The formidable Mount Huashan, located about 45 minutes outside of Xi’an, China, has an uncounted death toll. Thousands make the dangerous pilgrimage to the top to pray. Some don’t make it. It’s unknown how many have perished on this mountain, because the Chinese government refuses to release its’ statistics. Mt. Huashan is not for the faint of heart.
Mt. Huashan: For Those Interested in Danger
Besides being one of the most dangerous mountains in the world to climb, Mt. Huashan features breathtaking views from all 5 of its peaks. It also has an infamous (and terrifying) “Plank Walk.”
Let me preface by stating that no one died on our trip. I can certainly see how people could (and do) perish on this mountain. After climbing Mt. Fuji last September and experiencing sheer frigid cold and slippery rock-faces, I wouldn’t think twice to cancel a trip to Huashan in non-perfect conditions.
The actual death toll is covered up by China’s government, like anything else that might embarrass them. If you are planning your own trip to Mt. Huashan, I applaud you. It’s worth it. But for Buddha’s sake, don’t go at night if it’s raining. (And you did buy travel insurance, didn’t you?)
There are vertical rock faces with 2-inch-wide steps cut into the surface. There are areas where you need to “doggy-paddle” your way up and support your full weight on chains bolted into the mountain side. I don’t know who bolted these chains in, but I sure hope their craftsmanship holds up…for your sake! There are areas where the rock has been worn away from previous users. Don’t slip. (No, seriously.)
To top that off, many people climb at night in order to see the sunrise at the top. Breathtaking? Sure….if you make it.
Onto the Juicy Danger: The Plank Walk
Just below the South Peak is a small detour with gut-wrenching side effects. Long planks are bolted into the side of the mountain, with ropes attached above to strap yourself onto as you walk to a small temple and back the way you came.
This is treacherous trip is a 2-way channel across an 8-inch-wooden beam for the entire length of the rock face. Have you ever wanted to get really friendly with other travelers in death-defying activities? Here’s your chance!
The Plank Walk itself is an extra 30 yuan per person for the chest harness. Not bad for life-saving gear, if you ask me. The views during will put butterflies in your stomach. If you attempt to let go of the ropes, the staff will scream at you. Not that I let that deter me. If I’m going to die, it might as well be epic. (Not pictured: Boyfriend looking terrified and refusing to look down.)
Need a little more excitement? Let’s talk logistics.
You can take a bullet train from Xi’an North station, a slow train from Xi’an Railway, or do like I did and catch a bus from the front of Xi’an Railway. Any of these options will run you 20-65 yuan per way. If you choose the bus, it will drop you off at the foot of the mountain, a 5-minute walk to the trail head to the Northern Peak. If you take a train, you will have to purchase a ticket for a shuttle bus, found at either Huashan-Bei or Huashan Railway stations.
National Parks are expensive in China.
Apparently, National Parks are one of the only ways that the government collects taxes. Which makes them quite pricey. A ticket into Huashan will run around 100/person. Our tickets to Zhangjiajie were 240 yuan/person. (Others in china can be as costly as 500/person!)
The hike to the top takes “4-6” hours. And by that, friends, I mean we did it in 3. But there are 5 peaks, and you can spend hours at the summit, traveling from point to point. Each peak has a significantly different viewpoint, but I would recommend visiting the North and South view points. You can add the West if you are feeling adventurous and want to watch the sunset!
There is a cable-car access. I personally am adverse to the idea of taking a cable car up the mountain as I feel it detracts from the authenticity and satisfaction that arises from climbing the beast yourself, but to each their own. There are 2 cable cars running up from the foothills, one coming into the East Peak, the other the North. They are quite expensive, running around 120 yuan/person per way.
There are multiple cafe’s, places to rest overnight if desired, and places to relax and sip tea or water all the way up the mountainside. Most of the prices weren’t inflated too terribly much, however the higher you go, the more water costs. I feel for the men I watched carry cases of water strapped to a bamboo stick across their backs. Ouch!
Anyway. This mountain got the best of me. I was sore for days afterward, but I don’t regret a second of it! Have you climbed Huashan? Better yet, do you want to after this post? Let me know how crazy you think I really am.
Mt Huashan was the third mountain I ever climbed! I was over working in China for four months last spring, and my co workers and I stopped by there on a whim. I had no idea what was ahead of me, and your article encapsulates what I experienced extremely well!
wasn’t it intense? I always compare my climbs now to Huashan. It’s probably one of the most memorable hikes I’ve ever completed.
HI! I am thinking of visiting HuaShan next month and I want to climb up and take the cable car down… Where should I start and where should my end point be to catch the cable car down? I want to see the highest peak of the mountain and do the plank walk. Thank you!
Hi Soo Jeon;
There are only a few entrances into the park. The main entrance, (where any bus you take to the mountain will drop you off) will take you up to the first peak, and then the plank walk! The cable car signs are all over! You won’t get lost 🙂
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