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2015-03-01

2015年2月28日 平溪薯郎尖 - 盤石嶺 - 菁桐古道 慢集團山行 Mt. Shulangjian - Panshiling hiking

The summit of Mt. Shulangjian
今回は、月一の慢集團の道案内山行である。二週間前今回案内のルート事前再確認を行い、この山行となった。比較的楽な山行である。前半の薯榔尖の登りと北稜をすぎれば、後半は良い道であり、盤石嶺の花見を兼ねての休憩後は菁桐古道を下るだけである。8時に出発し、午後3時には菁桐下って終了した。すでに日本語で記した登山記があるので、今回は英語での表記である。

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We start from Yikengkou (left) and come down to Jingtong Station (right)
Located in Pingxi district (平溪區) of New Taipei City, Mt. Shulangjian (薯榔尖) is one of the so-called three pointing peaks of Pingxi. Shulang is a plant which is original material to produce dye for fabrics in the past. The triangular shape of the peak resembles Mt. Fuji of Japan, particularly viewing from the old dormitories of Taiyang mining company where Japanese managers stayed and longed for their return to home. So they called this peak Pingxi Fuji. Mt. Shulangjian has three trails to reach its summit. One is from Erkenkou (二坑口) and this is a stone paved footpath all the way to the top. The second one is from Yikengkou (一坑口) is a dirt path and can be slippery after rain. The third one is a ridge route from the main ridge between Mt. Erkongguishan (耳空龜山) and Panshiling (盤石嶺). This one is pretty tough to walk as it has deep decent and steep accent coming one after another. If you have little hiking experience, you would better take the first one because it is really easy and avoid the third one.

All members of the hike
Panshiling, a name implies a peak of a mountain, but it is not. This is a saddle part of  the ridge and the lowest point where Xiping Road (汐平公路) passes through. There are many cherry tress around this pass and it is really good to rest here for lunch if the weather is fine. The cherry trees here blooms rather late in comparison with those at the food of mountains, because cold wind blows through and general climate is more hush here. Cherry blossoms are in full bloom in late February and early March.

#795 bus at Yikengkou bus stop
The hiking this time was to go up Mt. Shulangjian via the second trail from Yikengkou. We walked along its north ridge to the main ridge and then followed the main ridge to Panshiling. After we had lunch break at Panshinling for an hour and walked down to Jingtong, once an old mining town and now a hot tourist spot, via Jingtong old trail (菁桐古道). This hike was a mixture of thrill over the north ridge and joy of walking an easy old trail down after enjoying cherry blossoms. Under the event of Manjituang hiking club (慢集團), 38 of us walked this hike.

Climbing slippery rock section

Most of the participants gather at MRT Muzha (捷運木柵) station bus sop and takes a 795 bus at a little after 7:00. Approximately 40 minutes ride takes us to our starting point, Yikengkou bus stop. A few of our members have come by their own cars and join us here. After a brief explanation about the hiking course, we start at 8:03. The name Yikengkou means the first mine portal and there used to be a coal mining shaft in the valley. We pass those old houses of miners. They are in rather sad shape and present sharp contrast to those houses repaired and maintained as tourist attraction near Jingtong station. We come to the entrance of the footpath to Mt. Shulangjian in a few minutes.

Yikengkou route to Mt. Shulangjian in thick mist
The North Ridge route
The footpath is wet after rain of the day before. Weeds besides the path are all wet and bottom of your pants gets soggy quickly. We have a very young member among today's troop walking just behind me; a boy of 9 years old. His father is also in the troop walking just behind him. This boy has been to hiking at many places, according to his father, and is doing pretty good. The path goes among trees and passes over a concrete duct which is apparently an air duct for the abandoned mining shaft. We start a steep climb. Ropes appear where the incline is steep. Fog is pretty thick and you cannot see other peaks just across the valley on your left. We go over a slippery rock hump twice on the way up. At 9:08 we reach the top of Mt. Shulangjian. Though no rain it is in thick fog and there is sadly no view.

Mt. Shigongjishan and other peaks floating over the sea of clouds (Mr. Wang)
Passing a feeble looking branch bridge
The summit is pretty narrow and there is no room for all members to stand at one time. Before the rest of members come up, the front members start for the next section, the North Ridge. The path immediately descends and goes on a rather level ridge for a while. Fog is disappearing all the sudden and you have a view of sea of clouds beneath you. The peak of Mt. Shigongjishan (獅公髻山) of Pinglin (坪林) and its adjacent peaks are floating over the clouds like islands in the ocean. At 9:40 we start a pretty steep decent which lasts twenty minutes. At the bottom of the decent we pass a single wood bridge made out of a feeble-looking tree branch. It is kind of fun to pass over it though you have to be careful. Then we start a steep uphill. After a struggle of another 20 minutes  we come up onto the ridge. The section which we have just passed is to go around the rock cliff on the ridge, otherwise you have to climb down rock face, which is impossible.

