Signing off 2014 in the Clouds: Mount Emei, China

In a couple hours I will be flying back to Chengdu, Sichuan, the motherland. By nightfall, I’ll be writing from my old-school journal at the base of Mount Emei (pronounced “uh may shan” in 峨眉山), bracing for a three day ascent and descent of this 3,099 m (10,167 ft) mountain by foot.

Having not paid much attention to trip until tonight, I did my research and became absolutely ecstatic about what’s to come at this gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’ve been to Sichuan countless times and yet by some conspiracy have never visited this amazing mountain. That’s about to change.

Located 3 hours from the capital, Chengdu, Mt Emei is governed under the city of Leshan. It holds paramount religious and cultural significance as one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China (四大佛教名山). In fact, Mt Emei is home to the first Buddhist temple built in China in the 1st century CE. More specifically, it is the place of enlightenment of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra 普贤菩萨, associated with the Buddhist practice of meditation. I’m gearing myself up for lots of monasteries and learning along the stair-paved hike, and definitely some precarious architecture once we reach the peak.

Apparently the 50km (31 mi) path takes several days to walk, but we can give or take less time since a cable car now helps you with the last part to the top. Ideally we walk the whole path, but let’s see how things turn out, especially since we’ll be walking up in the snow. Having driven in snow for the first time this Thanksgiving, I’m not so worried about the slush as I am about the cold: average temperatures are between -7 to 0 degree Celsius (19-32F) in the winter, and that’s NOT accounting for further drops at 10,000+ ft altitudes and the fact that we will be up there for several nights. I think it’s just the California part of me freaking out but honestly it won’t be that bad.

I DO, however, know that we will be rewarded with some incredible views. I’m a nature lover and, thanks to TripAdvisor, I can tell it’s gonna be one hell of a treat. First and foremost will be endless cloud seas once we hit a certain altitude, then the pristine star-crusted nightsky after a perfect dinner of ramen, and the next morning, the magical 4am sunrise you could never ever miss when you spend the night on these misty Chinese mountains. Just the thought of these sights evokes visceral memories of 2007 at Hua Shan 华山 in Shaanxi Province. That was a moment of daybreak I could never forget. 120% looking forward to an icy, inspirational walk.

I wanted to share two highlights from TripAdvisor before I log off, grab some sleep and let the adventure roll.

“Toilets in chinees style, plenty of people talking high and with no need for closing the doors… Wierd experience…” I feel you, Norwegian visitor.

“Don’t be that tourist who gets mugged by a monkey.” I’m literally just going to stay away from them… (Tibetan macaques 猕猴)

Lastly, a sneak peek of what’s to come…

View from the summit, courtesy of TripAdvisor
The breathtaking view at the summit: is this even real?? (courtesy of TripAdvisor)

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