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