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作品名称 Taishan
作者姓名 David S K Jones
作者单位 上海博世凯进修学院


One of China's 5 great peaks, the Lonely Planet China guide says that if you visit Taishan, then you don't need to visit any of the other 4 famous peaks. I find that hard to believe, even after making the trip up there. It was a grueling walk up thousands of stairs in July, but luckily, or not so lucky, depending on how you see it, it was all under the glow of a full moon. It was lucky because we could see most of what was in front of us while walking up the mountain, but it seemed like a small army of people - thousands of people - simultaneously made the ascent with us. It was later hypothesized that because of the full moon, the hike held extra significance to those who wished to make the trip to the top.

See my friend Sam, who'd been studying Chinese in Beijing, heard that the real hikers in China hike up a mountain all night, to see the sunrise in the morning. I had never heard of such a crazy thing, but I decided that I would give it a try. The trip to Taishan reunited 3 friends who had taught English in Korea - myself, the aforementioned Sam, and Ryan. The two others had small backpacks with them, with their essentials. I had that, plus about 5 kilograms of camera equipment. I was shooting with a Nikon D300 at the time, with some pretty heavy glass. I also brought a couple of tripods, cleaning supplies, filters, batteries, cables, and all kinds of other electronic gadgetry.

Traveling to the town nearby Taishan couldn't be easier, thanks to the high-speed trains from Shanghai and Beijing. We got there in less than 4 hours, a much shorter trip than our eventual unrelenting stair-master of a mountain we had yet to encounter. We started the evening by eating some delicious dumplings, and some heartwarming chicken soup. Once we were done dinner, a quick look at our watches told us it was about 9:30pm. Sam figured that since 'the book' said a swift hiker could go from the bottom to the top in 4 hours, we should give ourselves about 6.5 hours. I thought, looking at the three of us, that it was definitely a fair assessment.

We arrived at the base of the mountain a few minutes later, where there were all manner of shops. Food, clothing, small electronics - you name it. You could have arrived with your pajamas on, and been completely outfitted and ready to hike in just a few short minutes, and all at reasonable prices.

It was then onto the ticket booth. There were at least 500 people within eyesight, and a steady stream heading through the gates and up the mountain. A quick look back, and a flash of one of the lights we were carrying revealed a growing surge of mountaineers of all shapes and sizes. This was my first trip to a popular tourist spot in China, and though I had heard that things can be busy, we really didn't know what we were in for - until we got there.

A look at the ticket prices was a bit of a shocker as well. It was over 100 yuan to get onto the mountain. I didn't expect this coming from Korea, where mountains generally didn't have a entrance fee, and most tourist attractions were only a couple of dollars, no matter how big of a draw they were. However, there was some comfort on one of the signs as we were queued up behind about 100 people. For only 5 yuan more, you could purchase medical insurance in case of accident while on the mountain. It seemed like a great investment to the three of us, and we were eager to buy the affordable protection. As luck would have it however, once arriving at the ticket counter, the clerk said that the insurance wasn't available. We were going to have to risk it in the middle of the night with a couple of lights, and no insurance.

We really didn't know what we were actually getting ourselves into once we went through the ticket check. The mountain started off gradually enough with some easy slopes, and some stair sets. Although it was early in July, it didn't take long for us to work up a good lather of sweat. The water supply we had brought was dwindling rapidly, and it was only 1.5 hours into our hike! After the initial warm-up phase, we were inundated with stairs, stairs, and more stairs. I had never seen, or touched, so many stairs at one time in my entire life.

The world's longest staircase came with it's perks however. Every 10-15 minutes walk, there was a quaint shop on the side of the trail selling water, fruit, instant noodles, and other things a hiker might need to make it up to the peak. I think I personally went through about 5 liters of water, only needing to stop for a bathroom break once, although we made many stops to take breaks along the way. The remainder of the water was surely steaming off of the top of my head, and definitely drenching my clothes.

We reached the summit around 4:15am, a little bit ahead of schedule. I being the eldest of the hikers, and the one voted least likely to succeed - partly because of my excess gear, and partly for being about 15kg overweight - was definitely the most spry once we reached the top. With thousands of sun-gazers, a sleeping Sam, a grumpy Ryan, and me, frantically running around through a sea of people trying to get a proper vantage-point for the sunrise - the sun almost didn't make an appearance. It was a foggy morning, and there were some murmurs and fears that perhaps the sun wouldn't greet us until well after the time it was scheduled to crest the horizon. When it finally did, there was a collective gasp - and then cheers and claps from thousands of excited, and exhausted people. These are some of my favorite shots from that magical morning. Enjoy.


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