Fresh from climbing Mount Emei just a couple of days ago I wanted to share my ups and downs from the two day hike. I am not just talking physically, which there were a lot, but also mentally.
When Rich first told me about the hike up Mount Emei, a mountain in the Sichuan province of China, I was pretty much sold from the off. The blogs we read not only spoke of a challenging but beautiful hike but also the promise of remote temples and wild monkeys. On top of this the mountain was called ‘Emei’. Of course I had to climb a mountain which had the same name as me!
What I didn’t read was the bit about the number of steps. We are on the bus on the way to the bottom of trail and we decide to reread these inspiring blogs we had found months before. Suddenly I realise how hard this climb sounds. One blog says ‘The trail not only pushed our physical boundaries, it also pushed us mentally’. Oh dear… what have I signed up for!
I do however like a challenge and this is what you get from most hikes, especially those I go on with Rich (he has a way of finding them). So we start hiking from Baoguo Temple just outside the town of Emei at the bottom of the mountain. We head off at a pace to escape the crowds and the signs of civilisation, up and away into the forest.
During our first day we climbed an elevation of about 1500m although we physically must have done much more as we were going up and down a lot. If you can’t picture how high this is then this should help. Ben Nevis stands 1345m above sea level, so we climbed higher than the overall height of the tallest mountain in the UK.
This large elevation meant lots of steps, and that is an understatement as there was more than a lot of steps. At times we would look up and as far as the eye could see was more steps disappearing into the distance. On a good day this many steps are hard however I have to mention the weather. It was a humid, moist heat. I am sorry to mention it but I don’t think I have ever been more sweaty. The combination of heat and extreme exercise meant we were literally dripping. And it only got worse as the day went on because the higher we went the closer we got to the clouds. By the late afternoon of the first day we were hiking physically in a cloud. You could barely see the path in the distance and there was no chance of a view.
If you are thinking this walk sounds too hard for you then you do have another option. The Huagan Service (seen above) is available all the way along the walk for the lazy people who did not realise a hike actually involves walking. This is where two local people will carry you up the mountain on a bamboo throne like structure for a lot of money. You will be happy to hear neither of us used this service.
The first evening we stayed in a Buddhist temple half way up the mountain. You don’t book, you just turn up and hope they have enough space. As we arrived at the first temple late on the first day we prayed it had space as we dragged ourselves to the entrance. Fortunately it did! I was so happy as we really couldn’t go any further. It also had hot showers, something we were not expecting. I was so excited to be clean.
We set off at 7am the next day. We wanted to make it to the summit today and back down the mountain in time to get a train back to Chengdu. Yet again today was another massive climb with never-ending steps. One thing that kept us entertained on the trail was the Chinese tourists fascination with us. However sweaty or exhausted I looked the Chinese still were so enthusiastic to see us. Multiple times I would stumble up the last step of a massive incline only to have a Chinese father ask me if I could have a photo with his son. I smelt so bad and looked bedraggled but they still wanted a photo. People would say ‘hello’ to us while we walked and would giggle when we replied with ‘nín hǎo’ (hello in Chinese). Small children would shout and stare from far away and once a grown women even chased us for a photo.
After hours of endless climbing and fighting through the tourists who all took the bus to the top section, we eventually saw the beautiful golden Buddhist sculpture which signified the summit. I was so relived. The clouds which we had spent all day ascending in seemed to magically clear and we could see stunning blue sky. We both wanted to get to the highest point possible and spotted a final view point.
We climbed the last few steps and walked to the edge to see the long awaited view. We were met with something I really wasn’t expecting to see. It was a sea cloud. This is similar to what you see when a plane breaks through the top of the clouds just after you first take off. At a final height of 3077m we were so high that we were above all the clouds we had spent so long climbing through. It was genuinely so beautiful and I think I nearly cried. We deserved this view.
Mount Emei was truly a challenge and a half. I must admit there were times on the way up where I wished we had just taken the bus or cable car or if I had just read those blogs a little harder when we were planning this adventure. However looking back now I appreciate that all the pain and hard work makes the end so much sweeter. We earnt the view at the top and saw some stunning scenery on route miles away from the main tourist track that I will remember for a long time.
Photos by Emily and Rich