Syue Mountain is the 2nd Highest Mountain in Taiwan at 3886 MASL. It’s a tough climb with mix of stony and scree surface heading to the summit but we were rewarded by clear skies to be amazed by the scenic landscape.
Looking back, I’ve never seen myself as a Mountaineer or probably nowhere near to any fitness activity. My first international climb at Mount Kinabalu, I was wearing an ordinary backpack and just wearing compressions up high at 4,095 MASL at the summit. The second time, I had an uber heavy hiking bag approaching the switchbacks of Mount Fuji and getting amazed at the land of the rising sun view at 3,766 MASL summit. My third climb was both a struggle with the scree (broken rocks) surface heading to 3,677 MASL of Mount Semeru and a total adventure with the off roads heading to Mount Bromo. The Fourth Climb should have been Yushan, which is my last leg of the Asian Trilogy at 3,952 MASL but as fate would have it, we didn’t get the slot on the raffle and had to settle for 3,866 MASL Syue Mountain.
Syue Mountain / Snow Mountain / Xueshan is called by locals as the most beautiful mountain in Taiwan and it didn’t disappoint. As painful and hard the climb was, we had a scenic feast of the mountain ranges, the mystical Black Forest and the sea of clouds at this altitude. Makes you appreciate that the best things in life are the ones we worked hard for.
Arriving Taipei Early Morning of October 30, 2019, we had the day in Taipei just visiting shops in case we miss out on some outdoor gear. We headed to our home stay in Taichung in the evening (around 1700-1800 MASL) to get a acclimatize with the altitude. We headed the next day at our Jump Off point which is Wu Ling Farm / Shei-pa National Park (2,140 MASL) at around 9 am, which is the start of our hike. We had a short briefing, stretching, getting to know each other. While I’m on my own, Trail Adventours has been a comforting partner in this hikes since I’ve been with them for all my international hikes.
Wuling Farm (2,140 MASL) to Hut 369 (3,150 MASL)
I’ve plotted the elevations and terrains for the climb reading different post on Xueshan. The first task is hitting 2 kilometers from starting point to Qika Hut. That’s about 320 meters of climbing. The trail were switchback trails to reduce the impact of the climb on dirt surface with stairs. We took the trail track beside the stairs to lessen the effort each step. I joined the first group and it was switchback trail after another. Surprisingly, we’ve finished this part really quick.
While the Qika Hut was an easy switchback hike with dirt surface that’s easy to trek. The surface goes a little technical after that with loose rocky surface and the dreaded crying slope along the way. Still was part of the first group and made our way one switchback climb at a time. The surface was an added drag but we needed a little bit of slow as we are approaching above 3000 MASL at this stretch. We had lunch at around the 3rd kilometer before proceeding to the tougher part of the climb.
The climbs were tougher but the views were getting better. As we approached 3,000 MASL, we were entering the dreaded crying slope. It’s between the Km 4-5 as the trails become technical and the becomes a lot steeper as some parts are about 40-45% inclines. It’s not called Crying Slope for nothing. It also started to rain so we started to slow down and added a few rest stops in between until we’ve reached the end of the climb and it was gorgeous.
This was the toughest part of the climb but the ridge view made the effort worth it. It gets even better as we go up. We then proceeded to the East peak of Syue Mountain at 3,200 MASL at around kilometer 5 of the trek. It was the highlight of the day. After this, we’d be descending to hut 369 at 3,150 MASL for our homestay for the night.
It was a smooth descent and we were at our spot before 4 pm, which was a few hours earlier than expected. We had dinner and was supposed to rest until 1 am. Unfortunately, sleep didn’t come to me as I had a bad tummy.
Hut 369 (3140 MASL) to Summit (3886 MASL) and Back
We were up by 1 am the next day. I barely had sleep. I missed breakfast since I’m worried about my tummy. The plan was to stay mid-pack and just take it slow. We started the hike at 2 am and it was extremely cold, probably less than 5 degrees. I had several layers of clothing. It’s about 3.8 kilometers to summit with about 800 meters of elevation gain.
Even as I promised to be at the mid-pack, I was right there in the front pack. The surface were broken rocks, which was tolerable but had some drag. I think they intentionally made the surface this way so people will slow down to avoid altitude sickness. It was an all-out assault at the start.
After a kilometer of walking, we entered the Black Forrest. The place was enchanting which was shaded in trees and had a mix of rocky to bouldery surface. I started to question if they should have named this as Stony Mountain rather than snow mountain. We’d take it slow and take a few rest in between. The goal was to reach the summit by 6 -6:30 am. There were several descents and mostly ascents. The Black Forest was a 2 kilometer stretch.
It was down to the last kilometer of the climb and we were on the basin with about 300 meters of climbing left on the last kilometer. It started on switchback trail and the surface was scree or broken rocks. I always struggle on scree surface but the rocks were stable enough to move on forward. We were spaced apart to avoid falling rocks, if any. The last 500 meters was the toughest part with slopes up to 45% but counting down the last few climbs can really be empowering. It was technical on the last stretch but we’ve finally reached the summit at 3886 MASL.
We were lucky enough to have clear skies at the summit. The group before and after us had no clearing. So this is my own version of Asian Trilogy with Syue Mountain as my last leg (I also did another 700 meters of elevation the next day just to cover the less than 100 meter gap between Syue Mountain (Xueshan) and Jade Mountain Yushan).
It’s always a milestone when I’m at the summit but I love how climbs can humble you and be appreciative the beauty that surrounds you. After a while, it was our time to head back.
Heading down was as difficult as climbing it because of the technical rocky terrain. It was just less exhausting with gravity by our side this time. We slowly descended the open trails before heading back to the Black Forest. The Black Forest was mystical with the rich flora and fauna that surrounds it. We got to appreciate the place more as it was still dark when we ascended. The mix of various sized rocky paths made it extra challenging before we got to exit the Black Forest after 2 kilometers and another kilometer before exiting the trail to Hut 369.
We we’re back to Hut 369 past 9 am and we can rest a bit before heading to the last stretch of the hike.
Hut 369 (3,150 MASL) to Wuling Farm (2,140 MASL)
It was the easy part of the hike as we were mostly heading down. First, it was a 2 kilometer slow ascent to the East Peak before the mostly descending next 5 kilometers. Upon reaching the East peak, it started to rain. I had my rain coat and proceeded with the descent. I was motivated by hitting the bus early so I can have more rest.
As it rained, I started to trust my Hoka Challenger ATR with GTX on the wet rocky surface and surprisingly, it didn’t disappoint. It had a good grip on the surface even as I was descending rapidly on the steep slopes. Though this was the easy part, the switchback stretch felt long and dragging. It felt like forever but I just kept moving on until I hit Qika Hut, where we regrouped and eventually finished the hike after 2 more kilometers.
It was another surreal adventure and a welcome breather after all the busy days. Somehow, I earned the trip, the rest and the milestone. Now, back to regular programming.