Mt Hua is well renowned for its most dangerous plank walk along the cliff face where thrill seekers from all over the world head here to challenge themselves. We almost gave this mountain a miss as it was a little too far from our planned route and it’ll be quite costly to just travel there and back. But after meeting some travellers who convinced us that this mountain is a must go, we decided that we had to do it.
Now’s our turn to convince you why you should visit Mt Hua.
1. You will get to experience exciting and different terrains while trekking
We personally like that the terrain at Mt Hua varies quite a fair bit compared to the other mountains that we’ve climbed. You start the trek with a 4km upslope climb before hitting the countless steps. The steps aren’t your typical well-structured steps. Some steps are so narrow that you have to walk up sideways, twisting and turning your body as you go along. But overall it was quite a tough climb though, took us around 3 hours to the first peak (North Peak) and another 3-4 hours to explore the other 4 peaks.
Tip: Wear a good pair of hiking shoes. Although the locals have a talent of trekking in high heels/wedges (not kidding). No idea how they do it, but safest bet is to use proper trek shoes with good solid grip as some of the steps can be really slippery!
2. It gets your adrenaline pumping
At one point in time during the trek, you’ll have to decide if you’re game enough to take on the literally vertical steps with loose chains to grip onto at the sides, or you can also choose the easy way out and take the normal steps. Of course we being adrenaline junkies, we had to choose the difficult path. And boy was it challenging indeed! The steps were so narrow and the chains weren’t exactly very tight and when you grip on to them, sometimes you feel like you’re going to fall backwards anytime!
Next is the very famous nerve wrecking “Vast Sky Plank Walk” along the cliff face of the Hua Shan’s South peak. This is actually very similar to our via Ferrata experience at Mount Kinabalu. Though the one at Hua Shan is a lot shorter and less scary actually. But still, it definitely was an experience standing on the 2ft wide wooden platform attached to the cliff face while being at a height of 2,160m above sea level. Don’t look down if you have a fear of heights!
Tip: Bring along gloves if you have. Especially during colder weather, the metal chains will be too cold to grip onto with bare hands. If you do not have, fret not, there will be plenty of locals selling cheap basic cotton gloves at the bottom of the mountain.
Basically it’s a one way route when doing the plank walk. Thus when returning to your start point, you’ll have to cross over the incoming people and sometimes it gets quite challenging as the plank or the ladder isn’t very wide. It’s amazing how many people they’ll allow to go onto this plank walk at any one time, around 20 people i think. Just look at the number of people trying to climb down the ladder while I on the other hand am struggling to climb back up.
Tip: Bring along a good wind breaker and a warm fleece jacket. Temperature at Hua Shan drops to below 6 degrees once the sun sets and the wind is a killer! We’re using The North Face Triclimate jackets which are really very practical! It has an outer windbreaker shell which doubles up as a rain coat and it comes with a detachable inner fleece jacket which kept us warm.
3. You will be rewarded with spectacular views
We weren’t blessed with good weather during our first day trek up the mountain. In fact, we could barely see anything as the entire mountain was shrouded with fog! Hence our decision to stay a night and to try our luck the next day. And boy was this one of the best decision that we’ve ever made! The weather during sunset and sunrise was perfect and visibility was super good during our plank walk the next day!
Tip: Take your time at Mt Hua if you can afford to. Mt Hua is one of the most precipitous mountains in China, hence resulting in its foggy nature. It’ll be a waste to not wait till the fog clears up.
Where to stay
Alchemy Furnace (Cheapest accommodation!) – near the South Peak
Y80/pax (6 pax dormitory)
(It’s not stated on the map that you can stay at Alchemy Furnance, but just head there and ask them for a room. Cheapest we found at the summit of Hua Shan)
Alternatively, you can choose to sleep in a tent. We didn’t know of this option beforehand and so we didn’t bring our tent/sleeping bag up. Not bad actually, you get to camp at the pathway beneath the beautiful starry night sky. Not sure how much it costs though, but I’m sure it’s definitely cheaper than any other accommodation.
How to go
Most common route would be to take the direct bus to Mt Hua from Xi An train station. Approximately 2 hours and cost Y36/person. This bus alights you at the bottom of Mt Hua.
Entrance fee ¥180