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 barkingdeerinfo@gmail.com

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 barkingdeerinfo@gmail.com If possible include your cell-phone number, and any emergency contact in Taiwan.
More photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/barkingdeerinfo/SnowHolyRidge# (The first 110 anyway) and http://picasaweb.google.com/barkingdeerinfo/SnowSyueHolyRidgeHighDefinitionUntouchedUp# (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 barkingdeerinfo@gmail.com 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.

Richard barkingdeerinfo@gmail.com