Monday, June 10, 2019

Mount Hua, Hua Shan, West Peak and South Peak from Xi'An

We were in Xi'An, China!  Today, we decided to make a day trip to visit Mount Hua, or the famous HuaShan.  Mount Hua (simplified Chinese: 华山) is a mountain located about 120 kilometres (75 mi) east of Xi'an. It is the western mountain of the Five Great Mountains of China, and has a long history of religious significance. The mountain is classified as five main peaks, of which the highest is the South Peak at 2,154.9 metres (7,070 ft).

Before this trip, we read a lot (and I mean a lot) about Hua Shan, from various bloggers and I tried to watch all the youtube videos on Hua Shan that I could find.  We were supposed to be a on a leisurely trip so we were looking for the least effort way to get up the mountain.  From our research, it was evident that there were numerous approaches.  The hardest way is to hike up the mountain (takes 5 hours if you are fit). Apparently this was a common route up by many locals, and even some overseas visitors (and bloggers). I have no doubt that the sense of achievement would be greater if you hiked up the mountain, but we weren't up for such a strenuous activity. 

This Trail Map of Mt Huashan gives you a good idea of the timings required to get from peak to peak.  Take note the following:

1. Famous plank walk (or plank road) is between South and East Peak.  We didn't go there, but many people do. (many Youtube Videos too)

2. There are 2 cable cars - to the North Peak and to the West Peak.  For both cable cars, you will need to take an internal shuttle after you enter the park at the Tourist Service Center (or Visitor Center).

3.  All reviews say that the walk from North Peak, to Middle Peak, is extremely strenuous as you are going uphill.  Think of it as a 1-hour uphill climb.  From what I have read, the steps are well cut, so safety shouldn't be too much of an issue.  You just need to be physically fit.

Our Final Route
4. For us, the least physical effort route would be to go up and down West Peak cable car.  Once we reached the West Peak cable car station at the mountain top, we first walked to the West Peak summit (it was still a 20 minute climb as you can see in my video and pictures below).

5. And then from the West peak summit, we headed to the South Peak summit. Take note, West to South is uphill.  As the infographic correctly highlighted, it takes about half hour. Steps were well cut, so you don't have to worry about falling off the mountain.

6.  After we viewed the South Peak, we headed back to the West Peak (downhill), and then took the cable car back down.  We then had to take the internal blue shuttle bus back to the visitor center, and then a taxi to the HuaShan High Speed Rail (30RMB), and finally HS rail back to Xi'An North.



Our Trip Begins! Public Transport to Mt Hua
We went by ourselves, by public transport. It was an interesting journey, with many transfers. Sequence as follows:

1. Take the Xi'An Metro from our Hotel (Sheraton Xi'An North) to Xi'An North High Speed Rail Station
2. Buy High Speed Rail ticket, take the High Speed Train to HuaShan north Station (120km)
3. From station, took a taxi to visitor center. Along the way, taxi driver brought us to a tour agent to buy our tickets, as the price was the same, and we would be able to skip the queues at the visitor center.
4. Arrive at visitor center, entered the gates, take the blue bus to West Peak Cable Car base station.
5. Arrive at West Peak base station - it was a very long uphill walk (many stairs) to the cable car proper! We took the chair lift to go up.
6. Then we finally get onto the West Peak Cable Car, which brings us to the West Peak.
7. From here, it is on foot - we only visited West and South peaks.  We only spent about 2 hours on the mountain top.

West to South peak was an uphill walk.  So walking back from South to West was downhill.  We headed back to the cable car station and went down to the West Peak base station. Then you need to take the blue bus back to the visitor center.  From there, we took a taxi to the Hua Shan north High Speed Rail, got our tickets, and took the High Speed rail back to Xi'An North, and then the Xi'An metro back to our hotel!  Mission accomplished!

High Speed Rail to Hua Shan North
I made four videos to give you a snippet of the entire experience.   In this first video, we take the High Speed Rail from Xi'An North, to Hua Shan north.  Then, we take a taxi to buy tickets and then the blue bus to the West Peak Base station.  (#1 to #4 in the list above)



Chair Lift (and roller coaster ride back down)
In this second video, it shows you the chair lift.  It was 30RMB per person, each way.  A bit steep for such a short ride but it was well worth it because we didn't want to tire ourselves out even before we got to the mountain top!  In the video, you can see how many steps you need to climb.


