Thursday, December 30, 2010

Paiyun and other notes.

Some end of year notes on hiking in Taiwan.

Paiyun Lodge.

There is progress being made in the rebuilding/renovating of Paiyun Lodge. Most people still predict it will be completed and reopened by May or June 2011.This I don’t believe, my best guess is September or October 2011. [Update June 2011: my best guess now is maybe the end of the year]

The inside has been gutted and building materials are being helicoptered up from Tataka. The contractors estimate 50 days-worth of airlifting will be required. Can only do about 20 trips each day in the mornings before warm air currents make flight tricky. Each load is between 250 and 350kg.
Sensors and cameras are being installed at various locations along the main Tataka-Paiyu route to more easily monitor the location of (lost) hikers. More info when I know more.

Yushan Single Day Ascent.

I can assist qualified people in arranging permits and other logistics for single-day ascents of Yushan’s Main Peak. This tough option is only suitable for those with more than average experience and hiking fitness. You will need to convince me of experience on some of the top international most prominent summits, or relevant trails in Taiwan. Repeat: only suitable for the fit and experienced hiker. The National Park needs photographic proof.

Note also, Yushan will be closed to all hikers for the month of February plus (depending on actual weather conditions) some of January and March probably. There are icy patches near the summit, the National Park is enforcing the requirement for hikers to carry crampons and ice axes.

North Dawu Mountain.
The Forestry Bureau have completed repairs to the trail and Kuaigu Cabin. The campsites have been rebuilt and the lighting upgraded.

What has NOT improved is access to the original trailhead. The 7.5 km ‘public’ road from upper Taiwu Village is still very bad condition and then ends abruptly near the ‘new’ trailhead. This adds at least an extra 1.5 hours rough hiking to the normal ascent. The land in this area belongs to the local community, they do not have the resources or interest in doing large-scale reconstruction and would prefer to let the mountain ‘rest’ for some years.

Wuling Farm.
Wuling Cabin (武陵山莊) - the accommodation at the north end of Wuling Farm has been renovated, and now managed by the Hoya Hotel...which means it is not the cheap option it was in the past!

Nengao Trail.
The Western Section of the Nengao Trail to the central ridge and the summits of Cilai South and Nanhua are a top recommendation for people wanting an excellent 2-3-day hike - but without the time to arrange permits for peaks in the national parks. I can arrange accommodation and transport from Puli/Wushe to the trailhead for those wanting to do this trip. Note the Tienchr Cabin has already been demolished, the new structure should be completed in the next few months. Porter-supplied food and tents can be arranged.

Island-wide Tours.
Get in touch if looking for escorted tours anywhere in Taiwan - we do some very tame hikes too! Richard at

Happy New Year!

Southern Cross Conditions.

Made a reconnaissance trip up the Southern Cross Highway (Highway 20) from Tainan December 15th 2010. Some conclusions I previously posted on

Passable now by car to just past the Yakao tunnel. This only applies if you are very confident driving difficult roads and for the next few months of dry weather (remember the south generally has dry winters). When the next significant rain arrives the road is sure to close in several section.

Impassable by any means (km mark 148 I think), between the tunnel and the Yakao hostel. There are suggestions (that I don’t really believe) that this large landslide section will be passable by Chinese New Year. We did the last, highest, section on bicycles and then on foot. There was no way we could have crossed the final landslide. Based on previous experience and most reports the highway should usually be fine from Xianyang eastwards.

Even if open in practice, the road between Meishan and Xiangyang may remain officially (legally) closed. If planning a cycle trip over the new year, get up to date road condition reports, be prepared for the road to be closed beyond Meishan, and consider only riding the section from Meishan (for reasons of pleasantness).

The highway is ‘scruffy’ all the way from Jiasian (Jiaxian) to Meishan, stunning scenery after Meishan. Starting in Jiasien (or even Yujing/Liogui) the road is less than pretty in many places. There are numerous places where the road has been/is being patched up - and vulnerable to further damage/closure. The villages (Jiaxian, Baolai, Taoyuan, Meishan etc) have a down-and-out feel to them. After Taoyuan a several kilometer section of road is unsurfaced and is in the riverbed - unsuitable for many cars or drivers. After Meishan the views are as wonderful as ever, and the road is fine for 99% of its length. The problem lies in the remaining 1% obviously, most bad spots have been patched up and only OK for confident drivers.

Lots of people have lots of contradictory and inaccurate opinions on the current state of the road and what is likely to happen both in the short and long term. This includes those that should know: Forestry Department, National Park, Highway Bureau, police, hunters, road workers, surveyors, etc etc. Also note some people’s, otherwise reasonably informed, knowledge ends when it goes out of their jurisdiction - Kaohsiung County people are badly informed about conditions 500 meters further along in Taidong County. Any 'information' should be interpreted cautiously.

