Rushing through Huang Shan

Huang Shan Mountain has got to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Green valleys below huge rocky peaks shrouded in misty fog. It was honestly breathtaking.

Sadly, we didn’t really get to enjoy it as we had set ourselves out to explore it at a death march pace thanks to a hurried schedule and some very bad information from our hostel.

We arrived off the bus from Shanghai at 3 pm and had a flight schedule at 4 pm the next day. We were immediately confronted with several pieces of bad news:

  1. The bus had arrived three hours later than we had planned meaning that it was impossible to climb the mountain that day.
  2. The town we arrived in was not a the base of the mountain as we had thought but was instead 60 km away.
  3. The airport was a twenty minute drive from our hotel.

Armed with this information, and the knowledge that we needed to be at the airport at around 3 pm, we realized that in order to make our flight we would need to leave the mountain no later than 2 pm. We would have to leave even earlier if we wanted to come back to the hotel to get our bags.

More bad news was to follow. The hotel staff informed us that it would take 10 hours to climb up and back down Huang Shan mountain. There seemed to be no other option but to begin our hike at 3 am – something we were willing to do until the hotel staff informed us that the only way to reach the mountain was a bus that didn’t start running until 6 am. Even if we hired a taxi, it was mountain policy that only the bus could make the trip to the mountain base.

Frustrated, we accepted that the only option was to use the cable cars to get to the top. Even then, the hotel staff said that it would take us 6 hours to hike from the first cable car to the second which would bring us back down.

We knew we needed to hire a cab to get us to the bus station at 6 am, but the hotel also informed us that it wasn’t safe to leave our bags in the cab. Instead, they said we would either need to return to the hotel or hire one of the hotel cars who could keep our bag safe.

Already short on time, we sucked it up and hired the hotel car and planned to leave at 5 am so that we would be first in line for the bus. We knew we had not chance of hiking and would have to take the cable car on both ends in order to finish the 6 hour in between hike.

The hotel seemed dubious and told us that the cable car wouldn’t even be open that early. We would wait, we told them.

Fast forward to the next morning – 5 am.

Our driver shows up and informs us that we didn’t need to bother with the bus – he could take us right to the mountain. Meaning… we could have gotten there a lot earlier and hiked up.

When we did arrive at the mounting, the cable car was already up and running and we were behind a large group of Chinese Tourists – all in matching hats.

Already rushing, we ran from the ticket office to the cable car and jumped on as soon as possible. It was sad, not being able to hike up, but we new that it was better to see the top than nothing at all.

As you can see I was clearly excited to be on the cable car:

And Shannon was excited to mock my excitement.

Once we reached the top we didn’t have time to pause – we immediately started following the course set on our map. We didn’t have time for any side trips to see the lotus peek or any of the temples, but we knew we would still see some of the sites.

And so we ran/ speed walked across the mountain. Stopping very occasionally to take photos and much more often to ask directions. We were terrified we would take a wrong turn and end up lost and miss our flight.

Luckily we had some encouragement along the way.

We also noticed that we seemed to be going to opposite direction of all of the many Chinese Tourists. Every time we would ask direction were were told some combination of the following:

“It’s too far, you should go the other way”

“This way is very dangerous, you should turn back”

“I have no idea how to get to where you are trying to go”

All we had to go on was our sad little map with no exact distances.

And the very occasional sign.

But, we had told our driver to meet us at the base of the other cable car, so we had not choice but to press on – our map was of little to no help because it was totally out of scale. After an hour, we had barely covered any ground.

We rushed forward.

Up stairs. Down Stairs. Through mountain peaks.

Than suddenly – we were at the next cable car which would take us down to the driver.

It was 8 am.


Our “6 hours hike” had taken us under 2 hours to complete. We thought about turning back to head towards the beginning but worried the the mass of tourists would soon start to clog the narrow passageways and add time to our hike. Plus we were exhausted from running up and down stairs for two hours. At least we could use the extra time to hike down the mountain instead of taking the cable car.

In addition to missing out on enjoying the mountain, we also realized we had plenty of time to return to the hotel. Renting the expensive hotel car was totally unnecessary.

Lesson learned – plan more time to visit attractions and do your own research. Sometimes the hotel is way wrong.

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3 Responses to Rushing through Huang Shan

  1. memographer says:

    breathtaking indeed!

  2. Oh wow, Huang Shan really looks gorgeous! It’s such a shame that you had a to rush through it (though kudos to you guys for doing the 6-h hike in 2 hours instead of 8, which is what I’m sure would happen if I attempted it!)… just seems like everything conspired against you that day! I hope you guys get back into your groove here in China. One thing Tony & I have found is that staying hostels has been a lot better in China because we’ve found the staff A LOT more helpful; generally their English is impeccable, and they are used to crazy foreigners who want to do things on their own for as little money as possible. Don’t know how much you have pre-booked, but you guys can always get private rooms at hostels for dirt cheap (in Guilin we had a private room for two for $20 or something) and still have great service!

  3. Those look like some pretty steep staircases. I’m surprised you managed to turn a 6 hour hike into a 2 hour one. The setting looks stunning – especially in the first shot with the fog rolling in.

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