Above is a pan of Puli on Saturday morning, taken from the Cheng Pao hotel. Full size.
Third time is charm, they say. The last two tries at Hehuanshan I failed to make it past Tayuling, unable to sleep above 2000 meters. But I had done them from the Taroko side, which everyone says is harder. This time I did it from the Puli side, which is clearly easier. Would I make it? Click on READ MORE below to find out!
Truth is that altitude terrifies me. This time I decided to sleep at 2000 meters, picking an expensive but restful place right next to the 7-11 at 2000 meters above Cingjing Farm. That meant 1500 meters of climbing on day 1 up Rte 14, most of which is not difficult, followed by another 1300 on day 2 to get to the top. Again, the grades are not that difficult. I wanted my friend Michael Fahey to come, since he has been so inspirational for me, and he suggested we avoid the 14 before Wushe and swing out south to Wujie, and climb back to the 14. That sounded nice on paper, but it turned out to be a grave error for me. I should have listened to my instincts and taken the 14.
Of course all my worry about altitude was for naught, I didn't feel a thing. I had no trouble walking fast and no trouble breathing. An anticlimax, like all my fears.
The thing was that the rain also terrified me. Descending on slick pavement is dangerous and on the Taroko side, if you hit trouble, there is nothing and no one up there. We rolled down the sleep slopes on the other side, creeping at a slow pace to avoid an accident on the slick surfaces. The cold was biting and at 3158 meters I stopped to put on an underlayer. Even with it I started having the shivers and teeth chattering. I could barely concentrate on the road. It was an accident waiting to happen.... We hit a long dry patch and rolled into Tayuling....
Note: Tayuling basically no longer exists, it's been knocked down. All the buildings either are gone or are going. The only place to stay now is at the CPC Youth Hostel in Guanyun. Mark your books accordingly.
...after Tayuling it started to pour. Fortunately after the climb back to about 2600 meters the downward slope is gentle and we rolled safely if wobbly down to 2150 meters. From there, defeated by the awful weather -- descending in that crap was super dangerous, and besides, the Taroko side on a clear day was the reward we had been expecting -- we flagged down a passing van that took us into Hualien. I was miserable -- cold, tired, and beaten. Steve's Garmin calculated that we had done over 3700 meters of climbing in the two days. I was still cold in my bones even after a hot shower in sunny Hualien city....
An ok trip, except for the ending, but I really enjoyed the company. Thanks to Mark and Steve I made it to the top. Love you both!
UPDATED: Steve's garmin map. We hopped in van at Shen Mu at 2150 meters on the Taroko side.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!