Yesterday morning, afer much deliberation about our route, we headed up Mount Emei. We decided to stay low on the mountain for a few reasons…it’s cold up top, it’s crowded up top, and we weren’t confident in our abilities to do the whole thing. We’re glad we stuck to the bottom! We woke late, had breakfast of banana and honey crepes in our hotel, got some PBJ’s made and hopped a bus to the the Wuxian trailhead. It’s one of the less used trails, but still was a bit crowded. We planned to hike up a bit to a monastery for the night then backtrack to a different spot the next day. We were surprised at how quickly we were passing sights on the trail! Our hostel has a map with mileage, and the official map is not to scale, plus the maps along the route list wildly different mileage than the hostel map, so it was guesswork to figure out distances. The hostel seemed closest to accurate.
We passed Qingyin monastery and then came upon the monkey area! This spot was very touristy; ladies were employed to beat away the monkeys if they got too aggressive. It was still cool, and Bryan got to feed one (that did get angry). After that we started TRULY going UP UP UP. The trail was paved on the entire mountain; most of it was stairs, though, they were very well made and evenly spaced. Hongchun monastery came upon us sooner than we thought, again…so we had to decide whether to continue. The hostel map said it would be 6km to the next, but the official billboards said 15km!! We went for it, and are so glad we did. The next section of trail was supposedly the toughest on the mountain – 99 turns (switchbacks) – stairs galore. We seriously thought about riding up on one of the human-carried seats, but were too cheap to do it. This is definitely the road less travelled on the mountain.
Xianfeng monastery was great, though more expensive to stay than we expected. It was 50RMB/person (like $8).Our hike up ended taking about 6 hours. We enjoyed hanging out with the other people staying overnight, soaking our feet in hot water, having dinner in the cafeteria, playing with the local dog, and exploring. It was shocking to us the different folks that hiked the same route with us – we passed, and then met again, a very old grandma, another couple and their baby, and a lady in a pencil skirt, pumps and blouse. amazing.
Our room was a four-bed room, but the place was near empty to no one shared with us. I snagged another blanket from an unused bed so Zoe and I slept very well and toasty. The place was not heated and it was cold outside. A thermometer read 50F. We awoke at 3:50am to the sound of deep gongs, symbols, and monks chanting. It was neat and mysterious as the noise merged with the sound of rain on the roof. Back to sleep until 7:30 when I had to pee so bad I braved the walk out of the monastery and around back to the toilet. The toilets on the mountain were squatters of sorts…you did squat over a hole and watched your pee go down into a little creek. ewww.
We got hiking again at 8am and had decided to make a loop out of the lower section of the mountain. It was not raining, but overly misty, wet, and chilly. We bundled up and pressed UP…more UP. We were again pleasantly surprised at our progress and stopped a few times for snacks. As we neared Yuxian monastery, Jiuling Hump and Huayan summit it had gotten downright cold and windy with spurts of rain. The scenery was gone to clouds. No cliffs, no waterfalls, or views to unending ridges that we saw the day before. We took a break at Huayan and bought some rice in the monastery. Much needed break.
The rest was downhill; which hurt our calves but was way less exhausting. Along this stretch we came upon another band of monkeys; we periodically saw one or two at monasteries or snack shacks along the way, but this was a band of 10 or more. The were way less aggressive than the tourist ones who got beaten with sticks. It was super neat. They came up to us, curious, and then bounded off. The aren’t small and have huge teeth so we didn’t offend them or try to touch (as much as Bryan wanted a monkey on his shoulder). As we neared the bottom the clouds lifted a bit and we could see the last monastery on our loop: Wannian. It was very crowded with tour groups so we didn’t venture in for our typical lookabout and toilet squat. We must’ve looked like utter filth to these clean folks following their tour-group flags.
Along the last 1/2 hour press down we stopped for a big lunch at an outdoor home/restaurant/hotel/snackbar, and it was so yummy. So the second day we finished our loop in 7 hours, made it back to the bus, and are now in the Teddy Bear Hostel another night. It’s a wonderful place with good food, nice rooms with bathrooms, and wifi! Highly recommended. Originally we thought we’d need to spend this second night on the mountain again – but the wierd mileage proved to be a blessing as we are beat. Zoe loved most of it. Especially monkeys, horses carrying bricks, the rain, the monastery, buddha’s, all the attention from Chinese tourist, gifts she was given from other hikers, and riding on mommy. She got tired of riding on daddy quickly and really only complained a bit when she was hungry or bored. It was a great hike, and a hightlight of our trip. We’re glad we didn’t go to the top since I’ve heard it’s overrun with people, very cold, and the view is simply more clouds (this week). Our trek, on the otherhand, was simple and solitary. awesome.