My conclusions in January - after a recce trip when I was able to drive all the way over, still make sense: The 921 earthquake and Typhoon Morakot have fundamentally changed the state of things. There will be various targets and a lot of money spent on keeping the road open for the next couple years. Much of the work will unfortunately cause damage that will influence the stability of hillsides for later periods - ie work to temporally open it for the next weeks/month will cause damage that will make medium-term repairs in 6 months time more difficult, in turn those repairs will make the long term reconstruction more difficult. I will not be surprised if after 3 or 4 years of typhoons/earthquakes/deaths/money spent the government will announce the closure of the highway for 10/20/30 years. There is a decent chance of it being kept passable as far as Meishan (still some resilient residents there) on the west side, and to Xiangyang (road conditions OK) on the east side. There are no magic solutions, anything done is at the end of a vulnerable supply chain - the road itself.

Further photos of the recce here Includes a lot of photos of rolling rocks from road building around the section of highway beyond Taoyuan. Over 15 excavators were dumping debris over a cliff. It was an incredible show, watching a non-stop stream of rocks, some as big as regular cars, bouncing down into the river.

A note on conditions and background. We drove a a high-wheelbase 2-wheel drive van, in dry conditions. My friend and I are both confident and well experienced dealing with rough roads and crossing landslides. We do not recommend this trip to everyone - no offense that may include you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Start of winter notes.

An update on Yushan, Snow Mountain and a friend’s treks.

First, a reminder: Most of Taiwan (south of Taipei and Yilan) has great weather in winter. Get out of grey Taipei!

Shei-pa Permits.
Shei-pa (Snow) National Park have announced some changes to the process of applying for national park permits see announcement (in Chinese). Starting today there will be a ‘waiting list’ function for over-subscribed cabins. Starting January 2011 there will be no need to apply for the Police Permit in addition to the National Park permit. Applies to Shei-pa only but I hope this sensible policy will be adopted elsewhere. I will watch how both of these new policies are put into practice - the devil is always in the tiny details...and update things here.

Yushan is, as mentioned before, effectively closed due to the rebuilding of Paiyun Lodge. The only options open are a single-day ascent or staying at the higher and remoter Yuanfong Cabin. THESE OPTIONS ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR THE AVERAGE PERSON. If you have the fitness and experience I may be able to help you out with logistics. Expect (not announced yet) Yushan to close as usual for Chinese New Year for the month of February.

Disappointed? Do not forget Yushan is usually very visible from around its Tataka (Tatajia) trailhead. Permits are not required for the excellent day-hikes in the Tataka area.
The roads to Tataka from Chaiyi/Alishan (Highway 18), and from Sun Moon Lake/Dongpu (Highway 21) are reliably open and should remain passable until the next rainy season (summertime) or earthquake.

Some longer treks being led by a Tsao aborigine friend of ours, Xiao Yang (Small Goat) in the new year:
January 6 - 11 Nengao-Antongjun 能高安東軍
February 24 - March 2 Southern Second Section 南二段 (assuming it’s open by then)
March 11 - 20 Southern Third Section 南三段 (hope to join him on this one)
March 31 - April 5 Cilai East Ridge 奇萊東稜
Dates listed are only for the core hiking dates and do not include travel or extra days. If interested in joining in please email or call Xiao Yang's wife, Sarah Tsai, 0972218185 (speaks excellent English) to register, or see their website (in Chinese).

As of December 1st 2010:
All Shei-pa (Snow Mountain) National Park hiking/trekking trails open.
All Taroko hiking/trekking trails open.
Most of Yushan National Park trails closed (including the Southern Second Section, Batongguan etc). Some special exemptions may be possible for trails starting around Jiaming Lake. If you read Chinese have a look at this document on the state of the Batongguan Trail...not cheery. A couple interesting observations about the increase in sanbar deer and the emerging eastward erosion of the Chen-you-lan River/Kinmen Tong landslide.
Jiaming Lake, Nengao, Bei Dawu open.
Southern Cross-island Highway closed from Meishan to Xiangyang. Some rumors of possible opening.
And remember, many of Taiwan’s trails can be very tough going, only attempt what you really are ready for!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fanapi and trail conditions.

The rains from Typhoon Fanapi are still falling, and clearup work is just just starting, but I know some of you are wondering what condition mountain trails will be in. This is my best guess, will update this post with details as I get them.

All high-mountain peaks and trails in Taiwan are closed right now. As the weather clears up the national parks will send in teams to check trail conditions. Some shorter and more stable trails will probably reopen in the next few days, longer/remoter trails may take a week or two to be inspected - and (only) then possibly reopened. I fear the planned reopening of various Yushan (Jade Mountain) NP routes this month (following last year's Morakot damage) will be put back many weeks or months. Shorter Taroko NP, and Shei-pa NP trails starting from Wuling Farm are probably in reasonable shape and may be open by the weekend.

Expect the roads in the areas of Alishan, southern Nantou, north/east/south of Jiaxian to be either closed or in a bad state. The Southern Cross-Island Highway is closed.

