ALP – Trip to Huang Shan (黄山)

12 Jun

by Jiahui, pictures and captions (and a few notes) by Benjamin

It was in the morning, before our design presentation, that Ben suggested climbing Huang Shan (in An Hui province) during the Dumpling Festival public holiday. For some of us, it took awhile to sink in – Joshua thought we were going to Suzhou at first.

(Ben: Actually a few other friends had already planned to go, and Whatsapp groups were abuzz with final discussions before setting off. I really wanted to go, but our ZJU leaders said we had an afternoon lesson on Sunday. We found out on Saturday morning that plans had changed: Sunday turned out to be a free and easy day, so……)

It was frantic. We agreed to go in the morning, planned in the afternoon, packed at night, and set off the next morning to a place whose geography we barely knew much about.

The SUTD contingent to Huangshan.

The SUTD contingent to Huangshan, consisting of 3 different groups. Nearly the whole bus was ours.

The night before, I googled pictures of Huang Shan and was my curiosity was piqued.

Huang Shan is actually a mountain range of granite peaks that happen to ‘catch’ clouds and fog very well. Perhaps, it is owing to this, that Huang Shan held enthralled the hearts of many who made the pilgrimage up its treacherous slopes (and stairs).

It was this same feverish spirit that finally brought us more than a kilometre up to the summit of Huang Shan.

Fine, we cheated. We took the cable car up, which covered a fair distance of the way.

Fine, we cheated. We took the cable car up, which covered a fair distance of the way.

That being said, it was still tiring to navigate in the terrain – stairs were steep, the oxygen level was low and it was still a long walk to the hotel. Food and water prices were also ridiculous (robbery, Desmond says) and so we survived on snacks most of the way while lugging an average of 3l of water (per person) up the mountain.

The view we encountered 95% of the time.

The view we encountered 95% of the time.

As seen, there was fog, fog, and more fog.

Near, far, wherever you are~

Near, far, wherever you are~

Still, the mist did lead to some good atmospheric effects

Still, the mist did lead to some good atmospheric effects.

On the first day, we could not help feeling a bit disappointed. To be honest, the googled pictures of Huang Shan were much better than what I saw. But we were not to be deterred. The copious amounts of fog only fanned the fiery spirit of wanderlust in our hearts (okay la everyone just wanted good shots) and the following day, we woke up at an unearthly hour of 3.30am. Navigating to the top of a peak (狮子峰) in the darkness and cold, the photographers set up camp and we picnicked on breakfast (snickers, biscuits).

Taken before sunrise at 0430hrs. ISO 25600.

Taken before sunrise at 0430hrs. ISO 25600.

Rise and shine guys, the sun's up... or not. That white light in the bottom third in the centre is a group of tourists with their flashlights ascending to our location.

That white light in the bottom third in the centre is a group of tourists with their flashlights ascending to our location.

This was the ‘sunrise’ we woke up so early for. Again, disappointment came with expectations and in this case, eyebags.

The crowd 30 minutes later. It always pays to be early.

The larger disappointed group of tourists some 20 minutes later.

Not all things go the way we want them to, but perspective helps. If not for this, chance would not have brought us to the West Sea Canyon at the exact moment where the fog cleared for several minutes.

"What. So this is what we're supposed to see since yesterday."

“Whut. So this is the view we should have been seeing since yesterday.”

Looks like part of a Chinese painting. But nope. Guys, I bring you the real Huang Shan. Such beauty inspired generations of poets and photographers, notably the Chinese poet Li Bai. But it did not bring tears to my eyes. Unlike Li Bai, I did not think grand thoughts while pondering the meaning of life. Good lines of poetry did not come to me. Reason: too many other tourists, too little time.

Following which, we made our foray into the Canyon, as the fog slowly rolled back in.

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(It was only after finishing the hike safely that I told my mom the stairs here were steep, wet and dangerous)

The fogs coming in again......

The fog is coming in again……

From here on, the madness (ie.real hiking) started.

What comes down...

What comes down…

... must go up.

… must go up.

We climbed up the steep steps we previously descended from, and made our way south to the entrance/exit of Huang Shan region. At best, the railings were lower than waist level. At worst, they were non-existent. A slip would mean a free-fall straight down. Definitely faster than hiking down/cable car.

As we discussed the method of transportation down, the shorter path to the cable car station (the easier solution) was shut off due to bad weather, so we decided to give it a pass. This meant more stairs.

One slip, and the domino effect begins.

One slip, and you’ll get down real quickly. It’s probably gonna hurt though.

My first philosophical thought came to me not as I admired the scenery, but as I gingerly made my way down my millionth stair. To me, this hike reminded me of the good deal of juggling we have to do in life. I either focus on climbing down the stair carefully, or I gauge the steps and breathe in the surrounding beauty. Somehow, at some point, we do too much of one, and the onus is always on ourselves to struggle to strike a balance.

Anyway, we trudged down and walked another few kilometers to the southern entrance of the mountain. We took a bus back to the hotel, where it was finally sleep at last.

But before that, we had our first proper dinner in 24hrs.

But before that, we had our first proper dinner in 24hrs.

The next day, we explored the town (塘口镇) of Tang Kou Zhen before finally returning to Hangzhou.

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Final group photo in 汤口镇 before we got on the bus back to Hangzhou.

Final group photo in 汤口镇. Looking at the number of people who are wearing jackets / sweaters here… future visitors who are afraid of the cold should pack one too.

(Ben: PS: For those who want to climb Huang Shan, do ensure you bring sufficient water and snacks, and ensure you are fit enough to climb a lot of stairs. Lots of stairs. Oh, bringing more money might be a good idea if you really need to buy water for 10 times the normal price or hire someone to carry you up the mountain.

PSS: My calves still hurt like crazy now.)

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