Dabajianshan 大霸尖山 is one of the most distinctive peaks in the whole of Taiwan. It’s barrel-like shape thrusts upwards, looking impossible to climb. It has fascinated people for centuries and even the local aboriginal tribe, the Attyal, believe that Daba is a holy mountain.
This hike used to be an exceptionally popular 2 day trip, which explains the huge size of the 99 cabins 九九山莊. However, as the Dalu Forestry Road 大鹿林道 is in a state of disrepair, it’s now nessecary to hike the 19km along the road just to get to the trailhead proper.
It’s not that bad and that’s as nice as I can be about it. The road is perfectly safe to walk on, there are some nice views, as well as a number of waterfalls and so all that’s needed is a positive attitude and some good conversation (or an MP3 player!).
It took us about 5 hours to get to the Madala River 馬達拉溪 where a suspension bridge crosses to the trailhead. There’s a good source of water here as well as couple of buildings that can provide shelter which was lucky for us as as soon as we arrived the heavens opened. Summers in Taiwan are often characterised by afternoon thunderstorms so we just sat it out on the balcony of the abandoned forestry building, drinking tea and by 3.30pm the rain had passed.
Over the bridge the trail is very different to the forestry road, steep and winding but very beautiful. It’s 4.2km along this path to the 99 cabins and we were all knackered by the time we got there.
There are a number of buildings at the 99 cabins and we were lucky enough to get one of the smaller round houses to ourselves meaning we could spread our gear and sleep in ‘relative’ peace.
Not wanting to get caught in the afternoon rain again, we decided it would be best to get up at silly o’clock (4am) and aim to be on the trail by 5am. As we began the climb to the Gaodi 高地, we a gorgeous sunrise over the hills below and we could even spot Yangmingshan poking out through the early morning mist.
At the Gaodi there’s a crossroad, right goes to Jiali Mountain 加利山 and left leads to Dabajianshan. We headed left thinking that if the weather held, we could get Jialishan in on the way back. The trail from here is relatively easy going. Lots of ups and downs and spectacular views of the cities and coast to the left and the Holy Ridge to the right.
After a couple of hours we got to a small hill called Zhongbashan (not a baiyue 百岳) and it was here that we got our first good look at Daba and the slightly smaller Xiaoba. Daba looked as imposing and difficult to climb as ever. Earlier at the cabin, we had been warned by the parks guy not to climb to the peak of Daba as the ladders had been destroyed and from there that looked like good advice!
The trail then runs through a small forested area and then comes out on the scree at the foot of Daba. We crossed this and then followed the path that goes along the base of Daba, not a place to hang around considering the amount of debris that has come down from the top.
Again at the over side there’s a crossroad, right for Xiaobajianshan and left to get to the top of Daba. We decided to go right to take a look and see what all the fuss was about. It starts off OK, but the very last climb to the top is extremely hairy and we didn’t even bother trying. Instead we sat in the shade ate lunch and the set off along the spine towards Xiaoba.
The walk across is fantastic, huge drops to either side and the climb up to Xiaoba is also very exhilarating. After a few quick photos and a chat with the other hikers, headed back the way we’d come.
On the way back there is very short path that leads to Yize Mountain 伊澤山. From the top of here you get the best views of Daba and Xiaoba but unfortunately the clouds began to roll in and quickly headed down towards the Cabin. Back at the Gaodi we decided to make a dash for Jialishan, but by the time we got there, all we could see were clouds. Still it’s one more to tick off the list.
We got back to the cabin around 2.30pm and then at 3pm it began pouring with rain again. It looked like getting up early had paid off as we sat dry in the cabin and watch everyone else soaked to the bone slowly wander back.
We were again treated to another beautiful sunset before heading to bed. The next morning we were up early and made our way back to Guanwu and the car at a leisurely pace.
Contact Taiwan Adventures if you’re interested in a guided hike to Dabajianshan.
Permits can be applied for at the Sheipa National Park Site, don’t forget to apply for a mountain entry permit too. That can be done at the police station at Guanwu or online. Also each person must pay $200NT to stay at the 99 cabins per night. That can be paid at the cabin – just don’t forget your wallet!
There is no public transport to Guanwu. The only thing to do is drive or find a driver. See the map below for directions.
There is a good water source at the Madala River and at the 99 cabins.
The 99 cabins are huge and have solar powered lighting, toilets and a large kitchen area.
You need to begin the hike before 11am or the park won’t let you on to the forestry road.