Jade Mountain represents Taiwan's spiritual fortress
As Taiwan’s highest mountain at an altitude of 3,952 meters, Yushan (Jade Mountain) represents Taiwan’s spiritual fortress.
Among Taiwan residents, ascending to the main peak of Yushan has become a personal mission for overcoming life’s challenges, and it has also become one of the main attractions for many foreign mountaineering enthusiasts.
Located 3,600 meters above sea level, Yushan National Park features ecological diversity. Traveling through subtropical, temperate warm and cold environments up toward alpine cold climate, climbers can experience all four seasons with its changing natural beauty.
One month before climbing Yushan, visitors must first register online for a mountain lodge at “Hike Smart Taiwan Service,” and fill in a detailed itinerary and personal information. Also worth noting, Paiyun Lodge is equipped with only 116 beds, so you better have luck on your side.
Teams climbing Yushan usually stay at Dongpu Lodge in Nantou County’s Xinyi Township the day before, then set off from Paiyun Station at 6am the next day on a shuttle bus to Yushan.
After getting off the shuttle bus at an elevation of 2,610 meters, a large stone slap indicating the entrance to a gentle slope up Yushan which lasts around 45 minutes, during which hikers can enjoy a vast panoramic view of mountains and peaks to the right.
At 1.7km lies the Menglu Pavilion in memory of Dr Meng Lu, who died on Yushan in 1952.
After the Menglu Pavilion, the slope reaches an altitude of about 3,000 meters.
The forest in this area contains features typical of a cold-temperate coniferous forest, mainly dominated by hemlock, mixed with red cypress, and surrounded by giant trees stretching up to the sky.
Then, tree shade begins to dissipate on both sides, and one’s view gradually widens. If lucky, you can overlook beyond Yushan South Peak and other nearby mountaintops.
After a rest, the climb continues for about 40 minutes when hikers reach Yushan’s famous landmark, Big Cliff.
This steep rock slope is a natural landscape carved up by the Eurasian plate and Philippine tectonic plates. As you take the trail through the slope, humanity’s smallness can be felt when under Yushan’s Big Cliff.
Only one hour away from Paiyun Lodge, the next part of the route is rugged and more steep. The last slop is called Haohanpo, or Hero’s Slope, because its steepness causes hikers to almost faint.
Located at an altitude of 3,402 meters above sea level at 8.5 kilometers, Paiyun Lodge provides water, bathrooms and kitchen facilities.
The restaurant and the sleeping bag rental are run by separate companies.
If you don’t want to cook your own meals, you can order food offered by Paiyun Lodge in advance, and it’s also possible to rent sleeping bags to reduce the weight of the backpack. Such services and equipment are basically five-star accommodation in the mountaineering world.
Built adjacent to Yushan’s main peak and Xifeng peak, the lodge is surrounded by all these mountaintops, facing the valley with a wide view of the south. It is an excellent place to view both the vast ocean and clouds, which are best enjoyed at around 5pm during autumn and winter.
The following morning at 3am is the best time for hikers to start making their way to the mountain.
The road after leaving Paiyun Lodge is a zigzag-shaped steep slope whose high altitude makes many climbers breathless, while the loose gravel increases a sense of unease, although some sections of the road have iron chains to support it.
With a morning temperature lower than 5 degrees Celsius, the road seems endless as the headlights illuminate the path ahead, and it’s not easy to reach Xiaofengkou as strong winds make standing upright difficult.
Only 200 meters away from Yushan’s main peak and the final trek of the zigzagging slope is so steep that it seems like a stairway to the sky. Now grasp onto the iron chain beside you and climb carefully until you’ve completed the final 2.3-kilometer trial.
If you’re lucky and depart early enough in the morning, you will arrive at the peak in time to enjoy the sunrise bathing the sea and clouds –– an unforgettable sight to behold.