The Holy Ridge is a razor thin ridge of mountains in the Sheipa National Park that runs from north to south connecting Snow Mountain to Dabajianshan. This was definitely the toughest hike any of us have done, made all the more difficult given the poor weather we encountered on the most hardest day.
There are several routes that can be taken when doing the Holy Ridge, Barking Deer have some info here. We chose to do the ‘O’ route in reverse purely because this was the only way we could get permit!
An easy day. We arrived late at Wuling Farm, got the permit at the police station sorted out and then hiked an hour up to the Qika Cabin. This cabin is nearly always empty and so we spread out, settled down and tried to get some sleep for the next day.
Man, this was a hard day! From Qika we headed up towards the 369 Cabin, passing by the Crying Slope and the East Peak of Snow Mountain. As we arrived at 369, the clouds were beginning to close in and whilst they spoiled the views, we were glad to be in the shade for a while.
After a quick lunch break, we were back on the trail and entering the unknown. Above 369 sits the Black Forest, for hikers heading on to Snow Mountain, they follow the switchbacks up to the forest however as we only had 4 days, we took the shortcut to Kailantekun 凱蘭特崑山 and followed the path to the water source for the 369 Cabin.
I was a bit nervous about this section as not many people have blogged about it and I had no idea how easy it would be to follow the path. As it turned out, there was enough snow on the ground for us to follow the footprints of two hikers ahead of us and getting to the water source was no problem.
From there the trail rises steeply up and we had to put on crampons to get up the slope. Coming out of the forest we met the scree slope that leads up to the Holy Ridge. This was an absolute bugger to climb! The slope must be about 45 degrees and is composed entirely of small pieces of slate and ice.
At the top, we followed the ridge north towards the Xuebei Cabin where we would spend the night. Looking at the map, it seemed to be a flat 2km walk. It was anything but! The 2km was 2 hours of scrambling up and down rocks and falling over in the snow. We finally arrived at the cabin exhausted at 6pm and almost immediately fell asleep.
Not wanting to repeat the previous day and arrive so late at the next cabin, we were up early started hiking around 7am. The snow had frozen over night making it much easier to walk on and after 30 minutes we made it to the top of Xuebei. The views were stunning, to the south we could see Snow Mountain and to the north Dabajianshan. We could also see what looked like a razor thin ridge covered in snow that we would walk over, but in reality, it wasn’t as bad as it looked.
An hour or so from Xuebei we crossed over the finger of rock that protudes in the below photo. It’s not as vertical as it appears, but we did have to traverse it one at a time for fear of falling rocks. The first fist sized chunk that came tumbling down was a good reminder to keep out of the way.
Shortly after crossing the climbing section, we arrived at the Sumida Hut. As the cabin was meant to be full, we planned on camping there on the deck outside and set about clearing a space for the tent using our feet. It was hard work but it got the blood and feeling back into our toes! Around the back of the cabin, there’s a trail going up to the Mutelebu Peak, which is a steep hike and required crampons. No views from the top but it was still a fun climb.
When we got back to the cabin, we met a group of Taiwanese hikers doing the Holy Ridge in the opposite direction to us. They were continuing on to Xuebei to spend the night and said that the Sumida Hut would be empty. As it turned out, everyone who had booked into the cabin had taken one look at the Pintian descent and turned back. It was great for us to get the whole hut to ourselves but that the Pintian Cliffs were so bad that only one group was willing to climb down was a bit ominous.
By far the hardest and most expensive day for me. I managed in 8 hours to smash my camera off a cliff, bend my pole falling over, tear my gaitors apart and put holes in my pack cover and trousers with my crampons :( Still, it’s a good excuse for w new camera! The weather started off very cloudy and we had a bit of trouble finding the path at times. It seems that following other people’s footprints will only get you there if the people who made them didn’t get lost themselves!
The first big challenge was the Sumida Cliffs. Sheers drops into the clouds really put the fear into you, especially climbing up a rope that you didn’t tie in yourself and with 25kg on your back. It took a while to get up and we had to hoist the packs up one section to make the climb easier. With my camera broken put away there are no photos of it I’m afraid!
Once we were up the cliff, the weather took a turn for the worse. One moment, it was raining, then the next sleet and then hail and this carried for the rest of the day. It made the frozen snow very wet and slushy and even more difficult to walk in. Again we were on the edge of the ridge for most of the time with sheer drops either side. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same, though more the latter!
After crossing Sumida Mountain 素密達山 and Bushoulan Mountain 布秀蘭山 , we arrived the bottom of the Pintian Cliffs. There are 3 in total. The lowest down one is the highest (20m) and probably the easiest to climb. The rock in this area is slate and that means the stratification of the rock gives you good shelves to climb up on, however the shelves were covered in snow and ice and so we had to keep our crampons on making it a lot more difficult. I think it took about an hour to reach the top of Pintianshan 品天山 by which point we were soaked and frozen. No time for photos we just cracked on to the Xinda Cabin where we spent the night.
We woke to a beautiful sunrise. It was the nicest feeling in the world just to stand outside, get warmed up in the sunshine and eat breakfast after being so cold for so long on the previous day. Once ready we headed along the trail towards our final mountain, Chiyoushan 池有山. The trail starts at the bottom of a boulder slope created by freeze-thaw action. It’s a pleasant walk up to the top and we were rewarded with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.
From Chiyoushan it was just a case of walking the trail back down to the Wuling Valley. It’s a steep walk and we were pretty tired once we reached the bottom. From here it’s another 3.5km to get to the main road. Our car was still parked at the Xueshan Trailhead and so I had to hitch my way back there. I was worried that that might prove difficult but as it was the first car that passed picked me up. However I think they might well have regretted stopping as the moment I sat in the car, they opened all of the windows! 5 days without a shower has that kind of effect on people….
If you’re interested in hiking the Holy Ridge, contact us at Taiwan Adventures
This is a really hard hike. It takes a minimum of 4 days, 5 is better and it’s not suitable for everyone.
We did it clockwise which is OK, but I’d reccommend doing it anticlockwise as it would mean climbing down all of the cliffs at Pintianshan and Sumida which would be a lot easier.
There are cabins all along the route. They all have water sources/storage tanks but beware that the tanks can run low and sometimes the water sources freeze. Ask ahead at the trailhead and ask fellow hikers coming in the opposite direction on the trail. Beyond that all of the cabins are basic but provide good shelter from the elements.
Park entry permits can be applied for the Sheipa National Park website. Don’t forget to stop at the police station in Wuling to get the mountain entry permit as well.
Below is a very basic and unexact map of our route. Buy a real map if you’re going to do the hike!