A few months ago, I saw Richard Saunders posting on Taipei Hikers about an upcoming hiking trip to Yushan, Taiwan’s highest mountain at 3952m. Since I knew that it took time to get the permits and even then, it wasn’t a sure thing, I jumped on the chance to climb this peak. At the time, I was quite fit. As the months passed, and the climb came closer, I actually had no idea what to expect. I had some issues with my previous employer, and had started a new job in September, so I honestly didn’t have much time to get back into the gym and running. Before I knew it, the climbing trip was upon me. I took the time off work, and bought some supplies.
Both my Gregory Z35 and Z55 have broken front straps. I don’t know why this is the case, and I have still to contact Gregory to get a replacement, but it makes the packs a bit clumsy. I purchased a cheap replacement clasp that I would use during the trip. I also got some Salomon Wings Pro 2 trail running shoes for this trip. I didn’t want to get hiking boots, which are somewhat bulky and I knew that I wouldn’t use them much. I purchased a Snowpeak titanium 600ml single walled cup, a replacement headlamp because my Black Diamond one was broken, an Atunas Gore Tex hat, and some snacks which included gels and bars for the climb.
I didn’t get any hiking poles because the equipment list said we didn’t have to take them. I would later regret this. I took my Berghaus Vapor 15 as my ascension pack, my Vapur 500ml foldable bottle, and my 3L Camelbak bladder. I packed a change of clothes, long pants, long sleeved shirt, and my Arc’Teryx Keibo Gore Tex jacket, which is insulated. I almost didn’t take it because it was bulky in my pack. Other than that, I took my inflatable mattress because I had heard that the hostel and the lodge had just foam mattresses.
I managed to get to the bus station on time. We took the bus to Chiayi. It took about 4h. Once in Chiayi, we had dinner, and then took shuttle buses to Yushan National Park. We stopped on the way there to meet up with the rest of our group. In total, we were 18 hikers, including 2 organizers.
Once we arrived at the hostel in Tatjia, we unpacked and had prepared for the hike to Peiyun Lodge, at 3400m. Tatjia was at 2500m and I had already started feeling effects of the altitude. I had a slight headache. After a painful and difficult night sleeping, even with earplugs – the altitude just made things too uncomfortable, I woke up completely wrecked. It took me 30 minutes to actually start feeling awake. This was after some coffee. I couldn’t stomach our breakfast, which was a Kirkland muffin. It was way too sweet for my queasy stomach.
Once we were packed up, we left. Just hiking up to the trailhead wasn’t easy. I knew that it would be a very difficult hike. At the trailhead, I managed to eat the rest of the muffin. It was time to attack the 8.5k hike, which turned out to be more like 11k. The initial 2k should be taken very slowly, as it’s quite steep for the beginning of a trail. I went a bit too fast and tried to keep up with some of the other hikers. After a bit, I slowed down and got into my pace. Hikers passed me and it didn’t really bother me.
The sights are amazing. The switchbacks keep coming as you ascend. There’s a steep turnoff for the Front Peak of Yushan. I didn’t do it. Apparently it was very hard. We had a lunch break at a Pavilion. Due to some miscommunication, we didn’t have any lunch. We knew that from when we started out, but there were no shops nor was there any time to get more supplies. I munched on some gels and bars. We saw some of the organized trips by mountaineering clubs eating as well. Their guides had packed stoves and supplies, and cooked for their customers. My own group was barebones. It wasn’t an expensive trip, and we were expected to fend for ourselves most of the time.
From then on, I hiked by myself up the mountain. My breathing got fast, but I managed to get it under control after a few kilometers. My heart was beating fast. It was like a constant drumming in my head. There was some scrambling up some steep ledges, but nothing too dangerous. You just need to watch where you put your feet.
Once I arrived at Peiyun Lodge (3400m), I decided to take a long break. There were snacks, a nap in the warm afternoon sun, and some food in the evening. The food at the lodge was very ordinary. I didn’t like it. In the future, I will take my own food supplies and heat it up, just like the vegetarians on our trip. The food situation was a bit ridiculous because we were famished. At least I managed to fill up. I went to bed at around 7PM. I was exhausted and had slept about 2h the night before. We were going to wake up at 2AM, so I needed a lot of rest.
With my blowup mattress, all of my clothes, and earplugs, I slept a lot better. I had also taken some Ibuprofen, so the altitude headache that I had was almost gone. In the future, I need to sort out a better pillow. I just used a compression stuff sack filled with clothes. That didn’t work well. I had drunk way too much water, and had to get up to pee twice in the night. The outhouse was outside, so it was a little painful. I started hearing TW people getting ready for the ascent at around 1:40AM, so I got up at around 2AM. I started eating. Once again, I was too queasy to eat the very sweet muffin. I was able to eat the porridge, but almost vomited. In the end, I had some ginger tea and it settled my stomach.
We started the ascent at 3AM in the darkness, with our ascension packs that weighed nothing. The ascent was steep and painful. I took my time and stayed with my climbing partners. This part of the climb is best done with partners. Once we got to the peak, there was some scrambling up rocks. It must have been around 400m, but it felt like 2k. It was fun. We arrived shortly before 5AM. We waited for the rest of the group. I wasn’t wearing enough layers. I was starting to feel cold. We stayed until the sun came up. Then we started to climb down. I went down with the ultra marathoner and his wife. It was a quick descent. We trail ran down most of it.
Once back at Peiyun Lodge, we took a nap, had some terrible noodle soup, and packed up all of our things. The food was really bad. We left before 9AM and scrambled down the mountain. Initially, I was going quite fast. I had to slow down after a while. I still managed to get back down 7th in our group. Towards the end, I was stumbling and dragging my feet. The last 2k were really exhausting, but I completed it.
Overall, it was a great experience. The climb up the peak was exhilarating. The views on the hike were incredible. Now that I know what to expect, I will organize myself even more.