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'.