Stay safe!
Richard (on holiday for the next week)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cilai East Ridge

A Tsao aborigine friend of ours Xiao Yang (Small Goat) is leading a trek October 12-18th along Cilai East Ridge. I expect to join him on this very rigorous hike. If interested in joining us please email or call Xiao Yang's wife Sarah Tsai 0972218185 (speaks excellent English) to register, or see their website (in Chinese). This 6-day trek from Hohuan Mountain to the heart of Taroko Gorge is tough and only suitable for the experienced and fit. The cost for guiding and food will be about NT$ 8,000. This trip is likely to be porter assisted, if so the additional optinal NT$8,500 cost is excellent value. Some of their photos 'Small Goat' is the big guy!
This blog (another group) gives you an idea what each day will involve. Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7. Also try googling 奇萊東稜 for images.

You may also be interested in their November 11-16 Nenggao-Antongjun (we hope to join him on this one), and December 08-15 Southern Second Section treks.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ending the summer.

Time for an update - we’ve passed the first anniversary of Morakot, are most of the way through Ghost Month, and have yet to have a single typhoon hit us...hang on, what are these 3 fluffy, white things approaching?

The latest on Yushan:

Several of the longer trekking routes (Batongguan, Southern Second Section, Badashow, Yushan Main Peak via Batonguan) are scheduled to reopen September 20th. The deciding factor is safe access from Dungpu via the Batongguan Trail - especially in the Guangao area - just North of the Batongguan Meadow. There has been a lot of repair work done on it in the last few months, but it is in a poor condition and prone to bad weather damage. The Mapo cross-island, Xinkang, and Walami to Dashueiku sections are not yet being opened. The Southern Stars (Kuhanuoshin, Guan, Guan Ling/Da etc) are also supposed to be reopened next month - the lack of a road (Highway 20) to the trailhead has not been addressed - I’ve no idea what is supposed to happen. Likewise some confusion around Yushan N.P. announcing the opening of the Southern Second without firm plans from the Forestry Bureau to reopen Jiaming Lake - the most southern bit of the Southern Section.

Climbing Yushan.
Access to the main summit via Tataka (Tatajia) is much reduced due to the closure of Paiyun Lodge - rebuilding is to start next month, and last ‘8 months’. The latest news on the design is that the new lodge will not be that much larger. National Park laws and sensible consideration of the foundation’s stability mean the new building will not be the colossus that some had hoped for. For a taste of the ongoing debate, see these minutes (in Chinese)

There are two options for those wanting to knock off the Main Summit - both are more strenuous and only suitable for the very fit. Single-day ascent, and camping at Yuan-fong Cabin.

Single-day ascent: This nasty option is available again (having been canceled a couple years ago), the daily permit limit increased from 20 to 40, with possible special allowances for foreigners. Hikers must prove experience of hiking above 3000meters (usually in the form of photos on summits). No access past Tataka before 5am, and hikers arriving at Paiyun after 10am (some say 12am) will not be allowed to proceed further uphill. I suggest hikers have porter-carried food prepared at Paiyun.

Camping at Yuan-fong: 15 spaces in the cabin, 21 camping nearby. Again this is only an option for the fitter and experienced. Yuanfong is further away, higher, and colder than Paiyun Lodge.

I’m not 100% sure of some of the practical issues that will come up with applying for these permits, expect surprises.

Taiwan’s national parks are marking this year (year 99 in the official ROC calender) with an activity called : Taiwan 99 (台灣99) encouraging hikers to climb Taiwan’s other National Park’s highest peaks: Nanren Mountain (南仁山) in Kenting (墾丁) N.P.; Cising (七星山) Mouountain in Yangminshan (陽明山) N.P; Nanhu (南湖大山), (and also Cilai North 奇萊北峰 and Hehuan East 合歡東峰) in Taroko( 太魯閣) N.P.; Snow (Xue, Shei, 雪山主峰) Mountain (and Daba 大霸尖山) in Shei-pa (雪霸) N.P.; Taiwu( 太武山) Mountain in Kinmen (金門).

Note: Shei-pa N.P. announced this month that that they are fining anyone found to have climbed to the top of the Daba's actual peak. For 99.9% of people getting to the foot of the summit (99.9% of the way) is more than satisfactory. The very final climb (yes - real climbing) has been treacherous since the various ropes and via ferratta were removed.

We are busy/on holiday until mid-October. Hope to able to arrange permits (think about Snow Mountain, Jhuilu, Daba, Hehuan) remotely in this time...and then soon after have a new schedule of open hikes/tours available!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jhuilu Trail Tour.

Taiwan’s Vertigo Trail - Jhuilu Old Road, Taroko
The Jhuilu (錐鹿古道) Trail in Taroko Gorge is probably one of the most stunning day-hikes in Taiwan. All of the trail is superb - the middle section is truly breathtaking - walking on a narrow ledge over 500 meters above the gorge.

We now offer a package tour for this (we've nicknamed it the Vertigo Trail) hike. This trail is for hikers in average to above-average fitness who enjoy big views. This hike is not for anyone very out of shape or suffering from acrophobia - a fear of heights!

