The next day [October 13th], we set out for our secondary objective for this trip, Mount Tai. On our way there, our guide gave us a few options. One was to start at the very bottom and make our way all the way to the top. Another was to take a bus to the mid-point then walk from there. One more was to take a bus to the mid-point then a skylift to the very top. Our lazy friend Erin took the third option. Most of us took the second option, although some brave heroes (including our adviser, Dan) opted for the whole trek.
The Chinese have a phrase, “Wu Yue” or “Five Summits” which refers to five great mountains around China, found in the center, east, west, north and south. Taishan is the East summit. It’s peak reaches just over 5000 feet. Maybe not as big as Mount Everest, but it’s not to be taken lightly.
We were told we had to meet at the top at about 1PM for lunch. On our way up the first few sets of stairs, I saw store after store selling canes. I figured it was just for the weak, but after I stopped at what seemed like the last shop for a while I decided to get one. It was only about 50 cents. Here’s me posing with it, not knowing how useful this stick would be for the next 4 agonizing hours.
A bit further up the mountain we saw something in the distance:
It was our goal. It seemed so close, yet so far away. You might be able to tell I’ve lost some of my vigor between the last 2 photos. The next photo is about halfway up those stairs in the background. The difference may be more obvious:
You might also notice the photographer and other interested parties in the background. I’d only noticed maybe 3 or 4 other foreigners out of the thousands of people climbing that day. This is obviously not on most foreigners’ itineraries.
By that point it seemed like each set of stairs (maybe 15-30 steps each) required a 10 minute break. On the way up I’d have to dodge others who suddenly stop to take a break. We had reached an area where if you looked up it was a straight line to the goal, and it was at this point that Dan passed us. I don’t know how he did it. If you recall, he started at the bottom. What a speedster; I was among some of the first to arrive. Those last few steps to the top were surprisingly hard, there was no helpful pump of adrenaline, just a sad, tired body.
We had lunch there at a restaurant at the top and our guide informed us that we shouldn’t expect too much from the food. When he said they had to bring everything up to the top, I knew he was referring to the raw materials, but by the condition of some of the dishes, it seemed like they were made hours ago.
After lunch we had the option of taking the stairs down or the lift, and I opted for numero dos. My legs couldn’t take a return trip.
It was a beautiful ride down, although it was pretty weird to feel my ears pop when not in an airplane.
Since this trip, I’ve climbed on more mountain (Xiantai) and I plan to maybe fit one more in (Cangyan) but other than that I think I’m done with climbing mountains. I wouldn’t mind a personal helicopter ride though.