The Holy Ridge Trail.? Also known as the Dragons Spine, is a razorback edge running along the Shei-pa Mountain Range.? On a beautiful day, this in amazing and epic trek. The views seen can be compared to the mountain ranges in New Zealand.? This trek is not for the feint of heart though. It requires technical skill for days One and Two, just to reach the Holy Ridge, on Day Three…
Day one ? Upward and Onward
6:00am start from Wuling Farm Villa and the day was already bright. Frenetic packing the night before cutting down on as much weight as possible meant minimal sleep. Knowing that we would go over, I targeted a weight of 12kg. On day one we were closer to 15 to 16 Kg, including water (water being essential as the only sources were at the huts, a good 7-9hours away. Starting at around 1,800m, we felt every gram of the weight. Coming from sea level the day before, the steady climb to Xinda hut (circa 3,300m) was a challenging one in terms of altitude gain.? Along the way though, glimpses of waterfalls and snow-capped mountains kept our spirits up. We reached the hut at 3:30pm, with ample time for a much-needed yoga stretch session rounded off with a nice warm shower from our portable solar shower bag. Day 1 concluded with a tasty spaghetti Bolognese.
Day 2 ? Epic! – Summit Pintien, Abseil the Cliffs, Sleep under the Stars
I planned for a 5am wake-up anticipating a long day ahead – I just didn’t realise how long.? Departing at 7am, we hit the trail with some beautiful weather.? Dabajianshan and Xiaoba stood to our right, the sheer mountain faces jutting straight up. To the left the snow covered face of Xueshan loomed and straight ahead lies Pintien Mountain.? Pintien Mountain itself is not noted for being a hard climb. At 3,524 meters, the way up is not technical, but a safe descent of the 60-meter dropoff would make for an interesting day.
We indulged at the summit, taking in the 360degree panorama, setting up the perfect shot and engaging with two Taiwanese who made a day trip up from Xinda hut and offered their guessestimate of how long it will take us to make the next hut and the best route for descent. In the end, we used a combination of everything.
Sometimes wearing our backpacks, sometimes lowering them, sometimes having them locked into our descenders as dead weight to the rope, we descended via four multi pitch abseils with rope pull downs.? Setting up, lowering packs, abseiling, pulling down the rope, walking 5 meters, setting up and repeating the process was exhilarating, time-consuming, and humbling.? The camaraderie and willingness of all team members to chip in and help made negotiating the treacherous descent safe and enjoyable.
- Abseiling the Pintien Cliffs [perhaps one for the box]
The Pintien cliffs are two, 20-meter pitches, one 10-meter pitch and another 8 to 10-meter pitch.? Some people choose to climb down these rock faces, but with the amount of loose rock, unstable hand holds and snow and ice patches still around at this time of year, abseiling was long decided as the safer choice. With additional carabineers, attaching the pack to the descender got the backpacks down quick and safe with all the weight on the rope, allowing for a smooth abseil. The Munter Hitch became the knot of choice for these cliffs. Master it is my advice.
- Buxiulan Mountain: A night under the stars
With the Pintien cliffs behind us and on the ridge between Pintien and Sumida Hut, we felt good, though tired and a little concerned about time. Jagged rock jutting up with the ridge plunging down on either side increased our heartbeat and slowed our pace. We summited Buxiulan Mountain and moved towards Sumida Mountain ? which turned into a bigger challenge than the Pintien cliffs. The weight of our packs pressed ever harder as the hours ticked by. Fast approaching sunset at 6:30pm, we took an opportune stop at a soft tree-filled plateau and pulled out the map for a quick huddle. To press on in the dark with unknown obstacles ahead or to risk a night in the open in hopes that the weather forecast (clear) holds up. Tapping on the experience of previous Shei-Pa hikes, a quick run-through of gear, fuel, and water source, the decision was made to camp.
To read more about the nice bed of pine needles, that was our bed for the evening and the rest of the trek, download our trip notes and see how wonderful and exciting this trek really is.? It’s not for the faint of Heart…
Hope to see you on the 2018 version of this trek!