The Jhuilu Old Trail is part of the long Japanese-era Hehuan Trail that once linked Taroko with garrisons on the west side of the central mountains. This section, damaged and closed for many years, is only now open to hikers. Most of it is a gorgeous hiking trail winding through beautiful forest, with an initial ascent/final descent of around 600 meters (2000 feet). What makes this truly spectacular are the middle sections that pass along sheer cliffs, where the cars and buses in the gorge half a kilometer below are...small, and a wrong move means...

The 10.3 km route takes up to 7 hours, so setting of at 7 or 8am makes sense. Hikers must carry plenty of water and snacks for this tough workout. Taroko National Park strictly enforces rules regarding the required permits (I've seen them fining people).The trail starts from Zimu (Cimu) Bridge and ends at the suspension bridge at the Swallow's Grotto (Yanzikou). This is usually the best direction of travel - and sometimes required. On most of the most exciting parts (path less than 70cm wide) of the trail there is a fixed safety line to hold onto; in a couple places there is a simple rail between you and a long, long fall. Start and end sections of the trail are more conventional - yet beautiful, passing through lush forest and remains of colonial-era stations and memorials.

Our package:

Permits - both ‘park’ and ‘mountain’. Maps
Return Train tickets from Taipei to Xincheng (Taroko, Sincheng) Station, where you will be met by our agent and driven to good accommodation near the gorge.
In the morning he will transport you to the trailhead, and be waiting when you descend in the afternoon for transport back to Xincheng Station.

There is a limit to the number of permits issued for each day - weekends may be difficult to obtain. We usually need at least a week to obtain the permits and make the other arrangements - but last minute can work too.
Not included: accident insurance, personal gear.

This is perfect for people who have previously been to the gorge before, have walked all the standard trails, and now want something a bit different. Itinerary fully customizable - discuss your requirements with us.

Can advise on itinerary planning.

Additional photos here.

Contact Richard at

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bye-bye old Paiyun

The latest on Yushan.

The much rumored has now been officially announced: The main peak of Yushan (Jade Mountain) will be closed from the start of September 2010 to allow for reconstruction of Paiyun Lodge (排雲山莊). One surprise was the announcement that the mountain will be closed for 8 months - and not the 1 month that many people had be predicting, especially as much of the new Paiyun building will be pre-fabricated off the mountain and transported by helicopter for installation. The design is still being argued over earnestly by the great and the good. Will update this post as I know more (shocking how little is really known by anyone).

For ordinary hikers the mountain will be closed. For those with exceptional (I mean really, really exceptional) circumstances I suspect there may be very special allowances made. In the meantime I predict there may be as many as 50 people applying for each single permit for the last few days of August.

Remember good permit-free views of Yushan are still possible, not far from Alishan, in the Tataka (Tatajia) area (we can help you with transport around here). The hundreds of other superb 3,000+ meter ( around 10,000 feet) peaks elsewhere in Taiwan are looking for your hiking boots’ attention - think of Snow, Dabajian, etc. I am hopeful, if the next couple months are not too typhoon-rich, that there will be good news to report on access to the epic Batongguan Trail (a longer, harder way to Yushan’s summit): beyond Walami: and Xinkang (Sinkang) Mountain.

Or take it easy - learn more about Taiwan’s incredible biodiversity - buy a book (or video/map/poster/postcard) from Books from Taiwan

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yushan and arms.

A week of extremes. Last week started well - standing on Yushan’s summit, and ended badly - sprawled over a city street.
I was delighted to accompany Kim Myung Joon and his wife to the summit of Yushan on a particularly beautiful morning. Mr Kim was in 2006 the oldest person to complete the seven summits. Yushan is his 28th of the 50 most prominent summits. Note ‘prominence’ here is topographical prominence - a technical term - not ‘famous’ as most Taiwan media like to translate it. More Yushan pictures here.

At the end of the week i was nursing a scooter-related broken arm.

The details - should you be interested: The accident happened in East Tainan when I was on my scooter/motorcycle out purchasing books and lunch. I was crossing one of those intersections where I had a flashing yellow (pass with care) - and the lady that hit me (coming from my left) should have noticed a flashing red (stop/give way) light. Was a full-on crash into each other. Bystanders helpful, police and ambulance on scene quickly. Firsts for me: plaster cast; breathalyser test; Sinlao hospital; as patient in ambulance.

As well as scrapes and bruises on my chest, elbow, hand, knee, and foot I have broken my forearm (ulna near the wrist). Will take a few weeks in a cast to heal. Additionally scooter and clothes a bit mangled. The lady (50’s) has very similar injuries. Have settled amicably. See further snaps at here.

Sadly this will interfere with some (but not all) of Barking Deer’s activities in the next few weeks. Sorry! Grumble grumble...

Edit September: arm fine now, hair still 'thin'.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Alishan Railway partially reopens.

Two short, but important, sections of the historic Alishan Mountain Railway have reopened. The 6.2 km-long Jhushan/Zhushan Sunrise-Watching Line (祝山觀日線) as well as the Divine Tree (Shen-mu, 神木線) Line are operating again. Both operate within the Forest Recreation Area at almost 2,500 meters elevation, and thus will not be of any use in terms of getting to Alishan from Chaiyi.

