Sat, Nov 03, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Down and out on Jade Mountain

A climb up Jade Mountain is an adventure that no visitor to Taiwan should miss — just be sure to get enough sleep so that you can summit

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff reporter

The morning is a whirlwind of coffee, muffins and packing: we depart Dongpu Lodge at 8am and head to the Tataka police office, a 10-minute walk up a road, to show them our permit. While there, the police officer tells me that they give out 120 to 130 permits per day and usually weekends are busiest so it’s advisable to book months in advance. A shuttle bus arrives to transport (NT$100 each way) our party to the trailhead.

PAVILION AND OBSERVATION DECK

The popularity of Jade Mountain ensures that its paths are well maintained and clearly marked. A sign about altitude sickness greets us at the trailhead (2,610 meters). The same sign shows the different points to stop and rest, including the Monroe Pavilion (2,792 meters) and the White Forest Observation Deck (3,042 meters).

The trail up is about a meter wide and a mixture of broken rock, stamped earth and wooden bridges, sided by trimmed bamboo, and a mixture of Chinese hemlock, cedar and Taiwanese fir. At this point, there are only a few clouds in the sky, with open vistas of the distant peaks and dry river beds below. Our party breaks up into smaller groups according to our climbing ability and I’m eventually alone walking at a leisurely pace, rarely encountering other climbers, until a few hours pass and I reach the Monroe Pavilion, a small structure shrouded in bush, the views obscured by dense jungle. As I’m ahead of most of the party, I sit down, take out a health bar, fruit, water and my notebook and send off some photos — yes, mobile reception is available here, and will work, most of the way up the mountain. The temperature has become cooler.

Soon we arrive at the White Forest Observation Deck and we see the rescue helicopter and learn of the death. A park ranger later tells us that there is usually one accident a month on the mountain.

The path from the trailhead to the observation deck has been challenging, but not overly so. The final 1.5km (400 meters of elevation) to the lodge, however, is far steeper in parts. This final bit of trail finds me stopping roughly every 10 meters — to take photos and drink water. My wrist watch shows that my heart is beating 203 beats per minute. When I arrive at Paiyun Lodge at around 1pm, my legs are sore, and I take a seat with the dozen or so other climbers on the large wooden deck that overlooks the valley below.

THE WEST PEAK

When our guide reaches the lodge, he tells us that we have a choice: rest or travel on to the West Peak (3,518 meters). Myself and four others opt for the latter, an added jaunt that will take three hours there and back.

The topography and flora along the path have changed from deciduous forest to jagged rock punctuated here and there with coniferous trees. The sun has disappeared amid the rise and falling fog.

Although our vision is limited by the increasingly dense fog, this is a very enjoyable hike, with fewer steep sections — it is, after all, only 100 meters or so higher than the lodge — and more areas where the path is visible for a long distance. When we reach the peak two us move on to the shinto shrine, located about 100 meters beyond.

A sign beside the shrine tells us that it is a replica of the kind the Japanese erected when they occupied Taiwan and built roads up several mountains to access virgin forest. The shrine houses Amaterasu, the sun goddess. The information board doesn’t explain what scared away the two Taiwanese men.

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