2016年7月3日 三峽熊空 逐鹿山 - 雲森瀑布 Training hike prior to Japan trip

Members at the summit of Mt. Zhulushan



Start from Xiongkong and make a round trip
Elevation profile of the hike
Red car of a fire brigade at the trail head
Mt. Zhulushan (逐鹿山), meaning a mountain of chasing deers, is one of the peaks of the Chatianshan (插天山) mountain range which divides the district of Sanxia from Wulai, New Taipei City and stands more than 1400 metes in elevation. This was once a territory of Taiya aborigine tribe a hundred years ago. The mountain was said to be named after a tale that one day young aborigine men chased a beautiful deer all the way to this mountain, a kind of beautiful-sounding name.
The adjacent peak, Mt. Kabaoshan (卡保山), is higher than Mt. Zhulushan by a hundred meters and has a very rare kind of trees, Beech trees on and around its summit. This species is actually spreads over to other southern and taller peaks of the same range and are now under protection of the central government. This kind of trees are said to have survived for millions of years.

The mountains are still very high up there
The hike to Mt. Zhulushan was to train participating members who will go to Japanese high mountains with me late this month. The total 10 members walked with me. We started very early at Xiongkong (熊空) and reached the summit in about three hours, which is supposed to be normal to gain 1,000 meters in height. On the way up near the summit, one of the members looked very exhausted. After we reached the summit, he told us that he was very weak so I decided to change our original plan to continue to Mt. Kabaoshan and went on the same trail down instead.

At the trail head

We gathered at Xiongkong (熊空) bus stop by three shared cars arriving one after another. While five of us were waiting  for the rest of members to come, search and rescue teams came up by fire engines and scooters. They told us that one hiker was missing on the day before near Yunsen water fall (雲森瀑布). After all three cars arrived, we went onto a parking space of Zhongsheng (鐘聲) cabin near the trail head. The parking space is pretty big and can hold probably more than a dozen of cars.

Passing by a land slide section

We start at a little after 8:00 after my short briefing about the route. The sky through the tree branches is blue and looks pretty good, which makes us forget that there was a heavy afternoon shower here yesterday, in which the hiker lost her way and still may be somewhere in this area waiting for help. We soon pass a junction where the right trail leads to Yunsen waterfall. A rescue car of the fire brigade is parked here with a few rescue members. They will start a big scale search and rescue effort today. We take left at the junction and go us on a ill-maintained paved road.

Big stones sitting on the trail

The incline gets steeper. We see mountains hiker up there on our right where no trees hinder our sight. In about 10 minutes of walk, we come to a corner of the road, where a dirt trail diverges on our right as a red plate placed on the concrete wall shows. There are two trail heads for the mountain, and we go for the other trail head. We continue on the paved road for another few minutes and come to it at 8:18.

Members at the stone resting place

The trail starts with a mushy bottom which soon turns dry and then comes across the junction of the other trail which we saw on the paved road. The trail goes on the hillside and pass by a small scale landslide which took place when a typhoon hit very hard in the region last summer. We have a short break at 8:42 at a place where 11 people can stand together for rest. The temperature is already high and I am getting very wet with my own sweat.

Going up in cider forest

The trail gets steeper and it finally gets on to a ridge, where we can feel light breeze. We meet a team of three men resting there, who are members of the rescue team. They ask us where we are heading. I answer that we will go to Mt. Kabaoshan then one man ask us to watch out for the missing person on our way. We wonder if that missing person ever would climb from Yunshen waterfall onto such a high place but say OK to do it anyhow. We continue on the steep trail on the ridge and come to a place where a few big blocks of stone sit on the trail, which is very inviting us for a break. We have walked about 30 minutes since the last break and have a rest. On such a steep and continuous uphill trail, it is a good practice to have a break every half an hour or so.

Going along the small water stream
Water flows in the trail
Around 9:50 the trail leaves the ridge and goes along the hillside on our right. We get into a ceder forest. We then come to a dry creek where we have another break at 10:05. In about a few minutes after we resume our hike up, we come across a junction where the right trails leads to Mt. Zhulushan West Peak and Yunsen waterfall. Continuing the steep trail for another 10 minutes we come down to a small creek where fresh water is running. It has much more water running than when I made last visit in 2014 when it was almost dry. After a short climb from the creek, a red sign shows that there is a water filling spot on the right, but now it has plenty of water running here, so you don't need to go down there to refill water.