Management of the rail line is now back in the hand of the Forestry Bureau after the private company running it for a couple years declared themselves unable to repair the damaged line (fair enough - the reconstruction costs will be enormous). The government's pronouncements to have the entire rail line from Chaiyi to Alishan fixed by the end of 2011 is rightfully being treated with great scepticism by those familiar with the extensive damage caused by last year’s Typhoon Morakot. I hope the cynics are wrong

Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer again! 2010.

The summer is here and that means, for good or bad, some rain for us in the south. We haven't had significant rain since typhoon Morakot hit us last September - the result is reservoirs are low on much-needed water - and a real fear of landslide and mudflows. Morakot changed everything. This year the authorities will take no chances and are likely to close roads/cancel permits at the first sign of typhoons or heavy rain.

On recent trips to Yushan (Jade Mountain) preparations for renovating cabins and trails have been very visible. Recent stable weather conditions have allowed construction materials to be helicoptered in.

Paiyun Lodge.
The main building is to be completely rebuilt 'this year'. Initially the medical center (the wooden cabin on the west side of the main lodge) is to be converted to general accommodation. Rumor has it (why can this not be formally announced?) the mountain will be closed for the month of September to allow for more major construction work.

Yuanfong Cabin.
No applications are being accepted for Yuanfong Cabin during July. As I understand it, the cabin is only being renovated (new roof, new water tank) and not expanded.

Batongguan Trail.
There is lots of work being done on the badly damaged Batongguan trail from Yinu Waterfall to the alpine meadow, and from Yushan Main Peak to Batongguan. These sections are still treacherous - and rightfully closed. There is some hope though that they may be open later this year - crucial for all the remoter Yushan N.P. treks.

Jiaming Lake.
Still closed, some hope it will be reopened in the fall (October is being mentioned). The western section (Jiaxian-Baolai-Meishan-Yakao-Xiangyang) of the Southern Cross is effectively closed. On the long term, the approach to Xiangyang (Siangyang) may only be possible from Taidong. The cabins on the way to Jiaming Lake are to be reserveable online. This should be an improvement on the current system where the first people to have someone get ahead and 'occupy' spaces caused some resentment.

Other trails around Taiwan.
Generally open - but lets see what a season of typhoons does!

Yushan National Park are eager to improve the experience of foreigners in the park. Please complete their questionnaire.

The hostel (Wuling 'Cabin' 武陵山莊 not Wuling 'Hostel' 賓館) at the north end of Wuling Farm is closed for renovation.

Coming down Snow Mountain last week.
Have been answering quite a few inquiries about mountain porters recently. Some FAQs.
Q. Are they reliable? Do they speak English?
A. Most porters in Taiwan come from the branch of the Bunun Tribe in southern Nantou County. They are reliable, strong, excellent cooks, and often good singers. All round great guys, but don't speak English.
Q. How much do they cost? Can Barking Deer help make arrangements?
A. The standard rate for carrying up to 30kg is NT$3-4000 per day. They must be booked in advance - you will not just find them waiting at trailheads for hire. Yes, we can help with arrangements.
Q. What else can they provide?
A. They have pre-positioned sleeping bags at various popular cabins (including Paiyun, 369, 99, Nanhu, Jiaming, Juniper), and usually have someone there cooking excellent food. Must be arranged in advance.

Summer Hikes.
Will post soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alishan-Yushan-Sun Moon Lake tour.

Alishan-Yushan-Sun Moon Lake tour. (and Hehuan + Taroko!)

With the Southern Cross Highway out of action we now are running regular trips to areas slightly further north. These focus on scenery, easy walking, culture and nature. Itineraries are fully customizable. Here is a typical one:

Day 1. Pick up from any city or HSR station in southern Taiwan, travel to the tea-farming villages in the Alishan Area. Explore the idyllic village of Fenchihu (important stop on the narrow-gage forest railway), learn about aboriginal culture, tea and bamboo production. Stay at scenically located tea farmer's homestay.

Day 2. Get up early for a (depending on weather conditions) excellent sunrise, 15 minutes walk away. Further exploring of tea plantations and bamboo groves. Travel to Alishan Recreation Area or (better still) straight to the Tataka (Tatajia) area for easy or strenuous hiking with views of Yushan (Jade Mountain). Overnight in hot-spring hotel in Dongpu.
Day 3. From our hotel there are various options for short hikes. Travel to Sun Moon Lake, tour the lake by boat, stopping and exploring various sights. Return to HSR station or city.

Prices: Per person for 3 days, discounts for additional people. Includes all relevant costs (transport, tolls/entrance fees, accommodation, meals etc), excludes souvenirs and alcoholic drinks.

Menu A: (standard but good- van, accommodation, and meals.) NT$8,000 (about US$250)
Menu B: (higher quality - van, accommodation, and meals.) NT$22,000 (about US$700)

A popular extension:

Day 3. Visit Chung Tai Monastery, Puli, hotel at Ching-jing alpine resort.

Day 4. Travel over Hehuan Mountain, before the spectacular descent into Taroko Gorge. Stay in Gorge.

