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2015-12-22

2015年12月21日 天上山脈縱走 Hiking across all the range of Mt. Tianshan

At the summit of Mt. Tianshang, overlooking Great Taipei and Yangming mountain peaks
久しぶりに天上山の山々を歩いた。半年ぶりの訪問は、この山脈を端から端まで縦走する山行である。以前天上山を境に、北東方向に中和まで、また南西に長寿山まで別々に歩いたが、今回は通しの縦走である。今回は、前半部分は方向は違うものの、以前の二つの縦走を合わせた形なので、英語で記述します。

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We start from west end and finish at north east end
Many ups and downs along the entire hike
One of the low-elevation mountain ranges around Great Taipei area is Mt. Tianshang range (天上山脈), which is located across Zohnghe (中和), Tucheng (土城) and Sanxia (三峽) districts of New Taipei City (新北市). The highest peak in the range of approximately 15 kilometers long is Mt. Tianshangshan with an elevation of 430 meters. Not as impressive height as it sounds, nonetheless the range holds many peaks to go over if you hike across it. This range is well know for Tonghua flowers in May. White flowers come in full bloom like white spots on hillsides and trails are covered with fallen white flowers like snow.

Tudigong Taoist shrine by the trail
The mountain range has many independent peaks with trails leading to them. You have a lot of choices of peaks to climb and routes to take. What we did  this time was to hike from one end of the range to the other, passing over all peaks in between, namely from Mt. Changshoushan (長壽山) of Sanxia distroict to Yantong temple (圓通寺) of Zhonghe district. Strictly speaking the real end is Letiangogn temple (樂天宮), but the difference is not big. So we can say that we hiked across the entire range of Mt. Tianshan.

View from the shrine
Going through bamboo trees
Today we are just two of us. When we come out from the MRT Dingpu (頂埔) station, the ground is all wet, though not raining. The weather is not that good but it should turn better, according to the weather forecast. We take a #812 bus at 7:44 and arrives at Changshoushan bus stop in about ten minutes. The sky is gray and dark but luckily no rain. We go up steps leading to Yuhuanggong temple (玉皇宮) on the hillside. Stone lanterns standing by the stone steps remind me of Japanese stone lanterns. We come up to a parking space by the temple at 8:07; it was just a few minutes walk from the bus stop.

Amazingly spread-out roots of Banyan tree
We take the steps on our left and it soon becomes a narrow dirt footpath. Grasses by the path are wet and make my pants wet as we walk through them. In twenty minutes or so of ascent we come to the bottom of high-voltage cable tower. A path on the right leads to a summit of Mt. Changshoushan, but we just take left and follow the trail to our next peak, Mt. Chengfushan (成福山). The trail turns wider and looks clean. Soon we come to the bottom on the ridge where a small stone Tudigong (土地公) shrine. This one is well kept and worshiped. There are three small deity statutes in the shrine. Woods in its front are all cut out and we can see peaks of Mt. Baijishan (白雞山) range across the valley.

A resting place on a peak before Mt. Shibaluohan
Rock section
As we ascend a long uphill, we pass through beetle nut trees and bamboo trees, which look pretty. At 8:57 we arrive our first peak in today's hike, Mt.Chengfushan (elevation 241m). We have since walked about an hour. The path from the edge of summit goes very steeply down, then goes gradually up. We come to a small peak with two benches and a guide board. The guide board shows trails and some points of interests. The trail starts off with a very steep rock at its edge. There are ropes affixed onto the rock. Though steep, it is not that long and we come down to the bottom in a matter of a few minutes, After diverging a trail to left, we ascend a long uphill again. Big white camellia flowers are on the trail, some are fresh and some are shrunken and turned ugly. In ten minutes we reach the summit of Mt. Shibaluohan (十八羅漢岩) at 9:37. Two hikers are just about to leave the summit. They are the first hikers we come across today.

Fallen camellia flower 
Long ascent to Mt. Shimenneijian
We feel sprinkle of rain and the view from the top is now hazy. We hope that the weather will not turn bad. The trail goes down for a while and starts up again. In a short while the top of ridge becomes wider and goes along a hillside. At 10:10 we come to a bottom of a long ascent section. We need to gain 150 meters in elevation to get to Mt. Shimenneijian (石門內尖山, 395m). The steep steps continue. Some steps are broken, apparently not fixed for sometime. We reach the edge of  a long summit of Mt. Shimenneijian at 10:23, but the real top is still a few minutes away. We finally reach the real top with a triangulation marker at 10:29. While we take a rest we again feel sprinkle of rain. The view from the top is also limited due to hazy sky. We have come about 1/4 of the whole route today and we still have a long way to go.

Top of Mt. Shimenneijian
Stone paved trail to Mt. Tianshangshan
The pent-up shelter
The trail gets easier to walk on as there is no steep ups or downs for a while. At 10:52 a open tea garden shows up in front of us. From there we can see mountains across the valley. The peaks over there must be ones of Mt. Chatianshan range (插天山脈), like Mt. Zhulushan (逐鹿山). The weather seems to hold and the sky is brighter now.  Our dirt trail joins a stone paved trail and we follow it. It goes between tee trees and go down to a paved car road which passes across the mountain ridge. We cross the car road and follow the stone paved trail again. It soon turns uphill. At 11:30 we reach a pent-up shelter obviously created by local people to provide a resting place. We enter the shelter and have a lunch. I have a gas stove and boil water to make noodles and soup. It is not that cold, but it is good to have a hot stuff on a day like today.

