Off we went last Friday morning, off to Nanhu Big Mountain, the 4th or 5th highest mountain in Taiwan, and the highest in Taroko National Park…. and it is some whopping big mountain I can tell you!
Wikipedia says: “Taiwan is a mountainous and alpine island. The island has the largest number and density of high mountains in the world. There are approximately 165 mountains over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level on the island. Mountaineering is one of the most popular activities for many Taiwanese. A list of One Hundred Mountains of Taiwan (台灣百岳列表) was created in 1971, which lists the one hundred mountains over 3,000 m for mountaineering on the island. Climbing all of the one hundred mountains listed is considered the greatest challenge for Taiwanese climbers.”
Last year about this time (click here for that blog post), we climbed 雪山 Syue Shan, Taiwan’s second highest mountain at 3886m (12,749ft). This year’s destination lies just across the valley: Nanhu Mountain Main Peak ~ 3742m (12,276ft) so it’s slightly lower in elevation, but the climb starts lower, and lasts much much longer ~ 5 whole days!
This year’s expedition was with more or less the same lovely group as last year’s ~ 8 of them plus me….
And we had the world’s best and most wonderful guide and leader, and the world’s strongest and fittest and toughest guy to help carry everything (‘everything’ means sleeping bags, camping stoves, pots and pans for cooking, plus food for breakfast and dinner…)
The ‘Sherpas’ of Taiwan are mostly from the Bunun and Atayal tribes of indigenous people, ours was from the Bunun tribe and can easily carry 50kg, no worries, and still smiling! And when he gets to the mountain hut where we’ll stay, there’s no rest ~ instead they start on boiling the water and cooking the meals… Incredible ~ these guys are my new heroes!
Started off from Yilan (Ilan) County, up near Wuling Farm. It’s already way up there in the mountains, home of the Atayal people. First we passed through the musical apple orchards, yes I kid you not, there were loud speakers playing Taiwanese music ~ apparently the apples grow better to music!
Then through the high-altitude cabbage fields….
And into the temperate forests, so cool and refreshing!
On and on we went, up and up and up!
Rest time…. one of many ~ for sleep….
Walked for a whole 9 hours and never even caught a glimpse of Nanhu Mountain, up we went, and up and up, and then down and down and down, this was just the first ridge! Sunset on the first day…
And so we arrived at Yun-Ling Mountain Hut at 7:00pm…..
Our first glimpse of our final destination came on Day 2 at sunrise, there is it in the far distance… Nanhu Big Mountain, yeah!
And so began our second very long day, up and up and up through the forests ~ mostly pine and conifers…. and then above the treeline were the Nanhu azaleas, grasses and flowers, including Edelweiss 玉山薄雪草 ~ it was growing up on Syue Shan last year too, ah what a wonderful plant ~ just hearing its name revived our spirits and set us all singing!
At last we were getting nearer ~ this is Nanhu Big Mountain, our final destination ~ within our grasp!
But first we had some smaller summits to get up, and we reached our first one soon after lunch…(See that owl we’re holding? He was bought in the Yorkshire Dales Tourist Office in Sedbergh, Cumbria, and has been going up mountains with my young friend here ever since!)
Meanwhile the mist was coming down over the ridge…
The route was very very steep, there were ropes to help us, but the sheer drop was incredible ~ and the mist only added to the atmosphere ~ I loved it!
Up and up we went, and then down down a steep scree slope to our next mountain hut….
The hut was packed out with groups of people and their climbing gear… we slept like sardines ~ all in long lines, about 40 of us in total! Reminded me of ‘There were 10 in the bed, and the little one said “Roll over, roll over…’ and so we all rolled together!
The only running water was in a stream, the toilets as usual were holes in the ground, and the outside temperature was 9 degrees…
Day 3 was Sunday and it was fog, light rain and strong winds all day, but nothing daunted, we did the final ascent to Nanhu Big Mountain ~ which involved some very precarious rock hopping and balancing at great heights ~ extra fun in the wind and rain and fog!
We got to the very top at 10:10am, just as Advent Church were starting their Sunday Morning Service YA!
Congratulations everyone… and quick let’s get down to that hut, out of the rain and wind and fog (hence not even a decent photo!)
Monday we started off in mist and fog back the way we had come (see our hut down there in the distance?)….
But soon we were above the clouds and the views were incredible ~ especially back towards Nanhu Big Mountain….
and in the distance in the other direction we could
even see the sea and an island off Yilan coast….
And so down back down the way we had come ~ by now the sun was out and the views were spectacular!
We even met some Taiwanese monkeys and eagles, and after a 4th night in a hut sardine-style, by Tuesday lunchtime we had arrived back at the minibus…. YA, WE DID IT!
But we’d had no showers for 5 days, so we were stinking the place out! Straight down the mountain and to our final destination: Jiao-Si hot springs!
The whole 5 days was a wonderful wonderful experience of God’s creation in all its glory! We had all kinds of weather ~ but significantly no typhoon! No accidents either despite slippery rocks and steep slopes, and everyone falling over several times each. No fighting and arguments, instead we all enjoyed each other’s company and got to meet tons of others all on the same path to the top ~ including a group of primary school principals and teachers from Tainan, groups of students and a group of friends from Changhua.
But our group was special ~ our ages ranged from 11 to 61, and we were doing the whole trip in 5 days rather than 4, so it was slightly less rushed and supposedly not so strenuous ~ in fact we had hardly any stiffness or cramps and no altitude sickness at all! Praise God!
YES INDEED, PRAISE GOD, YES!