I had wanted to write more about the hike up Snow Mountain I completed with a group in December. My first post, about life at the top, can be found here. I decided to format it as a letter to my friend Taiwan, to mix things up a bit. First, here are a few quick facts about the trail:
Name: Snow Mountain (Xueshan)
Location: Shei-pa National Park, Taiwan
Trail Head: Wuling Farm, at ~2000m (4 hour drive from Taipei)
Summit: Snow Mountain Main Peak, 3886m
Distance: 10.9km (each way)
Duration: 3 days, two nights (first night in Qika Cabin, second night in 3-6-9 Cabin)
Technical? No, but crampons are often necessary in the winter near the summit
More Information: http://www.taiwan-adventures.com
Certain places conjure up visions of adventure-ready accommodation more readily than others. Bearing down on acclimatization in tea huts along Nepal’s trekking circuits. Bare-bones shelters dotting the Appalachian Trail. Devouring gourmet meals in the Alps’ chalets after getting your Sound of Music on. But what about you, Taiwan?
Taiwan, you piqued my interest when I learned about a smattering of backcountry bunks set high in the hills of your National Parks. How did you know that the few weekends I spent adventuring to and lounging in hiking huts of the Rockies are among my fondest memories of living near to the mountains in Canada?
But, Taiwan, you should know that you offered more than just an interesting sleeping arrangement. You also offered me a window into contemporary mountain culture here on your island. The chance to make new friends from all over the world. And, of course, you offered me a smorgasbord of your landscapes, all sampled in a weekend.
Let’s start. First, I have to say that spending time in your huts is kind of like a very large and decidedly sterile slumber party. There’s a lot of you, but no one is telling ghost stories, having pillow fights, or talking very much at all for that matter. It’s a good thing that we had robust down sleeping bags to keep us warm physically and, you know, psychologically.
Because everyone likes a contrast, you mixed things up a bit in the toilets, which were decidedly not sterile. At 3-6-9 Hut maybe the altitude got to you a bit, because the toilet situation evolved from murdery to downright bizarre, with a turn wheel poop stirrer that stared you in the face, willing you to turn it and of course willing you to peer down and see what on earth you could be accomplishing.
But I see what you did there Taiwan – you are just trying to nudge us out for more wilderness time. You must have figured out that if a hut is too homey, one can fritter away whole afternoons, evenings or even days drinking wine, hot chocolate and trading hiking stories. That would have been terrible, no fun at all. But maybe it’s for the best – there’s a lot of nature to explore.
You crammed an impressive number of landscapes into a 11 KM (one way) hike, and I commend you for that Taiwan. What a paradox it was to simultaneously wish the vistas would clear for even better views, but also be wanting the mists to stick around.
It may have been backcountry hiking, but the food you had on offer was decidedly frontcountry. You showed us, perhaps unsurprisingly, that good food is a priority even in those rare pockets of the mountains out of cell range. Your slopes delayed the porters, or perhaps it was the large amount of cabbage they dragged up for us and the other groups that had contracted them. Although everyone was starving, I am happy to report that another of your customs held strong – patient and orderly lining up for dinner.
Lastly, Taiwan you gave us a window into life as a local mountain enthusiast. If the hike up Snow Mountain was any indication, your hardcore hikers are a serious bunch. They are decked out in the latest gear, they are assuredly waking up at an obscene hour to catch sunrise, but they aren’t without a sense of humour.
With a wish to return,