The trail to Mt. Tianshangshan
Wangyueting pavilion
After a long rest of almost 40 minutes, we take off for the remaining 2/3 of the course. Stone steps are still wet and slippery at some places. At 12:30 we come to a small flat area with a pavilion of Wangyueting (望月亭), which is also a cross road of four directions. We continue our walk and go up to the summit of Mt. Tianshanshan, the highest point of today's hike. This section of the mountain range is most popular and the trail is well maintained by the local government. New direction signs are elected to replace old ones. We reach the summit at 12:40.

View from Mt. Tianshangshan overlooking the metropolitan Taipei area under mist and Mt. Yangmingshan peaks
Looking for Chatianshan mountain range
High rise buildings are in thick smog
There are no other hikers on the summit deck. It is really a good vantage point. You can have a view of all direction except west. Far in the north direction, metropolitan Taipei lays in the bottom of thick mist and peaks of Mt. Yangminshan range (陽明山) stand just behind it above mist. I wonder the mist is in fact smog. We recently have a problem of smog or PM2.5 problem. Some part of the problem is caused by our own industry or cars and trucks but some are blown from the mainland China.

New tower by the trail
After enjoying a wonderful view we continue our hike at 12:53. As we go down, we pass by a new cable tower, which was under construction on my last visit. The new towers were actually visible when we were on the summit a few minutes ago. They are obstructing a otherwise beautiful scenery. The trail is faithfully following the ridge and goes up and down as the ridge rises and falls. It is wide and easy to walk. Some part of stone pavement is not walked for many years and has been completely covered with green moss, obviously super slippery. We just walk on dirt part next to the pavement. We go up the last steep grade and jump onto a flat and wide top of Mt. Wuchengshan (五城山) at 13:18, where a new cable tower is standing next to it. Some exercise equipment is placed for local people to use. We have a short rest on a bench. We still have a half way to go.

Trail between Mt. Tianshangshan and Mt. Wuchengshan
Mt. Wuchengshan summit
On the way to Jiangjunling
We start descend on a good dirt trail, which later turns to be one with covered with concrete plates.On our way down we come across a naked man fixing a trail. He is apparently a local volunteer. A trail diverges left to a pond below and our trail goes up a little. We pass by a small flat top called Jiangjunling (將軍嶺) where also many playing facilities as well as a pavilion stands. We continue our walk to Mt. Wenbishan (文筆山). The trail from here to its top is a dirt trail and its entrance is rather obscure. The good paved trail on the right leads to a community on the hillside, not to Mt. Wenjibshan. We go up the steep footpath with steps made by plastic pipes and join a paved good trail coming up on our left. Up we go the paved trail for another few minutes and we come to the top of Mt. Wenbishan (375m high) at 14:11. It offers a good view and what we can see from is all housing complexes on the hilltop behind a vegetable firm. This is called Luyexiangpo (綠野香坡), a big housing development.

View from Mt. Wenbishan
Going by the housing complex
The paved trail goes all way down to the bottom, which does not lead to our next peak, Mt. Wujianshan (五尖山). We need to take a dirt path that diverges right just below. We go down through a grass section again and come to the back of the housing complex. We follow the edge of the complex area. This section is opened by hikers and not officially supported. Some parts are a little dangerous like fragile cracked concrete surface. Garbage is dumped along the trail because this is not visible from the complex buildings, how pathetic those illegal dumpers! We ascend along a wired fence and reach the top of Mt. Wujianshan at 14:42. The triangular marker is inside the fence and a big hole is opened on the fence for access to the marker. The dirt path still continues. Down we go for a few minutes and we meet a stone paved trail. We have completed the 2/3 by now.

Meets a paved trail after descending from Mt. Wujianshan
View from a public cemetery looking at Mt. Nanshijiaoshan
Extremely slippery stone steps
We turn left and follow the stone paved trail. The wet hard surface is pretty slippery, nonetheless better than the dirt trail that we have just passed. We keep on the paved trail all the way and connect to a dirt trail. We soon come to a cable tower at 15:15 and have a rest under it. A dog sees us coming and rushes down with fullest speed as if shocked by us. It keeps barking for a long time. We resume our walk and pass by a big public cemetery. Crossing a paved car road and we go up again a little. The mile post shows that it is only 1.6 km left to Yuantongsi temple, our final destination. Up we go and pass by a big Guanyin stature of Yuhuangong (玉皇宮) temple. We can see a big yellow Taoist statute of Hongludi (烘爐地) on the mountainside across the valley. We reach a junction to Yuantongsi temple at 16:00 and go down by very very slippery stone steps. We finally are at Yuantongsi temple at 16:08.

Yuantongsi Buddhist temple
Rainbow !!
While we are resting, one hiker comes over and asks me where we have come from. He looks familiar. We find that he is Mt. W. who joined my hiking activity under Manjituan (慢集團) Andante group in the past. When we come close to the stone wall of the temple, we discover that a rainbow is hanging above town. It is really a happy surprise. Mr. W tells us that he knows where to find rare frog species Taipei Tree frog. He takes us to the place. We discover two frogs there. They are tiny beautiful light green creatures. We are very lucky to run into Mr. W at the end of our hike, otherwise we even don't know such frogs exist here. We go down by the slippery steps again to the temple and continue our descent by foot trails. We come to to a paved car road at 17:00 and further walked to a eating place for dinner to conclude our hiking.

Taipei tree frog
We walked for nine hours including rests to cover approximately twenty kilometers. Some parts of the route are narrow dirt trail, but the rest is in good condition. We follow the ridge of mountain range, and it of course means a lot of ups and downs. If you want to cover all peaks of Mt. Tianshan mountain range in one time or get some training, you can try the same course, The level of the route is 2 and 4 four physical strength.

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