Day 5. Explore all the main sites in Taroko and Hualian, return via the Pacific coast road to Taipei.


How far is the drive from Chaiyi HSR to the guesthouse?
Usually less than 2 hours. From here it is about another hour to Alishan Recreation Area.

Following the typhoon damage in 2009, is the Alishan Railway operating?
Sadly a lot of difficult engineering work has to done before it restarts. The section within the recreation area may be operating this year.

How fit do I need to be? What gear will I need?
Minimal fitness. Standard holiday clothing - maybe something warm needed at times.

Can you arrange something else?
Ask us, we are happy to advise.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

May June 2010 Hikes

Yushan is now open again (closed for most of the last 7 months!) and we are finally getting groups to the main summit. Note: the dates below below are provisional and may be adjusted in the next couple weeks. As ever, there is a lot of competition for permits, we are suspending even trying for weekend slots.

There are many other great high-mountain hikes other than Yushan. If wanting to do something spectacular by yourself please consider Snow or Dabajian. If wanting something with easier walking, but with superb views, consider Tataka or the greater Hohuan Mountain Area (more than expected there - more info coming soon).

May 4/5 Meet up 3rd evening. No more applications.
May 17/18 Meet up 16th evening. No more applications.
May 20/21 Meet up 19th evening. No more applications.
May 27/28 Meet up 26th evening. No more applications.

June 2/3 Meet up 1st evening. No more applications.
June 9/10 Meet up 8th evening. No more applications.
June 23/24 Meet up 22nd evening. No more applications.

July-September schedule coming soon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Snow Holy Ridge

The Snow Holy Ridge, is a a set of high-mountain routes in Shei-Pa National Park. The very few foreign hikers that make it onto these trails come back talking about how underrated Taiwan's mountains are. Highlights include rigorous high ridge walking, summiting several notable peaks (including Snow and Dabajian), fantastic views of the Central Mountain Range and the varied geology/ecology of the area. Excellent circuits and traverses of 4-10 days can be planned. It is often possible to travel from cabin to cabin on most routes.

The name Holy Ridge (
聖稜線, Sacred Ridge, shen-ling-shen) was first used by Japanese climber Numai Tetsutarō (沼井鐵太郎) in 1928 to describe this world class route - that was not to have a recorded traverse until 1931. With an average elevation of over 3100 meters, but now with established trails (and a few fixed ropes) it is now a little easier than 80 years ago. Many parts are only suitable for the highly experienced hiker familiar with this kind of terrain.

Holy Ridge 'I' 'O' and 'Y'

The different possible routes of the Holy Ridge are usually described by the shapes of the letters I, O and Y. I've added my own conveniently named WQD9G. All can be hiked in either direction.
'I' Holy Ridge (I型聖稜線縱走) describes the traditional, essentially straight North-South route.
This starts from Hsinchu County and Guanwu FRA, via Madala River, JeoujeouCabin (九九山莊, Cabin 99), Yitse Mountain (伊澤山), Jungba Cabin (中霸山屋) to Dabajian (大霸尖山, Daba), and then south via Banan Cabin (霸南山屋, Ba-south), Basalayun Mountain (巴紗拉雲山), Bushioulan Mountain (布秀蘭山), Sumita Mountain (素密達山) Sumita Cabin (素密達山屋), Snow North Peak (雪山北峰) and then exiting via the standard Main/East Peak approach to Wuling Farm. A total of 5-9 days.
The route from Guanwu to Cabin 99 was closed for 10 years following the 921 earthquake but is now open. In recent years some hikers approached Daba from Chengsibao - the North Ridge. Some purists believe the southern exit should be by one of the southern mountains such as Jrjiayang (志佳陽, Sikayo) or even Dasiau Jian (大小劍).

'O' Holy Ridge (O型聖稜線縱走) is a circular loop starting and finishing at Wuling Farm.
If going in an anticlockwise direction (quite OK to do it either direction), it starts at Wuling Cabin (the hostel-like accommodation at the north end of the recreation area) with an ascent of either Taoshan (桃山) or more directly Chihyou Mountain (池有山) - two of the Wuling Quadruple Mountains. From Sinda Cabin (新達山屋) you climb westwards over Pintien Mountain (品田山), turn southwards at the intersection on Bushioulan Mountain (布秀蘭山), stay at Sumita Cabin (素密達山屋) before continuing south over Snow North Peak (雪山北峰) and then exiting by the standard Snow Mountain approach to Wuling Farm. A total of 4-8 days. 

'Y' Holy Ridge (Y型聖稜線縱走) the 'O' plus a spur to Daba.
This was the easiest and most popular way of getting to Daba when the Guanwu - Madala River - Jeoujeou Cabin route was still not open.
The 'Y' of the Y Holy Ridge is lying on its side (or may be upside down). It is similar to the 'O' route except that from Sinda Cabin instead of going directly eastwards over Pintien Mountain, hikers drop down into the valley northwestwards, crossing the Takejin Stream (塔克金溪) (the highest headwaters of the Danshuei River), and climbing back up to the main north-south ridge near the remains of Basalayun Mountain Cabin (巴紗拉雲山屋).

