16.12.2006 26 °C
Having climbed Huashan in Xian, I was keen to visit Emeishan in Sichuan Province. It is a Buddhist holy mountain and was inscribed in the World Natural and Cultural Heritage List in 1996. I took the evening public bus from Chengdu to the bottom of the mountain and stayed at a pleasnat hostel overnight to be ready for an early start. After a decent nights sleep I rose at 8.00 a.m to take breakfast and prepare for the trek ahead. I took a bus to one of the starting points and walked to the first of the many temples on this holy mountain. There are 30 temples on the mountain and I saw about half of them on my ascent. I was pleased to see many Chinese people engaged in offering incensce and candles in the grounds of the temple. In the centre of the Wannian Temple is a huge bronze statue of Samantabhadra mounted on a white elephant weighing 62-tonnes. Rubbing the backside of the elephant is considered to bring luck and it has been well worn over the years! After a brief walk around the beautiful grounds I set-off along the trail on the east side of the mountain taking in the forested hill-sides. I had been told that the route would take between 8 and 12 hrs to walk so I walked at a steady pace with few breaks until lunch-time. I sat down to a very nice meal prepared by a girl and her father who appeared to live in the shack. After washing down the noodles with a cup of green tea I was back on the trail feeling fresh and ready to tackle the never-ending steps.
The scenery was very pleasant as the unique geographical and climatic conditions endow the mountain with lush vegetation. Mt.Emei is known as "Kingdom of Plants", "Geological Museum", "Animal Paradise" and "Buddhist Celestial Mountain". It is easy to see why it is considered holy and thankfully under state protection such is the beauty of the area. My walk was pretty uneventful and I passed few people on route. I stopped at the occassional temple and food shack but was conscious of the time and my progress. My aim was to reach the Golden Summit in time to see the sunset so I pushed on and on up the steep stone steps. Some workmen were repairing the path and were carrying down ridiculously heavy loads on their backs. Some carried slabs of stone weighing in excess of 40kgs by my estimation! Along with a monkey reserve on the west of the mountain there are wild monkeys on Emeishan. I passed some on one section of the path and they were pretty cool. I didn't need to use my stick that I had been advised to buy!
I met a sound Polish guy part way up the route who had walked a different path from me but we both converged on the eastern path. We had a good chat along the way and motivated each other as the steps got steeper and we got higher and higher. It was really tiring from 2500m and about 100m from the summit I started to feel the effects of altitude sickness, experiencing short breaths and a headache. I found the energy from somewhere and made it the Golden summitt where I was greeted by a massive golden statue of buddha on elephants. The sun had not yet gone down and I had made it to the top as I had planned to in 10 hrs, arriving just before sunset. Unfortunately, there was so much cloud cover that I wasn't rewarded with a beautiful sunset, but being up there amongst the clouds was cool enough. After taking a load of photographs at the summit I found a decent room in a guesthouse and got an early night. The next morning I took the mono-rail across to Wanfu summit which is the highest peak on the mountain at 3099m. That was the highest I've been above sea level and I was surrounded by cloud cover all morning. I made a slow descent to the cable-car station and took the car part-way down the mountain to the bus station. It took about 2 hrs to descend the mountain with an astounding number of hairpin turns along the way. I left exhausted but with a feeling of accomplishment after completing the 32km winding walk up 3000m in 10 hrs. Although, Edgey would probably say he could do it in 9 hrs without sweating or being sick! In his only e-mail in almost 6 months he told me he could have climbed Huashan in 5 hrs no problem. I'd like to see that Edge!