Wuliaojian: Taipei’s toughest hike

Standing at just 639m, you’d be forgiven for assuming that climbing Wuliaojian Mountain, just outside of Taipei, is easy. Well, you’d be wrong.

GETTING THERE

Get dropped off here. The trailhead is just to the left of the small shop on the right.

To get to the Wuliaojian hike trailhead (五寮尖), take the Bannan (blue) metro line to Dingpu station (the final stop) then take a taxi. The Metro ride from Taipei 101 takes just over an hour and will cost you 50TWD ($1.50USD). The taxi from Dingpu to the trailhead takes about 20 minutes and costs 350TWD ($11USD).

The hike starts just next to the road and adjacent to a small local store. There is also a portaloo although I can’t attest to how clean it is! Buy snacks/lunch and drinks before you get here (there is a Family Mart just outside of Dingpu station) as the local store might not be open (it was closed by the time we got back at around 3pm).

THE HIKE

The hike begins with a stairway through the forest that becomes half walk, half scramble. It’s a lovely, rich green, jungle environment with the sound of tropical birds filling the air. At first it’s fairly steep but not technical, but before you have a chance to start wondering what all the fuss is about, a rope appears, dangling over a huge boulder with a small overhang about five feet up.

There is an easier option; a small path leads around the boulder, if the overhang is too much.

From then on the hike becomes more of a rope climb, pulling ourselves up rocks and over logs and roots with ropes that, one hopes, were tied by people who knew what they were doing.

After a while one of the climbs comes out on an exposed ridge. Suddenly we have 360 degree views. Here we’re above the clouds, which tuck themselves into the valleys surrounding us.

The path goes over a very narrow ridge, with only a small ropeway to hold onto, which I don’t let go of for a nanosecond.

After two or three more ridges (none quite as scary as the first), it’s time to abseil down to a lower ledge. It’s maybe 15-20m down a nigh-on vertical rock face, and is timed to coincide with a deluge from the sky. Cheers, nature.

The path continues but there is an optional extra – a 10m climb up a vertical rock face using either a rope or a series of metal rungs attached to the rock. “Not a chance in this weather” I think to myself before realising that Huong is already half way up the ladder. Jolly good.

The ladder leads to a kinda viewing platform; basically a very narrow ledge with amazing views of the surrounding countryside. It’s a terrifying look down but man, am I glad we went the extra mile.

After climbing back down the ladder it’s time to abseil down through a slither of a crack in a boulder that even a (fairly) skinny bloke like myself only just fits through.

And then what can only be described as a slide across a steep rock face, clinging onto a rope to stop falling into the abyss.

The final ascent to the summit feels relatively easy, and soon we’ve made it to the summit, and although the view isn’t as good as some of the earlier ridges, we can see Taipei through the mist.

The climb down is fairly simple, especially after the middle section of the hike. Eventually you’ll meet a road which leads back to the start of the trailhead. From here you can get a bus to Sanxia (it only runs every 1-1.5 hours though), be lucky enough to grab a cab driving past, or you can call one. This guy speaks English but is more expensive: +886932225302 and this is a local taxi driver who only speaks Chinese but is cheaper: +886981086283.

CONCLUSION

Conclusion: sushi from Family Mart tastes like s***

This is honestly one of my favourite hikes in Asia – very accessible, varied, challenging, a little bit scary, and all around a great experience. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be fit, you need to be fairly comfortable with heights and definitely OK with climbing up and down rocks but you don’t need a huge amount of upper body strength. I’d definitely recommend doing it in dry conditions but we did it in the rain and there were quite a few people climbing it with us. Overall, this is an awesome hike and a must-do if you visit Taipei.

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