Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Here's the stats on the hike: 7.5 kilometers one direction. Ending elev about a mile. Gain? No idea. I do know that the real climb starts the second half of the hike-about 1,800 feet over not enough distance.The half way point is at ~850 meters. Base? Can't find it. And it is all stairs. 6,660 to be exact (or semi-exact. Way too much of the first 1/2 of the trail has been ripped up for repair, so a large number of steps have been reduced to muddy embankment)
Back to the story. We did the first half of the hike almost entirely by moonlight which was very cool (and romantic. Hubba hubba). No clouds, big ole moon, and one other guy hiking (we let him get a big lead on us.) Unfortunately, this guy let us know that sunrise would be around 6:30 (oops. If it takes 4 hours, that puts us on top around 4:30am. Not good. "Fortunately", this holy mountain has been built up and the 'peak'abounds with restaurants and hotels, so refuge would be available). We climbed on. At the half way point (accessible by bus) the crowds swelled, the noise rapidly increased (a mix of yelling, singing, hacking, and one girl even had a freakin' radio cranked). We passed Chinese group after Chinese group stopped for smoke breaks, man after woman stopped bent over on the steps making noises of pain from exertion that I have never heard while hiking (though I don't hike around many chain smoking people hiking in nice shoes and clothes. For shite's sake we passed a couple of men wearing suits!). We, meanwhile, sweated profusely in the increasingly frigid night air. And for the record-I had on a wicking shirt, Rachelle did not! I win!
We made it to the top (the last section has a ridiculous amount of steps and is quite painful.) at about 3:30am (3 hours after leaving the trailhead). Oops. It was very windy, very cold, dark, and our shirts were soaked. So we went into the nearest restaurant/diner thing, paid an extortionists price for a cup of 'tea' (barely flavored water, really) and settled in. I changed into a dry shirt, but R didn't have one so she was hurtin' pretty good. I loaned her my extr fleece and sat around in my long sleeve (wicking!) shirt and rainjacket (my heavy fleece was draped over the back of my chair to dry (not an easy task in 40 degree temps). Our food assortment included peanuts, great bread from the local market and ramen type bowls (SO yummy!) which helped warm us some. Groups followed us in, many went to sleep heads down at their tables, many shivering despite the heavy army type jackets that were available for rent on the way up. Fortunately, they had karaoke tv on. And the girl playing the radio onthe way up? She showed up and had her crap blasting over the top of the loud tv. Nice.
6am showed and groups started moving out. We followed. Seems our hike was not done, and we raced another 20 minutes or so (up more steps,our stiffened and already sore bodies protesting vigorously) to a lookout point. It was beautiful. The lowlands were misty, and mountain ridges were poking their heads up, the sky was lighting up...and we were surrounded by throngs of yelling, screaming, talking, shoving, running Chinese (my naive dream of a quiet peaceful sunrise atop China's holiest mountain [most people making this hike held no value in this mountain, except for the photo op.] would not be realized). Trying in vain to find a stop sheltered from the blasting wind, we waited. And waited. The sign finally came (as we knew too well that it would) that the sun was making its appearance-a very loud dim arose from the masses. And there it was, sneaking up thru the mist/clouds(/smog?), an orange slice of the sun. And it was beautiful.It slowly made its way heavenward (the myth tells that the suns begins its journey westward from this mountain) revealing more and more of its glowing (and heat withholding) self. It really was beautiful and I am very glad we made the call to go up there for sunrise. I took a few pics and then sat there, trying to ignore the noise and the shovin frantic Chinese shedding their outerwear trying to strike the perfect pose for the multitude of cameras about (I saw only a couple of people other than R and me make any effort to actually enjoy the beauty. The rest, all 45 million of them, were only concerned with getting thei pics taken. Too bad...), and I was able to have a few moments peace in my head and enjoy it all ("'Cesca, Big Bad VooDoo Daddy sends his hello and love and missing you." No bfly showing, but what flying fluttery delicate critter would make an appearance in sub-freezing temps and gale winds? Peaceful feeling though.....).
Then the chills set in again. My toes decided to disappear into our discussions of the beaches in Thailand we'll be on in a couple weeks and we raced off. But not quickly enough. Approached by 2 girls, we had 2 pics taken with each (wide angle and up and down angle). Famous we now are! I really need to shave this beard. Maybe I'll draw less attention.
If you couldn't figure this out on your own, ~7,000 steps is a lot (most short, too short to accommodate the full length of our feet).Going up may hurt the muscles, but going down is hell on your knees, especially if they are less than stellar. No matter, on we went. It could have been worse, but tired sore cold in pain we trudged down, moods taking a downward turn as we went. At least almost every other asshole on the mountain took great pleasure in letting us pass and then shouting "hello" and laughing in an attempt to make us turn and provide more amusement. On the way up? Conversations amongst resting C's on the interim platforms would cease, nudges given, and mocking looks directed at us (I have to admit that in a couple of cases, I did turn a bit competitive with some of the more vocal ones who happened to be trudging close by. Bury them? Hell yes, and challenges welled behind my lips on many occasion. I coulda taken most of them and had their smoke/pollution clogged lungs overwork and beset them with wracking coughing....but I didn't. That would not have been nice.). It got very old, especially after a day of it. It's too bad they don't understand the more 'delicate' epithets and names that wafted from ourlips in increasing frequency. They can mock, so can we. Yes, we were cranky.
We made it down fine (all the torn up parts were being worked on. Stone cutting sans goggles or ear protects or anything, done on the path. Large rocks being hauled on backs on sticks, sacks of concrete carried on shoulders and backs by men and women), got to our hotel about 11am, stretched briefly and went to sleep. Sleeping until 2:30 was easy, getting up was not. Now we are internetting while they finally clean our room (sorry for the stank-ass socks and clothing). A short dinner will follow and early to bed.
Tomorrow is our Sunday (why not? We have no concept of time anymore), a day of rest. Hopefully it'll be nice and we can sit in the park again. Friday we leave for Beijing.
I think that is all. I'm tired, my toes are cold (I'm wearing sandals) and I need food.
Oh wait, there's more! Yesterday R bought a small backpack, and I got one of those bags that goes across your shoulder with a hip belt. Our fanny packs were not cutting it. One of R's zippers broke off before we got to the trailhead. I broke my hip belt 5-minutes after paying the gatekeeper. (No, not with bulging fat!).
On the summit, I was playing with the dig, trying to find the "take black and white" pics setting. I found something that said format. I figured that was the way to change the cameras format. Made sense to me. I went down that path. Turns out that meant reformat the camera. Half way back down I saw how many pics were on the pic card. If you've ever reformatted a floppy disc, you know what happens to the data on it. It all goes bye-bye. Reformat a dig, and apparently the same happens to the pic card. Shit shit shit shit shit. Fortunately we downloaded a bunch of pics a couple weeks ago. But I lost some really good ones. From the beautiful hike in Siguniang Shan, Shanghai, and me drinking a PBR in China! Fortunately we both have been using our film cameras. I only hope I used mine more than I think. Argh! So don't hold your breath for too many pics when I finally find somewhere to download them. Sucks, but what are you gonna do? On the bright side, the card was getting full (I still had a bunch of the previously downloaded pics still on there) and now there's plenty of room to take more pics!
I am going home. I'm going to nurse my swollen elbow, sore knees/ankles, and stroke my luxurious beard.
Thanks so much for remembering Franny when you were up on Tai Shan. Sorry to hear she didn't say howdy back to you, but great of you to try. If you had seen a bfly under those conditions that would have been a sure sign!Keep on enjoying your big adventure. Your blog accounts are great.
All our best to you & R. Jim O.