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Being the tallest mountain in Taiwan, and East Asia (whatever that means...) Yushan (玉山) gets a little busy with many Taiwanese, alongside the visitors, heading to bag the peak. With the infrastructure being constantly improved, it is a relatively easy peak to do either with an overnight stay or in a day.The decision whether to go fast and light , endure a night in the Paiyun Lodge or extend the walk really depends on what you want to get out of the hike.
The bottom line really comes to three points:

1. can you get the lodge space in time? It gets booked up quickly and well ahead. Check other hut options if you want more real walker experience and less of a 'hostel' style as this is what Paiyun become recently.

2. are you desperate to walk to the peak to see the sunrise? It is a little bit of Taiwanese obsession to admire sun rising or setting - often on build platforms, accompanied by loud en masse 'ahhhhh!' and a forest of hands holding mobiles to preserve the moment

3. are you a fast walker who just wants the thrill of up and down with a few photos on the way? or you slower and bigger bag kinda of a walker who either likes a few hours to relax or want to explore more than the peak and the main route?

We did the overnight trip, mostly because I wanted to a chance (weather permitting) for some evening and morning photos. Otherwise would happily go for a day trip to avoid all the paperwork (fortunately, I did not need to deal with it myself), carrying more than some snacks and some water and to avoid the communal, antisocial, sleeping exercise that comes with Taiwanese mountain lodges. 

But even before heading to Yushan, or maybe instead - it is  worth to explore the surrounding trails and walks. Though being pretty short, the Linzhi peak walk offers some nice views and a chance to warm up your legs.

  • Linshi Peak
  • Touch of red
  • Layers of mountains

A short drive away is a brilliant walk along the forestry road - 玉山林道. On the day we had the trail, and the fantastic views, all to ourselves. A path less travelled I guess... The peak was so inviting on the day, especially with the autumn colours already showing on the slopes of the surrounding peaks. It is definitely one to get to next time we in the area and have a few spare hours.

An excellent local walk in the Yushan National Park area. Unfortunatly, could not be completed due to a typhoon damaged bridge. Autumn colours and absolutely nobody on the trail. So refreshing!

On the day though, unfortunately, after a nice walk through the woodland we reached what seemed to be the remains of the landslide-damaged bridge. Despite the peak being so close we had little choice than to tun around and walk back. As we found out later, an alternative route can be taken to the peak.

Turn around...

After a couple of days of pottering around the area and some smaller walks, it was time for Yushan peak. The evening before was wet and cold as we arrived at the Dong Pu lodge (東埔山莊). Though the price is pretty wallet-friendly, it's a little bit too run down and the toilets / bathroom can send shivers down your back. Also, being a lodge with large shared platform beds, expect little sleep: Taiwanese walkers are not the most concious of others when it comes to sharing bedrooms. Although we had earplugs, it was not enough to seal the constant noise of all the plastic bags being shuffled in the backpacks. At 3am, when some parties are heading out, the noise feels like sitting in some plastic-wrapper factory. Add bright lights shining straight into your face, like a surprise prison interrogation, and you get the picture. For some reasons, Taiwanese and head torches are a bad combination: at 3am, while rummaging through the countless plastic bags, they like to check if any of their bags by any chance moved. The place feels like a disco full of laser beams. Obsessed with (not necessarily needed or logical) early start, Taiwanese are as oblivious to fellow walkers sharing the accommodation as drivers or scooters to pedestrians.

So, if you coming by a car or a scooter, stay somewhere else to get some sleep and a good shower before the walk.Unless, of course, you like 3am plastic-wrapper and headtorches diskos.

  • Red carpet
  • Fine views

On the day we started with what seemed like a red carpet (though, a little bit wet) and some not so bad views slowly appearing in front of our eyes. Technically the walk is easy, pretty steep but not the most challenging. A couple of 'Eco-Toilets' on the first stretch (none afterwards so plan accordingly). The low cloud meant little views on the way up and so the progress was pretty good. Still, the diffused light worked well with the wet rocks that otherwise would look flat. Despite a few brief photo stops on the way, we seemed to be getting to the lodge pretty fast.

  • Eco toilet
  • Unchain my soul
Broken. Really broken.

We were not quite sure what was the deal with the The Broken Ridge, till we reached the other end of the ridge. Yeap, it certainly was broken...

Broken. Really broken.
Great Precipice

On the way you will pass by the Great Precipice (大峭壁) — a precipitous sheer rock cliff, a reminder  of the oceanic past. Impressive and, yet again, wet makes it a little bit more photogenic. 

By the time we reached the lodge, the weather has cleared and stabilised. The evening looked promising and, despite our rather late start (round 7am I reckon) , we reached the lodge pretty for a late lunch. By then we were a bit baffled with the early start of some people who were also planning to do an overnight at the lodge and the peak next morning. What were they planning to do in the afternoon? There is really little point of going up early - unless you planning to do the West, North or East peaks after reaching the Lodge.

Paiyun Lodge has gone through some serious revamp recently. Smaller rooms, flip-flops and  upgraded toilets: though still no bathroom and in winter only the outside toilet is open. Then comes the restaurant - no, really. You can now order your lunch, breakfast and dinner. And most people do... You can also rent a sleeping bag.

