Team Imagine tackled one of the tougher hiking routes located deep in the heart of Shei-Pa National Park / 雪霸國家公園 over October 17-21, 2020.
Our chosen route is known as the Snow Sword and is one of six hikes that branch off from the very top of Snow Mountain itself, yes that’s right, once you reach the top of Snow Mountain (3886m), Taiwan’s second highest peak, there’s multiple options to continue hiking and that’s what we did, following the swordlike trail up and over numerous peaks, crossing ridgelines and startling the odd Sambar deer / 水鹿 in the process！
Five days later and four of Taiwan’s ‘100 peaks’ or Baiyue / 百岳 in the bag, although I must add, our bags were certainly heavy and we couldn’t actually fit the fifth and final mountain in!
Knowing when to stop and say no is certainly a skill one learns, understanding you simply don’t have enough water for a 12 hour return hike down a dry ridge, or realising you will be returning across a technical rope section in the dark because you had an extended lie in and only hit the trail at 03:45am is all part of the experience. This hike was remote, mountainous Taiwan, serious outdoor adventure for fully prepared hikers who understand the risks ahead of them.
One afternoon we were stoked, we had just filled up nearly 10 litres of the freshest mountain water that happened to be inconveniently located down a steep valley off route, without any water we are not so happy for a few hours and not so alive after a few days, so we try and strike a nice balance on our hikes with the idea of sometimes being slightly unhappy but always ending fully alive! Anyhow, mountain stoke was running high, water bladders and bottles are brimmed, backpacks feel ridiculously heavy and we quickly check the weather app Windy as a sliver of 3G finds its way into Olli’s phone; ‘Thunderstorms are developing from late afternoon into early evening’. Great, just as we are considering to summit Dajianshan 大劍山, an exposed peak 3,594m high that honestly has its own big (albeit plastic) sword lying on the summit!
Dajianshan translates as Big Sword Mountain but at this point names were not important, clearing the exposed area before any storm was the only thing we considered, finding a flat area to camp that would be away from danger was our mission and we took this seriously, donning our head torches and seemingly forgetting the ~25kg on our backs we took calculated steps in the right direction and didn’t stop until we arrived at a suitable camp spot multiple hours later, barely even pausing on Mt. Big Sword due to fear of potential electrical activity overhead.
Alas, the storm was confined to the phone only and we allowed ourselves a monstrous lie in the following day which included packing our tents up in the light, it’s the little luxuries I tell you!
Setting up camp at Cui Pond 翠池 3,520m we decided not to use our tents and simply sleep under the stars, it was a wonderful decision that offered us approximately zero stars due to clouds but did give us a feeling of connectedness with our surroundings, we slept around 30m off the pond and spent the night listening to animal after animal make its way down for a drink. Splendid evening with temperatures way above freezing making for a most comfortable high altitude sleep.
Once we had finished watching two male Formosan Macaques / 猴子 fight each other just below the summit of Snow Mountain, we decided it was time to go home. We couldn’t stomach eating anymore canned fish plus the whiskey was done before we started.
Stay tuned for more Team Imagine adventures and perhaps even consider joining one, 2021 could be your year.