One of the biggest difficulties in hiking the Yushan is actually the process of getting a hiking permit. Around 30 days before the planned hike it is necessary to complete an extensive application (including pictures of hiking experience over 3000m, health condition, etc.) and then hoping to get one of the limited permits via a lottery. We were lucky on the second try and were allowed to climb the Yushan in the beginning of December.
We left to Yushan National park on Wednesday afternoon and planned to spend our first night in the Dongpu Village Hostel. Our drive to the National park didn’t go as smooth as expected, because we faced a closed road close to our destination and had to turn around and take a much longer route. Around 11pm, 3 hours later than expected, we finally arrived at the Dongpu Village hostel. The Dongpu Village hostel is a really basic accommodation without hot water or western toilets. Unfortunately this also includes a lack of heated rooms and clean beds. Nights in areas above 2000m in December can, even in Taiwan, get quite cold and a lack of heating means that you are staying in a room with a temperature around zeros degrees. So we cowered in our chalet linen and covered us with the provided linen.
Way to early and with a big lack of sleep because of the cold we were woken up by our alarm clock. After a small breakfast, we settled up and started our hike. Okey, first we needed to get one more permit at the police station and then needed to get a stamp on our permit from the visitor center. But then we were ready to go. From the visitor center we took a bus, which brought us to the begin of the trail (it’s possible to walk from the visitor center, but it’s a boring 3km walk on a street).
After the mandatory before-hike-picture, we started our hike through the beautiful and untouched landscape. The trail is comparable to hiking trails in the alps and is not paved like a lot of other trails in Taiwan. The first part to the Paiyun Lodge leads through forestry areas, over bridges and along slopes and offers beautiful views almost the whole time. After around 2,5 hours of hiking we arrived at a nice place for lunch and for some rest. Until this point the trail is fairly easy and not really exhausting even though it is almost 3000m above sea level. The second part of the hike to the Paiyun lodge is getting steeper and therefore more exhausting, but can be still easily done with some breaks.
After another two hours of hiking we arrived at the Paiyun Lodge, our place for the night, at 3400m above sea level. After putting our sleeping bags in our bunk beds and some hot chocolate in front of the Paiyun Lodge at 5°C. We discovered the area around the Lodge a little bit and found a beautiful place to look over the landscape including the famous sea of clouds. Unfortunately, there weren’t only clouds beneath us but also clouds above us, which made us doubtful for the next morning, when we wanted to see the sunrise on the top of Yushan. After our small exploring session we went back to the lodge to have our dinner. The lodge itself is again really basic with no heating or anything, but it’s possible to get hot water, food and a sleeping bag there. We went to bed quite early around 8pm due to the fact that we have to get up at around 2.30am to start our hike to the peak.
And again our sleep wasn’t really relaxing or long, because of the altitude and the really hard beds (more or less just a wooden board). Equipped with head lamps we started our ascend through the pitch black darkness to the peak. A look to the sky showed us that we have to be lucky to see the sunset on the top, because the conditions were changing all the time. The first part of the ascend to the peak leads through a forest, which protected us from the cold winds. After around one kilometre we reached the treeline and got more exposed to chilling winds and the surrounding. Also from now on the hike got tougher with every meter and the lack of oxygen wasn’t helping. The last 300m before the peak are also the steepest of the whole trail to the peak. Chains and ropes are helping to climb the steep sections, but also the cold winds made us shiver. After we succeeded over the last steep meters, we reached the top at around 5.30am, which was unfortunately completely covered in clouds. Sitting in the lee and trying not to get cold, we hoped that the clouds disperse and that we then can enjoy the beautiful sunset.
Long story short, it wasn’t our day and the peak stayed covered in clouds for the next hours, so that we weren’t able to see the sunset. A little bit disappointed we hiked back to our discovered spot of the past day and at least were able to enjoy the view from there. Afterwards we had breakfast and then hiked back down to the beginning of the trail in pure sunshine.
Overall the hike was a blast, only that we weren’t able to see the sunshine was a downer. The experience to hike through the dark, being exposed to cold winds and sleeping at really cold places was great. I would always do it again.
After the exhausting hike we drove to the hot spring town Dongpu to cure our tired legs in some hot water and to sleep in a proper bed after two short nights before heading back to Taipei.