Jade Mountain (Yushan) is the iconic mountain of Taiwan. It features on their bank notes and for many, it is a lifelong aim to climb the mountain. It is certainly a fabulous walk, especially if you have the chance to climb the North Peak as well as the Main Peak. At nearly 4000m, this is quite a climb and between the altitude and steepness presents quite a challenge, though with few technical difficulties to overcome.
Having previously climbed Mount Bilu (see Taroko Gorge and Mount Bilu), we were ready for the arduous climb up Mount Jade. Due to the permit system, we had hired a local guide to help show the way. The trail contours along high above a lovely valley and soon we were climbing up into the beautiful Chinese Hemlock trees. These majestic pines look like they are colossal bonsai. We dropped our bags off at lunchtime at the Paiyun Lodge that was to be our camp for the night and hiked up to the West Peak, with a small Japanese shrine near its summit.
The lodge was modern, clean and well equipped for the hordes that descend on it every weekend. Our guide was keen for us to be up at 2am for the walk up to the main summit and it took some effort to persuade him that quite such an early start was not required. Nevertheless, we were awoken by the guide before 3am so we didn’t miss breakfast. Now we were up, we might as well join the legions already off climbing through the sharp night air to reach the peak.
We hadn’t been hiking long before we came across our first group of Taiwanese hikers with their torches and soon we heard the familiar sayings of ‘Go for it’ as we scrambled up. As you near the peak, the terrain becomes much rockier and a rock shelter has been constructed to protect climbers as they near the peak. But for us, we diverted away from the crowds and aimed to enjoy sunrise along the more solitary sweeping ridge to the spectacular setting of the North Peak, with its weather station at the summit. The views of Jade Mountain and the surrounding peaks and valleys was superb and almost overshadowed the eventual climb to the summit itself.
Reaching the main summit proved no easy task though. We had to clamber up a steep scree slope which, at this altitude, took a punishing 20 minutes, before then scrambling up (with chains to guide and assist) up to the main summit. The final push to the summit seemed to take inordinate effort after the clamber up the scree slope. However, it was well worth it for the ‘top of the world’ experience and stunning views.
Returning back to the starting point meant a very long walk back. Our guide took us to a nearby restaurant where, much to my annoyance, I was stung by in inconsiderate wasp. Never mind, the Chinese home cooking was excellent and prepared us for the drive back down the snaking mountain roads to the city of Taichung, passing vine yards and fruit trees.