April 7, 2019 - kenshinjeff
Climbing and hiking notes for Xueshan in Taiwan 雪山
Hi there, if you’ve arrived here, it means you have the intention of climbing Xueshan in Taiwan. There’s already some English guides online, tour groups and facebook groups which will explain booking of huts and getting there, but I’ll just share how we did it in a party of two by ourselves because it’s not so easy to find all the important information.
Notes for Yushan are here.
- Snow season
- How long to stay
- Booking your huts
- Food and sleeping bags
- Getting to the trailhead
- Comparison to Yushan
Many people come here for the snow. You’ll need crampons, helmet and an ice axe. The crampons and ice axe are very important for both ascent/descent near the peak area. If you have snowy mountain trekking experience it’ll be best, because you’re not allowed to climb to the peak without a guide, or without snow trekking experience. You will NOT be able to ascend without crampons.
How long to stay
While Xueshan is quite a nice place, there really isn’t much to look at while hiking through to the top, unless you’re interested in the flora.
Most people do a two day one night trip, first day to 369, second day 230am set off to summit, go back to 369 for lunch, and proceed down to the trailhead. That’s what we did for this trip. On hindsight, that’s probably what two middle aged men shouldn’t have done, even though we both have climbed some mountains before. What I would recommend is:
First day to 369, second day either summit in the dark or summit at 6am when the day breaks, come back to 369 rest your knees for another night, then head down the next morning at your own pace.
Booking your huts
As of writing (early 2019), applications open one month in advanced for booking of your slots. You’ll usually get the confirmation in about three working days, then you can apply for the police permit online, IF you put a Taiwan number for the emergency contact. If not you have to apply separately online for this, or visit the police station near the trailhead for this.
Unless you have your own transportation and you are very fit, there’s no way to finish the main peak and get back to the trailhead in a day. Even so you’ll still need to apply for the park permit and police permit online.
Getting to the trailhead
The best method to travel to Xueshan is to sign up with a tour package, because Wuling village can be really difficult to get to.
We traveled by the e-go bus from Taipei main station directly to Hoya Resort Hotel, Wuling. It’s one of the more, if not, most expensive hotel here. Breakfast and dinner are included at no additional charge. Drinking water and hot water are freely available within the hotel. We also took the shuttle bus (接驳车) for 150 NT one way, which will bring you from the hotel directly to the trailhead. Earliest is 8am, you’ll reach the start of the trailhead by 830am.
There is one small convenience store around Wuling, selling a variety of dried foodstuff which you can bring up but it’s probably cheaper if you buy it from the main cities. They do not sell nor rent gear around here, I don’t think there’s anywhere to eat a proper meal except at Hoya, so that could be part of your consideration when you get to Wuling.
A word of caution here, after successfully reserving the huts, you’ll need to print two copies of the confirmation, including the police permit. If you don’t have the permit, you have to walk to the police station here with your successful hut application, to apply for the police permit BEFORE taking the bus.
It’s about 1km from Hoya to the police station and about 6km more to the beginning of the trailhead. At the trailhead, you’ll have to drop your permits in the letter box then start walking about 2km uphill to qika hut. IMO, this 2km is quite strenuous compared to the 哭坡.
Cheaper methods of getting to Wuling Farm
The bus station is approximately 300m from Hoya Resort. If you’re not staying at Hoya, an alternative is to stay at homestays around the area, or the Wuling campgrounds itself. You can pay to pitch a tent there, or stay at one of their small houses. I heard there’s hot water there as well, but you’ll still have to walk a distance to the trailhead unless you’re driving. It gets sold out really fast during public holidays and the February Sakura season. Oh, another thing that’s unique to the Taichung area, buses #1-999 are free for the first 10km to encourage the public to take buses.
1. Train from Taipei Station TRA to Yilan TRA (3-4 hours, many times a day)
2. Bus from Yilan TRA to Wuling Farm (<3 hours, twice a day, KUO-KUANG 1751)
1. Bus from Taichung HSR to Guguan (谷關) (<2 hours, every 20-40mins)
1. Bus from Taichung TRA (East) to Guguan (谷關) (<2 hours, every 60mins)
2. Bus from Guguan to Lishan (FENGYUAN 865)
3. Bus from Lishan to Wuling Farm (FENGYUAN 866, KUO-KUANG 1764)
Food and sleeping bags
I would strongly recommend hiring YunBaoteam (雲豹登山隊) for meals and renting of sleeping bags. If you’re not sure what meals you’ll need, just order dinner, breakfast and lunch. Because they’ll only boil hot water for you if you have paid for the meal.
We were very fortunate to have our meals cooked by brother 海龙 from YunBaoteam, I just want to say that this is THE BEST MEAL I have ever gotten to taste above 3,000m altitude. It’s really super good and filling.
If you are self dependent, and will bring your own sleeping bags, equipment and food, it’s possible to get water from huts or on the way up. Naturally, this changes day to day, dependent on water conditions which you can find out on the facebook group managed by volunteers, and you’ll need to be able to filter/clean the water as well.
Comparison to Yushan
Xueshan trail is a longer distance when compared to Yushan, it’s also more strenuous on your legs with the up and down hills. Xueshan is not more difficult than “Nepalese flats”.
Xueshan is much safer than Yushan because there’s only a few places that your hand actually has to touch the ground to stabilise yourself.
At Yushan, there are more than ten areas that have chains fixed along the path you can walk. These chains are there for you to hold:
- To cross certain sections when you are not able to use your walking sticks to help you. There are at least four sections which you’ll definitely need to use the chains, of which at least two you’ll need to pull yourself up or hoist yourself down. These two sections are not much more than 1 metre wide, but I definitely wasn’t expecting this level of danger when I was planning for this.
- When the wind is strong enough to blow you down. Yes, you read that correctly, you grab on to the wet, freezing chains for your dear life. Fortunately I didn’t get to experience this, but I was told by the other hikers that it can be very dangerous to attempt this near the summit when the wind is really strong.
The summit climb up to the Xueshan is quite tedious, and you can’t really rush through the black forest in either direction. If you’re going around the snow season, you’ll need the proper gear to be able to go up and down from the summit.
For the Yushan summit, sometimes you’ll need crampons, but we didn’t encounter that. When we went up Yushan, the weather was pretty ok, but water droplets formed and froze on my glasses and ice on my hiking stick.
At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own safety. If you feel it’s too difficult for yourself, or your members, you can always turn back and try another day. There’s no shame in doing so. Self awareness and safety are the most important things to take note of.