Mount Emei: No Pain No Gain

Day 1: Mount Emei quivering at my arrival the evening before our ascent (or my legs quivering at the impending mountain)
Day 1: Mount Emei quivering at my arrival the evening before our ascent (or my legs quivering at the impending mountain)

Made a 2 day ascent leading up to New Year’s Eve (Hello 2015! Thanks for sending me March already..!). The wintry views, the physical test, and the spiritual surroundings made it well worth the challenge! Even if I got mugged by those obnoxious monkeys 😦

The walk is 100% stairs surrounded by vegetation, and later snow-laden steps past the ~800m elevation. It gets very steep and becomes a considerable leg workout if you, like my jolly family and I, walk for 7-8 hours per day. I think about the builders who had to carve this path and feel rather awed/ stop complaining.

Hey little guy! The climate is mild and humid an hour or so into our ascent.
Hey little guy! The climate is mild and humid an hour or so into our ascent.

Starting from the base at elevation ~400m, we covered some 30km (18.6 mi) on the first day and spent the night at a local’s village house at Jiulinggang. This was quite the experience, like being transported to a mountain house in the 1960s. The rooms feature two wooden beds that remind me of summers with my grandmother, in the most nostalgic way possible and not entirely bad. I initially doubted the need to use our electric mattress heaters but changed my mind when temperatures dropped below freezing point before dark.

The best five star hotel is one that keeps you warm  in the loneliest and most breathtaking nooks of nature
The best five star hotel is one that keeps you warm in the loneliest and most breathtaking nooks of nature
The elevator
The elevator

We intended to reach the next rest stop, Xixiangchi, but it was 5:30pm and we didn’t want to risk walking in the dark. There are snack stalls (yummy tofu soup, sausages, corn etc.) scattered along the way, though the longest we went without seeing vendors was probably 3 hours of climbing.

The house owner was supremely gracious and cooked us a delicious dinner and breakfast. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the sunrise and I caught a time-lapse video using my iPhone for the first time. Those are the things you never forget. Obviously, expect prices to be higher than the average city’s, but also think about how hard it is to carry supplies up here when there’s a 50km-long path only accessible by foot. According to the guard at the mountain base who registered our names as a daily safety headcount, under 150 people ascended on the day we did. This is low because it’s off-season in winter.

Woke at 7am for this. Oh, if only you could see the infinite shades of mountains that blend the rising sun
Woke at 7am for this. Oh, if only you could see with your naked eye the infinite shades of mountains that blend the rising sun
Indispensable snow claws to reach the peak. Best investment ever for under 2USD.
Indispensable snow claws to reach the peak. Best investment ever for under 2USD.
What my snow claws bit into for hours a day. You're lucky if this stuff is powdery. The icy type made me trip more than once.
All stairs: what my snow claws bit into for hours a day. You’re lucky if this stuff is powdery. The icy type made me trip more than once.
Melissa in Wonderland.
Melissa in Wonderland.
The grind goes on
The grind goes on

We reached the summit at sunset on Day 2. There are hundreds more of tourists here (in the low thousands in winter) who bus it to Leidongpin and take the cable car up to the peak. Don’t do that! At least walk the final 6km to the peak. We saw the most BEAUTIFUL views of snow and faraway misty stacked mountain ranges during this walk.

On Day 3, everyone in the hotel rushed to the temple at Jinding around 7:30am to observe the sunrise. Funnily enough, there was none because it was too foggy. At least we caught one the morning before- another reason to experience the mountain on foot!

Where's the sunrise?
Where’s the sunrise?
2014-12-31 08.32.30
The view from the top! Always another mountain in scale. That’s life.
Jinding "Gold Peak" - the wonder that inspired it all.
Jinding “Gold Peak” at 5pm 2 days before 2015 – the wonder that inspired it all.

Mount Emei has significant religious meaning in Buddhism in respecting the bodhisattva of meditation. I think about my grandmother who made this ascent in her 60s (!!) in order to pay homage to every temple on the path. The two-day ascent definitely gave me a deep introspective and spiritual feel, and since I’m taking a Buddhism class this semester, I might go into another post on the religious significance of this unique mountain.

If you visit Sichuan, this place is a must-see.

Frenemy, I visit you again soon.
Frenemy, I visit you again soon.

Other tips:
– Yes, the monkeys come in herds and are very calculating. I got excited and curious to see them approach me, but it wasn’t until I felt something heavy climb onto my head… that I realized the shameless creature was stealing my water and soft drink bottles. Lesson: Keep your food and drinks zipped up in your bag! Otherwise they are harmless and leave you alone. They actually tend to live near human inhabitants, i.e. temples and food stalls at higher elevations or bridges at lower elevations.
– It averages -10 to 0 degree Celsius above 600m elevation. Stay warm.
– Buy trekking snow claws at the mountain base, ~10RMB per pair. You’ll need them.
– Winter is off-season and tickets are all half-price for entry to mountain at 90RMB.

Good luck!

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