Stairway to Heaven

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May 10th 2008
Published: May 10th 2008
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Stepping UpStepping UpStepping Up

Lots and Lots o stairs!
Although I didn't get a chance to climb Mt. Fuji, I knew there would be other mountain climbing opportunities on my trip. I wouldn't have to wait very long and a week into China, I found myself climbing Mt. Tai Shan. Tai Shan is the most revered of China's five sacred Taoist peaks. Emperors, Chairman Mao, and even Confucious himself has risen to the challenge of reaching its summit. It's said that if you climb Tai Shan you will live to be 100 years old. I'll let you know in 2078 if that's true or not.

The mountain is 1545m above sea level with a climbing distance of 7.5 kilometers. The climb itself is not really a hike, but more of a circuit training sesion. The entire climb is done on stone steps. They claim there are 6,660 of them, but I lost count somewhere along the way. I made it up in about 3.5 hours, stopping for an ice cream halfway. The entire route is littered with temples, carvings in the stone, and merchants selling food, water, and lots of trinkets you don't really need.

May 1st is kind of like China's labor day. It's a public holiday
Have Fun, but not too much funHave Fun, but not too much funHave Fun, but not too much fun

This sign reminds you that you are not in kansas anymore.
which lasts the entire first week of May. Everyone travels during this time and I was lucky to hit the mountain after everyone had gone back to work. Otherwise I would have had to climb a mountain of people as well.

There are a number of temples and gates and there is no shortage of people selling large incense sticks that you can burn as you make your offering to the shrines. You can also see many different padlocks that have been latched onto the incense burners. It is said that if you place a lock on Tai Shan and make a wish it will come true. Some of the locks looked as if they might have been there for 100 years or more.

Halfway up is the "Midway Gate to Heaven" which is just before you start the "Path of Eighteen Bends" that eventually lead up to the "South Gate to Heaven." It is awe inspiring to see those last stairs far in the misty distance and know that you are about to stand on top of them all. Those last few bends were pretty gruelling and I could feel my legs burning. I did it the
3 Lock Box3 Lock Box3 Lock Box

This scene is repeated across all of the temples on the way up to the summit. Placing a lock is said to make your wish come true.
hard way, but Robert Plant was right, you can buy the stairway to heaven. For a fee, you can take a bus up to the Midway Gate and then a cable car up to the South Gate. I did this on the way down the next day.

Up at the top there are a number of temples, including the Azure Couds Temple and a Confucius Temple that features statues of Confucious and other philosophical sorts. It really did feel like I was in the clouds. As I stood out on one of the cliffs, the wind changed direction and the mist of the clouds rolled over me and the mountain.

I spent the night at a hotel on top of the mountain and prepared to wake up early the next morning so that I could witness the sunrise from the summit. There was a healthy group of us, but fate was not on our side. It was too foggy to see much of anything. I saw the fog change from dark to light, but that was about it. It is pretty rare to get a clear view. So although I have been to the mountaintop, I didn't see

Just playing around with my camera again, but I really like this photo highlighting the red ribbons that other climbers tie onto trees shading the path.
the promised land.

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


Welcoming PineWelcoming Pine
Welcoming Pine

This Pine tree extends out from the cliff as if ready to shake your hand and welcome you to Mount Taishan.
GW and the welcoming pineGW and the welcoming pine
GW and the welcoming pine

All up and down the mountain there are people offering to take your picture, for a fee, at different scenic spots. I don't think they get much business as everyone has a digital camera, but one vendor was proud to show a bunch of his previous photos, including one with W doing a classic Airforce 1 pose. Somehow I don't think it's real, but China would never generate phonny photos would they?
Midgate to SouthgateMidgate to Southgate
Midgate to Southgate

Up in the distance through the mist, you can barely make out the final stairs leading to the South Gate to Heaven. Half way there!
Long Way DownLong Way Down
Long Way Down

Here's a look back at one of the staircases I climbed. I never wished for a slinky more in my life than at this moment.
Hell's BellsHell's Bells
Hell's Bells

At the summit is bell that you can strike which rings out across the sky.
Sunrise on Mt. TaishanSunrise on Mt. Taishan
Sunrise on Mt. Taishan

A bunch of us from the hotel wait for the sun rise, but we couldn't see much through the fog.

All the way up the mountain there are tons of Chinese engravings along the stone walls. This is supposed to be a famous one next to me during the sunrise. No idea what it means.

I took the easy way down and was able to just sit back and enjoy the view.

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