Snow Mountain – Climbing Taiwan’s Second Highest Peak

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Taiwanese call the best 100 of the 3000 meter high mountains on their island Bai Yue. The second highest, Snow Mountain, or Syueshan at 3886 meters is located in Shei-Pa National Park in central Taiwan. This would be my first experience hiking and climbing here. My group and I would start with a check in to the visitor center for permits.

Taiwan has the highest density of mountains to land mass in the world. Shei-Pa has 51 mountains alone that reach over 3000 meters in altitude. The wind that day was a sign things would not go smoothly.

Our climb would take a total of  two days to reach the summit and return to the trailhead. We were looking forward to the jaw- dropping views of the famous Holy Ridge, a series of peaks all above 3000 meters.

Taiwan’s tropical and subtropical climate zones offer scenery that is very diverse. On high altitude hikes you will typically start with a mixed wooded forest which gradually turns  coniferous. Above the treeline usually starts at around 3300 meters.

On the main trail to the summit of Snow Mountain there are two cabins for sleeping.  The first on the trail, Chika we would use for  a quick rest stop on our first day and sleep there on our second night. We would spend a night at Cabin 369 before our summit. Our rest break at Chika.

Although most mountains in Taiwan do not require technical mountaineering skills a good level of fitness is required. Prepare for rapid fire changes in the weather. Some of the most treacherous conditions  can occur above 3000 meters. Proper clothing and an ample supply of food are a must.

The clouds appeared to be clearing and we were starting to see the amazing views promised. We were taking a break before starting on the Crying Ridge and the last of the  switchbacks before our night at Cabin 369. Then it happened. That feeling you know that things won’t go as hoped. No views, and tough conditions ahead. Disappointment set in.

The wind and rains were relentless all through the night.

An early morning rise to steady rain but safe enough for an ascent. The rains can effect safety in the mountains of Taiwan and sometimes parks are shut down until the storms are gone. Hazardous landslides have claimed lives in the past. Hiking or climbing after a typhoon can be extremely dangerous.

Summiting Snow Mountain is about a 3 to 4 hour hike from Cabin 369. Some of the Yushan Cane we missed seeing when we arrived in the early evening the night before.

We reached The Black Forest which sheltered us from the rain before one last set of switchbacks. Spirits were still high despite our soaked gear.

The last stretch to the top was brutal, with pounding rain, wind, and near freezing temperatures. But we summited the second highest mountain in Taiwan. I was so cold I ran down the switchbacks. The thunder and rain chasing me back into The Black Forest. We summited Snow Mountain, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

About the Author John Saboe

I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.

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