Last struggle below the summit
Leaving the stream behind, a final steep climb starts. There are aiding ropes where the footholds are not good. The trail goes for a steep climb for ten or more minutes and then gets onto a moderate part. It looks that the summit is just above the steep climb but when you get onto it, the summit is still far way, which disappoints you. We have a final rest before the summit at 10:40, though I know that the summit is not far way because a tail part of the troop is really far behind now.

The summit

Going down on the same trail we came up
Descending a steep section
We work hard for another fifteen minutes to reach the summit at 11:07. We have covered the vertical distance of 1,000 meters in three hours, which is good. We have a lunch break after all members arrive. The sky turns cloudy now, but it seems to hold for another few hours before it may start raining. The temperature on the summit of 1,414 meters in elevation is rather low. It must be in mid 20s degree as it feels cool up here. We have cold beer to share among members.

One of the members shows exhaustion. If we continue on the original plan to Mt. Kabaoshan, it will probably drag a whole progress. So I made up my mind to change the plan and descend on the same trail at 11:50, which actually other members are also happy about. The steep climb means a quick decent on the way down. We come down to the creek less than half an hour and have a rest. It is still early and we are not in rush. We open another cold beer. It feels good.

Walking in the cider forest
After 15 minutes of break, we resume our descent. When we reach the junction at 12:48, the weather still seems OK and no worry about afternoon shower. Cicadas are singing in chorus and so loud that it is almost deafening. We take a trail on the left to go down to Yunsen water fall. This trail is obviously less hiked on and the trail itself is narrow and not so clear at some points. It is well marked with ribbons along the way, and it helps. The trail goes across the slope for a while and gets sharp descent among cider trees. After the steep decent, the trail goes zigzag for a while, which seems to have been a rail for forestry work in the past. After a short ascent we get onto the summit of Mt. Zhulushan West Peak (Elevation 931m) at 13:20,

At the West peak summit
Big land slide
We have come down a half way to the trail end.  We resume our way down after a short break. The trail goes over a small landslide, which must have been caused by the typhoon last year. We come to the edge of the high cliff on our right. The landslide here is really huge. The entire slope of the mountain slid down to the bottom of the valley and the big rock face is exposed. This landslide took place not last year but many years ago, as it was just like this on my last visit two years ago. The incline on this section of the trail is really steep, actually steepest of the today's route. Aiding ropes are fixed almost all the way down, which helps a lot for safe descent. Such steep a grade as this, I would not dear to go up on this trail. We come down to the end of this long decent at 14:23.

Crossing the river for Yunsen water fall
At the junction we take left and go to the water fall first before we finish our hike. We go a little on the good trail and then cross a wide river over a pent-up bridge with ropes and tree branches. The sound of the waterfall gets louder as we go and there we see the Yunsen water fall with plenty of water. As we witnessed on the way to the summit this moring, the mountain has more water today and of course the water fall has much more water flowing down than my last visit. We have a long and final break here.

All members in front of the water fall
We consume the rest of all food and drink today, including a last can of beer. After a half hour rest, we take the last leg of hike today. When we pass the river with the pent-up bridge and come to an open valley we come across a dozen of rescue members. They say that they have not yet found the missing person. The waterfall is a kind of tourist attraction and many tourists without hiking equipment like us pass by us. So the trail is well maintained. We pass over landslide section twice, which was caused last year. We come back to the parking area at 15:38 and complete the hike. It took us 7 hand a half hours to make a round trip including breaks.

We did not hike as planed but I believe that it was helpful for the participating members to the Japanese high mountain trip. We have a little more stuff on our back in Japan than this time, but the trails are much better there. The level of trail condition really affects the physical requirement. The better the trail is maintained, the easier the walking can be. On our way back to Taipei by car, poring shower started. We completed our hike without even a drop of rain, which I say we were lucky indeed.

Going over a detour trail of a land slide section
By the way, the missing hiker was discovered deceased by the river below the waterfall a few days later. It is reported that a retired school teacher in her sixties drifted down the stream after she was separated from the other three party members. When she was discovered, she was naked and it is assumed that she was affected by hanger and cold, which made her erroneously feel too hot to bear. Such popular a tourist spot as this still can cause this kind of tragedy. We should not underestimate the nature.

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