On the day we also found out that if you want to cook your own food, using a stove, you will be kicked out and cook with a torch outside (rather than be allowed to cook on one of the large tables). This must be the only place in Taiwan that we heard of Health and Safety of some sort. In all honesty, I find it pretty annoying since we needed to stay out in the wind and cook our own noodle in the darkness. Sort of discrimination...

There seemed to be only one more couple opting for cooking - the rest of the visitors opted for the easier option of set menu. Kind of strange approach to revamping the place and promoting walking as an activity.

Paiyun Lodge

Having reached the lodge by the lunch time we were looking for some way to kill the time. Weather looked good so we decided to explore the trail towards the peak. Before we managed to change from the lodge-provided flip flops into our boots, we have received the warning from the warden that the weather is unstable in the afternoon and we should not be heading towards the top. Apparently a standard warning. We nodded in agreement, promising we will turn around at any time it seems to be getting worse.

Well, it didn't. We kept walking up at a leisurely pace, looking for some sunset location. The weather was getting better with each hour as the clouds were thinning. The last 2km to the peak is also pretty easy trail that does not require you to think much about the way you going.

  • Crazy trees

Actually, it at times seems a little bit like a motorway - especially when you find the same road markers that are used on the motorways to guide you safely to the top...

Highway Lights

Before we even realised, we were only a few hundred meters form the peak, with the North Peak extending to the left. Despite a late-ish start and a lunch break at the lodge, we still had plenty of time to reach the summit and come back to the lodge before the dark. We started to seriously question the logic of early start and overnight stay. We also wondered where everyone else was gone: we met only 1 person on the track to the peak...

Yushan peak

When you scan through the posts, quite a few people suggest that the Yushan is not the best of the walks and you would be better off doing the Snow Mountain. Kinda of disagree: both are similar, both offer some great views in the right conditions. Yushan probably attracts more 'touristy' types and, if you follow the early-start routine, can turn to be a bit boring with all the downtime that you will end up with. But, weather permitting, you can do the peak on day 1, then do one or two of the other peaks next morning before heading down and it turns out to be well worth two days of hiking. If you not too keen on hostel-like hut with plenty of 'I need to walk up the Yushan' consider to do some more walking and stay in the other huts maybe.

The afternoon escapade to the peak offered some other, interesting experience as well. On the way up we stumbled on this pretty silly boy. Unprepared, dehydrated, nearing hypothermia he was determined to prove himself by walking up the Jade mountain. Clueless about the conditions and unprepared he would probably be on the front news if the weather turned round as it did the day before. He told us that he quitted his job, scooterred up from Taipei and afterwards he would become an entrepreneur. Apparently that's the way to become one... Seemed more like a suicide expedition to me. But hey, if you make it and get up to your first $10 million - remember who led you down from that peak!

Trailing up the Yushan, Jae Mountain, Taiwan.

On the very slow descend (our new friend was a bit tired...) we got some nice light and views. Morning looked promising as well.

  • Magnificent views
  • Desert

Despite the smaller rooms, you still have a pretty slim chance of getting some sleep at Paiyun Lodge: most of the plastic-bag loving, head-torch spinning walkers are determined to get up around 2am to a) reshuffle all their plastic bags b) shine the torch in all possible directions. All of it so they can c) get their breakfast (served at 3am) before heading up to the peak for sunrise.  It all would make sense - but with the sunrise just past 6am and some 2.2km to cover, it seemed a little early to head out at 3am. The trail is easy even in the dark and takes hardly 2 hours at very slow pace. Having already bagged the main peak last afternoon, and not quite sharing the obsession of staring at the sun appearing from behind the horizon, idea of heading to the North Peak instead of sharing the crowded space on the main peak started to be more and more appealing.

Thanks to the fellow walkers (and their bags and torches), we gave up trying to sleep and hit the road at 3:30. Going light with only some snacks and camera gear, it took only an hour and a quarter to reach the intersection. Seriously. Standing there at 4:30 and considering nearly 2h on the main peak waiting, the North Peak seemed a more interesting option. It also makes more sense for photos as some side light should illuminate the main peak.

And what a good decision. It took exactly 1h from the intersection to the met station. Steep, exposed and slippery first 500m followed by a nice trail through a forest, a false peak, down and up towards the weather station. As 5:30 was still dark and some clouds started forming around the Main and the North peaks. It seemed quite common that the two peaks would remain enshrouded in clouds and the valley between the peaks staying clear. And so, some 30 minutes later, at the crack of down, I was setting up the tripod back in the valley hoping for some nice side-lit view of the Main Peak.

Again, the decision paid off: though no stellar views, at least there were some views: both peaks remained covered in cloud way after the sun was up. Staying on either peak would have been pretty boring.

Looking to the east

  • Look East
  • Cloud Dance

Looking to the west

  • Valley below
  • Looking west

The hike to the North Peak is excellent - much more fun than the Main Peak. So would be the East peak and maybe add another day of walking to explore the other, surrounding peaks.

Though next time would either do a day trip, or probably 2 nights instead. Instead of staying in Paiyun lodge it would be a better option to stay in a less-touristy place (though the evening Gaulian and snacks with another walking party was pretty nice). Also ignore the early start: the walking time seems to be for people who never walk and are definitely out of their comfort zone. Go light, go later, go faster. North Peak offers good view of the Main Peak, but not much side light in the morning. East and West peaks might be better bet for photos in the morning.In summer might work from the North Peak.

You do, however, get a nice light on ridge leading to the weather station on the North Peak.

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