To those of us who have taken the West Cable Car up to West Peak and trekked up and down hundreds, maybe thousands, of stairs to South Peak, there is no choice. Mount Hua is not to be missed. In my opinion, the cable car ride is, unto itself, worth driving two hours each way. The cable cars follow the mountain peaks, undulating up and down, and sometimes in between, the peaks. The ride is not for those afraid of heights.
After disembarking from the cable car, visitors may walk as quickly or slowly as they wish, up and down the stairs that, like the cable car, follow the mountain peaks. It is an exhausting, and exhilarating, journey. Most of the trek is through the woods, but there are vantage points along the way, each in and of itself worthy of the energy expenditure.
With several five minute stops to take pictures of the jaw-dropping scenery, at a reasonable pace, the hike takes about an hour to hike to the South Peak, the highest elevation at 2160 meters. It take another 30-40 minutes to hike to the mountain's "Plank Walk", one of the most famous, and dangerous, paths on the mountain. Both times that I walked all the way to the Plank Walk, the wait was between 40 and 60 minutes to get to the front of the line. Visitors gear up with a harness that keeps them attached to the cliff-side of the mountain. Those who dare the Plank Walk clip two carabiners onto the safety chain which is anchored into the mountain rock and then descend the rock stairs, perpendicular to the ground, thousands of feet below.
This is just the beginning. Now for the Plank Walk: three planks of wood on the side of the rock cliff. Unattach one clip and move it down along the chain. Reattach. Unattach the other clip and move it past the first clip. Reattach. Shuffle along the planks. Don't look down; look ahead, outward and upward. It takes about 20 minutes to make it to the end of the walk where there is a small outcropping of trees and a place to unclip and stretch. A place to admire the views and the excitement of having made it across. A place to garner the courage to walk back. The walk is not one-way.
Plank walkers on their way out are flush against the rock as they clip and unclip and re-clip. Those on their way back, however, need to clip and unclip and re-clip over those on the first leg of the journey. It's daunting, frightening even, but it's doable. I would not have done it if I had, for even a second, believed I might fall.
You don't need to brave the Plank Walk to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Mount Hua. The second time I trekked out there, the winds were strong enough to close the walk. Those who had looked forward to the Plank Walk were disappointed, but agree the small planked path is hardly what makes Mount Hua spectacular.
Join me on a Chow Fun adventure and see Mount Hua for yourself.