This past weekend I finally completed a major travel goal of this semester: hiking on Huangshan (Yellow Mountains-黄山)! Much of my first blog was dedicated to explaining this goal, and it was even more beautiful and worth it than I had imagined! Neither my friend nor I had ever hiked on (and up!) mountains before, so we researched much-needed tips before leaving, especially using traveler blogs. I learned so much and have developed some of my own advice:
Length of Visit: Most places recommend spending three days there, but with two days and one night were able to see a good amount of the mountain without feeling rushed. And if you’re only there one night you can get away with not showering and bringing less clothing, which saves a lot of space in your backpack. I would definitely recommend staying one night on the mountain to see the famous sunset and sunrise of Huangshan, though. If you search enough you can find reasonably priced good hotels, especially
during the late-fall season. Speaking of, mid-November is a great time to go because the weather is cool but still sunny, the leaves will be changing colors, the “sea of clouds” is fuller and it might not be as crowded. We were quite worried that it was going to rain last weekend, but because we were hiking above the cloud line, it didn’t really matter! We could see the blue sky and feel the sunshine for a majority of the second day.
Packing: Pack light! Because we only brought our backpacks, we could easily carry our food, put away any clothing we didn’t want to wear and didn’t have to return to our hotel before leaving. Dress in layers and wear the sturdiest shoes you have! In some places I described the steep stone stairs as being “made for Chinese children” due to their small size. Test out the weight beforehand, though. It’s worth bringing your best camera. Check if it’s fully charged, set it on HD mode and make sure there is plenty of storage space! I alone took over 500 photos, about half of which I could not stand to delete. I painstakingly chose only the best photos to post on Facebook, which has a pictures-per-post limit of 42.
Regarding money, there is only one ATM on the mountain that I know of, so bringing at least ¥700 per person is suggested. There are entrance fees for busses, cable cars (which they call telphers) and Huangshan itself; and who can forget the temporary deposit at Chinese hotels? : l You can try to weasel in half-off student entrance fees like we did, so bring your student ID card. It never hurts to try!
Food and water: Bring your own snacks and water (because food and water is expensive on the mountain). Cup ramen is great because it is light, will warm you up and only requires hot water; just don’t forget chopsticks like we did. Regarding water, I suggest refilling your bottles with boiled water at your hotel to avoid buying ¥9 water bottles. Bringing Gatorade powder or tea would be smart.
Directions: Having a cheat-sheet of Chinese directional and emergency phrases in your back pocket can be extremely helpful for this or any other trip. There are English guides for hire, but we saw neither the need nor the desire for one; there were plenty of signs and maps and if we got lost, it would be great story to tell! Also, bring or buy a paper map that has the Chinese names of the different peaks; people won’t have a clue where the “A Monkey Gaping at the Sea” peak is but they’ll know where to find “猴子观海.”
Know your limits and be careful: The biggest lesson for me was to not overestimate my athletic ability. I am no athlete and make no claims to being the fittest of people, but I was surprised how difficult some sections were for me. I can hike on relatively flat land for hours, but a majority of the time we were hiking up and down stairs.
All this meant, though, was that we had to stop and take short rests more often than intended. Huangshan has many benches along the paths and we consistently stopped at look-out points, so we had no problems. In the morning when you are headed to see the sunrise, give yourself plenty of extra time because it you will most likely be facing 1 1/2 to 2 hours of pure stair-climbing. Some light stretching in the morning could be helpful as well. Also, there is no shame in using a cane when hiking on Mt. Huangshan. None. They sell them everywhere and you will see a variety of ages using them. I neglected to buy one and had to use railings, rock faces and my friend’s shoulder. There is also no shame in using cable cars. You’re smart if you use them. Point being, pay attention to your limits and always prioritize your health. Sound like a plan, Mom? 🙂
I am still so excited about going there! I can speak about Huangshan for hours, but I’ll stop at the five paragraphs I already have~feel free to ask me for any other tips or itinerary plans!
云海 yūhai3 sea of clouds 爬山 páshān to go mountain hiking