Waking up in the morning on the day of my first international hike is like a dream come true. It was February 2017 when we had our incredible hike in Snow Mountain, Shei-Pa National Park, Taiwan.
We stayed in Space Inn Xinyi, which is an ideal hostel for budget travellers located in the east part of Taipei due to its proximity to notable destinations such as Taipei 101, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park, Raohe Night Market, and the Elephant Mountain where you can have a spectacular view of the Taipei 101. We felt like we were in a space ship while inside the hostel. I loved how they designed it that way although the lighting seemed dim while inside. The hostel has a big lounge where travellers can interact, eat, and drink. It also has water dispenser, refrigerator, and microwave oven which you can use for free.
Two of our local guides, named Mr. Lin and “Phoenix”, called us to meet them up in the other branch of Space Inn in Ximending area. We took a taxi ride going there, however, we had a hard time communicating with the driver. Thankfully, the hostel receptionist was kind enough to help us.
As we arrived in Space Inn Ximending, we met the local guides and the other hikers who also reserved their slots in this expedition. We paid Mr. Lin the total amount of NTD 7500 for 3 days 2 nights trek to Snow Mountain. This included the requirement hiking equipment such as the ice axe and the crampons. Then, we departed riding a van going to Shei-Pa National Park which took around 6 hours with two stop-overs. We stopped first in Yilan County where we bought food and drinks for the hike in a Family Mart convenience store.
We had our lunch during our second stop over. Everything was written in Chinese and we can’t understand a thing. We used Google Translate instead to assist us upon ordering food. It turned out great since the food was nice. The food had a unique taste and packaging which was interesting.
On our way to Shei-Pa National Park, we passed by Wuling Farm. We were supposed to spend time here for photos but due to time constraints as it was already getting dark, we decided to go straight to the registration area. They also gave us our rented equipment.
Then, we had our group picture taking before starting the trek. It was getting dark and cold, in which the temperature was as low as -2⁰C. We had to wear 3 layers of jackets, thick gloves, and a bonnet. The first part of the trek lasted for about 2 hours. We had to stop from time to time in order to acclimatize our bodies to the increase in altitude.
We arrived at the first stop which is called the Qika Cabin where we stayed for the night.
This is our dinner for the night – typical Chinese food and tea.
We woke up very early around 3am for breakfast and to prepare ourselves for the second day of the hike. We ate nuts, vegetables, and Chinese deli and tea for drinks. It felt so cold back then.
On our way up, we were mesmerized by the view as the sun began to rise. It was a long way up to the next stop, which is the 369 Hut where we will stay for the second night.
After 5 kilometers of trekking, we finally arrived in the hut. At this point, we were already at 3100MASL. It would be better to acclimatize first so we rested for a bit and fixed our bags. Finally, we were able to leave behind some things which made our bags lighter. We ate our early lunch because we knew the trail will be long and challenging after this. The temperature here is way much colder compared to the Qika Hut.
The trek after 369 Hut consists of 3 parts based on my observations. Right after walking out of the hut, we saw a grassland with a spectacular view of pine trees and a mountainous range. The view is great especially during sunset. I suggest you bring your windbreakers since it gets windy at this point.
The second part is the Black Forest, where you will be surrounded by countless number of pine trees. According to the locals, there was a great forest fire which turned a big part of the forest into ashes. Hence, the name Black Forest. For me, the Black Forest is the hardest part of this trek because of the numerous obstacles I had experienced. I almost lost my shoe since it got stuck in a tree root and as I tried to get loose, my shoe almost got thrown from the cliff. I also got cuts from getting off-balanced due to slippery rocks and entangled tree roots.
We even encountered a waterfall which got frozen. This part was very slippery due to ice and snow so we were very careful when walking through this trail. It took around 4-5 hours before we got out of this forest.
As soon as we got out of the forest, we were welcomed by a surreal view of the rocky mountain. Having this view tells you that you’re near the summit. But it still took us around 2-3 hours before we reached the actual summit. Probably because we were busy taking pictures and acclimatizing ourselves with the altitude. Going slow helps us adapt to the thin air and prevent us from getting altitude sickness.
Finally, we reached the summit of Snow Mountain. The view was unbelievable. There were sea of clouds everywhere and a bed of miniature pine trees below the mountain can be seen at the top. It felt like a lifetime achievement for us to reach the summit, especially it was our first time to hike away from the Philippines.
It took us a while before we decided to go down the summit. We had to go fast because they said when it gets dark, the Black Forest becomes dangerous in the sense that wild animals will appear. So we moved as fast as we could. It started to get dark when we got through the Black Forest. I just realized at this time that I only had one layer of jacket. It was so windy and I just had to endure the cold. Nevertheless, I was very hungry and I really wanted to be back at the cabin as early as possible.
It was so cold that we cannot move around that much. It took us a while before we were able to go to the dining house and eat our dinner. The dinner consists mostly of vegetables and fish. After dinner, we packed our bags so that we’ll all be set to go when we wake up the next day. By the way, sleeping bags were provided in the hut for the hikers’ convenience.
We started hiking the next day on the way down very early in the morning. We were very eager to go back to Taipei already since we were so tired and we wanted to reward ourselves a good bath. As we made our way down, we stopped by the East Peak of Snow Mountain, which stands at an altitude of 3201MASL. We had picture taking as the sun begins to rise.
Finally we were able to get back to Qika Hut. Our little friend greeted us as we approached the house. After resting for a bit, we made our way down towards the jump-off point, where we began our trek.
As promised, our local guides brought us to Wuling Farm for enjoying our time viewing the cherry blossoms. Of course, we had our photos taken with the fabulous trees. Also, we had our lunch in Wuling Farm before we headed our way back to Taipei. We tried different street food such as the locally famous tea eggs, fish balls, and noodles.
After this, we departed Wuling Farm as we were ready to go back to Taipei.