Just as no photograph or video can do justice to the mountains of China, so no single article can describe the majesty of these natural wonders. There are dozens in and around the border of China that would make the tallest elsewhere look like big hills. Hengshan, Songshan, Taishan and of course the fabled Mount Everest. Then, there is the king of all climbers’ mountains – the summit of summits – K2.
Mount Hengshan in the Hunan province is a ‘mere’ 1,290m (4,230ft) above sea level. Like all of China’s mountains it’s a challenge to climb, but those who make the trek will be richly rewarded. Even apart from the thrill of the climb itself, there are several sights along the way and on the mountain.
The Seven Ancestors of Daochang offering Taoist rites and the Nan Yue Temple at the foot of the mountain are only two examples. Come in mid-August to observe the religious rituals. Note, there is another Mount Hengshan mountain, in Shan Xi province. This 2017m (6615ft) giant, too, has many sites of interest, such as the 1,400 year-old Xuan Kong (Hanging) Temple that looks over the valley below.
Climbers will want to investigate Mount Songshan in Deng Feng in the Henan province. At 1,440m (4,723ft) it is at the mid-range of China’s awesome natural wonders. Birthplace of Shaolin in 495AD, its two major peaks are Taishi and Shashi. Like many of China’s mountains, there are Taoist temples scattered around.
Among other artificial wonders that accompany the natural there are the 230 brick dagobas with 100 metal-cast statues, erected over a long sequence of different dynasties from the Tang to the Qing. The hundreds of ancient cypresses at the site provide a wonderful blend of natural beauty alongside the man-made wonders.
Mount Taishan in Shan Dong province stands 1,545m (5067ft) at its peak. But its majesty doesn’t derive solely from its impressive height. The Dai Temple, Jade Emperor Summit and other wonders are there as well.
On the east route there are several historic sites, such as the Dai Zong archway, alleged to have been visited by Confucius himself. The 18 Bends is an option for the truly hardy. With its 1,630 steps up a steep grade, it’s only a ‘step’ below rock climbing in difficulty. And don’t miss the green pool below the waterfall at Black Dragon.
Jade Emperor Summit is the highest peak on Mount Taishan. It is here that visitors will find a magnificent bronze statue of the Jade Emperor. But bring your snow gear.
The most famous mountain of all is unquestionably one known best by its English name: Mount Everest. Lying along the border of China with Nepal and Tibet, the very name conjures up images of ‘the summit’ – of mountains and of human persistence.
At 8,848m (29,021ft) it dwarfs the others in size. Every serious climber in the world sooner or later has an overwhelming desire to tackle the challenge. As the highest point on the planet, it soars above to a point making its top invisible from below.
There are two main climbing routes: the southeast ridge from Nepal and the northeast ridge from China, though there are over a dozen other minor ones. Even from a base camp at 6,500m (21,320ft) it takes days to reach the summit even by the easier route.
And then there is K2. Not the tallest, but without doubt the toughest. ‘Only’ 8,614m (28,253ft) high, its topography is such that climbing it is much more difficult. Everest has several plateaus that form good base camp areas. K2 is mostly straight up from anywhere.
Located on the border of Pakistan and China, this icy, steep behemoth has killed more climbers than any other. Its summit was breached only in July, 1954, many years after successful climbs of Everest. Stormy, with thin levels of oxygen for much of the climb, it is only for climbers at the peak of the game.
Come see China’s famed mountains. Even if you’re not a climber, they’ll take your breath away.