If you are scared of heights then maybe you shouldn’t read this article…
Probably The Most Extreme Article About Dangerous Things That You Will Read Today!
…which should actually just be titled…
Mount Hua Shan And The Plank Road In The Sky
So I once read an article (can’t remember the source) about Mount Hua Shan in China. It is close to the city of Xi’An which was once the capital of Ancient China and is pretty much right in the middle of the country. What I read was specifically focused on the ‘Plank Road in the Sky’, and it named the path the ‘world’s most dangerous hiking trail’. Instead of me starting off with an explanation of what this place is all about, let’s have a photo:
If you REALLY cannot be bothered to read the whole post, all of the money shots (AND A VIDEO!) are at the end of the post. But I advise you read it all…why? Just because!
So I just want to start off by saying that I am sure that there are plenty of places all over the world that are waaaay more dangerous than this one. I have read a lot of incorrect and totally exaggerated information on this place so I am going to take you through it, show you a whole bunch of photos and a video and set the record straight! It can be a pretty scary place if you have vertigo though for sure. After all, you are walking along a few planks of wood that are attached to the side of a mountain!
Mount Hua Shan
So Mount Hua Shan is one of the ‘Five Great Mountains’ in China which are also part of the ‘Sacred Mountains of China’. The Five Great Mountains are the 5 most renowned mountains in Chinese history. Over the last two millennia, the worship of these five mountains (grouped into ‘North’, ‘East’, ‘South’, ‘West’ and ‘Centre’, Hua Shan being the ‘West Great Mountain’) had been ingrained in Chinese culture. They are among the best known natural landmarks in the country’s history and have previously been ritual sites of both worship and sacrifice by various emperors.
So I first heard about this mountain whilst I was actually in the country. I hadn’t previously heard about it or seen any photos of the trekking path, so when I Googled what it was all about and saw how sketchy it looked, I knew instantly that there was absolutely NO WAY that I would be leaving China without trekking on this path. I didn’t care how dangerous it supposedly was, I wanted to experience being on the side of a mountain on a plank of wood and get a bunch of crazy photos and video whilst doing it!
The Trek Up The Mountain
So the mountain itself is really beautiful. As I was trekking up (I was with 2 Americans I met whilst visiting the Terracotta army the day before) I saw sights like this:
The padlocks with red ribbons you see here are everywhere on the way up the mountain. They symbolise love and are usually inscribed with the name of a loved one/partner/etc. The red prayer ribbons are usually attached to the padlocks.
Who needs a Stairmaster when you have mountains to climb with steps like these?!
Couldn’t resist a little GoPro self on the way up with my GoPole!
The sun was starting to set as we got closer to the peak of the mountain:
So because we set off pretty late, by the time we reached the entrance to the Plank Road in the Sky, it had already closed for the day. The sun was setting and it is obviously too dangerous to pass through after dark. We eventually reached the peak of the mountain in the dark which is at 2,160m. I got some nice photos like this:
So we had no other choice than to spend the night up this mountain. There are a couple of guesthouses up the top. The first one we visited appeared to be closed but the family inside offered to make us some food and said that they had an available room. But it was a little expensive and we remembered passing another, slightly cheaper place on the way up so we turned around and ended up staying there instead. The girl there was super friendly and cooked us some noodles (we were all starving after the trek!) and we made our way to our room. When we arrived at our room there were 3 bunk beds and a family of 6 was already in the room. “Errrrm, ok cool where do we sleep?”. But they all squeezed in to 3 beds and we got our own. We chatted to them for a bit – they spoke broken English and my travelling US buddies spoke (rather limited!) broken Chinese. They all seemed very nice though and we all ended up snuggling into our unsteady, swaying beds on dirty sheets with no pillows next to a window that sat in a frame which shook with the wind. Luxury!
I totally recommend staying the night up here though because it means you can get up early and see the sunrise from the peak:
Look the sun is just coming up in the distance!