Cable Car Ride up to the West Peak
In this third video, it shows you the cable car ride (almost the full ride) up to the West Peak station.  It was scary! But the views were breathtaking.  Check out the hole in the mountain as the cable car approached the West Peak.  Yes, they had to blow a hole in the mountain in order to build this cable car station.


Our Destination - Hua Shan West and South Peaks!
In this fourth and final video, I show you the West Peak and South Peaks.  Gives you a good idea of the walking (and stair climbing) that you would need to do, when you go up the mountain.  It was crowded, but some told us that the day we were there was already considered not crowded at all!  We believed them because we didn't have wait much at all for the cable car.  On some days, people wait up to 2 hours to get on the cable car.  Scary.


Thanks for watching my videos!  Below are some pictures too.

After arriving at Hua Shan north, we took a taxi, to a travel agent to buy our tickets and then to the visitor center.  The journey by taxi took about 15 minutes.  I think it is worth it to take the taxi (even though there is supposedly a free tourist bus from the Hua Shan North High Speed Rail), as it would easily save you 30 minutes of commute.  The fare wasn't expensive, 20 RMB.  If you buy tickets from the travel agent (that the taxi driver will bring you to, if you wish, but it helps to speak the local language), he earns a commission and will only charge you 10RMB.  The tickets from the travel agent are genuine - they work.  The price is the same as you would get at the visitor center.

Large scale, this place.  Walk towards the mountain!  The highest peak is the West Peak, though I cannot tell which peaks were in front of us.

We entered via the 'Tour Group' entrance, as we bought our tickets from a tour agent.  No problems at all.  After that, we took the blue bus, which brought us to this place.

You would think that you had reached the cable car station.  Not yet!  There were many more steps to climb.  We were greeted by this beautiful archway.  Look beyond, at all the steps leading upwards!

So, we decided to take the chair lift to save us some walking.  Very few people took this chairlift, because it wasn't cheap.  30RMB per person, one way.

Now, even after the chairlift, you had to walk up this steep flight of stairs, in order to finally reach the West Peak cable car station!

Fortunately for us, the line for the cable car was very short.  We hardly had to wait.  The cable car ride was rather long (20 minutes) and the views were simply spectacular.

We reached the station, which was literally carved out of the side of the mountain.  Look at the barricades, to cope with the crowds.

We were at the West Peak! You can't get lost up here.  Many people.  Well sign-posted.

People buy locks and ribbons.  Quite a sight.

To get up the West Peak summit, this was the most challenging part.  Ladder-like steps cut into the road.  You need to use your hands to pull yourself up the chains.

From West Peak, we headed to the South Peak.  It was uphill.  South Peak was the highest peak.

It was like a party, climbing up to the South Peak.  It was crowded, it was noisy.  Some even turned up in party clothes.  Check out my video to see the crowds, which were supposedly quite thin on the day we went up!

The South peak was even more crowded than the West Peak.  There were even Chinese tourists having a huge quarrel.  Thankfully they didn't start finding.  Only raised their voices (very loud). 

The din aside, the views were gorgeous.  Here is a view of the West Peak, from the South Peak.  

After we reached the South Peak, we headed back to the cable car station.  Essentially you back-track, downhill - the cable car station is very near the West Peak.  Another view of the West Peak Cable Car Station.  Cool stuff.  There is a photo booth there and they take a professional photograph of your group.  You can choose to purchase the photo when you arrive at the bottom.  We decided to buy our photo, as it looked pretty good. 

Thanks for reading!!

Other Xi'An Links Below

1) Mt Hua Shan - Up the West Peak
2) Longmen Grottos - from Xi'An to Luoyang Longmen
3) Sheraton Xi'An North Hotel - Club Room and Executive Lounge
4) China Eastern Airlines Business Class Singapore to Shanghai to Xi'An Adventure!
5) China Eastern Airlines Business Class Shanghai to Singapore Flight Review
6) Terracotta Warrior Museum - Go by Public Transport!

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