Troop marching up and down through woods
This is a halfway point on the North Ridge and there is more ups and downs before reaching the main ridge trail. The weather is turning good. As we go up and down small peaks, the sun occasionally appears and welcome sunlight makes golden spots here and there on the ground among trees. We pass more of precarious spots and reach the main ridge trail at 11:30. It took us nearly two hours and 15 minutes from the peak of Mt. Shulangjian. I am glad that everybody has safely passed this dangerous section. After a short rest we head for our next stop, Panshiling.

Reaching the well maintained main ridge trail 
Spider web on side of the trail
In comparison with the North Ridge, this trail on the main ridge is just a breeze. It is well equipped and maintained. There are thick rope railings along steep sections. Weeds have been cut out and the trail is pretty clear and neat. There are also wood steps on  steep slopes too! Approximately 40 minutes of ups and downs on small humps along the main ridge bring us to Panshiling. The sun is now shinning above us and cherry trees are blooming on the side slopes of Panshiling. It is warm and comfortable. We take a long rest of one hour and have lunch. Members spread out to various spots where they find comfortable. Though about a half of cherry trees are not yet in bloom, it is still beautiful there.

View at Panshiling, the front is Xiping Road
Jingtong old trail and cherry blossoms
A junction on the old trail, we take right here
At 13:15 we start our last leg of today's hike, walk down along Jingtong old trail . This old trail used to be an important passage between Xizhi (汐止) and mining town Jingtong (菁桐). The railroad was constructed and completed in 1921 by Taiyang Mining Company only for transporting coal and later absorbed by the national railroad in 1929. It was however a long way from Jingtong to Xizhi by railroad so people walked this old trail to connect the two villages. We first go up a wide dirt road for a little while and pass Nikuitatouge (肉板峠). It is said that in old days there was a guard post here to watch the passage of people and goods going in and out of Jingtong. As a matter of fact the name sounds funny, meaning meat plates passage of the ridge.

The troop going down a steep downhill
Mosengzai Cave
Another cave
A little walk from Nikitatouge brings us to a junction where we take right. Wood steps lead up to a summit. Weeds have been cut out and the path is pretty clear. From the summit, we go down the dirt steep path. Some spots are pretty slippery. Many sacks filled with dirt are laid along the path. They form a kind of water drainage. We come down to a flatter section and soon see a cave on your left. It is called Moshenzai cave (魔神仔洞) but actually it is not a cave but a tunnel. There used to be a coal mine further up the valley and a rail track was to carry coal. The cave was a tunnel for the rail track those days. We go around the right side of the cave and come to a junction. Stone steps are paved on the trail further down and another to up to the left.

Looking over the bridge, Mt. Fengtoujia is in distance
Before we go further down the stone paved trail to Jingtong, we first go up to left side to see another cave. This second cave is also called Moshenzai cave and again actually is a tunnel. This tunnel is short and you can see light on the other end. The portal of the cave that we saw just a while ago is located on the left. We return to the junction and take left to go down. The stone paved trail is very good. After crossing a bridge over a stream we come to another junction at 14:30. If you take right here, you can go straight to Shuangjing Road (雙菁公路) . Those members who came to Yikegkou by their cars follow this right trail and go directly back to where they parked their cars. The rest of us take left and go down to a stream. Peaks of Mt. Fengtoujian are visible over the valley. Passing the bridge and we come to a junction where a path to Mt. Shisunjian (石筍尖)  diverges.

Overlooking JIngtong railway station
As we go along the last few hundred meters of trail we can see Mt. Shulangjian on our right. The triangle shaped peak is just up there where we were this morning. Passing old houses and we take left turn. Soon we arrive a flat yard just above Jingtong railway station at 14:50. A huge crowd of tourists are down there. A musician is playing songs very loudly. This is indeed another world to us who have just come through the tranquil valley. We swim through the crowd in front of the station house and go to the bus stop on Shuangjing Road. A crowded bus comes at 15:13 and we leave Jingtong for Muzha.

This is basically an easy hike covering only six kilometers, except the North Ridge of Mt. Shulangjian section. The total activity time is 7 hours including rest. The weather turned fine by noon and made us happily appreciate cherry blossoms at Panshiling. The level of the course is level 3 except the Shulangjian North Ridge being level 4. The physical fitness level is 3.
Cherry blossoms at Panshiling, Taiawn native cherry 

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