This day is sometimes called the Shiou-ba route (秀霸線) and traverses a variety of interesting terrain. Most people camp somewhere along the ridgebefore the final climb of Daba. The Banan Cabin (霸南山屋) is in very poor condition (due to be rebuilt this year) offering only very basic shelter from the elements, but is a good base for a day hiking around the various Daba peaks. The trek then turns southwards again along the ridge, crossing Basalayun Mountain (巴紗拉雲山), and rejoining the 'O' route at Bushioulan Mountain (布秀蘭山 3439 meters). This very worthwhile extra spur requires an extra 3 days. A total of 7-10 days.

The Wuling-Quadruple-Daba-99-Guanwu Route -WQD9G (name invented by me - suggestions for a better one?)
One issue with each of the 'I' 'O' and 'Y' routes described above is that they involve crossing the highly exposed sections of trail west of Pintien and north/south of Sumida. These are fine for those with experience of fixed ropes, cliffs, and loose rock, but for those with less experience and confidence I recommend this safer route.

Wuling, Taoshan/Chihyou to Sinda Cabin, side-trip to Pintien summit, via Takejin Stream to Daba, Jeoujeou Cabin, Madala River to Guanwu. A total of 4-8 days.

This is a superb route that avoids the most dangerous sections, but does not include summiting (good views of though) of Snow Mountain.
Notes:It is advisable have proper experience of Taiwan's easier treks before contemplating any of the Holy Ridge routes. If you think you can go off trail and find faster routes you do not understand Taiwan's terrain and should not be hiking here. The permit (required) officially limits hikers to 10 days in the mountains at a time. In the middle of these routes you may not meet any other hikers.

We are happy to help hikers devise good routes and assist in sorting out permits and other logistics. Contact Richard at

Wuling Quadruple DIY

Wuling Quadruple DIY

Wuling Quadruple Mountains (武陵四秀) are a set of 4 mountains easily accessible from Wuling Farm that offer great hiking and blow-away views. The 4 mountains that make up this hike are Taoshan, Kalayeh, Chihyou, and Pintien - all 'Top 100' peaks. Excellent views of Snow Mountain, Dabajian, and of the Central Mountain Range peaks of Nanhu and Jhongyangjian. The start and end point is the north end of Wuling Farm recreation Area. This circular hike can be included as part of the renowned Snow Holy Ridge.
Various itineraries are possible - from an exhausting 1 day to a more sedate 5 days. The 1-day option is to the summit of Taoshan is only for the very fittest - and experienced in doing such silly things. Typically hikers should allow 3 or 4 days to summit the 4 peaks. Accommodation is possible at the 2 cabins, Taoshan and Sinda, or the nearby campsites - as usual it is best to avoid weekends!
We help with all the necessary arrangements (permits, maps, cabin bookings, trail notes etc). Cost: NT$2500 (US$80) for the first person, NT$900 for additional individuals on the permit. We accept payment by Paypal, bank transfer, or cash. Discounts for poor students and English teachers (not at all poor).

Send your dates of travel, name, date of birth, either your passport or ARC number (just the main number is enough), and postal address (for the maps) to Richard at If possible include your cell-phone number, and any emergency contact in Taiwan.
More photos: (The first 110 anyway) and (the first few)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dabajian DIY

One of the best high-mountain hikes in Taiwan, Dabajian Mountain (usually referred to as Daba), is now available as a self-guided package. It is the iconic 'Pa' part of the 'Shei-Pa' National Park (the 'Shei' is 'snow' as in Snow Mountain - Taiwan's 2nd highest peak). The trailhead is at Guanwu - approached from Hsinchu County.

If fit, and your transport to the trailhead is well organized, it is possible to do this hike in 3 days. We recommend you plan 4 or even 6 days for a truly fantastic hike. The route to Daba can be divided into 3 parts: the flat walk along Dalu Forest Road to Madala River; hiking up through lush forest to Jiujiu (99) Cabin; and the hike along the ridge to Daba proper. All very very scenic, rich with wildlife, peaceful (often no one else on the entire trail midweek) and with several pleasant extra options.

Prior to Typhoon Aere in August 2004 Daba (大霸尖山) was a popular 2-day hike for many Taiwanese. This standard approach reopened in July 2009, but hikers must now walk the 19 km of forest road (still just about passable by official/emergency vehicles) from Guanwu ( 觀霧) Forest Recreation Area to the original trailhead at Madala River. This essentially flat gravel road is a delight to walk but is despised by most Taiwanese hikers - in a hurry to the main peak.

We provide:
The necessary national park permits, and cabin bookings.
Professional, topographical maps with English annotation.
Detailed information on how to do this hike by yourself - trail notes, transport & accommodation options, flora/fauna, other options, suggested packing list, hiking language tips etc.
Additional follow-up email/phone support and advice.

NT$2500 (US$80) for the first person, NT$900 for additional individuals on the permit. We accept payment by Paypal, bank transfer, or cash. Discounts for poor students and English teachers (not poor).

