Mt. Huashan, one of China’s five holy mountains. Our journey begins in the Xi’an train station. It’s packed; all the seats are taken and the floor between is covered by Chinese people sitting on their suitcases. We are herded like cattle toward our train, people bumping into me with every step I took. Once we found our seats a train attendant came over, pointed at my bag and said something to me in Mandarin. I told him I didn’t speak Chinese in Mandarin but he kept speaking. The man sitting beside me stared at me in amazement and disbelief, then proceeded to speak to me in Mandarin. He couldn’t comprehend that I didn’t know Chinese so he kept talking to me for about 10 minutes. Soon the whole train car overheard what was happening and I had about 60 sets of slanted eyes staring at me, outright laughing and yelling to friends that there was Chinese person who couldn’t speak a lick of Mandarin.
Jessica and I were both quite nervous about getting to Huashan. Ninety five percent of the tourists in China are Chinese so there was only vague information about how to get there and no English signs. At the station we met the only other white people, two French travelers, Dominique and Alouise who were also trying to find Huashan. It was nice to have 2 extra guys with us in a sketchy cab that was driving us down a dirt road that looked like it was leading nowhere.
Upon arrival we all in awe as we stare up at the mountain range of sheer rocks that protrude thousands of feet straight up to the sky. The magnitude is incomprehendible and even after being there it is still hard to believe. We were all so excited until we looked up at cable car that we are about to take. Fear grips my ball sack, pushing my testicles up inside of what feels like a uterus. The cable car is a couple hundred feet high, goes straight up the steep cliff and there is only one support post between top and bottom, not to mention that it is moving at a very fast pace. We manage to pull it together and smile for a picture.
The trails are mostly stairs but every once in a while there would be a rock wall with steps carved in it or an extremely long and insanely steep staircase. Everywhere we looked there were amazing views, rock mountains in every direction. All along the path are chains covered with golden locks and red ribbons. The idea is that you say a prayer for your loved ones, leave a lock and you will have good luck. It’s crazy to think that everything on the mountain is brought up by foot. We kept seeing small Chinese men carrying heavy loads of brick, food and water up thousands of stairs multiple times a day.
We camped the night in a tent at the base of the east peak. Not the best idea, the tent was on rocks with only a few blankets inside all through the night people were stopping on the bench right outside our tent to eat and talk really loudly. We caught about 2 hours of sleep before our 4 am hike to the peak. Once we secured a good spot we sat and watched as hoards of people poured in. They hike overnight from the bottom of the mountain in the dark to catch this view and fill every empty space on the peak until it is covered shoulder to shoulder. The sunrise was a disappointment because of the clouds.
At the south peak there is a trail called the cliff walk, a wooden path one foot wide made of 3 planks. It juts straight out of the rock face and is 3000 feet high. As we round the corner to the cliff walk a huge gust of wind knocks us both off balance. Not gonna lie, we were both pretty sketched and almost chickened out. Standing in line to go down I look over the edge to see what we are up against. All I can see is people descending a ladder of metal rungs inserted into a crack in the rock face and then they disappear. At bottom of the ladder are foot holds carved into the cliff that lead to the planks. Once we were on the planks we felt really comfortable and had a lot of fun. The craziest thing about the Cliff Walk is that it’s a 2 way path.
On the other side of the Cliff Walk we met some Chinese guys from Xi’an who spoke English very well. When we got to the bottom of the mountain there was a sign for tourist info but no booth. Just then our Chinese friends were passing by and they guided us on a local bus and helped us buy our train tickets back to Xi’an. Such nice guys that they insisted on paying our bus fares and then bought us waters at the station.