The Neng Gao Historic Trail 能高越嶺古道, like so many of Taiwan’s Historic trails, was originally built by the Japanese to help control and subdue the aboriginal tribes that lived in that area. After some time, the occupying Japanese began a project to use the trail to build and maintain power lines that run from the west to the more remote east coast but this was delayed by the onset of World War Two. Eventually the power lines were built by the Taipower company after the Japanese left Taiwan and they still remian today.
As this weekend was the Tomb-sweeping festival, we set off from Taipei for Nantou 南投 at around 3.30am to avoid the worst of the traffic. It was plain sailing and we arrived at the police station in Lushan 廬山(the last one you come to) at around 8am.
The policeman seemed a bit bewildered as to why we were bothering with the permits but it’s always best to do these things properly in-case something goes wrong on the mountain. From the police station it was a steep drive up a very dodgy road to the trailhead and car park.
The rock in the part of Taiwan is mostly shale and slate and it is very prone to landslides. As soon as we started on the hike, we came to the first sections of missing road. However this was over very quickly and the road was in a decent state for most of the way to the first hut.
After a quick break at the hut, we carried on and came to the first of two huge landslides. It was very eerie crossing the scree and broken shale in the mist as we couldn’t see the bottom of the valley and had no idea just how far we could potentially fall. The whole landslide is about 1km long and when this part of the trail went, it must have been a tremendous sight.
After the landslides we continued along the path. It got steep in a few places and very precarious in others. Amazingly there are some people who still drive motorbikes along the trail though it seems they have a number bikes staggered and walk across the worst parts to the next bike.
All along the trial we spotted white and pink flower blooming and the path was also covered with the fallen petals.
They are several suspension bridges to cross, all of which have a limit of five people and luckily for us we had that exact number in our group. The final bridge passes by a 3 tier waterfall that has a beautiful pool at the bottom which would make an awesome place to cool down in in the summer time.
At about 3pm we made it to the Tianchi Cabin 天池山莊. It’s fairly grotty but the camping ground outside is nice. We considered staying there but as it was still early, we decided to carry on up trail to the Tianchi pond.
This part of the path is super steep and we could all feel the altitude. Also the weather began to close in and by the time we got to the lake, we were surrounded by mist with an absolute gale blowing. It was freezing cold and so we went back down the path about 5 mins to a more sheltered wooden platform and set up camp for the night.
The next day we were up relatively late for us, at 6am, and headed up towards the Qilai South Peak. The mist from the previous day was still there as was the wind which made it hard going.
Unfortunately there were no views from the top but as we descended the clouds would briefly disappear giving a us chance to see some of the surrounding peaks and valleys.
After packing up we walked back out the same way we came in, passing by loads of cyclists who were spending a day riding to the Tianchi cabin and out. The weather also got a bit better and we all managed to get slightly sunburnt!
Itineries – There are so many different itineries to follow here. In and out like the hike we did just requires 2 days. However with more time it’s possible to hike all the way over to Hualien but a trip like that would require a driver at either end to drop you off and pick you up on the other side.
Another possibilty is to hike the whole of the Qilai ridge and come out on Hehuanshan or even head south and hike to Aowanda.
Have look at Sunriver maps for some ideas of times and distances.
Permits – For this hike you just need three things and they all need to be in triplicate;
1. A mountain entry permit – This takes a few days to process and can be done online. Beware, the site only works with internet explorer! Fill in the form, wait a few days, log in again and the permit should be there ready to print. (They won’t send you an email to say it’s ready)
2. A name list – A list of group members, addresses, phone numbers etc……
3. A schedule plan – This is your intended plan and an utterly useless map that looks like it was drawn by a three year old! The one in the link may need to be changed depending on your own plan. Ask a Taiwanese friend to help if you can’t read/write Chinese.
And that’s all….. I always like to get this all done before I head out as it makes registering at the police station so much easier and quicker.
The hike – There are lots of sources for water along the way. The Tianchi cabin has running water and toilets. Though it’s always best to boil the water before drinking it.
The Tianchi cabin can be booked. Call 049-2982155 to make a booking. If going on the weekend, plan to book early as the spaces go quickly. THE CABIN NO LONGER EXISTS. A NEW ONE IS CURRENTLY BEING BUILT SO HIKERS MUST CAMP.
Loads more photos here. Click on the link for the map below to get driving instructions.