Send your dates of travel, name, date of birth, either your passport or ARC number (just the main number is enough), and postal address (for the maps) to Richard at If possible include your cell-phone number, and any emergency contact in Taiwan.

Hiking Daba can be part of the world-class 4-9 day Snow Mountain Holy Ridge hike to/from Wuling. Only suitable for the more experienced.
Dabajian is also known as Tapachienshan, Daba, Taba, Dabajianshan. Is featured on the NT$500 note.
Possible to stay in cabins only, or a combination of cabins and camping.

See the photos from Rachael's recent trip there.

Other good news:
Snow Mountain's West Ridge is expected to actually reopen after after being closed for 10 years - as soon as the snow accumulated on the main peak melts in the next couple weeks.
Shei-Pa National Park are to build a new cabin at the ruins of Banan Cabin (just south of Daba on the Holy Ridge) this year. This will enable hikers to stay in modern cabins all the way from Snow Main Peak, or the Wuling Quadruple Peaks, right through to Guanwu.
We now have available weatherproof 1:50000 topographical maps covering the entire Shei-Pa National Park. For a modest fee we can annotate with English to your requirements.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A short return to winter.

The celebrated reopening of Yushan Main Peak on March 6th was accompanied by a death on the summit. This, and the winter-like weather of the last couple days has meant the main peak being closed again to ordinary hikers. It is still possible to apply for permits if able to prove you having proper training, experience and gear (carefully checked at multiple stages).

In the caged section.

Before the summit.
Before we know it, the summery weather will have returned, trails will be fine...and then a malingering El Nino may produce more exciting news.

Don't forget to consider Snow Mountain (Xue Shan, Shei Shan, Syue Shan etc), Taiwan's second highest. Probably more scenic, more relaxed, easier to get permits for, and - if wanting to do unsupported - more accessible by public transport.

Dabajian is an excellent alternative if looking for a great mountain and a less-regulated approach.

Beidawu (北大武, North Dawu) Mountain in Pindung County is getting hikers again. Following Morakot there is a new, lower, trailhead that adds an additional 2 hours to the hike. The water supply at Juniper Lodge is occassionally problematic - another good source is 10 mins away near the waterfall. Several new landslides the most signifigant being 0.5 and 1.75 from Juniper Lodge. Avoid hiking Beidawu if rain is predicted, the trail and approach road are 'unwell'.

Continuing my moment of of positivity: I'm often infuriated by the design of Taiwanese websites, Shei-Pa National Park's animated main page is quite inspiring nowadays however.

May, June, July and August scheduled dates coming shortly.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yushan Treks and Tataka

Happy New Year!


Tataka (Tatajia) - if visiting the Alishan area or traveling in Southern Nantou County, I highly recommend stopping and spending some time (from a few minutes to a couple days) hiking in the area.

Download useful map here and here.

My four suggestions:

Lazy: Get out of car look around. Wander up to the visitor center, have a coffee.

Easy: Hike through the forest along the asphalt road towards the observatory, halfway (at Linjhih trailhead) along look over the saddle for views to the south and Yushan. Can also walk to Tataka Anbu -the trail head for Yushan.

Full-day: Do a figure-of-8 incorporating the observatory, the Tataka Anbu (Tataka Saddle - the real trailhead for Yushan), the asphalt road and the hiking trail on the south side of Lulin/Linjhih Mountains. Great views of the valleys to the south and Yushan's southern peaks. Note the section between Tataka Anbu and Mt Linjhih, while well maintained, is steep.

Quick Peak: Hike to the top of Dongpu Mountain. Great workout and fantastic views of the valleys to the north and Yushan's Main/North Peaks.

Dongpu Mountain as seen from Linjhih Mountain (looking northwards).

Consider avoiding Alishan and staying in the very basic Upper (Shang) Dungpu Hostel near the parking lot. Outside of the big holidays, no one has a problem with people camping in the carparks next to the signs saying 'No Camping'.

Remember most people (if they visit at all) have left the area by mid-afternoon. After that it is quiet, very quiet! Bring all you need. Must write a fuller post specifically on this subject. In the meantime, look out for the leaflet/map in English to this area 20km from Alishan forest resort. Note this area is over 50 km from Dongpu Hot Spring resort village and has no public transport.

See these photos of a recent trip there.

Yushan ascents. [Note this is an old post. Click on banner for most recent news]

The main peak of Yushan is officially opening March 6th (not the 1st as 'planned' previously). We have some dates for March and April ascents via Tataka. Note the approach via Batongguan Meadow is still closed and in terrible condition, we do not expect this route to be an option for some time. Likewise, all other Yushan National Park trekking routes are still closed. See this for comments on the Southern Cross-Island highway. (Trails elsewhere in Taiwan mostly fine)

March 11/12 (meeting up the previous evening) FULL
March 17/18 (meeting up the previous evening) FULL
March 23/24 (meeting up the previous evening) FULL
April 7/8 (meeting up the previous evening) FULL
April 20/21 (meeting up the previous evening) FULL

May/June/July dates - and other mountains - in next post.