Hiking Huángshān (黄山) – Getting Above the Clouds in the Yellow Mountains

The Yellow Mountains in the Anhui Province have been the subject of countless Chinese paintings, literature and various springboards of inspiration for several thousand years.  This collection of peaks reaching 1,864 meters above sea level is quite a sight to see and served us well as a nice multi-day escape from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai.  It is only five hours south by bus.   There are many interconnecting trails at the tops that go to different peaks, vistas, special trees, bridges or viewpoints.   These trails are, in some places, very steep and incorporate sheer drop offs and many narrow paths.  Some of these paths are not for the faint of heart.   Flora and vegetation is diverse with many unique species.  The pines growing at this altitude make particularly interesting formations due to the winds and cliffs.  Unique weather conditions and cloud formations bring incredible dynamics to the scenery.   The same viewpoint may look completely different in a matter of hours due to light or environmental changes.  Sunrises and sunsets are particularly fascinating.  This makes it a fantastic venue for photographers.  DSC09902

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Our journey began before sunrise in the nearby town of Tunxi.  I would highly recommend staying in Tunxi as opposed to Tangkou as it is just a nicer town.  Tangkou is a cestpool of Chinese tourists and nonstop madness.  From, Tunxi Old Town, it is about an hour drive via us or cab to where you are dropped off at the shuttle bus station to ride up to the base of the mountain.   We left at at 0530 from Tunxi.  After our taxi ride to Tungkou and transferring to the shuttle bus and the 15 minute ride up, we were at the base at about 0700.  We enjoyed the sunrise on the bus ride up.  This photo doesn’t capture it well, but it was a stunning slow-orange glow burn coming on the horizon to greet the day.   Being above the clouds creates this strange phenomena.  The pillowing clouds set the palette for beautiful sunrises.

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From the south entrance, you can hike up either the eastern or western steps.   Our intention was to hike up the eastern steps; however, considering the ice steps and the fact that we were incredibly early to the entrance and the line for the ski lift was basically non-existent, we opted to take the gondola up so we could spend more time at the top.  Here we go!

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There is plenty of strenuous hiking once you get to the top.  Huangshan is not a single summit per-say.   The area at the top consists of many peaks and interconnecting trails with various degrees of challenge.  Once reaching the top, the views are simply breathtaking.

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We started on the eastern side and slowly made our way to the western side.  The eastern side is considerably less crowded than the western side, at least in the morning.  Most of the Chinese tour groups take the western lift up and then work their way east.   We did the opposite.

Giant mushrooms!  Possibly edible?

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A popular thing to do is put locks on the top of the mountain with your woman.  Hundreds upon hundreds of old locks are scattered upon anything attachable….

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Look, a radar dome!  USAF flashbacks!

The view from Bright Summit Peak was just mind-blowing.   So were the crowds starting from this point.

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I named this one “a nice pair”.  DSC09892DSC09897DSC09881

If you are old, injured or seriously lazy you can hire a pair of porters to drag your sorry ass in this chair.

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Made it to the top! DSC09906DSC09908

 

The paths get more crowded when you make your way around the western area.

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Some paths etched into the sheer rock faces in the side of the mountain…

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The lines of hikers looked like ants slowly traversing the mountain.  DSC09936DSC09937

They even bring out the Chinese military to help direct things.

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It get got pretty packed during Chinese New Year but we’re all on this trail together… DSC09943DSC09944DSC09947

Time to head down the mountain on the Yuping cable car.  Surprisingly, the queue was not too long and we were back at the base by about 1700.  DSC09962DSC09960DSC09957

This is a exceptional adventure that is easily accessible for a weekend trip from Shanghai.  I look forward to getting back up to these mountains in a different season, perhaps in the spring or summer with flora in bloom.   We were very fortunate to have a day of pure blue sky and radiating sunshine.  Many visiting Huangshan are not as luck as we were.

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