Climbing China’s Most Dangerous Mountain

Article by XIANEASE

In China, there at the 五岳 (wŭ yuè) or five great mountains, each one coinciding with one of the five cardinal directions of the traditional Chinese religion; North, South, East, West, and Center. During the imperial period, it was common for the Emperor to perform rituals at each of the five mountains in order to cement their claim on the lands. People still make pilgrimages to these mountains today.

Introducing Mount Hua

Among these five mountains is 华山 (Hua Shan), or Mount Hua, which is located about 120km from the city. Rising to an elevation of 2,154m at its highest point, Mount Hua has five peaks, once again echoing the five cardinal directions. The North peak, the lowest, rises to 1,614m, while the West peak rises to 2,082m. The South peak is divided into three summits, with the highest of those summits being 2,154, the highest point. However, when people go to climb Mount Hua, their main target is usually the East peak, which was divided into four summits, but now consists of three, with the fourth peak, 玉女峰 (Yunü Feng), now being considered its own, separate peak.

Once you have found the account, you will need to find the option to register for a ticket. Choose a date, input your information, and receive your digital ticket. Have your ticket, 一码通, and ID ready when you enter the park. You will also need to wear a mask while inside the park and you should maintain a distance of 1.5 meters whenever possible.
You can register for your tickets through WeChat up to seven days in advance, though be warned. There are 13 million other people contending for the limited number of spots and the tickets for each day tend to disappear quickly. It might be advisable to try for the tickets as soon as they become available, seven days prior to your intended date. You can only get one ticket per ID, so each person in your group will need to individually register. Follow the instructions on the following pages to register for your tickets.

Night Hikes

Those wishing to climb the mountain will often travel through the night, climbing the steep and narrow trails in order to reach the East peak before dawn in order to watch the sunrise. It is reported that this practice, in addition to the benefit of seeing truly breathtaking natural beauty, is practical in nature. Traditionally, it was often considered better if you could not see the extreme drop-offs right next to you as you climb, and it helped in avoiding people on their way back down. There may be good reason for these precautions.

China’s Most Dangerous Mountain?

The mountain has gained something of an international reputation as being a very dangerous mountain. This is due in part to photos you often seen of the infamous ‘plank walk’, a section of the trail that consists of a series of wooden planks for your feet and chains bolted into the mountain to hold on to. Though there is no substantive evidence for it, Mount Hua is sometimes deemed ‘China’s Most Dangerous Mountain’ as there are many narrow passes and the mountain can sometimes get quite crowded, as tourists flock to the place during the holidays. Some have placed the annual death toll as high as 100 per year, but there is no proof of such a high number. Still, accidents do occur, and this is definitely not a place for the clumsy or acrophobic.

Less Dangerous Than Before

In recent years, steps have been taken in order to make the mountain safer. A cable car was installed in the 1990s to assist some in reaching the top of the mountain, allowing some who might otherwise not make journey to enjoy the mountain. Paths in the mountain were cut deeper into the mountainside and guardrails were installed in order to help mitigate the risks. Some of the paths were made one way to avoid overcrowding, and certain paths will be closed when icy or crowded conditions occur.

Getting there

There are several ways to get to Mount Hua from Xi’an. You can take the 旅游专线1号, k302, or k402 from the East Train Station (西安城东运站) to Mount Hua. These lines run from 7:00AM to 7:30PM, leave every half hour, and cost about 28RMB. There are also trains that travel to the mountain, with G1282 high-speed train to 华山北站 (54.5RMB) or the 1148 from the Xi’an Rail Station to 华山火车站 (18.5RMB).

Sadly, with the current epidemic prevention measure that are in place, the whole Mount Hua experience will be a little different. Right now, the area is only open from 8AM to 3PM, so there will be no night hikes happening these days. Also, due to the length of the journey, the only way to ascend the mountain from the base is by cable car. You can still travel from peak to peak, but if you were to do so, you would want to get there early to maximize your time at the top. There is also a limit in place as to the number of visitors, currently set at 6000 per day, and those wishing to visit will be required to register in advance via the park’s official WeChat account.