on…
As I look back, I wonder, how the heck did I manage to get through these?
They were painful experiences, incidents that I don’t really want to encounter again, but glad that I did because they’ve molded me to the person I am right now.
There were hard moments, like those in Jade Mountain that sorely tested my character that sometimes, I wonder how I could’ve managed to bear it at those times.
But you trudge through… you go on. Life goes on.
And that is what Jade Mountain is — like life, it’s not hard. It’s every man for himself. But the lesson is, you just have to go on.
And if you do, at least you get the chance to look at the peak and be on top of the world.
The way is not easy, and it requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
But that’s what life is, challenge… after challenge… after challenge.
And we become better persons for it.
So am I glad I did it?
Yes, very glad.
Would I do it again?
Hmmm… ask me in another 5 years.
Signing out! 🙂