After sunrise my American buddies had to shoot off as they had a plane to catch back home to where they were teaching English. Or maybe it was a train. Whatever.
So off I trek to the Plank Road all by myself. At this point I am super excited! This is why I climbed up this bloody mountain in the first place!
A path on the way to the Plank Road.
On the way to the Plank Road I randomly stumble across a temple. It was a pretty nice place!:
Approaching The Plank Road In The Sky
When I get to the entrance to the path I am the first person there for that day.
In case you can’t read the above it says: “Introduction to the Plank Road in the Sky… Located on the precipice of South Peak outside the South Heavenly Gate, the plank road in the sky is the most precipitous natural barrier of Huashan Moutain. It is hundreds of meters long and a few feet wide. Passers-by dug holes on the precipice, inserted in stone piles and placed wooden plates on the stone piles to make paths. People have to walk slowly, facing the precipice. Those who are brave may walk at ease while those who are timid would feel rather horrified.”…horrified eh? Fancy!
The South Heavenly Gate marks the entrance to the Plank Road.
“…fastened by peg”…hmmm, that must be one strong peg. Sounds totally secure.
At this point I turn around to see the sun rising above the mountains. I take a few snaps and then carry on…
So carrying on towards the path…
As I put my bag into the cloakroom (jokes, it was literally a cave just before the path starts), a girl manages to slip in front of me. Sneaky bugger! So I follow her down to the path. And she appears to be absolutely terrified. So first things first…this path must be done with a harness. Many blogs or articles on this place seem to leave this part out just to make it seem more ‘extreme’. This is why I say that it really isn’t that dangerous. If the old planks of wood become detached from the mountain whilst you are walking along them, you are still attached to a harness so worst case scenario you will just be left dangling from the side of a mountain face. That might be pretty scary but at least you won’t fall to your death! Well so long as the rusty old chains don’t give way too!
Entering The Plank Road In The Sky
So this is basically where all the money shots are. There is also a VIDEO in there as well so don’t miss out on that one.
Climbing down towards the planks!
Shuffling along towards the plank road!
Making Your Way Onto The Planks
So if you are scared of heights, this is where things start to get a bit sketchy.
Just before you reach the planks there are some small indents in the rock face which you can use to walk along towards the wooden planks. I’m not sure which bit is safer to be honest!
Hmmm, this is pretty high up. But I need a bit more danger…
I know, I’ll go one-legged on the planks! Hmmmm, still I’m not feeling the danger though…
Don’t look down!
Using The Harness On The Planks
So the harness has 2 separate connections with 2 carabiners. In hindsight I probably should have been connecting one to the top line and one to the bottom. Ah well, I survived so it’s all good!
Both are connected…
Connect it to the next section of line…
Then the other one follows…
Onwards! I probably didn’t need to explain all that, the pictures are pretty self explanatory!
Show Me The Video Already!
Now if the photos just aren’t doing it for you then here is a super quick video of what it is like being on the plank road:
So What Happens When You Reach The End Of The Planks?
The plank road (how many times have I said ‘plank’ in this post!?) leads to pretty much nothing. Well almost nothing:
I’ve made it across the planks, now I wonder what I will find at the end of this path? Gold? Silver? A treasure chest? McDonald’s? What could it possibly be?…
This guy is waiting to greet you in a small cave on the other side. I have read stories about how there is a tea house at the end of the path. Well there was no bloody tea house when I got there! And I wouldn’t have minded a nice cuppa at this point…all that danger makes you thirsty you know! So it’s a dead end and a small cave which Buddhists obviously come and use as a place of worship. So when you have done that, you turn around and make your way back. And sometimes it can get busy and so this creates traffic on the planks!
Excuse me Sir, not to trouble you at all but can I please get past?
More Photos Of Pure And Extreme DANGER!
And that’s pretty much it. You make your way back up the exact same way that you came, make your way down the mountain and instantly go and post all of the photos on Instagram and Facebook.
Now where’s my muffin?