Mount Huashan - Shaanxi Attractions
The Road into the Clouds by the Path of Death
Another popular spot among tourists - Mount Huashan is located in Shaanxi Province, near the district-level city of Huayin. This is one of the five sacred mountains of Taoism. Huashan, translated as the “Flower Mountain”, is surrounded by five mountain peaks: the Central one and the peaks, called according to the cardinal points. Mount Huashan, a part of Zhangjiajie National Park is famous for its fabulous mountain scenes. For example, the Huashan Mountain range cliffs served as a prototype of flying islands in the blockbuster “Avatar”.
The most visited peak among them is the Southern one. It is the Southern peak, called by the Chinese the Peak of the Wild Goose Landing Peak, where the famous Path of Death is found. This is one of the world’s most extreme mountain tours, stretching for about 12 km. There the tourists meet the warning sign translated from Chinese as “No horses come back from here”.
At a dizzying height of 2,160 meters, following the smooth cliff curves, a narrow trail, thrown together from rough-planed timber is laid. The trail, hanging over an abyss, has no handrails or fences, only a chain nailed to the rocks just to hold on. The most desperate ones would only venture at setting foot on the trail, because once starting the path there is no return: the path is so narrow that to diverge with the people following after is practically impossible. It is difficult to imagine that 700 years ago, the path along the almost the vertical cliffs was knocked together by the hermits seeking immortality in the mountains.
Of course there were no chains to hold on at that time, they were built in much later, specially for tourists. It is really dangerous, but what a beauty opens up around! There are magnificent scenes of Chinese mountains bordered by bright green forests, endless blue sky above, and smooth steep cliffs in the mist of morning fog! All along the way there are Taoist monasteries, temples, pagodas, gates and bridges.
At the end of the path there is another surprise: a gorgeous man-made miracle – the huge Huashan Caves, carved directly into the cliffs, according to the scientists, more than 13 centuries ago. To this day, it is still a mystery - why and who knocked out the cave akin to temples, how stone blocks were carted away and why they were not mentioned in the historical chronicles. Even more mysterious is the fact that the caves are found on the thirtieth parallel, as the Egyptian Pyramids, Kailash in Tibet and the Bermuda Triangle, but apart from mysticism, the place itself is awesome.
The East Peak or Sunrise (Sun Facing) Peak is a perfect place to meet the dawn that is clear from the meaning of its name. The path to the peak runs to a height of almost 2.2 meters. In order to get there by sunrise, you need to start before dawn. The place to put tents is the Dawn Cave next to it. From the peak, you can take a narrow path, called the Dragon’s Ribs, running over the abyss. The path leads to a small pagoda, with numerous colorful ribbons and padlocks, hung by tourists for luck and good fortune on the trees and handrails near it.
The North Peak or Cloud Terrace Peak can be reached by cable car for 15-20 minutes, but there exists the other more difficult and interesting way - by the Stairway, consisting of three thousand steps. The length of the Stairway to the sky passing the bottomless Precipice of the Sun and the Moon, and the magnificent Dark Green Dragon Peak, is 6 km and takes about 3 hours.
From the West Peak or Lotus Flower Peak you can enjoy a magnificent view. You can also relax and have traditional Chinese noodles there.
The best time to visit Mount Huashan is the period from May to October. The nature of the surroundings is particularly scenic in September. To get to Mount Huashan is possible by regular mini-bus departing from Xi'an bus station. The distance of 240 kilometers the bus covers for 3-4 hours. You can also take a train to Luoyang station, where you can subsequently take a bus to the foot of the mountain.
It should be noted that a trip to the mountains is not cheap. The way there and back alone will take about 300 yuan, but it will be generously repaid. At the piedmont the tourists will have a funicular waiting for them to carry the groups to Central Peak. From there, the North, South, East and West peaks diverge like flower petals, and it is the starting point of the routes to the mountain peaks of Huashan.