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This past weekend we took a trip to An Hui province to see 黄山 (Yellow Mountain). Truth be told, I was not looking forward to this trip. People kept telling us how famous this mountain was but I had still never heard of it. Also someone told us that it was 1800m high, and they said it as if they expected us to be impressed. A mountain that is less than 6000ft high is not tall. I worried that all their hype was going to be equally disappointing to those of us that are not easily impressed. I was completely wrong though.
We took a four hour bus ride to a small village called 汤口 (hot water rim) at the foot of the mountain. While we were on the bus our tour guide talked for at least two hours straight even though everyone stopped listening after about 30 minutes. That night we stayed in an extremely fancy hotel (at least by my standards) which was unnecessary but nice nonetheless. We didn’t have time to do a lot but Maurie and Will and I took a walk down the main street and Maurie took a picture of Will and I next to a pile of trash on the sidewalk which merited some weird looks from the Chinese people walking by. It wasn’t that weird though since we have been talking about garbage and pollution all week in class.
Saturday morning we had to wake up really early so that we could start hiking the mountain. Some people in the group decided to take the chairlift but the majority of us wanted to hike. It was probably 5km with 1000m vertical gain to get to the first scenic area which was also where the chairlift dropped the rest of our group. There was practically no one on the first part of the trail so I was surprised when we got up there and there was a sea of people everywhere. I guess most people are lazy. After that it was a lot more crowded everywhere we went, and the chinese tour groups were rather annoying, not only because they were huge and moved in packs, but also because their tour guides all used really loud microphones that kind of hurt my ears. Despite those few things, 黄山 is truly gorgeous. I was kind of blown away. And the clouds that were sometimes above, sometimes below, and sometimes all around us added to the effect. Stunning scenes of grey stone cliffs covered with blossoming green trees would materialize as if out of thin air and then vanish, only to appear again a few minutes later looking fresh and new. It made me think: “I could sit here in this one spot all day and I wouldn’t get tired of watching this.”
To get to the tallest point we had to hike up some of the steepest stairs I have ever been on in my life. It was almost more like rock climbing than hiking, which made it rather sketchy. I was a little disappointed with the summit. First of all, one of the things that Yellow Mountain is famous for is the so called “sea of clouds” that you can sometimes see sprawled out below you from the top. But the weather wasn’t right and so we didn’t see much. That is why they sell postcards! Speaking of selling things, there was a concession stand on the top. I was shocked and slightly disturbed. That brings me to the second reason that I was disappointed. Mountains are kind of like temples to me and the fact that there was a concession stand despoiling the summit made me a little mad. Also people were throwing their trash all over the place which was stupid.
We hiked a few more places before coming down. This time when we had the choice to take the chairlift or hike almost everyone opted to take the chairlift. There were nine of us that hiked all the way though, up and down. It was 26km total. A metric marathon! Somehow I failed to mention this earlier, but it is suddenly relevant so I will mention it now. Yellow Mountain has a lot of vertical-ness and little non-vertical-ness. Almost the entire 26km was climbing up and down stairs.