Conquering the ‘Most Dangerous Hike in the World’! | Mt Huashan, China
If you do a Google search for the 'most dangerous hike in the world' the result will return hair-raising images of people walking precariously on planks of wood stapled to the side of a 2,000m high mountain. I saw this hike in a Facebook video and knew I had to visit during my upcoming trip to China. I'm happy to say I conquered the Mt Huashan plank walk and returned in one piece!
The famous plank is located atop the south peak of Mt Huashan, China. The mountain is considered to be one of China's five sacred mountains and many tourists and pilgrims alike flock to the site every year. Many news sites claim that up to 100 lives are lost every year to the plank walk (hence the title of 'most dangerous hike in the world'), but no one can be sure as figures are never released by the Chinese government.
I visited Mt Huashan during my three week backpacking trip to China with my friend Rhi. We did it as a day trip from Xi'an - a large city 120km west of Huashan. There is also a hostel at the top of the mountain you can stay at if you want to visit longer. I visited in summer, but people still attempt the crazy hike when its covered in frost and ice during winter.
The quickest (and most spectacular) way to get to the plank walk is to ride from the base of the mountain to the North Peak by cable car. We were so lucky to visit on a perfect day - the views were stunning! You can also hike all the way up but this takes 6+ hours!
Once we got to the top of the North Peak we hiked to the South Peak (2160m) to get to the beginning of the plank walk.
Many Chinese couples place their 'lover locks' on chains on the side of Huashan and throw their keys to the valley below as a demonstration of their eternal love for each other!
Lover locks on the side of Mt Huashan:
This sign was the only evidence of any kind of safety message prior to beginning the climb, and unfortunately for us, it was all in Chinese!
We were super lucky that were left for Huashan early as there was no line up for the plank walk when we arrived. I'd read stories online of people lining up for hours due to its popularity!
Prior to doing the hike, we received chest harnesses with two carabiners to attach us to the cables on the side of the mountain. We were required to move our own carabiners and were in charge of making sure one was attached at all times - if we messed up we would fall 2000+ metres to our certain death. We didn't get a safety briefing as the guys giving out the harnesses spoke no English. You could also opt to not hire a harness if you wanted to save on the$8 hire fee and preferred to 'live life on the edge' literally...
The first park of the hike was probably the sketchiest. We had to climb down the super steep cliff-face on stapes cut into the rock!
I was a bit nervous before beginning the hike but honestly, the photos make it look much worse than it was - even though I do look like I'm clinging on for dear life in this picture!
The majority of the hike is done along skinny planks of wood stapled into the side of the cliff. Many of the Chinese tourists were super chill while doing this - some were smoking, taking phone-calls and some didn't even attach their carabiners!
The further we went along, the more comfortable I got. The views over the mountains and valley were absolutely epic!
Pausing to admire the spectacular view:
The hike ends at a tea house 2,160 m up on the mountain’s southern peak. The annoying part about the plank walk is that it is a one-way trail and it requires you to return the same way you came - meaning you have to clamber over people going the opposite way and move your carabiners at the same time!
Overall, the plank walk was an awesome experience! I would really recommend getting their early as after lunch it starts to get super crowded.
Getting to Huashan
Honestly, the hardest part of doing the plank walk was actually getting there - it was a mission! I don't think my friend Rhi and I would've been able to navigate ourselves to Huashan if we didn't have the help of a Chinese-speaking friend we met in our hostel in Xi'an. There was an option to take a tour from our hostel but it was expensive and left a lot later and we wanted to beat the crowds.
We got up super early to go to the bus station to catch a bus to Huashan but found out once we go there that it apparently wasn't running anymore. So instead, we took a 40 minute bullet train from Xi'an, then a ride in a locals car to a terminal of some sort, then a 30 minute bus ride to the base of the mountain, then a cable car to the North Peak of the mountain, then hiked to the South Peak to finally reach the plank walk!