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2016-02-16

2016年2月13日 慢集團@坪林三星 Second hike on Pinglin three-star peaks

Pinglin Three-Star peaks looking from a peak across Nanshixi river (from left Mt. Guizilai, Mt. Yuanmao and Heshanji)
お茶のふるさと坪林の街のすぐ後ろに控える三座をつないで縦走する坪林三星縦走は、手軽にアクセスできるので、そこそこ歩かれている。三年前の夏、台風が過ぎてまもなく訪れ、倒木に悩まされて歩いた。今回は、慢集團の旧暦正月後初めての活動があり、参加した。筆者は参加者としてであるが、後半は三十数名の隊伍のしんがり役で歩いた。先頭の道案内は、このグループのリーダーWさんである。

前回とほぼ同じルートなので、この記事は英語で記述します。

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We made a round trip clock-wise
Elevation profile
Pinglin district (坪林區) of New Taipei City is well know for its tea. With a long history of tea production for over a century, yet it is now easy to access thanks to the highway No. 5, many hikers and vacationers come and visit Pinglin. If you look across the river Nanshixi (南勢溪) from the highway No. 5 descending from  Pangshan tunnel (彭山隧道), you see a peak commanding over you. That is Mt. Guizlaishan (鬼子瀨山), one of the Pinglin Three-Star peaks. On its right you see Mt. Heshangjishan (和尚髻山) and behind these two peaks lies Mt. Yuanmaoshan (源茂山) though it is not visible form the town of Pinglin. The Xueshan tunnel (雪山隧道) goes just under these peaks.

At the trail head (by Mt. Wang)
Camellia flowers
I once visited the three-star peaks three years ago. I was alone for that hike and I remember that it was very tiring because the paths were here and there covered with fallen trees and bamboos caused by a typhoon only a few days earlier. I visited again this time under a hiking activity of Manjituan (慢集團 Andante Group). Unlike days of this year's February when it constantly rains, the sky was clear and blue. It turned very warm and just a short sleeve shirt was enough for all day. It was a fun hiking after all.

Going up steep wooden steps
We gathered at MRT Xingdian station to take a 7:30 #923 bus via the highway to Pinglin. The bus arrives at Pinglin Guozhong (Junior high school) bus stop a little after 8:00. We walk cross the Nanshixi river over a bridge to the gate of  a garden where more members are waiting for us. After briefing and a warm-up exercise we take off for a hike at 8:30. We have forty members today. We go up along stone statures and camellia of pink and white flowers. Taiwan native cherry trees have reddish pink blossom already. We go around the top of a hill commanding over the garden and a steep incline starts. This is one of the hardest parts in today's hike, which covers 400 meters difference in altitude.

We are above clouds now
Sunny trail, the summit is visible in a distance
Wooden steps are built on steep inclines. It is tiresome to go up steps but it surely gains height. We get out of fog after a half hour climb and the bright sun shines over us. We now see the peaks across the valley filled with clouds. The incline is still very steep and takes a toll on us all. Some members are struggling with the grade. A female member walking just a few members ahead looks very weak. She says that she does not feel well. It turns that her stomach is aching. One of core members of the group accompanies her down the trail all the way to the trail head.

Mt. Guizilai summit
Continue on the ridge route
We continue our ascend over a shiny ridge where sun rays come through bare branches with no leaves. It is most delightful to walk on such dry trails under warm winter sun. We come to the final steep ascend to the peak. As we go up, we can hear cheerful voices from the top where the rest of our members are already there. The final part of the troop arrives the summit of Mt. Guizilaishan (636m elevation) at 10:00. The highway No. 5 is visible in the valley from the summit.

Mt. Yuanmaoshan (left) and Mt. Heshanjishan (far right round peak)
Going by a tee garden
We start for our next point, a farmer house for rest. The top of Mt. Guizklaishan is long. The trail goes rather flat for some distance and then starts descend. From the slope down we can see Mt. Yuanmaoshan and Mt. Heshanjishan, the other two peaks of the three-star under clear blue sky. We pass alone tea gardens and keep our trail in the woods all the way. We come down to a paved road and take left to a another dirt trail to the farm house. We arrive there at 10:38, above a half hour walk from the summit. We have a rather long rest here while we have fresh tea. Some members leave the troop here and we now have 34 members in total.

A farm house where we had a log rest
We go up by a tee garden
At 11:08 we resume our hike and head for the second peak, Mt. Yuanmaoshan. The trail starts just behind the farmer house. It goes up along tee garden and into woods. At the upper edge of the tee garden I look back for wide open view. Mt. Datunshan (大屯山) of Taipei City is showing its peak over the ridge of Mt. Lielijian (獵貍尖) and Mt. Shigongjiweishan (獅公髻尾山).  At 11:27 we pass a junction where a shortcut trail diverges right to a junction where we will pass later after Mt. Yuanmaoshan.

Mt. Dadunshan is showing its peak over the ridge in front
Ascend in cedar woods
We go left at the junction and along the hillside of Mt. Yuanmaoshan in cedar woods. A big cedar tree is fallen down with its roots in air. This one must have been blown down by the strong typhoon last summer. We pass another junction where a frail trail diverges left on our way up. We turn around a bend and see our target peak on our left. At 12:14 we join a trail and go further up a little to each the summit of Mt. Yuanmaoshan (elevation 811m).

Mt. Yuanmaoshan summit
Going through fallen cedar trees
We can see the peak of Mt. Yingziling (鶯子嶺) in a far distance through bare branches. After a half hour lunch break on the summit we start for our next target Mt. Heshanjishan at 12:50.  We take a long descent and come across a junction where a short cut meets. The trail gets more moderate and pass through cedar woods with a few big trees are fallen down and blocks our passage. The trail follows the ridge and goes up and down. At 13:56 we pass a junction leading to South peak of Mt. Heshangjishan. Passing over a small peak and we finally see the peak of Mt. Heshanjishan ahead of us. We pass a junction to meet a trail from right. When I visited three years ago, I took this right trail to come up here, which goes on a hillside instead of the ridge that we just have come along. We make a steep but short ascend and reach the summit (725m elevation)  at 14:15. This is the final peak to cover today.

Summit of Mt. Heshanjishan
We start our final leg of the hike at 14:30. The decent is pretty steep but luckily id does not last long. In a matter of ten minutes or so, we reach a paved road. Cherry trees are in bloom along the road as we go down. We pass by a house where a black dog is pretty nasty and barks against us. We reach a four way junction at 14:56. I took a dirt footpath which goes straight down along the ridge. We take right to a paved road and walk down all the way today. It is safer but rather boring. We have a good command of view from the paved road. We can see Mt. Guizlaijian that we hiked over this morning and Mt. Heshanjishan that we just come down from.

Going down steep slope
Viewing Mt. Guzilaijian from the paved road down
At 15:20 we make a short break on the road and resume our decent further. We come down to a junction at 15:44 and take a footpath that goes along a stream instead of the paved road. This Shuisongqikeng hiking trail (水聳淒坑登山步道) seems to have been built for some years but obviously very few hikers walk on this. We join the paved road at the trail end and walk again on the paved road all the way down. We reach the main road at 15:58 where all members are dismissed.

Approaching the trail end
We walked for seven and a half hours including all rests to cover approximately 13 kilometers. The trail is generally OK except short sections of narrow and not so clear paths. The route itself is popular and well hiked over, particularly Mt. Guizilaijian. This is a recommendable hiking route. The level of difficulty is class 3 for the route and also class 3 for the physical strength.

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