Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Crouching Tiger Great Wall Hike

After spending a night on the watch tower in freezing temperatures and howling wind at Gubeikou and hardly any sleep, our legs and bodies were still aching from the hike the day before. But we were excited with the itinerary before us. We were going to hike up a section known as the Crouching Tiger (Wohu Mountain) 卧虎山长城 at Gubeikou.

The Crouching Tiger Great Wall from a distance. The hike to the peak from the foot hill is approximately 8km.

Our driver drove us for a quick breakfast at a nearby restaurant near the Crouching Tiger. We could see her from a distance and it definitely DOES NOT look like an easy walk in the park. In fact, our guide was telling us that it is going to be even much tougher than the day before, because it is so much more steeper and the path more rugged. We simply do not have enough time or probably the energy to hike all the way to the peak and down again that day. What we could do is hike as far as we could go with the time that we have since we have to be back in Beijing by 3pm at the latest.

By 9am, we were already at the foot of Wohu Mountain, getting ready for our hike. We were not the only ones. It seemed that this particular location is rather popular with the locals because we saw other hikers already half way up while there were more groups gathering at the foothill getting ready for start.

After crossing a railway track, we commenced our climb upwards. The path is definitely more rugged and steep. It is also more slippery with lots of loose gravels making the climb so much more difficult. Our guide was right. This was definitely a hike that demands more stamina and fitness, something that both of us are seriously lacking. However, we were determined to climb as far as we could since we had come this far.

After 60 minutes of climbing upwards, our guide scouted for a path to cut across the hill and a valley to get to the wall to reduce our climbing time needed. 

A view of the valley as we cut through the hills, taking a shorter route to access to the wall. As it was autumn, the slopes were `painted' in orange, green and yellow and you can see a watch tower some distance away.

The state of the wall here is even more crumbled than those at Jingshanling or at Gubeikou where we hiked the day before. Most parts lie in ruins and deteriorated, beaten by time and forces of nature. There were many parts where the wall could no longer be seen. What is left is just a sandy rugged walking path of loose gravels. There were sections where the walking path was as narrow as 1 foot with steep banks on both sides where extreme care has to be exercised.

This is not even one quarter way up to the peak. We do not have the time to hike up the peak and had to start our hike down from here ...

With clear bright blue skies and the sun beating down on us, we were sweating even in the cool autumn temperatures.

Part of the trek that we took to hike down ...

The hike down was not strenuous as we took our time taking some breathtaking pictures of the landscape and the watch towers against backdrops of layers of mountains...

 A broken watch tower and very narrow wall or whatever that is left of it against the backdrop of mountain ranges ...vast and majestic....

A crumbled watch tower in the foreground and you can see the great wall on top of the mountain ridges snaking into the horizon, as far as your eyes can see...can you trace where it ends?

Here, at the Crouching Tiger section, you can, at certain vantage point, such as the one in the picture above, see the magnificent and awesome great wall on top of mountain ridges for as far as your eyes can see and the feeling is simply indescribable. Just imagine, smoke signals going out from one tower to another during the ancient times, signalling an imminent attack by forces from the north, and how the watch tower soldiers rushed the news to their superiors, generals frantically drawing up defensive moves and hundreds of troops moved along the great wall to their defensive position. 

This is just some samples of how narrow and broken down the walking path on this section of the Great Wall. There were some other sections where both sides have completely eroded, leaving only a 12 inch path to cross...like the one below ....

The Great Wall, since it stretches over 8000 km across China, over different terrains, mountains and valleys, the materials used to build the wall also varies. While some areas were built of mud and clay, most of the sections here at Crouching Tiger seemed to have been built using rocks and stones held together by clay.

With one final glance at the watch tower and the deteriorating wall, crumbling under the pressure from time and forces of nature, we made our final descent. By the time, we got down to the foot hill where our driver was waiting for us, it was close to 12:30 pm. We were hungry, tired and thirsty and we were yearning for that cold bottle of Tsingtao.

After a quick lunch, we made our way back to Beijing, trying hard to avoid the massive jam every Sunday, created by thousands of Beijingers and tourists getting back to Beijing after a weekend away. I did not pay much attention to the traffic jam on the way back as we were both so tired that we dozed off barely 10 minutes into the journey home.

Our legs and backs were aching the next day. 

"My piku (backside) hurts so much!" Yuki texted me the following day. "Let's do it again!"

It was a tiring adventure but one that I am glad that I did. Now, I am busy planning for my next hike to another section of the wall ... the section that have been submerged in water. Just got to wait till April when spring is here.

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