Conquering Tai Shan

In the steps of the emperors…

We start our climb at 9 PM from the base of Mt. Tai in the city of Tai An. It is dark and cold. I’m worried about freezing, so I wear a lot of layers. Five layers, in fact. Thirty minutes into the climb, I’ve stripped down to three. The imperial route up Mt. Tai is lined with steps and whew! I work up quite a sweat!

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I’m tired!

We can’t see a thing, so we just clomp along in the dark. Eventually, our eyes adjust to the darkness and we can make out the outline of stairs ahead (never ending stairs!). Of course, we are instantly blinded anytime we approach a shop or temple that has a light on. We stop at one temple to light some incense and my friends pray for prosperity.

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A tame staircase

We are among only a handful of climbers. They say during national holidays the mountain is full of people. The solitude and quiet are great for reflection. The stars overhead are brilliant.

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Wendy & Ivy

At midnight, we reach the half-way point. We are cold, hungry and tired. Sunrise will be at 7 AM. We decide a nap would be a good idea. We check into a small hostel for a few hours sleep. The beds are hard, the room is cold.

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DH makes a friend

At 5 AM we are up again, groggy and grumpy. The hardest part of the climb is straight ahead.

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Stairway to heaven?

My friends, who are all 5 to 7 years younger than I, bound up the steps. The DH and I plod along slow and steady. The trail is not particularly strenuous, but it is good to pace yourself.

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My Chinese pose

There is ice and snow on the ground all around us. We can hear it crunching under our feet.

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The stairs seem never ending as we get closer and closer to the top. Slowly, the sky brightens.

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Azure Cloud Temple on the summit

At 6:30 AM we reach the top of the hellish staircase (Actually, it is the staircase to heaven!) We’re almost to the summit.

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1400 meters, 100 more to go

Another 10 minutes and we are settled in on some big boulders to wait for the sunrise. Crowds begin to gather around us. Everyone is wearing army style coats – thick and green – to keep warm. It is windy and brutally cold. I notice quite a few ladies are wearing high heeled boots. I assume they’ve just woken up and left their hotel rooms to view the sunrise. (Although I observe some intrepid climbers in high heels later.)

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Just after 7 AM the sun pokes through the clouds. We all ooh and aah. Airplanes pass by, leaving contrails across the sky. We can just make out the trail we have climbed, through the clouds below us.

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We begin our descent (too cold to linger at the top) and almost instantly we feel the effects of our climb – soreness! Our knees are screaming!

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Jo-Jo, DH, me, Wendy & Ivy

Looking down the mountain at all the steps we’ve climbed, we all agree it was a brilliant idea to walk up in the dark. If we’d seen what was ahead of us, I’m not sure we could have continued!

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It’s a long way down!

The walk down is fun, but long. We stop every few meters to pose for photos and to admire the views we missed on the way up. We pass lots of stone carvings and small temples.

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Jo-Jo

The mountain is covered in cypress trees and boulders. It all looks straight out of a traditional Chinese painting.

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By the half-way point, we are starting to wonder if taking the cable car/bus down would have been a better idea.

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Ivy touches heaven

When we’ve reached the base, our knees are destroyed, our legs are sore, and we are starving. But we’ve had a blast! After lunch, we’re on our way back to Linyi (and bed!).

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Piece of cake!

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2 Responses to “Conquering Tai Shan”

  1. turvyc Says:

    That looks like a totally cool excursion. Great photos as well! Looking forward to the next post!

  2. Ivy Says:

    it is so cool to find your blog on the net by accident ^_^

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