By: Dave Jurasevich
YU SHAN (JADE MOUNTAIN)
My wife En Lee, daughter Rachel and I traveled to Taiwan during the latter part of June this year to attend the wedding of her younger brother in Taipei. Having some free time during the visit, two of my brother-in-laws and I decided to climb Jade Mountain, the highpoint of Taiwan and northeast Asia. Besides bagging a highpoint it was our plan to escape the oppressive heat, humidity and pollution of Taipei for a few days and breathe the clean mountain air of this sub-tropical island. The climb of Jade Mountain is a 5,500 foot elevation gain, 16.5 mile round trip on a mostly well maintained trail, except for a few spots near the summit. The proximity of this mountain to the ocean (Pacific on the east, Taiwan Strait on the west) and the island's geographical location make unstable weather a frequent occurrence all year round. Besides the weather, Jade Mountain offers other objective hazards unfamiliar to us DPS'ers. Topping the list are poisonous critters such as cobras, bamboo vipers and the locally dreaded "hundred paces snake", with wild boars and impenetrable bamboo thickets rounding out the slate. In the old days there was no trail to the summit, so climbers had to seriously face these dangers; today the trail takes much of the adventure out of the climb.
Arriving at the trailhead after a 6 hour car ride from Taipei, we spent the night at a hostel (8,500 ft. dcv.) in Yu Shan National Park in the village of Tong Pu. This small village boasts the main visitor center for the national park and offers a fine view of the steep, forested canyons and craggy peaks of the area. Next morning at 4:40 AM, Frank and Arthur Lin and I left everyone sleeping at the hostel and started out for the peak under starry skies. Following a paved logging road, in 50 minutes (2 miles, 500 feet up then down) we arrived at TaTaKa saddle, the actual trailhead for Jade Mtn. From here the trail climbs steadily, hugging cliffs, cutting through bamboo thickets and finally traversing beautiful forests of hemlock spruce until it reaches the P'ai-yun mountain hut at 11,600 feet elevation. The hut offers overnight accommodations for hikers (water, a kitchen for cooking food you pack in, restrooms, bunk beds with plenty of blankets) planning on overnighting here before carrying on to the summit. Reaching the hut at 9:30 AM, we spent 1/2 hour resting and eating a snack before continuing on to the peak. The summit, 1500 feet above and 1.5 miles beyond the hut, was reached at 11:00 AM. This was an especially rewarding ascent for Frank and Arthur who,. attempting the peak 29 years ago with their father, were beaten back by a snow storm. Within minutes clouds blowing in from the Pacific quickly engulfed the peak, limiting views in all directions. After a 1 1/2 hour rest, we left the summit, arriving back at the mountain hut at 1:30 PM. Frank wasn't feeling well, so he decided to spend the night at the hut. Arthur felt it was his duty to stay with his brother, so I alone hiked the 7 miles back to Tong Pu, arriving at 4 PM. Frank and Arthur arrived at Tong Pu well rested the next morning at 10 AM.
En Lee and Rachel did a hike of their own while we were busy climbing the mountain. En Lee carried Rachel (1 1/2 years old) to TaTaKa saddle for the morning's exercise, en route stopping to watch a pair of wild Formosan rock monkeys in a large hemlock tree.
A special thanks to Dr. Dustin Wu for taking three days off work at China Airlines and driving us to the mountains. We all availed ourselves of Dr. Wa's medical expertise during the trip, either for a good herbal remedy, ginseng or a quick acupuncture session!
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