Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Taiwan trails, roads, bridges, birds - and Yushan.

Taiwan trails, roads, bridges, birds - and Yushan.

No typhoons!?! Not a bad summer - so far. Tip of the day: The best time for hiking in Taiwan is spring and fall but usually ANY month is excellent somewhere.

Work on the entrance to the Baiyang Trail and Wenshan Hotsprings in Taroko Gorge seems to be progressing smoothly. The tunnel entrance for Baiyang (currently accessible from a new trail starting behind the protestant church in Tienxiang) will be enclosed in a rock slide tunnel. Could be finished this year. The large concrete bridge near the waterfall was destroyed last month, work to replace it (with something less substantial) is likely to start soon. The trail will be closed for the second half of August 2011 to allow the cliffs to be ‘swept’ (刷坡) of loose rocks and railings replaced.
Also reportedly soon (maybe this year) to reopen are the Wenshan Hotsprings.
Have updated earlier comments on Taroko options.

The Southern Cross-island Highway (Number 20) remains closed at its highest section following Typhoon Morakot in 2009. The highway department has officially announced it will not ‘rebuild’ it but attempt to ‘maintain’ it.
Residents of Namaxia (formerly Sanming) in Kaohsiung fear the section of Highway 20 from Jiaxian northwards will not be fully rebuilt. Currently the road is passable.
The section of road from Wutai to Ali will not be rebuilt. This is effectivly the end for the village of Ali. The old forest roads/hiking trails beyond here, leading to the mountains around the ghost lakes remain utterly impassable.

Highway 21 between kilometer 121 and 145K (essentially between Tatajia and Dongpu) will only be open to traffic between 7am and 5:30 pm for the immediate future. This is due to unstable road conditions in this area. This may be relevant to hikers coming off Yushan and hoping to soak sore legs in Dongpu’s hot springs. If needing further information (in Chinese), phone the relevant roads office at 049-2791511. Road to Alishan (and on to Chaiyi etc) usually open to most vehicles.

Another bird race is to be held on November 12th and 13th at Tatajia - the trailhead for Yushan, 20km from Alishan. If wanting to compete, contact Elva at the Wild Bird Society, or me (will accept absolute novices on my team).

The Walami Trail is closed until mid November to allow for repairs on the first couple bridges on the trail after Nanan. Should be on schedule.

All Shei-pa National Park trails seem to be open. My earlier musings on the proposed rebuilding of Banan Cabin (to the south of Daba) were sadly wrong. There are no plans to replace this beautifully-located shelter.

A reminder: The only, sort-of, sensible options for getting to Yushan’s summit at the moment is either a single-day ascent from Tatajia, or camping at the high up Yuan-fong campsite/small cabin. In my opinion the single-day is preferable. If wanting a simple, fun, hiking experience consider other mountains.

When applying (paper/snail-mail option only) for permits, hikers must prove experience at on a high mountain. Proof - in the form of photos of you on a serious summit (or in snow...) seems to do the trick. Most hikers will start hiking at 2 or 3am from Tatajia (the highway, not the trailhead proper - handy van shuttle not possible) and return very tired between 2pm and 7pm. The National Park has the sensible, and enforced, rule that hikers must make it to Paiyun Lodge before 10am - or not be allowed further up the mountain.

This is all due to Paiyun Lodge still being unfinished. My prediction (based on discussions with numerous relevant people, and dependant on typhoons/snow/acts of humans) is that the cabin will not be effectively operating until spring 2012.