Huang Shan – Islands In The Sky

No this is not a scene out of Avatar, and no I did not die and go to heaven. This is Huang Shan, the fabled mountain of Chinese artists and poets. A truly incredible place.

It’s really not a mountain with one defined peak, but rather a multitude of granite peaks and deep gorges with vegetation clinging to what seems like sheer rock. I always thought those images one sees on Chinese scroll paintings were fantastical imaginings, but I assure you they are real landscapes.

I was fortunate to get up the mountain the day I arrived, after an overnight train ride from Beijing, and a four hour bus to the town at the base of the mountain. I got up there just before sunset.

Accommodation at the top was pricey, but worth it. Having left my full pack at a place in the base town, my goal the next day was simply to walk myself down amongst the misty peaks via the Western Steps. It was truly an otherworldly landscape, accentuated by the ever changing mist and clouds.

At one moment something is exposed.

And the next it is partially or completely hidden.

The “trails” were really a series of steps of stone between peaks with much up and down climbing. I found myself on this harrowing series of steps going down deep into a gorge, with the steps built from stone completely protruding from the sheer vertical granite mountainsides, and very short railings.

At some point I started to wonder if this could really be the common way down. Then I came across this.

This is where my sense of safety kicked in and I decided I was not going down that! I soon found out I was on a different trail that was not for the faint of heart, not that I ever considered myself faint of heart. So I had to do a considerable amount of climbing to get back to where I made my wrong turn, I wasn‘t at the Western Steps but the Western Gorge Trail. All the way down, and all the way back up, but it was worth it!

But I can’t really complain, not after seeing this guy.

Up near the top there are all these locks on the railings left by young couples over the years to show their commitment to each other, along with the ever present posing for pictures.

It’s too bad I do not have my lovely lady with me to share all of this, but if I did, we surely would have put one of these up there.

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6 Responses to “Huang Shan – Islands In The Sky”


  1. 1 Julie Wuest May 18, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Thanks for all your efforts Peter, what a treat to sit in the dining room and see China from your point of view!
    Happy Traveling!

  2. 3 Caroline Musselwhite May 18, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Incredible photos, and even more incredible to think that you are hiking it. So envious, so happy that you’re experiencing this!

  3. 4 david May 18, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Remarkable images! It’s a good thing that you are in such great shape.

  4. 5 Barbara May 18, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    WOW… I want to be there… to add smells and sounds to your incredible pictures and narrative. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. 6 joyce May 20, 2010 at 7:05 am

    WOW–what beautiful pictures. Enjoy this incredible trip.


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