the-book language on my bus buddy, coincidently this Chinese chap is also going to Hua Shan, a sacred Taoist mountain.
The bus dropped us off outside a restaurant in Huashan village and my new friend, Youe, insisted that I stop in to eat - great idea! The entire bus load sat in the restaurant and listened to the (half-hour) mission briefing from a guy equipped with an extendable pointing rod and wall map, a head-set microphone and a blairing PA system, a booming voice and a bit of Chinese humour. You might say he was a local crowd pleaser or a foreigner's ear-drum breaker.
Over lunch, some extra last minute supplies and confusion about timing the ascent, I somehow had joined this clan of Youe + 8.
The easy 4 kilometres was done when the team decided to stop and rest for a few hours in a ... dwelling. We ate seeds and crackers, listened to some pop music, danced around, chatted (via Chinese to Japanese to me and back in 3 broken languages), and crashed out.
We set off again at 1:30am. The occasional lamps and our torches lit the path, steeply up stairs. Giant black pits of darkness hid the dangerously deep drops to death.
Dawn broke as we arrived at the East Peak and the sun emerged amidst a fog layer. Scarlet skies turned pale blue and what a beautiful day to spend in the mountains. Given my lack of fitness and the average Chinese punter's attire and equipment, to summit truly was triumphant.
Completing the circuit over the 2160-metre South Peak, along a cliff edge to West Peak and back down the Green Dragon Ridge, the scenery is jaw dropping and simply stunning.
Escape via the gondola cable car was a fun, quick and easy way to descend and insure against any potential knee injuries. Sitting on a stool in the aisle, I fell asleep on the bus back to Xi'an, again missing the screening of Fearless on the TV.